1) Ruth 1: Redeeming Love When Life Does Not Go As Planned (Pastor Dave Strem)
2) Ruth 2: Redeeming Love Changes Hearts (Pastor Dave Strem)
3) Ruth 3: Redeeming Love Takes No Shortcuts (Pastor Stephen Lay)
4) Ruth 4: Redeeming Love Makes A Way (Pastor Stephen Lay)
5) Ruth: Redeeming the Storms (Pastor Dave Strem)
Ruth 1: Redeeming Love When Life Does Not Go as Planned
Ruth 1:1-22: “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land and a man of Bethlehem and Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife, Naomi and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Killion. They were Ephrathites of Bethlehem and Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there but Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives. The name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years and both Mahlon and Killion died so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law and they went on their way to return to the land of Judah.
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.’ Then she kissed them and they lifted up their voices and wept and they said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Turn back my daughters. Why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back my daughters. Go your way for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband, and shall bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.’
Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law but Ruth clung to her and she said, See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Return after your sister-in-law. But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’ And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her she said no more.
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem and when they came to Bethlehem the whole town was excited because of them and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’ So Naomi returned and Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law with her, returned from the country of Moab and they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
This book, over half of it, is dialogue, talking and talking and talking. As in any good story, it is important to record how the characters feel and not just what they do. The book of Ruth is important because it meets us where we live—the everyday details of our lives. It meets us where we live, facing problems, troubles, and loss. And if you are not facing it today, wait a week. If you are not facing it in a week, look around you because someone else is. But recognize, Ruth is not just about loss but about the great God who is able to meet you in your loss, even in the midst of your rebellion, even if you are somewhere you should not be. He meets you there to bring you back to Himself and to His heart. Ruth is about when life does not go according to plan.
Do you remember, some of you, in college or high school and looking forward, you had your whole future ahead of you? The whole world was your oyster. What were you going to do? How many of your plans would have brought you here today? In Florida? How many moved here from someplace else? How many thought in high school you would end up in Florida? Not too many of us. I sure never did. Life brings surprises and changes that we cannot always predict. But I am going to say, even when our plans take us away from God, take us a direction or place we should not be, God meets us there. God says, “Go to Oklahoma” and you go to Ohio. God says, “Okay, I can deal with that. I can meet you in Ohio. I can deal with your life and I have good things for your life there. I had something better planned, but I can bring the best for you in these new circumstances, no matter where you are.” The amazing thing about God is that He can work for our good no matter the circumstances (Romans 8:28). He is able to line everything up and make everything work out for our good.
The surprising thing about God is His flexibility. He is the sovereign power of the Universe, His Universe, but voluntarily gives power to those He created in His image. He gave them the ability to choose—free will. And sometimes, often, they choose incorrectly, even sinfully. We mess up and may miss God’s best plan for our lives. But with each changing circumstance God can weave it into something great if we will trust Him and walk in His ways. From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is filled with people who did what God did not want done and thereby brought new circumstances and troubles for themselves and others around them. Witness the following: Adam, Eve, Cain, Ham, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Rebekah, Jacob, Jacob’s sons, Jacob’s daughter, David, Solomon, Saul, kings of the North (Israel), kings of the South (Judah), Israel’s priesthood that led many astray, the Israelite people’s faithlessness and idolatry, and many more. All did something foolish, sinful, or faithless to interfere with God’s best plan. If God tells you to do something because it is the best thing to do and you do not do it, and maybe even behave directly contrary to it, then the negative circumstances you create are not part of God’s best plan. Read the Old Testament carefully. It is one long story of human failure and interference with God’s best plan. Think of how much better things would have been had all the above people not done the things they did? You may ask, “But isn’t God sovereign?” Yes, He is, which is why He is able to bring good from bad. And notice, He was still able to bring the Redeemer He promised mankind from the beginning (Genesis 3:15). God is a redeeming God. He is able to bring beauty out of ashes. He is able to weave a wonderful tapestry with our lives if we yield ourselves to Him. No one can do more to create lasting and holy results with a given set of circumstances than God!
Dealing with us humans is like herding cats. Have you ever seen a circus act with cats? I am not talking about lions; I am talking about a bunch of little calicos and Siamese. That is how we act with God. The sovereignty of God is magnified by our free will. It causes problems. It causes pain. It causes loss. It causes suffering. It causes sin but the amazing thing about God is that He does not have to control us to take us to where He wants us to be. He lets us walk there. And it is not just about us messing up our own lives but also when life does not go according to plan, when life is broken, when the things you have planned out, have neatly laid out, and somebody or something comes in and smashes it. And it will never be the same. Life is broken and no matter what you do, you can try to glue it back together, you can try to patch it up, you can try to get another one, but nothing can fix that one. That is a loss that you will carry with you the rest of your life. But God can heal and God can replace and life goes on.
In the book of Ruth we find a story about hopelessness and regret. We find a woman named Naomi who is hopeless. “I might as well die. I am empty. I have been broken so many times. I thought it was bad enough when my husband took me away from my family and friends and then he died. And then my first son died and then my second son died. I buried three men. I live in poverty. My life is barren.”
Some of you have brokenness that even exceeds Naomi’s. I want you to know from the book of Ruth you are going to see a God who is powerful and wonderful and sensitive and caring who meets us where we are to take us on to better times. The book of Romans is pointing right back at Ruth when it says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures that we might have hope.” To have the encouragement of the Scriptures that you are not the first one or the last one to go through difficulties. No matter what the cause, no matter how long it has lasted, your tragedy is just as important and just as consuming to your mind and heart as Naomi’s pain was to her. Therefore, the book of Ruth has something wonderful to teach you.
When we first think about loss we think about the grief of losing something, the grief of something being taken away from us. But see, we start to deal with that grief and then we find out there is not just grief, there is not just pain, there are huge problems, as well. Naomi not only buried a husband, but two sons, too. And in that culture there are major problems that go along with that. Where is her source of income? She is living in a man-dominated world where a woman did not even have the right to own property. What is she going to do? She not only has to deal with the pain of loss but the social and economic problems, as well.
When are people most sensitive to God? On New Year’s Day? When everything is great? People tend to listen more carefully at funerals rather than marriages. Marriages? They do not listen to a thing I have to say. “We are in love. Nothing can overcome this love. Let’s get on with the ceremony.” But funerals, they feel the need for comfort, for understanding, for eternity, for there to be a God that makes sense of this life and makes sense of death. That is what the book of Ruth brings us. Ruth is a powerful book. “You will have trouble,” Jesus says. “We are bound for trouble as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7), Eliphaz reminds us. We want a trouble-free life. We work for that. We work for security. We work to avoid negative circumstances. We do not want to have trouble. I do not care how much money you have, how safe and secure your family is, how healthy you are, how much you do not eat or how much you run, how good a driver you are, you will have trouble. And trouble exposes your faith. You think you are strong, you think you have it together, but when trouble comes, that is when your faith is really tested. It is not tested sitting in church Sunday mornings. “Oh I was faithful. I sat through the whole sermon. I even took notes.” And those things are fine, but your faith is tested when problems, when loss, when troublesome issues come up. Troubles, loss, brokenness expose our faith for how strong or how fragile it really is.
