We often go through life wondering what God is up to and how our current circumstances can come from him. As Christians, we may realize and acknowledge that God is sovereign over all creation and yet we may question how death and sickness and financial struggle and relationship struggle can be a part of his plan. We may also realize that Romans 8 tells us that “all things” are working for the good of the believer. And yet we don’t see it in the moment. This is usually attributed to a couple of things. The good of the believer is to be conformed to the likeness and character of Jesus. The second is that we can’t see “behind the scenes.” And so we are left to trust.
To trust God in the trials of life is one of the most powerful testimonies that we offer for the world. To trust God is not always easy. You know this from experience. Let me offer a bit of insight that should help us to trust more completely, more readily, and more extensively. We need to be anchored into the understanding of his character and his plans. Because if we’re not, we will be quickly thrown into a whirlwind of doubt. Recall our Scripture memory for this season. We count our trials as joy because they transform our character. We call on God for wisdom in faith because the one who doubts is unstable.
Yet the key to understanding God’s character and his ways is to familiarize ourselves with his Word, the Bible. When you immerse yourselves in the grand plan of his redemption of his children, you see that God works through the weaknesses of people in unlikely circumstances. And, I don’t know about you, but I know my weaknesses… and the unlikely circumstances I often find myself. So this helps us to recognize that God is working in us… and through us… in our current circumstances.
Such is the occasion for the Book of Ruth. Here we see a story that involves death and relationship struggle and character weaknesses and unlikely circumstances. And yet if our eyes are open, we will see the great plan of God at work in the midst of these.
Originally, I had fragmented this last chapter into two weeks. In the midst of my study, however, I decided that it is best to cover it in its entirety in one sermon. The latter portion fits too well to wait for the next week. Turn in your Bibles to Ruth 4 as we will be concluding our study today. Follow along as I read.
We will look at the sermon entitled “Redemption” in three points. The first point is The Appeal.
This is a passage that is saturated with culture and customs. And as I studied it, I quickly became aware that I could spend the entire time relating the customs and practices of the ancient Israelites. But in so doing, we might miss “the forest for the trees.” In other words, we could investigate the specifics and peculiarities and miss the message that the author was attempting to communicate. So I will do my best to efficiently deal with some of the culture and yet land primarily on this very important message.
We don’t get very far until we are confronted with customs. In verse 1 we learn that Boaz goes to the gate in the city. Why does he go to the gate? Well, let’s recall what happened the chapter before. Naomi and Ruth plotted how they might accelerate the process of providing for Ruth. In a risky endeavour, Ruth pursues Boaz in an attempt to discover if he was willing to provide for her as a redeemer. Boaz recognizes her kindness and commits to deal with the matter as soon as he is able. He notes that there is a closer redeemer to Ruth and will need to approach him first. Boaz says he will get to it in the morning. He sends Ruth away so that there would not be a misunderstanding among the people.
As a worthy and God-fearing man, Boaz followed through on his promise. The next day Boaz goes to the gate. The “gate” was significant in these times. First, it was the best place to track people down. In a typical day, when individuals would come in from the fields and go up to the town, they would pass right through the gate and go straight to their homes.
Boaz goes to the gate. And in language that suggests God’s providence, “behold!” the very redeemer Boaz had spoken of arrives! Would you look at that?? Remember chapter 2 when Ruth just “happened” to end up at the field of Boaz? It’s almost as if God is orchestrating things beautifully according to his plan. And I believe that this is evident here in verse 1 as well.
Something else is going on here too. When Boaz goes up to the gate and “sits down there,” he is communicating that there is some official business to be done. The “gate” was the local law court. It was planned with an open space around which benches provided places to sit in the shade of the high walls, making it a natural meeting place. It had the advantage of being open to the public, who could observe that justice was done.
Do you recall when David’s son Absalom was positioning himself up to usurp his dad’s authority? How did he go about it? Remember? 2 Samuel 15:2-6 “2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” 4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5 And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” He did so at “the gate.”
