March 25, 2012

Redemption Accomplished

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Ruth Scripture: Ruth 4:1–22


Redemption Accomplished

Ruth 4:1-22
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith

Based on your comments, there is no doubt that this short series on the book of Ruth has been used by God to touch the hearts of people in this church. I think that is so because this book is about faith, hope and love.

Faith - Could it be that we are excited about the conversion of Ruth. It was a rollercoaster. First, the Moabitess, once worshiping the false god, Chemosh. Then she is connected with several Israelites and exposed to the true God. Then she is told by Naomi to return to her people and her gods (Ru. 1:15). Then despite the risk and sacrifice, Ruth professes allegiance to the Lord and travels to the Promised Land by faith (Ru. 1:16-17). Jesus said the angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Lk. 15:10). We get excited as well. That's faith.

Hope - Maybe we like this story because it teaches us how to deal with pain and suffering. Possibly Naomi was hesitant to travel to Moab with Elimelech. In Moab she loses her husband and two sons. She returns to Israel humiliated. She lives moment by moment in Bethlehem (the house of bread) in need of food. But throughout this story we have seen how God worked in the life of Naomi to bring her back to Himself and restore her to a place of joy. We have seen how a God who is sovereign can bring good out of bad circumstances for those who love Him. That is true for you too! That's hope.

Love - Is it that we all enjoy a good love story? Two people from opposite backgrounds overcoming significant obstacles to be with each other. Because of their wholesome and winsome character, the story draws us in and we find ourselves rooting for things to work out between this couple. That's love.

Perhaps we like this story for all these reasons and more. How about good triumphing over evil? How about the emphasis on noble character traits like loyalty and purity and respect and compassion and honor lacking so often in today's world and dare I say today's church? How about the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ through Boaz?

This morning as we turn to chapter four, we will see all the loose ends tied together. We will find out if Ruth and Boaz ever get together. We will find out if Naomi sings praises to God. And we will find out the deepest meaning of this book and why it is ultimately included in the Bible.


I'm calling the first point: "Redemption's Refusal."

A little review so we can understand how we arrived at this point. Ruth and Naomi return from Moab in desperate need of food. Ruth goes out to glean the leftover crops in a nearby field. In the providence of God she finds herself on a farm that belonged to a man named Boaz. Weeks go by and then the harvest season comes to an end. What will the ladies now do for food? Would anything deeper come from this friendship between Ruth and Boaz?

Naomi thinks so! She knows there is great potential for this relationship. She likes Boaz for all the right reasons. The man loves God (which is seen in his actions) and the man has a job so he can support a family. Furthermore, Boaz "just happens" to be a relative and according to the law and customs of the day, relatives were expected to marry and care for widows in the family.

She knows Boaz will be at the "threshing floor" that evening so Naomi devises a plan. First she encourages Ruth to fix herself up - all Boaz has known is a woman who has been picking up scraps in his field (buy a new dress, apply some perfume, do you nails, style your hair). Then she advises Ruth to go to the threshing floor and make herself known to Boaz when he will be least distracted after he has finished his wings and stories of the glory days with the guys. When Boaz then lies down to sleep, Ruth is told that she is to uncover his feet and lay down next to him. As I told you last week, I believe this was terrible advice, but it did get Ruth to the point where she could ask her pressing question. In 3:9 after Boaz is startled, Ruth responds, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Basically Ruth is proposing that Boaz propose to her. She is asking Boaz to be her redeemer.

Boaz likes the idea, but he acknowledges in 3:12 that there is one significant obstacle. "Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I." Every good love story has some drama. Will this closer relative exercise his rights or will he permit Boaz to have Ruth for himself. The whole story hinges on that question. Naomi at the end of chapter 3 predicted that Boaz would settle the matter immediately (Ru. 3:18) and she is correct. Boaz gets to work, and that's where we find ourselves this morning.

Boaz needs a meeting. No instant messaging back then so the most logical place to connect with this man was the city gates. Guys would hang out there (a modern day 7-11) and oftentimes even conduct business transactions. Verse 1 says it didn't take long and this anonymous man passed by. Boaz flags him down. He says, "Turn aside, friend." That's the Hebrew greeting when you don't know a person's name. On the street, "What's up, dude?" In the church, "How's it going, brother?" Literally, it's "[Mr.] So-and-So". We'll see in a moment why this anonymous relative of Elimelech receives a derogatory rap from the author of this book.

Once Boaz secures the man's attention, verse 2 says he collects "ten elders of the city." He's looking for witnesses for this legal transaction that is about to occur. So much hangs on the outcome of this conversation. And also important to note are the motives and methods Boaz employs. He acts in love - not selfishness. He acts in accordance with the law - not autonomy. And he displays wisdom utilizing shrewd negotiating skills - not imprudence.

Boaz's words to the man are recorded in verses 3 and 4, "Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. So I thought to inform you, saying, 'Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, 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.'"

A little background. When we read this story from our cultural perspective we understand the need for Ruth to be redeemed. What we fail to see is the need to redeem the land as well. All the land in Israel belonged to God. And when the Hebrews entered the Canaan, God divided the land among the tribes. The land was to stay within each family line. To lose your share in the Promised Land was the same as losing your share of God's promises. So for Naomi to sell Elimelech's land as it says in verse 3 was logical as she couldn't farm it and had desperate need of money, but it was a tragic outcome and shameful act to all her deceased relatives.

As a matter of fact, God took each person's share in the Promised Land so seriously that every fifty years (the Year of Jubilee - Lev. 25, 27) all the land that was sold would return it its original owners. Unfortunately this didn't help childless Naomi. Even at the Year of Jubilee, the land would pass out of the immediate family and her name would forever disappear from the covenant community. This was a big deal. Hence the Holy Spirit devoting a whole chapter to it! Hence the need for a redeemer!

This unknown relative of Naomi had first dibs. He was offered it and at the end of verse 4 he responded: "I will redeem it."

Are you really sure you want the land, Mr. So-and-So? In verse 5, Boaz clarifies what the relative is committing to: "On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance."

In other words, it's not just about you increasing the acreage of your estate. There are some strings attached. There are financial responsibilities involved as well that hover around caring for Naomi, caring for Ruth and caring for future children. Are you prepared to assist an old no-so-happy mother-in-law? She goes with the land! Are you prepared to receive Ruth, a Moabitess with no money coming off a ten year marriage? Are you ready to raise up a child for Ruth that will one day receive that land (from you and away from your kids) and with that child, cover all the necessary expenses: Doctor's visits, braces, designer jeans, a college education maybe even a cell phone and a X-Box. Make sure you understand what you are getting into!

"The closest relative said [in verse 6], 'I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.'"

The guy does a 180. Immediate flip-flop! It didn't take long for him to change his mind! You know why? It was because his bottom line was the bottom line! Most likely, living in the Promised Land he professed to be a child of God, but by his actions he denied it. Too common in God's covenant community back then and too common in God's covenant community today. "I don't care about what the Bible says or how this affects others in the church, it's all about me!"

Evidence that he lived for himself and this world was seen in his love for money and lack of love toward others. To him it was all about treasures on earth. To him it was all about personal convenience. I am led to believe, like the rest of the town that he knew Naomi returned. We know he was the closest relative. Did he ever call and check in with her welfare? Here is how I chronicle his train of thought: "I can care less about Naomi." "Oh, Naomi my close and dear relative has land?" "It's going to cost me?" "Naomi who?" His refusal to help these family members is shameful, even more shameful back then when we understand the culture. "Mr. So-and-So" drops from the narrative. He slips into eternity forgotten like so many souls who live for this world and not the world to come.


From the refusal of redemption, we move to the reception of redemption - our second point.

Verses 7-10, "Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the closest relative said to Boaz, 'Buy it for yourself.' And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.'"

The story now moves to a clearer definition of the redeemer. By all accounts it appears Elimelech (man #1) destroyed his family. He pulls them out of the Promised Land. He removes himself from all public worship and personal accountability. He dies and leaves his wife emotionally and physically devastated. The closest relative (man #2), the one now expected to help, refuses to fulfill his role and accept responsibility. Leave it to Boaz. He comes in and cleans up the mess that these other men left behind. The others were required and they failed. Boaz is not required and he succeeds.

So it is Boaz and Ruth. Excitement is in the air! Verse 11, "All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, 'We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel.'"

These comments tell me that there was something special about the characters of Ruth and Boaz. There was evidence that they were sold out for the Lord. Excitement for God's kingdom was building when it now became clear that they would be married. These were no ordinary people. And there was no ordinary expectation for this union. It appeared that God was working and the expectations as to what He would do through this couple were great!

How great? For Ruth, a comparison was made between her and Rachel and Leah. Rachel and Leah were the mothers of the twelve patriarchs of Israel! Would Ruth ever live up to those expectations? We'll see in a movement!

And to Boaz they say in verses 11 and 12: "May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman."

What I find so remarkable about these blessing is how the hand of God uses unlikely people to accomplish His purposes. I believe this because He gets greater glory in using broken vessels and also because it keeps us from putting Him in a box. Who would have thought that that mess between Jacob and Rachel and Leah (two Gentile women) would have produced the nation Israel? And who would have thought that the ignoble birth of Perez, which resulted from his mother seducing her father-in-law, would now be a name of honor? And what could possibly come from Ruth, a woman with all kinds of cultural and moral baggage? We'll find out in a moment!


