Redemption, No Matter What the Cost
Have you ever seen a movie, and at the end of the movie, things just didn’t end like you hoped they would? Lately, it seems that so many of the movies Lydia and I have watched have had horrible endings. I mean, the movie can have a great beginning, and a great plot, but something happens at the end that leaves you scratching your head. When I was younger, I watched a movie about the survivors of a nuclear war, and it was set right here in Texas. It was an old black and white movie, and it was essentially how a small town banded together even in the worst of circumstances. I mean, yeah sure, the majority of the population had been wiped out from the bombs, and wide swaths of land had been ruined by radiation; but there was still something special about how everyone in this small town pulled together to survive. It was a very enjoyable movie. But then something happened. It turns out that all of the top soil was too damaged by the radiation, and the movie ended with the last survivors beginning to starve to death. Why! That ruined a perfectly-good post-apocalyptic movie!
But thankfully, the Bible isn’t like that, is it? Obviously, we can read the end of the book of Revelation, and we can see that the ending is very, very good. The ending was good after the tragedy of Christ dying on the cross, when He rose up from the grave on Easter morning. The ending was good when Paul survived the shipwreck in the book of Acts, and the emperor allowed him to freely witness from his home. The ending was good when King Ahasuerus sided with Queen Esther and decided to not commit genocide against the Jewish people. And church, we are going to see this morning that the ending is very good in the book of Ruth. This short, four-chapter book started with two women who became widows, and they had little hope of making it in life. Completely destitute, they decided to travel back to the country of Israel, to the little town of Bethlehem. And there, when they were trying to scrape by enough food to survive, a man named Boaz took notice of them, and we talked about how Boaz became a conduit of God’s favor to Naomi and Ruth. Then last week, we explored the topic of God’s Providence, and how God utilizes our strategies and our obedience to accomplish what He desired all along.
This morning, we are going to finish up the book of Ruth by examining a theme that we have hinted at for the past two Sundays, and that is the theme of redemption. We are going to look at how God redeemed Ruth from a life of destitution to a life of greatness. And to see this radical transformation, we need to turn to Ruth chapter four, and we will be reading verses one through twelve. Again, Ruth 4:1-12
“Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, ‘Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here.’ And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit ye down here.’ And they sat down. And he said unto the kinsman, ‘Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: and I thought to advertise thee, saying, “Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people.” If thou wilt redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ Then said Boaz, ‘What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabites, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.’ And the kinsman said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.’ Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, ‘Buy it for thee.’ So he drew off his shoe. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, ‘Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.’ And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: and let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.’”
The title of this morning’s sermon is “Redemption, No Matter What the Cost.” We are specifically going to look at what Boaz did to redeem Ruth, but then we are going to also look again at how Christ has redeemed His church, and how we are to be about the mission of helping Him redeem the world. So let’s begin with point number one.
Point #1: The Cost of Redemption
Before we get into this morning’s text, I want to comment briefly on the verses that (insert name) read earlier. Hopefully you heard the dilemma that Boaz and Ruth currently faced. You may remember last week that I mentioned that Boaz and Ruth were definitely in love, but I mentioned that there was a hurdle that they would have to leap before they could be together. The dilemma that they faced was that there was a closer relative than Boaz that would get first dibs on claiming the land of Naomi, and on claiming Ruth as his bride. I think it’s interesting that this man has never been mentioned before this verse. We don’t know what kind of man this guy was, but we do know that Naomi intentionally skipped over him when she told Ruth to seek redemption from Boaz.
All we know is that even though Boaz and Ruth both wanted to be together, this one man could shatter that by deciding that he wanted to marry Ruth instead. So Boaz promised Ruth that he would come up with a plan to win her. Before I move on, doesn’t that just sound like a kind of chivalry that seems to be dead in most relationships today? The concept of fighting for the love of your life, and not resting until you’ve won the right to be with her. I love seeing that quality from Boaz. But as I was saying, Boaz told Ruth that he would not rest until he had taken care of this other man. Notice what Boaz does in verse one of our chapter. “Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, ‘Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here.’ And he turned aside, and sat down.” This verse tells us that Boaz went to the gate of the city to look for the man that was the nearer kinsman. And I know that to us it may seem strange to go to the city gate to look for someone; but in these days, the city gate was like the Wal-Mart of the ancient world. It’s where you went to run into people. The city gate was where many of the older men in the city would congregate to talk about religion, politics, and family issues. In fact, the city gate is where almost all important business took place in ancient Israel. So Boaz went to the gate and waited for the man to come by. Maybe Boaz caught him when he was going out into the fields for the day, or maybe he caught him when he was coming home for the day. Either way, the man eventually came by, and Boaz asked him to come over and sit down. And he did.
While I am not going to read verse two again, notice how Boaz asked ten of the older men to come over and be witnesses for the transaction that was about to take place. The Bible outlines how a normal transaction only required two or three witnesses, but this business was so important to Boaz that he asked for ten men to be witnesses, just so that nothing would go wrong.
Look at what verses three and four tell us. “And he said unto the kinsman, ‘Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: and I thought to advertise thee, saying, “Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people.” If thou wilt redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ ” In these two verses, Boaz explained to the man that Naomi was looking to sell a piece of land, and that he had the first option to buy it, and that if the man didn’t want it, that Boaz was going to buy it instead. And then the man announced that he would indeed redeem the land.
And who can blame this guy? I mean, the land would have been a good price, and in Israel, buying land was a very complicated thing because every fifty years the land was returned to its original owner. But buying the land from a relative is a different matter, because it would stay yours forever. And not only is it a good deal because of its permanent value, the man was also under obligation to buy it to help out his struggling relative.
And just when this man thinks that he has made one of the best purchases of his life, Boaz springs a trap on him in verse five. Look at what Boaz says. “Then said Boaz, ‘What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabites, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.’ ” Haha! In this verse, Boaz is like one of those medicine commercials that wait until the end of the commercial to tell you all of the side effects. You know what I’m talking about. “Take this medicine to lower your blood pressure and make your life all better.” And then at the end, a man’s voice speaks about three times the normal speed and saying, “This medicine may induce strokes and/or heart attacks, which could lead to death.” Boaz informs the man that along with the field comes Ruth! And then, Boaz reminds the man of the fine print of how this man is supposed to have a son with Ruth so that the name of Ruth’s dead husband will not be forgotten.
Boaz was reminding the man of the high cost of redemption. For this man, redemption did not only mean forking over a little bit of cash. No, redemption also meant turning his entire life upside down so that he could take Ruth as his wife and start a family with her. And that is the first lesson that this chapter teaches us this morning. Redemption has a very high price tag. And for this man, the high price tag was not the money. Clearly that wasn’t the issue, because he was excited about buying it before he knew about Ruth! Would this man have been doing the right thing to marry Ruth? By the letter of the law, yes, he would. But redeeming this widow was not what he was interested in. He was interested in his life staying the same, without creating any waves. Knowing what the cost of redemption was, look at how the man responds in verse six. “And the kinsman said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.’ ” The man said that he could not do it, because it would mess up his own inheritance. What does he mean by that? Well, even though the son that this man had with Ruth would have carried on the name of Ruth’s dead husband, he still would have been a father to the boy, and he would still be expected to give the boy a share of his inheritance after he died. So for this man, he couldn’t take on any more children, because it would shrink the inheritance of his current children. In other words, he was not willing to do the redeeming.
And you may be wondering what all of this has to do with us today. Who can tell me who we said Boaz was like two weeks ago? Yes, thank you, we said that Boaz was an Old Testament figure that pointed to what Christ did for us. In the book of Ruth, this man’s response serves to remind us how costly redemption is. It’s so costly that you have to be willing to put the needs of others ahead of yourself. In the case of Christ, this rings extremely true. Our Savior had to be willing to lay the treasures of Heaven aside so that He could come down and redeem a people for Himself. What Christ did to redeem us was extremely costly. All this nameless man in the book of Ruth had to lose was giving each of his children a smaller share of his inheritance after he died. Jesus had to lose everything! And yet, even with a cost that we cannot even begin to comprehend; our Messiah still chose to redeem us. I am so happy that He did. Redemption has a very high price. But the price was worth it to Boaz, and praise God, it was worth it to Christ! Let’s now look at a second requirement of redemption.
Point #2: The Legality of Redemption
As you are reading along in your Bibles, notice that verse seven talks about how is was a custom in ancient Israel to take off your shoe and give it to someone as a signifier that you were passing along the right of redemption. In those times, taking off your shoe normally had connotations of shame and guilt. It was kind of the man’s way of saying, “I acknowledge that I have done wrong to Naomi and Ruth by refusing to act as the redeemer, but it does not change the fact that I won’t do it.” In verse eight the man officially asked Boaz to act as the redeemer in his stead. You can imagine how Boaz’s heart would have leapt for joy at this news! He kept his promise to Ruth to do whatever it took to marry her. In verse nine Boaz made sure to remind the ten witnesses that they were all witnesses to this transaction. Look at what Boaz says in verse ten. “Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.” Boaz told the elders that he was purchasing Ruth to be his wife. And just so that you don’t think of Ruth being bought like some sort of mail-order bride, what this verse is talking about is the bride price that Boaz would have had to pay to marry her. The same thing is still done in many African tribes, where a young man may have to give an older man a cow or a goat in order to marry his daughter. Boaz would be expected to give a token to Naomi in order to marry the woman who was in her household. And typically, the more value that was placed on the girl, the more that was given to redeem her. Don’t you know that Boaz was generous with Naomi in the price he paid for Ruth?
While I’m not going to read verses eleven and twelve again, notice how in these two verses the people offer up a special blessing to Ruth. Specifically, they say that they want Ruth to be like Rachel and Leah, and to be like Perez. Now, if you remember, Rachel had two sons, and Leah had six sons and a daughter; so the people were asking that God would really bless her with some children! I think that maybe this same blessing was given at the Hull wedding many years ago! The reason that they also mentioned Perez is that Perez’s descendants were the ones that founded the city of Bethlehem, so they were saying that they wanted God to bless Ruth just like He had blessed the people that built their city.
And you might be wondering what all of this has to do with this concept of redemption. What do I mean by, “the legality of redemption?” Well, as we are thinking about this great theme of redemption, we have to remember that it always had to be done correctly, in exactly the way the law said. If you’re like me, you may be wondering why Boaz didn’t just run off and elope with Ruth, and not worry about how the law said that this other man had the option first. I mean, who could blame them if they did that. Boaz and Ruth were in love with each other, and why should they risk another man ruining their potential bliss? But Boaz knew that redemption outside the law was no redemption at all. If Ruth were truly going to have the life that she deserved, then Boaz had to do it the right way. Boaz had to offer the right of redemption to this other man first. Boaz had to make sure that there were witnesses there to make the transaction official. Boaz had to pay a bride price to Naomi in order to marry Ruth. For Ruth to truly be redeemed, Boaz had to do things by the letter of the law.
And now let’s think for a moment about how Jesus Christ met the letter of the law when He redeemed us. Wouldn’t it have been easier if Jesus just said, “Father, can’t you just forgive them without me having to die?” Or what if Christ would have said on the cross, “Enough! Send some angels down to rescue Me from this!” But Jesus was constantly aware that God’s laws had to be fulfilled, and God’s laws demanded justice. For us lowly sinners, that meant that the law required that we die in hell because of the sins we had committed against God. Every lie, every lustful thought, every act of hatred against our fellow man, all of it proved us condemned in the eyes of God. And Jesus knew that there was only one way to redeem us. There was only one way to satisfy God’s wrath against our sin. And that was to die for us. We’ve already talked about how His death had an extremely high cost, and now we can see how His death had to meet the demands of the law. The law said that the price of our sin was death, and Jesus said, “I will pay it for you.” He paid it for us. Just like Boaz, Christ did not seek the easy way out, because the easy way out doesn’t accomplish anything. But let’s quickly look at our final point.
Point #3: The Result of Redemption
In case you didn’t know, there are sixty-six books within the Bible. The Bible is full of history that forever changed the world. Take for instance the story of Noah. This one man saved not only the human race, but all of the animal kingdom when he took animals onto the ark. Think about King Solomon. When the Bible talks about King Solomon, we are reading about one of the smartest men who ever walked on the face of the earth. Or Moses. When the Bible talks about Moses, it is talking about a man who was supposed to die when he was a baby, but he went on to become one of the most inspiring leaders of all time. But when you read the book of Ruth, you might be scratching your head wondering why any of this matters. I mean yeah, it is a touching story about how a widow goes from rags to riches, but is it really “Bible” material? Besides being heartwarming, why does it matter what happens to this one man and these two women? Well, for that, we need to read the end of the story. I am going to read the final verses of the book of Ruth, and I am going to be reading them from the English Standard Version of the Bible. “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 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.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” Did you notice what happened here? Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, and then Obed had a son named Jesse, and then Jesse had a son named David. That’s right, David. Ruth’s family tree went on to include the most famous king in all of Israel’s history. And not only of David, because David went on to father a dynasty that ruled the country for nearly 500 years. Ruth was their ancestor. But it gets even better! If you trace David’s family tree on and on, you find out that David had a great-great-great-great-great-great (and many more greats) granddaughter named Mary, and Mary was privileged to be the mother of a little baby named Jesus. Ruth is the ancestor of our Lord and Savior. Ruth, who was redeemed from a life of sheer hopelessness, was redeemed to a life that will forever be remembered because she was in the family tree of Jesus. Isn’t that amazing?
And church, that is the story of Ruth. Ruth was redeemed by a man that loved her, and she was redeemed to a life that she never could have imagined. And that is the story of our lives, as well. We have been redeemed, not by a man who accepted another man’s shoe, but by a Christ who thought it fitting that He should die so that we didn’t have to. And that is the message of the gospel. It’s amazing, but we have the entire message of the gospel right here in an obscure book in the middle of the Old Testament. We talked last week about how God can use us to bring about His Providence in a world that desperately needs to know about Him, and this week we can say the same thing about redemption. We have been redeemed, and God has commissioned us to proclaim it from the mountaintops! You would think that Ruth has the best rags to riches story in the world, but in fact it’s us! We have been translated from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God, and it’s amazing! I don’t know about you, but I want the world to know that my Redeemer has saved me from my own filthy sins. Isn’t that exciting?
My prayer is that all of us would find great joy and peace from knowing Jesus Christ. I pray that this morning’s sermon has served to remind you of what we were redeemed from, and what we were redeemed to. And my prayer is that out of a sheer joy from our redemption, we would share that redemption down the street, across the town, and even to the ends of the world. We have been redeemed!
Let’s thank the Lord with a word of prayer.
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