Interesting about this book is the emphasis on particular characters in this book and the emphasis on names. Here we come across “the redeemer” who will remain nameless. He serves basically only as a contrast for Boaz. Boaz asks him to turn aside and sit down. Curious is the addition of “friend” here. There is a big of confusion as to how to understand this word. From what I’ve read, it is best understood to communicate the “namelessness” of the individual – something to the effect of “Mr. so-and-so.” “Mr. so-and-so” is the closer redeemer and thus receives the offer of redemption first.
Boaz assembles ten elders of the city to serve essentially as witnesses for the case. These would have likely served as a form of administrators of the town. And the fact that Boaz could easily assemble this group reflects on his standing within the community. He must have been respected by his town.
The appeal begins in verse 3. Boaz provides Mr. so-and-so with the background and situation. He recounts how Naomi had returned from Moab and is looking to sell the portion of land belonging to their deceased relative Elimelech. Now why would Boaz begin here? I thought he was out to settle the issue regarding Ruth. Does it seem that he is being too good of a salesman? This would likely appear to be a potential investment for an interested party. The person “redeeming” the land would likely benefit from the added harvest for sure.
So in the presence of the witnesses, he presents the official offer. And should he decline, Boaz would redeem it. He is next in line for the offer. Perhaps a slight pause… those that have gathered await a response… Mr. so-and-so weighs it out in his mind and responds. “I’ll take it!”
If you’re there, and if Ruth is there also, you might glance at her and watch as her heart sinks. Perhaps in her mind she thinks the same things. Why is he making sound like such an attractive offer? Shouldn’t she try and talk him out of it?
Then Boaz chimes in again… “Oh, did I mention… the one who buys the field also gets a Moabite woman…” Huh? “You know. When Naomi left for Moab, her boys married Moabite women. The men died and Ruth returned to Bethlehem with Naomi. You acquire a Moabite woman in the deal.” I believe that Boaz was very intentional with pointing out that she was a Moabite. Perhaps he was counting on a bit of anti-Moabite sentiment on the part of the nearer redeemer.
According to custom, the man who bought the field had the duty of raising an heir for the dead man through her. If a son were born, the land would revert to him and Elimelech’s property would remain in his family. The redeemer would then lose what he had bought and would have another family to keep. Mr. So-and-so weighs this out and concludes he cannot do it.
One commentator notes four options as possible responses. First, while not legally bound, he could accept moral responsibility for Elimelech’s estate, redeem the field, marry Ruth, and ensure the well-being of Naomi, the senior widow. This would have been an honorable course of action. Second, he could redeem the field and pledge to marry Ruth but then renege on the pledge after the transaction was complete. By doing this, however, he would have jeopardized his own reputation and standing in the community. Third, he could reject the offer, thereby ceding the rights to the land and the responsibility of raising up the name of the deceased to Boaz. This move would not necessarily have been irresponsible. After all, Boaz intimated his interest in assuming the role of gōʾēl by declaring that he was next in line (v. 4). Fourth, he could accept the responsibility of a gōʾēl and redeem the field but reject the responsibility of a levir and cede to Boaz the moral obligation and/or right to marry Ruth. This would doubtless have cost him considerably in terms of respect and honor in the community in the short range and in long-range terms could have proved economically precarious.
It would appear that this redeemer remains nameless because of his self-absorption. Think about it. He was looking at the deal solely as investment and not ministry. Technically speaking, the redeemer was not required to follow through in any of this. He was not a brother to the deceased (and required to marry and produce offspring). He was not required to pass on the family name. Boaz was asking him to act on the spirit of the law. It was designed as a provision to care for the women. Mr. So-and-so was looking out for himself and his investment only.
Boaz was looking to care and provide for these women and to honor the passing on of their name. This is clear from the last chapter. This would cost Boaz. But he could also see outside himself and the opportunity to glorify God through his sacrifice. Boaz is motivated by compassion and mercy. In the end, the redeemer passes on the opportunity and calls for Boaz to redeem.