Our final point, "Redemption's Reward."

Verse 13, "So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son."

Practically speaking, and please forgive me for insulting your intelligence, but let's make sure we understand the correct order of events. Ruth became the wife of Boaz, and then he went into her. I know it's complicated, but it is first marriage and then sex. We enter the marriage covenant when we take our vows. We enter the marriage consummation when we have relations on our wedding night (or soon thereafter). When things are not done in this order, you bring consequences upon yourself, you destroy both you and the church's testimony for Christ, and you shatter the entire picture for marriage that God intends. Marriage pictures the marital relationship we have with Jesus Christ - He in us and we in Him. You cannot be in each other before you have a marital relationship with each other!

Theologically speaking, this child (as are all children) is a clear blessing from God. As the verse says, "The Lord enabled her to conceive." But in this case, there would be something special about this son. Ruth was childless for 10 years in her previous marriage. Now she conceives almost immediately. There would definitely be something very special about this son. We will see that in a moment.

We have seen how God blessed Boaz. We have seen how God blessed Ruth. And now we will see how God blesses Naomi. Verse 14-16, "Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.' Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse."

Remember when Naomi was bitter (Ru. 1:20)? Would she have ever predicted this one? A redeemer has been born for her. The land is again secure in her family. Reproach is gone. Security has come her way. She has Ruth who it is said is "better…than seven [the number of perfection] sons." And she has a baby boy. And that is our final picture of her in the book - In a rocking chair holding her grandchild. How God had turned this woman's life around even during the dark days of the Judges! From bareness in chapter 1 to bounty in chapter 4, proof that God, whether we realize it or not knows how to give good gifts to His children. And it all happened without miracles. It happened in the providence of God working His will through ordinary people through ordinary events.

It reminds me of the days when we were in the old building. The church continued to grow and nothing was on the horizon for a larger facility. On nearly a daily basis for several months, I'd stand in our dining room looking out the window late in the evening asking God for help. I couldn't see the outcome, but entrusted the matter to His hands. And for all of us who were at the church at that time, we know He acted, and He acted in such a way that exceeded our expectations.

Verse 17, "The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, 'A son has been born to Naomi!' [only time on Old Testament when a son was named by someone outside the immediate family]. So they named him Obed [his name meaning "servant"]. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David."

We now see for certainty that there was something special that God accomplished through these faithful people. One day little Obed would have a son named Jesse. And little Jesse would father a child named David. And David would be the writer of the majority of the Psalms and the finest King Israel would ever have.

But it gets even better because the genealogy going backward in verses 18-22 is overshadowed by the genealogy going forward in Matthew 1(the only other place in the Bible where Ruth is mentioned-Mt. 1:5). The Gospel writer informs us that after David would come several generations leading to Joseph and culminating with the birth of Jesus Christ, the One from the tribe of Judah and the line of David, the Messiah, our ultimate Redeemer!

I believe the word redemption is the key to understanding the overall theme of the Bible. And whenever we see the concept of redemption, it always involves three things. First, people are redeemed from something. Second, people are redeemed by somebody. And third, people are redeemed to something else.

The book of Ruth is a great love story. The book of Ruth makes for excellent character studies. But the ultimate purpose of the book of Ruth is to point us to Jesus Christ. The book is not called "Naomi." I believe it's called "Ruth" because we are to identify primarily with her. In a spiritual sense, we are all Ruth. We are spiritually poor and broken and lost and outcasts in desperate need of a Redeemer.

Boaz is a picture of Jesus Christ. We don't deserve His help, but by an act of sheer grace and sacrifice, He is willing to give of Himself (unlike "Mr. So-and-So") to rescue us from our slavery to redeem us. Jesus, our glorious Boaz, became flesh to become our kinsman. He did all the work when He laid down His life (exceeding Boaz) for undeserving sinners at the cross. He made salvation available and definite to all who trust in His work and cry out to Him in faith for redemption. These four sermons have been meaningless if you fail to see the glory of Jesus Christ, from famine in chapter 1 to gospel in chapter 4, and accept the free redemption He offers.

And once redeemed we must understand that we are redeemed to something. We are not redeemed to simply get out of hell. We are not redeemed to sit on the sidelines. We have been redeemed to be used of the Lord whereby He might accomplish His purposes in us, whereby we might find our lives by losing them for Christ's sake. We are redeemed to be trophies of His grace that labor in His vineyard and bring great glory to Him and show the world the greatest love story, the love story between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church.

other sermons in this series

Mar 18


Risk, Redemption, and Reward

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ruth 3:1–18 Series: Ruth

Mar 11


Famine To Fullness

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ruth 2:1–23 Series: Ruth

Mar 4


Hope When All Appears Hopeless

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ruth 1:1–22 Series: Ruth