Naomi felt the bitter taste of a broken life. “I went away full and now I am empty.” I want you to recognize that Naomi was not emotionally bitter. Her life tastes bitter to her. So often we read what she said, “Do not call me Naomi,” which means pleasant, beautiful, delightful, “but call me Mara for my life is bitter,” and interpret that to mean she is emotionally bitter toward God. But as you read through and notice all of Naomi’s words, you find she is not angry and resentful against God. She is saying the hand that has been dealt her is painful and not pleasant to experience. But through it all her God still lives and cares about her and she will hold onto Him. When she asks her daughters-in-law to go back to their homes so that the loving kindness of God may give them husbands, she still sees God’s loving kindness. When you see her advice and her working in chapters two, three, and four, you see she trusts God to work in her difficult circumstances.
Naomi is a woman of faith. It is easy to trust God when things are going well, but can you imagine ten years of loss? Burying your husband, your two sons, being left in a foreign land and still saying, “God, my life is bitter but I trust you.” That is the hope that I want to see in your heart. That is the hope that endures. That is the faith that endures. That is the hope that helps you, your family and others around you. That is not a Mary Poppins faith. When trouble comes we need to beware of playing the blame game. The first thing we want to do is find out why. How did this happen? We want to prevent it from happening again in the future but more so, we want to get rid of the grief and hurt we are feeling now. It feels so much better to be angry at somebody than to be hurt by them. Anger feels so much better than grief. I cannot cry so I am going to fix it. If I cannot fix it, I am going to make sure it never happens again. I want someone to blame. I want something to do. But nothing you can do can take it back. Some problems we cause ourselves. And God tries to protect us from this as we see throughout scripture—proverbs, commands, warnings all given to educate us and keep us from what will harm us and those around us. Anybody cause problems for themselves this week? We can be debilitated by guilt or we can learn from it and recognize God still loves us. “God, heal me and help me to not do that again.”
Problems can also come from what others do to us. Their sin and errors spill over into our lives. But being angry and vengeful at them does not help you. Vengeance may feel better than painful tears. But tears heal and anger hardens. We even blame God. “God, you could have prevented this, Why didn’t you?” When we ask that question, we are revealing what we really think. We are expecting this world to be heaven. God has plans for a place and time in which there will be no more crying, grief or anguish. But now is not that time, or place. We love the thought of that place and we are angry and hurt because we are not there now. Jesus says, “I am preparing a place for you.” He would not allow us to go through this suffering, to go through the pain and loss if it was not going to bear wonderful fruit for all eternity for us. I do not know exactly how He is going to do it but I know He will. As parents, we do not want our children to experience hurt and trial without some goodness coming out of it. Is that not more true of our heavenly Father?
There is a term in Bible theology called sanctified affliction. Affliction, I do not like the sound of that. Affliction implies pain. What can that do with sanctification? To be sanctified is be made whole, complete. It is being made right with God. God allows some things to come into our lives so that we can be made right and whole in His sight. God is a redeeming God and He has no place for pointless suffering in His children’s lives. Pointless suffering is the curse of being separated from God, of being on our own. God wants to take those negative and painful circumstances and make something beautiful out of them. God uses them to make us more like Jesus—sanctified affliction.
When you have trouble, look for what God is going to do in and through it. Count your blessings when trouble comes, James says, because God is about to work great things amidst the painful and trying circumstances. And look for what God has given you to help you through and out of that trouble. Do you recognize that God’s means of blessing Naomi is Ruth? What good is she? She is a Moabite woman, a foreigner from a society that worships false gods and whose women have a reputation for sexual licentiousness. But she is the blessing that God is going to use to heal and restore Naomi’s life. The book of Ruth teaches us that we will have trouble but we will also have resources that bring us blessing amidst that trouble. As a Christian, you have more than just luck. You have a God who cares about you and is working for your good (Romans 8:28). He does not cause all things, but can take all things and bring some good out of it. Our God is a redeeming God!
As a Christian you have more than a positive attitude. “I have to think positive, I have to be an optimist, I have to stay positive about life.” Based on what? Yourself? The goodness or intelligence of humans? No, you have the promises of God that go beyond trying to muster up the energy and positive attitude to see yourself through the difficulties. You have the promises of God that you are not alone. True faith holds onto His life, His heart, His plan, His work in and for you. You have more than simple will power. “I just have to make sure that never happens again. I am going to make it all work out.” No, you have the presence of God who will work on your behalf if you will only trust Him. You have the Holy Spirit in you to guide you and strengthen you and direct your steps and comfort your heart. It is not your will power that is the determining factor. It is the power of God working in, through and for you that matters most.
When trouble hits which direction do you head? Our first instinct is to escape trouble. We are desperate for escape. We want to get out. When the famine hit Israel, what did Elimelech do? Instead of staying in his homeland, where Yahweh lives, and face the struggle with his fellow Israelites, he took his fortune and escaped to Moab, a land known for its prosperity. But in seeking his own prosperity, he united himself to a nation known for false gods and sexual wantonness. When trouble came, Elimelech moved away from God, seeking his future happiness and prosperity elsewhere. He was willing to raise his family in a pagan land rather than risk losing his fortune, rather than risk struggling with fewer material possessions. Escape does not work. You do not get to God’s destination by going the wrong direction. After much trouble and heartache, Naomi starts heading in the right direction—toward God, not away from Him. She did not know what to expect when she got home but she trusted God to provide for her needs when she got there.
Trouble exposes our faith. Trouble also exposes our resolve. Ruth gives us one of the most beautiful passages in the entire book. “I will not go back. I will go with you. I will never leave you. Your God will be my God and where you die, I will die. May God curse me if I do anything but that.” Ruth’s testimony reveals her faith. She was walking away from her home country and possible prosperity to a land unknown to her and that had just experienced great hardship and want. She knew she was in for struggle. A life of ease was not in her immediate future. But she went anyway. Tough faith does not develop in a comfortable heart. Ruth’s heart was not comfortable. She is going to a land where she is going to be hated, where the prospects of marriage are slim. She will most likely be an outcast. But she is going to be with Naomi whatever the cost. She might not have known it, as she will soon learn, but not only was she going with Naomi but she was going toward God. And that will make all the difference!
Life is seasonal. Every life will contain the cold darkness of winter, some colder and darker than others. And it can consume and try us to the breaking point. Even in nature, animals die for want of food and shelter when the cold winds blow and the snow piles high. But after winter is spring. A time of renewal and hope. Who sees the spring? Those who hold on and survive the winter. Hold on to the promises of God. Hold on because He is not done with you yet. God is not done until you are done. There are times in life where you may feel God is done and He cannot do anything more but it is because you are in a place where you are not listening to Him because He will not violate your free will. We may say, “I am not listening to God anymore. I am done.” But God is still going to talk and as soon as we are willing to open our heart and spiritual ears He will give us more. God is not done with us yet. God is at work for our good. Even when we have our backs turned to Him, He is working for our good because that is who He is. God is for His children. The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz is a living illustration of that truth.
Ruth 2: Redeeming Love Changes Hearts
Ruth 2:1-23: “Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.
One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.’ Naomi replied, ‘All right, my daughter, go ahead.’ So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. ‘The Lord be with you!’ he said. ‘The Lord bless you!’ the harvesters replied. Then Boaz asked his foreman, ‘Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?’
And the foreman replied, ‘She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.’ Boaz went over and said to Ruth, ‘Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.’
Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. ‘What have I done to deserve such kindness?’ she asked. ‘I am only a foreigner.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Boaz replied. ‘But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.’
‘I hope I continue to please you, sir,’ she replied. ‘You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.’
At mealtime Boaz called to her, ‘Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.’ So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over. When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, ‘Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!’
So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. ‘Where did you gather all this grain today?’ Naomi asked. ‘Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!’
So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, ‘The man I worked with today is named Boaz.’
‘May the Lord bless him!’ Naomi told her daughter-in-law. ‘He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.’
Then Ruth said, ‘What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.’ ‘Good!’ Naomi exclaimed. ‘Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.’
So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.”
In the book of Ruth we can see some very important qualities and behaviors that Boaz and Ruth possess that allow them to be used by God for His good purpose and plan. Boaz and Ruth are the kind of people that God can use to work His will, His best plan. We are going to look at three sets of character traits that allowed them to be used by God in the special way we read about in Ruth. The first set of traits is humility and its corollary, respect. Humility is having a realistic understanding of who you are before God. It is not self-deprecation or self-flagellation. It is a creature bowing before His Creator. To a Christian, or a believer of any age, it is a person bowing before His Redeemer, as well. And then respect is having a right understanding of who those around you are in the Father’s eyes. Humility is about you. Respect is about the other person. As we read Ruth, we notice humility and respect are a part of both Ruth and Boaz. We see the humility of Ruth in verse two when she says to Naomi, “Let me go.” She is a grown woman asking her mother-in-law for permission? She is being respectful. She says, “I have this idea. Is this okay with you?” In verse four, we read that Boaz greets the harvesters. He seeks the harvesters out and talks with them as if they are his friends, not his peons, not his slaves who do work for him. He greets them with, “The Lord be with you” and look at the response. “And the Lord bless you.” They have a relationship with each other that is informed by their relationship with God. Boaz may be the owner and boss but there is not a hint here that he thinks he is better than those who work for him.
In verse seven Ruth asks the foreman of the fields, “Please let me glean in your field.” Technically, she does not have to ask. She has a right under Israeli law to go in any field and to glean behind the harvesters but she comes with humility and respect to him. It says that she bowed her face to the ground. This is their cultural way to show respect and honor to another person. She calls herself, “your servant,” signifying that she will work and be subject to his authority. Concerning Boaz, we see that he has actually brought lunch to the people. They do not have to come with a sack lunch. He brings lunch for his workers because he cares about them. He is considerate of them. After eating what was provided, Ruth took leftovers home to Naomi. She is not embarrassed to ask for Naomi’s sake. At the end of chapter 2 we learn she lived with her mother-in-law. She was true and devoted to what she said she would do. “I will go where you go. I will live with you.” She followed through in what she said. Boaz calls her, “my daughter.” Not just, young woman. There is a sign of interest and care there. Humility and respect are almost lost arts in our society. You have to be assertive and aggressive to put yourself forward, above your peers. If you have to trample on somebody else, then that is what you do. We live in a me first, me last culture. But that is not the character God wants to build in you. If you want to follow God’s ways you will have to go against the tide of our culture. Imagine what would happen if you walked into work, into your class, as a schoolteacher and say, “The Lord bless you.” “I have to tell the principal you said God. You can’t say that.” Does God come out of your conversation? All through this scene we see they recognize that God is real in their lives. God is a part of their conversation and everyday behavior.
And then the second set of traits is gratitude and generosity. Real gratitude results in thankfulness for what you have been given by someone who did not have to give you anything. All throughout this passage I am impressed by how Ruth is always saying “thank you.” “I don’t deserve this, thank you.” In an age of entitlement, it sure stands out, doesn’t it? Coming from Moab where they did not have such traditions of providing for the poor, Ruth rested in Boaz’s kindness and was truly grateful. She does not assume that she has a right to anything that belongs to Boaz. “You should do this for me because you have more money than me.” “You should do this because you are stronger than me.” “You should…you should… you should.” There is no expectation or demandedness in Ruth. There is thankfulness. And Boaz reflects gratitude because by his actions he is saying that everything that he has comes from God. God has blessed him, not so that he can be a rich hoarder but to bless others with what he has. “I have the opportunity to do these things because God is involved in my life.” His actions show an overflow of gratitude toward God. When gratitude saturates your life, it comes out in generosity to others. We see over and over again how Boaz is providing for his workers, providing for Ruth, providing for Naomi. He is watching out for them. He is taking care of them. He says to Ruth, “Hey, come have some bread. Have some roasted grain.” By the way, that roasted grain is probably like granola in our day. Because you do not just eat some barley chips, you would crack your teeth. But when you roast them they get soft. Add a little molasses and you get a great treat, maybe like bucked wheat. And Ruth saves some for Naomi. Gratitude and generosity go together.
And then the third set of character traits is diligence and consideration. Diligence is what God works in you to do the right thing at the right time. And consideration is to make it easier on others to do the right thing at the right time. Diligence is doing your duty, to complete what God puts on your plate. We see this in Ruth’s life. Ruth will glean, picking up one stalk of wheat at a time that has fallen from the workers hands or attention. She picked up what was not picked up by the workers. The leftovers, if you will. Ruth will pick them all up. She is diligent. And when Boaz arrives from Bethlehem, he goes directly to the fields. He does not have to, he is the rich dude. He owns the field. He does not have to be there but he is diligent about taking care of the men, taking care of the women who are out there working in the hot sun. He is involved with them. He asks, “Whose young woman is this?” He notices someone strange, someone different in the fields. And who is she? What is going on here? They inform him about her identity and he says, “For I have heard of this young Moabite that came back with Naomi and all that she has done for her.” He has heard about her. Her reputation has preceded her. She works steadily from the early morning and takes a short rest. She rests a bit in the shelter because it is hot. Harvesting is hot, dirty, tiring work. And this woman is covered up from head to toe, a scarf around her head just to keep the dust and dirt out of it. Her long dress, maybe tied up around her leg, between her legs, so that she can move modestly. All you can see is her dirty, sweaty face.
She takes a short rest in the shelter because she knows she has to pace herself. Boaz then has the opportunity to say to her, “I have been told all about what you have done.” Boaz acknowledges her and what she has done for Naomi. It is surprising to think that Boaz from Bethlehem is listening, paying attention to a foreigner from the land of Moab. But she has shown herself to not just be a Moabite woman from the land of Moab. She was a follower of God, she was now Boaz’s spiritual ‘sister’. He calls her, “my daughter.” Probably showing their age difference. A follower of God is a follower of God, no matter where they are from. Boaz and his workers were willing to put aside any preconceived notions about Ruth. By her actions she had shown the Spirit’s work in her life. And Boaz acknowledges that, even identifies with it. After she leaves the shelter, Boaz tells his workers, “You take care of her. Let her glean around the sheaves. In fact, pull some out. Let it fall out so she can have them so when she gets done, she has about an ephah of grain.” How much is an ephah of grain? It is about 30 pounds of grain. Three ten pound bags of flour. Four gallons of milk. It says, when she gets done she carries it back to town. Good news, you have an ephah of grain. Bad news, now you have to carry it all the way back to town, in the dark. But before you can do that, you have to beat out the kernels, you have to thresh it. Now, there is a dirty, dirty job. Pounding in the dirt, just pounding and pounding, knocking the kernels off the shaft and throwing it up in the air, letting the breeze blow the light chaff away. But she does it and then takes it back to Naomi.
By doing more for Ruth than the law says he had to do, he not only showed consideration for Ruth but also for her mission of providing for Naomi. It is one child of God helping another child of God fulfill his or her God-given mission or task. It is partnering together with him or her to help fulfill the work of ministry. It is giving cool water to a parched prophet of God. It is supporting an imprisoned apostle who is limited by what he can do and where he can go. It is being his legs, his voice to the people. It is going the extra mile to help carry someone else’s burden. Boaz identified with what Ruth was doing and supported her in it.
Jesus wants to work in our character to give us humility, to nurture gratitude, provoke an attitude of diligence in our lives. Those are beautiful character traits that far outweigh the right-sized nose or the clean skin. To show respect and generosity and consideration to others is more beautiful in God’s eyes than the outward beauty so stressed by our culture. It is not about how pretty you are, but it is how the blessedness God has endued in you comes out of you to bless others. It is Jesus in you and through you making a difference to others. And it does not matter whether you are six or seventy-six. The beauty God wants to build never has an age limit, does not have a gender limit, does not have an occupation limit. Your character will be revealed every time a situation comes into your life. Your character will be exposed and that exposure is a chance to grow your character. It is not just you trying harder. It is you partnering with Jesus to let Him be and do in you what you cannot do yourself. It is you willingly and purposely resting in the grace of God.
Ruth and Boaz lived in Old Testament times, how can they be examples for us who live in New Testament times? They are even types of the Christ-Christian redemptive relationship. I mean, in the New Testament we have the finished work of Christ at Calvary and all the historical actions associated with His life and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Ruth and Boaz lived prior to all this. Are Ruth and Boaz doing all these things in their own power, absent the work of the Holy Spirit? Are they to be viewed much like a Greek or Roman hero who represents the best humanity has to offer? The answer is a resounding, “No!” Ruth and Boaz were born-again believers who showed aliveness toward God and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Boaz became a type of Christ, the true Redeemer, because he allowed the Holy Spirit to work Christlike traits in him. The behavior of Boaz is not a tribute to the best in human beings that God copies later. It is a human being humbly yielding himself to God and His ways and purposes, who then is energized by the Holy Spirit to show Christlike characteristics. The same is true of Ruth. While Boaz, in type, represents Christ, the true Redeemer, Ruth represents the believer who places him-or-herself under the Redeemer’s protective wing. Ruth did not know a lot of theology but she did show a God-consciousness and work of the Spirit in her life. Ruth is our example. Not knowing the future at how she would become a figure in the genealogy of Jesus or the Christian in the Christ-Christian redemptive relationship, she was faithful in the moment and left the rest to God. Let us be faithful in our moment as she was in hers.
Ruth 3: Redeeming Love Takes No Shortcuts
Ruth 3:1-18: One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.
After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”
“The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am.
Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”
So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town.
When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”
Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.
Today, we are going to see in a kind of twist of God-ordained events, that the book of Ruth helps us understand redemption. It helps us understand redeeming love by helping us grasp what it is all about. It shows us that God’s redeeming love works in the worst of times, in the hardest of times, in the most violent of times, when nobody seems to be doing the right thing. In Ruth we are going to see how God’s redeeming love surfaces right in front of us in the midst of very difficult times. When two women can do nothing to help themselves, God steps in and shows His redeeming love.
There is a Hebrew word, “chesed,” and it is this word that the theological truth of the book of Ruth is structured around (Ruth 1:8, 2:20, and 3:10). Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies says this about “chesed.” “It is used of the goodness and abundant grace of God to his own people, his free favour and faithfulness; in man, it is expressive of kindness and gratitude in a high degree, also of piety towards God; holiness, and zealous affection towards all that is good and truly desirable.” We might say “loyal love” or “faithful love.” Ruth chapter one, verse one, tells us that these events happened back in the days of the judges. Open your Bibles for a moment to Ruth chapter one and look at verse one and then I want you to go back to Judges 21:25. It is important to consider why these two books are beside each other. Understanding the book of Judges will help us understand the setting, or social conditions, of Ruth. What you see in those days is that there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. And then the book of Ruth starts and it tells us that these events happened in the days of the judges, in the days when Israel was rebellious, in the days when Israel had thumbed its nose to God, in the days when Israel found itself in sin cycles that found it plunging deeper and deeper into rebellion and sin. These are the days of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. These were hard times.
And if you will remember, chapter one starts off with Naomi and her two sons and her husband, Elimelech, leaving Israel because there was a famine in the land. They left family and friends and moved to Moab, which was east and adjacent to Israel. Ten years after moving Naomi’s husband and two sons die. She is now alone with her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi decides to return home. Both Orpah and Ruth start back with her but Orpah eventually turns back to her native land while Ruth follows Naomi to Israel. Ruth tells Naomi in a moment of loyal love (chesed), “I will go where you go and your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” We see, here, the Holy Spirit’s effect in Ruth’s heart and life.
In chapter two we read that Ruth goes to the fields to work, to glean grain in the hot sun to provide for herself and Naomi. Providence guides her to the fields of Boaz. It was God’s command to Israel for owners of a field to allow the poor to pick grain at the outside edges of their fields. This was a sort of wealth redistribution to help the poor work to provide for themselves. While others might not look kindly at her taking their grain (2:2, 2:9, 2:22), even though that is what God told Israel to do to help the poor, Boaz was a man of God who respected the commands, or ways, of God. He told his workers to allow it. As he watched this young Moabite woman, he notices something different about her. She was humble, respectful, and kind. He allowed her to eat with his own workers and glean from the best of his crops, not just along the edges. He heard about her leaving her native land to cast her lot among God’s people and her loyalty to Naomi. She might be a foreigner, one born in a foreign land, but to Boaz she was a child of God because of her faith, which he could see in the way she behaved. Boaz honors her faith by helping her in her quest to provide for Naomi and herself. He was at this point helping a sister-in-the-faith cope with difficult circumstances. Later we will see he does even more for her. Ruth learns that Boaz is a kinsman of Naomi and that she can trust him to take care of her. “She kept close by the maidservants of Boaz to glean until the end of barley harvest and of [the] wheat harvest [also], and the [whole time] dwelt with her mother-in-law” (2:23). Not only was she taking care of Naomi but she was not running after the young men, either. As we will see later, Boaz noticed.
And here is what Chapter 3 tells us. Naomi says, “My daughter,” talking to Ruth, “shall I not seek security for you that it may go well with you.” Now previously in Ruth chapter one, Naomi said to Ruth, “May God show his loyal love to you.” But by the time we get to chapter three, Naomi is saying, “I am going to find security for you, Ruth,” and so Naomi gives Ruth instructions on what to do. Naomi instructs Ruth to go take a bath, to put on her best clothes, to spray on her perfume and to go up to the dusty, dirty threshing floor where the men are, where the prostitutes are (unfortunately, as we see in our culture where there are large quantities of men, prostitutes follow after them in hopes of plying their trade), where this man Boaz is, and to present herself under the cover of night at his feet. And she leaves Ruth saying, “He will tell you what to do.” Hosea 9:1 tells us what kind of place the threshing area can be. “Do not rejoice Israel with exultation like the nations, for you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlotry earnings on every threshing floor.” During these times of Israel’s rebellion, during these times the threshing floor could be an ugly place to be. And Naomi, in desperation, sends Ruth to the threshing floor, perfumed up that maybe, just maybe, she would make a romantic impression on Boaz. What is going on here? It seems to be the case that Naomi wanted to get Ruth alone with Boaz, away from the business of gleaning. Maybe she saw this as the only way to do it. And she pretties Ruth up in order to make the best impression on Boaz. Threshing grain was hard work. After a long day, workers often did not return home to come back the next day, they slept right there, maybe in a barn, or even outside. Naomi instructed Ruth that after Boaz had eaten his meal, and after he laid down to sleep, she was to uncover his feet (seems to imply an offer of emotional intimacy not sexual because what she is about to ask is very intimate in a pure sort of way and in keeping with the redeeming law of Israel) and lay down below his feet (maybe touching his feet), signifying humility not demandedness, to sleep herself.
Read Ruth 3:7b-10. They are significant verses. “He went to lie down at the end of a heap of grain; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and lay down. And it came to pass at midnight (after waking), that the man was startled, and turned himself; and behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your handmaid. Spread, therefore, your covering over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.’ And he said, ‘Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end that at the beginning, inasmuch as you did not follow young men, whether poor or rich.’” I want you to notice what was important to a man like Boaz. Naomi thought getting Ruth all prettied up mattered. Maybe she thought Ruth had to compete with the other women who maybe did not have the purest motives in mind. Is not that what the message is in our culture? But in the dark, Boaz tells us what he noticed. He noticed the character and lovely disposition of Ruth. He had noticed her over a lengthy period of time—both the barley and wheat harvesting seasons. It seems to me Naomi was practicing some expediency here. Her focus was misplaced. She wanted to present Ruth as an attractive young woman to maybe sway the will of Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer—the one to marry and take care of her (and Naomi). But the honorable spirit of Boaz had the right focus. He was not impressed by the outward beauty of the other young women who were probably nearby but the character of Ruth he noticed and valued.
According to Deuteronomy 25:5-9, it was the prerogative of the wife of the deceased husband to make an appeal to the nearest available relative to redeem her with marriage and children so the family name and wealth can be preserved. The man could say no. Ruth was indeed asking Boaz to marry her. But the words she used showed she was asking for more than that. What is she saying when she said to Boaz, “Spread your covering over me”? As the godly woman she is, her words are chosen very carefully. Turn back to Chapter 2. When Ruth begins to work in his fields, Boaz being a righteous man said to her, “You have made a good choice to come to a foreign country and depend on God to spread his wings over you.” By using the same type of language, Ruth is essentially asking Boaz to be that provision that he spoke to her about at the beginning. “You be that provision for me. You be that protection for me. You spread your wings over me because you are my redeemer.” God uses this same language toward Israel. Psalm 36:7 says this: “How precious is your loving kindness, oh God, and the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Boaz confirmed that he was a near kinsman but not the closest. He tells her all must be done according to the law of kinsman-redeemer and that he would take care of it.
Ruth 3:13b-15 is endearing and reveals a lot about both Ruth and Boaz. Notice the pure spirit of both Ruth and Boaz, which gives us assurance that the initial motive of Ruth’s appearance at the threshing floor was never impure. “’But if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.’ And she lay at his feet until the morning; and she rose up before one could recognize another. And he said, ‘Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.’ Also he said, ‘Bring the cloak that you have on you, and hold it out.’ And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her; and she went into the city.” What do we learn from this short passage? Several things. First, we see Ruth’s chaste heart. She gets up to head home while it was still dark so that no one would get the wrong idea about what might have happened between her and Boaz. She was not there to seduce him. She was there to humbly let Boaz know she wanted him to be her redeemer. Second, we see faithful Boaz’s attitude. He wants to protect Ruth’s reputation. He did not want anyone to start any nasty rumors about what Ruth might have done that night. He cared about her and did not want her misrepresented to others. And I think he was also trying to preserve his own testimony as a man of God. Others knew him as such a man, and taking advantage of Ruth could destroy any testimony he had for God. Third, we see Boaz give Ruth a surety (a pledge) for his promise to take care of her. He gives her as much grain as she can carry back to Naomi. As the gift of the Holy Spirit is our surety that what God has promised us will come to pass, the grain was Boaz’s surety to Ruth.
Many of you know I am a cyclist. When I first started cycling, I wanted to ride much faster and I wanted to ride with this group of men. They were really fast. They consistently rode, probably, from 25 to 28 miles an hour which is very fast on a bicycle. They would do this for 20-30 miles at a time. All these men went to my church. The problem was, I was too slow and I knew it. There was no way that I could keep up with these guys. I wanted to be a part of that group. I wanted to ride with guys who were good. So one day I decided to ride with them. They left me in the dust. I remember I was huffing and puffing. I was riding as fast as I could and they were a mile or two ahead. I remember coming around the corner and seeing them all waiting for me at a stop sign. As soon as I got to the stop sign, they took off again. And of course, they left me far behind again. But I wanted to be a part of this group. I wanted to be part of the fast rider group. I will never forget after that ride, one of the guys in church came up to me and said, “You know something, Stephen? If you want to ride fast, let me tell you how to do it. If you want to ride fast, here is how you ride fast. Ride fast.” Now it seems like common sense, doesn’t it? But he was right. If you want to run fast, run fast. If you want to ride fast, ride fast. So I started riding with those guys. I got with them on Fridays and I tried to keep up with them. They left me over and over and over again. But you know what they did? They may have dropped me over and over again. They may have rode off and left me over and over again. But I noticed they kept inviting me back. See, I told them I had a goal and my goal was to ride fast. I wanted to be a part of that group. And you know what they did? They made my goal their goal. You know what they did? They kept asking me to come back. You know what they did? They bought me equipment for my bicycle that would help me go faster. They made my desires their desires and they began to serve me in my desire to go faster. And guess what? I got faster. I got a lot faster. Because three or four men were loyal to me, who made my goals their goals, it made a difference in my life. And that brings us to the last part of Ruth chapter 3.
Ruth 3:14-18; Boaz said to Ruth, “Now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask. For all people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.” This phrase “woman of excellence” takes us to Proverbs 31. It is the same phrase that the writer of Proverbs 31 uses when he talked about the woman described there. All those beautifying preparations that Naomi had Ruth do were not necessary to capturing Boaz’s heart. Many women concentrate on just those things to impress and attract men. But they are shortcuts. What really matters is who you are in God’s eyes. Godly character like Ruth’s attracts men like Boaz. Because what she has is real. Boaz has been watching her for quite some time. Ruth had worked and interacted with him and his workers not only through the barley harvest but the wheat harvest, as well. She was not acting to impress. Ironside said this about such acting in women. “There are husbands who, after marriage, find that one who in days of courtship seemed so docile and affectionate is a veritable termagant and as unreasonable as it is possible to be.” Ruth was real. Her godliness was true and lasting (3:10). Boaz pledged himself to her and let her know why—“you are a woman of excellence.” It is not you are so cute or attractive, it is, “I value who you are as a person.” And THAT is a good foundation to building a long term marriage relationship.
And so how do we apply this today? The application just really rolls right out of each of the three main points. The first thing is this, we need to remember that there are no shortcuts to love. When it comes to love, when it comes to God’s kind of faithful, loyal love, there are no shortcuts. So when we love, we need to make God’s ways our ways. We need to be willing to look at His Book to discover what are His ways, then to make those ways, our ways. We are to imitate Him not just follow a set of rules or principles. The second thing is that we need to practice faithfulness and loyalty to each other, without violating what is right. And lastly, we need to serve one another because loyal love is demonstrated by serving one another. Today we have seen that redeeming love takes no shortcuts. It does not shortcut God’s ways. It cannot shortcut faithfulness and loyalty and it always serves one another’s needs.
When I read the New Testament, I am told of a Man who took no shortcuts when it came to loving me. His name is Jesus Christ and when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He could have taken a shortcut, but He did not. When Jesus was tempted to be unfaithful to God’s will, God’s plan, He said to His disciples, “My will is to do the will of my father.” When Jesus could have shortcut serving the needs of others, He reached out to the lowest in society and served them until the end (Mark 10:45). He loved faithfully and loyally, even when it hurt. While Jesus did not have to go to the cross, because the Father gave Him the right to say, “No,” Jesus went because it was necessary for our redemption. Jesus took no shortcuts.
Ruth 4: Redeeming Love Makes a Way
Ruth 4:1-22: Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”
The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.” Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.” “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”
Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”
Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”
Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”
So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”
Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David.”
One aspect of redemption is to elevate the status of someone and we are going to see in chapter 4 of Ruth that somebody’s status was elevated. We are going to see in our look at Ruth that redeeming love makes a way for those who take refuge in God. And our application is very simple. Our application is simply this, take refuge in God. And so as we look at Ruth we see truths enacted that highlight three lies our society tells us that we tend to believe. Three lies that we believe that go opposite or opposed to what the book of Ruth teaches us. The first lie that we buy into in our culture is that we are supposed to be independent. That we are our own person. That we are supposed to be our own man and our own woman and we are supposed to make ourselves. We are not supposed to be dependent on anyone, including God, but rather we are supposed to autonomous and independent. The second lie in our culture is that we can do it our own way. That includes not necessarily always playing by the rules but we can make up our own rules. We can do it the way we want to do it. After all, it is our life. And since I own my life, I can live my life my way. The third lie that we often buy into is that we deserve the best material life possible. “More, more, more” becomes the message that plays over and over in our heads. In Ruth 4 we are going to see a woman who is dependent and stricken. We are going to see a woman who, instead of trying to do it her way, decides she is going to do it God’s way. We are going to see that instead of thinking to herself that she deserves all the ‘blessings’, she knows that she really deserves nothing were it not for the blessing of God Himself.
And so how does redeeming love make a way? How does it happen and what does it look like? In Ruth 4 we see, first of all, that redeeming love protects those who take refuge in the redeemer. Open your Bible to Ruth 4, we are going to look at this chapter in three segments. Now if you will remember in Ruth 3, Ruth went in the middle of the night to respectfully wait the opportunity to ask Boaz to be her redeemer, to marry her. When the opportunity came she said, “I am Ruth, your maid so spread your covering over me for you are a close relative.” Ruth was asking for nothing less than Boaz’s hand in marriage. But in that statement we will learn, based on the context and other scripture passages, that Ruth is asking for the protection and the provision that a kinsman-redeemer provides. And so as Ruth asks him to spread the covering over her to find the significance of what she was asking we go to passages like Psalm 36:7: “How precious is your loving kindness, O God. The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” And Psalm 91:1, 4: “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the almighty. Under his wings you may seek refuge. His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” We see in the Bible, especially in the Psalms and the prophets, that being up under God’s wings is to be under His protection and care. Jesus said this in Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” All the leaders of the Jews needed to do were to be willing to come up under His wings and they would have been alright. Instead Jesus tells them, “Your house is left to you empty. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Instead of doing it God’s way they crucified Him. Instead of bowing their heads so they could move under His protective wing they stood and shook their fists at Him. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.!
In this passage there are three movements. The first movement, you might say, is the business negotiation where Boaz walks to town and by the city gate, says to the redeemer who is first in line, “Sit down and let me talk with you.” And then he turns to the ten elders present to hear the matter, “Sit down and let us talk about this.” Boaz is following through on the promised he made to Ruth, “I will redeem you. I will protect you if the first redeemer doesn’t do it.” The second section in Ruth 4 is the legal section, we might say. This is the section where Boaz makes legal his marriage to Ruth and his redemption of the land that Naomi owns. And then the last section of this chapter I call the section of blessing for it is a time where the people, the city elders and the women in the town, reflect on the blessing of God. And so that’s the story, three major movements--follow through on promises made, the legal obligations and then the blessing of God.
And so the first thing we see is that Boaz seeks to ensure that Naomi is provided for, that Naomi is protected, that Ruth is provided for, that Ruth is protected. Let’s read. “If you will redeem it,” Boaz says as he is talking to the first redeemer in line, the one who is the closest to kin to Naomi, “redeem it. But if not, tell me that I may know for there is no one but you to redeem it and I am after you. And he said, I will redeem it.” Did you hear that? When Boaz presented the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s land to the first kinsman in line, the first kinsman said, I will redeem it and then Boaz says, “But wait, this is a package deal. You must marry Ruth as well.” When Boaz presents this package deal, the first-in-line redeemer refuses.
We know from the Bible that there are certain responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer. Those responsibilities are found in Deuteronomy 25 and Leviticus 25. I encourage you to read both chapters and learn more about this idea and the circumstances of which the kinsman-redeemer would step in. It is an important part of the history of Israel and of understanding our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. One of the responsibilities of a kinsman-redeemer is to marry the childless widow of a deceased brother if she wishes. It is her prerogative. Another responsibility is to look after the needy and helpless members of the family. Both of these needs were true in the life of Naomi and Ruth. They have been stricken and there are no men in their life. And in that day, it meant a difficult life of subsistence living. Women could not even own property. But unlike the surrounding nations, God made provision in Israel to take care of the situation. There are other responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer that we won’t go through here, but I do want to tell you about the three requirements of a redeemer. The first requirement is that the redeemer must be willing. He must count the cost and be willing to step in as a redeemer. The second requirement is that he must be qualified. That is, he must be the nearest kinsman available. The third is that he must be capable. He must have the means to purchase the land and he must be willing to pay the price.
In this story about Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi we actually see three redeemers, you might say. The first redeemer is the closest relative to Naomi. We do not know much about this man but from the passage we can surmise several things. When Boaz sees him he says, “Sit down my friend.” The word translated “friend” in our English version doesn’t give the full idea that the Hebrew language is trying to portray. We are told that Boaz says to him, “Sit down my friend.” But rather the idea is, somebody of very little or no reputation, somebody who may actually have a poor reputation and they are hardly worth naming. After all, this man isn’t even named. He is just called “so-and-so.” That is the idea of the Hebrew translation. Not really ‘friend’, but “come on over here and sit down so-and-so.” Somebody who is not all that important, so much so that he is not even named. And the second redeemer is Boaz. Now I bet you guys are wondering who the third redeemer is. The third redeemer is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. And the reason that I mention Jesus Christ as a redeemer in the book of Ruth, the Old Testament, before Jesus has ever even come is because Boaz is a type of Christ. Boaz is a shadow or a picture of the kind of redeemer that Christ Himself would be on our behalf. And so we have so-and-so, who is not our kind of redeemer; we have Boaz, who is the kind of redeemer who leads us to understand more about the person and work of Jesus Christ. And then we have the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ.
A real redeemer must be willing. We are told that “so-and-so” was unwilling to pay the cost, but Boaz was. Boaz set aside the money. Boaz decided to put others first. Boaz was willing to take both Naomi, the Jew and Ruth, the estranged Gentile. Boaz sacrificed his wealth on behalf of other people. Boaz showed love for Ruth and that is a picture of Jesus Christ who was willing to go to the cross for us. Jesus Christ didn’t set aside the physical cost that Boaz did but He set aside all the comforts and glory of heaven to be our Redeemer. Boaz put others first, Jesus Christ humbled Himself and put us first. As Boaz was open to the Jew and the Gentile, Jesus Christ was open to the Jews and the Gentiles. As Boaz sacrificed his earthly wealth, Jesus Christ sacrificed all. As Boaz demonstrated his love for Ruth, Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for us by going to the cross.
A real redeemer must also be qualified. Now so-and-so was the next of kin, so he was qualified legally. But he did not appear to be qualified morally. He lacked the necessary integrity to follow through on his responsibilities. But Boaz was a man of great integrity. Boaz fulfilled the law and his promise to Ruth. When he could have taken advantage of Ruth, he did it right. He did it by the book. And then we see Jesus Christ. Was Jesus qualified? Jesus became human. He is our next of kin. Jesus was perfect and sinless. He did not only have great integrity, but he was perfect and sinless, the lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. As Boaz fulfilled the law of redeemership perfectly, Jesus fulfilled the will of God perfectly. Jesus fulfilled all prophesies about Him (over 300). There is no one that was qualified to be our redeemer except the Man Jesus Christ. No one else but Jesus.
A real redeemer must also be capable. What about so-and-so’s capabilities? When Boaz said, “Here’s the deal,” and so-and-so said, “Wait a minute, if I marry Ruth I will lose my inheritance.” He showed he was more concerned about his estate than Ruth and Naomi. Which would make him a bad redeemer for both women. A real redeemer must care about those he intends to redeem above all else. But what about Boaz? Boaz paid the price in full. Boaz made it legal. Boaz had elders witness the transaction. Boaz protected Naomi and Ruth. Boaz preserved a name. Boaz provided hope. But what about Jesus Christ, was He capable? Jesus Christ paid the price with His blood. Jesus Christ made our justification legal. As elders witnessed Boaz, the disciples witnessed Jesus Christ. As Boaz protected Naomi and Ruth, Jesus Christ protects all who place their faith in Him. As Boaz preserved a heritage and a family name, Jesus Christ preserved His name. As Boaz provided hope for Naomi and Ruth’s future, Jesus Christ provides hope for all who trust in Him. You see, Jesus is unique and there is no salvation in anyone else. “For there is no name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” That’s our Jesus. The only qualified Redeemer.
John Piper, in talking about the book of Ruth says, “If you plead God’s value as the source of your hope, then his unwavering commitment to his own value engages his heart for your protection and joy.” This is the gospel message, my friends. This is the gospel--that God will have mercy on anyone who humbles himself like Ruth and takes refuge under His wings. Because there is a place of refuge and protection, Jesus said this, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give eternal life to them.” And he goes on to say, “and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Did you hear that? Jesus will protect you. You are, as a believer in Him, eternally secure. Eternally secure because no one, He says, will snatch you out of His hand. This is the gospel message-take refuge in Him.
Lastly, we see that redeeming love provides hope. You see, at first we have the sections where Boaz does the business and then Boaz makes it legal and then there is the response from those watching. It is beautiful. I wish we had another Sunday for this response because this response is so beautiful because it outlines, in a sense, the blessings of our redemption. Notice the response of the people to Boaz’s act of redemption. When Boaz completed this transaction, here is what they said to him and about him. “May the Lord make the woman like Rachel and Leah." What does that mean? Initially, Rachel and Leah were unable to conceive and we are told in Genesis 30 that God opened their wombs and they were able to conceive and through them and their handmaids they birthed the twelve tribes of Israel. In her first marriage, Ruth did not have children. But we are told that God enabled her to conceive. They also said to Boaz, “May you achieve wealth and become famous.” That is, “Boaz, because of what you have done, may your wealth prosper, may you prosper and may you become famous in Bethlehem and in the land.” It was a blessing of multiplied wealth and fame because of his sacrifices. And then it goes on, “May the Lord make your house like that of Perez.” Judah’s family line was preserved through Perez who is birthed by the Gentile Tamar. What they are saying is, “May this family line be preserved through Ruth just as Perez preserved the family line through a Gentile.”
But then there is a little inset. After these three blessings we see a little inset that says that Boaz married Ruth and they consummated their marriage and then it says this, “And the Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son.” You see, when we do things God’s way, fulfillment of God’s plan still depends on God to bless. You see, there is nothing that Boaz and Ruth could have done. There is nothing that they could have done to guarantee that they would have had a child, much less a son. But we are told in Scripture the very important truth that God enabled her to conceive. Fulfillment of God’s plan depends on Him to bless.
And finally we see the blessing of legacy. The women circle around Ruth and say, “A son has been born to Naomi,” with exclamation and praise. And they named him Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, from which line we get the Man, Jesus Christ. The blessing of legacy came through Ruth. Had it not been for Ruth, wow, things might have been different. But because of this woman, this Gentile woman, God blesses her by enabling her to conceive because she took refuge in Him. My friends, take refuge in Jesus. We saw in Ruth 4 that redeeming love makes a way for blessing. Redeeming love just gets it done. Redeeming love seeks out the means to provide blessing. The Lord is kind, He is good to all who take refuge under His wings. Let us bow before the Lord. Let us confess our unworthiness. Let us take refuge under His wings. Let us be astonished at His grace.
Ruth: Redeeming the Storms
(Below is a short portion of a previous sermonarticle found in Philippians: Volume 1. The entire article can be found at sermonarticles.com. We chose to reprint it here because the topic matches the main theme of Ruth—redemption.)
Our world is hungry for authentic faith. Not church faith, but authenticity. How you respond to life's storms will make a difference in the lives of those around you, particularly unbelievers. The example of Paul inspired the other Christians in Rome. Paul's fellow believers in Rome were encouraged to share their faith with others. The believers there in Rome had received a letter from Paul about 10 years previous teaching them the foundational truths of their new faith. But they were under persecution, they were scared, they were running, they were meeting secretly. Suddenly, the whole town is talking about Christianity. It brought encouragement to them to speak about their faith.
When storms hit our lives what can we do to unlock their potential? Look at verse six (Philippians 1). "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." He who began with you will stay with you. Spiritual courage is gained by knowing that God will never give up on you. God is with you to help and carry you through. The first thing we need to do when the storms hit is to hold onto God. Get reconnected. Our first response usually is, "Oh, no! Why has this happened?" Satan is going to attack you when the storms hit. "See, if God really loves you, He would not let this happen." Satan attacks us amidst the storms. And even though God turns storms to good things, Satan keeps on attacking. You would think Satan would learn that God can turn it around. The thing is, many times, we do not let God turn it around and Satan wins. We listen to the wrong side. We get discouraged. We pity ourselves. We feel like a victim. And instead of blossoming by God's grace, we shrink back, we hide out, we cower, we run away.
Hold on to God. The biblical word for this holding on is "faith." The world may betray you, dump on you, discourage you. Christians may let you down, abandon you. But your God is bigger than all of them. Get a hold of God and trust that God is working in that situation. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to see. Sometimes you will never see what God is doing and why those storms came into your life. And you may never know. But you know what? Believing that God is working in your situation even if you cannot see it directly changes your attitude. That is faith. That is trusting that God is involved in the things that you never see. You have to go through it anyway, why not go through it with God?
Secondly, do not simply hold on to God, but declare your Lord. Why are you doing the things you are doing? Do those around you know why you are doing the things you are doing? Do you give Christ credit when you do things? When you help someone, are you just being a humanitarian or are you being Christian? Many times we do things just to be a "nice guy." But what has motivated your niceness? Without declaring your Lord, you are not being a witness, you are just being a humanitarian. You are just being nice. Give God the glory. Now, that does not mean you have to start preaching at them or be overbearing. When storms hit, declare your Lord. "I do this because Jesus has done so much for me."
And then thirdly, let love flourish. "My dream for you is that love will continue to flourish in your life." That is ministry. That means coming alongside others who are hurting and helping them. What motivates your love? Why do you give? If it is for any other reason than to give to others what God has given you, the motive is wrong. Not just incorrect, as in making a mistake or an error, but morally and spiritually wrong. When storms hit, love becomes much more valuable. Love redeems the storms. Let God love others through you!
When storms come your way, how can we learn to recognize how those storms can be redeemed? Number one, look at the storm. What is happening; what is threatened? Number two, look at who you are bound to in the storm. Who are you tied to? Who are you chained with? Who might God want to influence through that storm you are going through? And thirdly, talk to God to determine how to redeem it.
If there is one word that describes God it is redemption. Many have a mistaken notion of God. They see Him as judgmental and harsh. But Scripture reveals a God who always wants to restore sinners and help them to create something beautiful out of their lives. Condemnation always follows human rejection of God's offered grace and forgiveness. God's heart is revealed most in redemption. And God's redemption is not based on whim and arbitrary choice.
The Bible says that before the foundations of the earth were set, the Lamb of God was slain. In other words, our Universe was created by a God who at His core is governed by a redemptive heart! That is the big picture--the Son of God coming to redeem humankind by purposely dying and shedding His blood. This was important because it opened up an avenue for God's holiness to be satisfied and thereby allowing His love to be exerted on our behalf.
But God's redemption did not stop there. God also wants to redeem the little things because that is who He is. God wants to redeem troublesome situations, the storms of life that batter us and too often beat us into submission. We could not participate in creation because that is a God thing. We could not participate in the central drama of history, the cross on Calvary's hill. That belonged to the Father and the Son. But, because we have a God who is redemption-minded, we can participate in redeeming life's events, good or bad. It is how we can most become like Jesus Christ!