Let’s look next at our second point, The Transaction. Verse 7 informs us of a custom in such transactions. And an interesting one at that… With regard to such redeeming and exchanging, one must better have a sandal on hand. In the context of a man taking his deceased brother’s wife, we see the sandal come into play as well. Deuteronomy 25:7–10 “7 And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’”
Fortunately, our account has a better ending. No spitting… In the presence of witnesses, the unnamed redeemer publicly announces “But it for yourself” and takes off his sandal. Boaz confirms the presence of witnesses to the transaction and clarifies what is transpiring – he is buying from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to the family (Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon)…. And Ruth the Moabite as a wife. Boaz reiterates his desire to continue the name of Elimelech and his family.
In verse 11, the witnesses acknowledge their part verbally. In similar fashion to having witnesses at a wedding ceremony, those present also approve of this commitment. In addition, they also pray a blessing on Boaz and Ruth. The “woman who is coming into your house” is an expression that speaks of the customary practice of the wedding party proceeding from the home of the groom after the marriage ceremony and him formally ushering the bride into his house.
Now what is the significance of naming Rachel and Leah here? As you will recall, it is through these women (together with their maids) that had borne to Jacob twelve sons who became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. It would have been a great reward if Ruth bore Boaz many sons to add to his prestige and prosperity. It was a prayer for fruitfulness in their marriage.
The inclusion of Perez in verse 12 has significance as well. Perez was born to Tamar. This is a complicated story that plays out like a soap opera. Suffice it to say at this point, Perez was ancestor to Boaz, and one of only three ancestors of the whole tribe of Judah. God worked through a complicated situation according to his plan.
Now let’s turn our attention to our third point, The Results. In verse 13 we note that Ruth becomes his wife, they consummate the marriage and she becomes pregnant. It is significant that the credit is rightly given to the LORD who gave her conception. And Ruth bore a son.
When I look at verse 14, I think “Wow! Naomi’s come a long way from where we started.” Here the women say to her, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” The one who had returned “empty” is now made full by the Lord. Notice that the son is stated as being given to Naomi. He was named Obed.
First result – Naomi is blessed by this child and the family lives on. The second result – where does this lineage take us? Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of the greatest king that Israel ever knew. David was the king after God’s own heart.
Could you have envisioned this from the first few verses of the book? The setting was so bleak. God was seemingly so distant. Some of our main characters were so negative. They appeared insignificant. The circumstances, overwhelming. Yet despite the backdrop, God was orchestrating his plan. He was working in Ruth to walk with Naomi. He was working to ensure that they came back to Bethlehem at the harvest time. God was working to make sure that Ruth “happened upon” Boaz’s field. God was working in Boaz to allow him to operate out of his compassion and kindness. He was working in the unnamed redeemer so that he would reject the offer and pass it on to Boaz. The Lord gave conception to a Moabite woman who would stand in the line of the great King David.
And yet the story doesn’t end with David. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 1. Matthew 1:1–6 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.
The list goes on. Now look down to verse 16. Where does this family lineage take us? “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ.
In our story, Boaz stands out as the great redeemer who saved Naomi and Ruth. He purchased them and saved them. And yet the ultimate Redeemer was to come from the same family.
Brothers and sisters, we are like Ruth. Before repenting and trusting Jesus Christ, we are foreigners and excluded from the people of God. We stood condemned by the law of God. We were alienated because of our sin. And yet in God’s sovereign plan, he moved to orchestrate the circumstances and the characters in our story so that Jesus would come from the line of Boaz and Ruth and become the Redeemer we so desperately needed.
Galatians 4:4–5 says that “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Galatians 3:13–14 “13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Titus 2:11–14 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
We were foreigners to God. But he came near in the person of Jesus Christ to redeem us and make us his people. Praise God!
And now this comes back around. Now that we are God’s people by trusting in Christ alone for our salvation, we are to live in such a way as to continually trust him. Just as we saw God’s providence in the events of this book, this should affect the way that we view our own circumstances. We trust that he is in control of such things and that he is working them for his higher purposes.
Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV)
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
There are song lyrics that reflect this well.
Trust His Heart
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can't see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just can't see Him
Remember you're never alone
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
Don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
He sees the master plan
He holds the future in His hands
So don't live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry He's weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart