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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The LORD reveals His pathway to redemption
Text:Ruth 4:9-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2012-09-16
Added:2012-09-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise
Bible translation = NKJV

Psalm 146:1,2,3

Psalm 19:6

Hymn 13:1-6

Hymn 2:3,5

Psalm 146:4,5

 

Read:  Ruth 4; Matthew 1

Text:  Ruth 4:9-12

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you read through the Bible you will find that it is interspersed with long lists of names.  The first one can be found in Genesis 4, which gives us the genealogy of Cain and then chapter 5, the generations from Adam to Noah.  Longer lists can be found in the book of Numbers and Chronicles as well as Ezra and Nehemiah.  There is also a list of names in Ruth chapter 4. 

Sometimes we find it hard to get very excited about these lists.  The names are often hard to pronounce, and we are often at a loss as to who the individual people were in them.  And so we sometimes consider it an almost meaningless exercise to stumble through these names in our Bible reading. 

But the names are important and the lists of generations are particularly so!  The first hint of this can be found in Genesis 3:15 which refers to the seed or the offspring of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  And as we read through the genealogies, particularly the generations of the covenant children of the Lord, we can see that God’s covenant did indeed go from seed to seed, from generation to generation and that He was indeed faithful to His promises. 

And then in the context of God’s faithfulness as it is displayed throughout the generations, when we look more closely at the names of those mentioned, we are sometimes surprised at the names that we find there.  This is also the case in the names listed in Ruth chapter 4, particularly in verse 11 and 12.  It is surprising that in a blessing the names of Rachel and Leah are mentioned in the same sentence.  Rachel and Leah were two sisters and wives to the same man -  a family scandal!  But more surprising are the names in verse 12 of Ruth 4, Tamar and Perez!  The story of how Tamar gave birth to Perez in Genesis 38 does not make for easy reading.  That such sad and sinful things happened among the people of God is disappointing to say the least.  And yet the LORD was pleased to have these stories recorded for our benefit in the pages of Holy Scripture!  And not only that, but what is even more astonishing is that the names of Tamar and Perez – as well as Rahab (and reference to Bathsheba) are listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!  The blood line of our Saviour was not pure, it was not without scandal.  And even for Ruth, a woman of virtue to be sure, but one who descended from the people of Moab – a people with their own shameful history, even for Ruth to be honoured to be a mother in the line of David and our Lord Jesus Christ tells us much of the grace and the steadfast love of God.  And the good news that I may preach to you this morning is that it was through such a history and such a line of sin-filled men and women that the LORD has made redemption possible for you.  I preach to you the gospel under the following theme:

The LORD reveals His pathway to redemption.

1.    The pathway followed.

2.    The pathway blessed.

1. The pathway followed.

The book of Ruth has all the makings of a great love story, but it is not a romance.  A romance deals with love in a sentimental or an idealized way but we do not see that in the book of Ruth.  Yes, it is a good and well written story and the writer draws us in to the world and life of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.  We quickly learn to love Ruth and we are keen to have Boaz and not that other, un-named man, to marry her.  But although Boaz undoubtedly loved Ruth and Ruth Boaz, it is not a romantic or sentimental love that is described here, but that love that is called hesed in the Hebrew language, that steadfast, covenant love that is rooted in the love of God.  If the book of Ruth was simply a romance story, Ruth and Boaz would only have had eyes for one another, but as a story that displays covenant love, their love for one another was in the context of a love for God and their neighbour.  When Ruth asks in chapter 3:9 for Boaz to take her under his wing in marriage, she is not just doing this for herself but also for Naomi and the house of Elimelech.  It was because Boaz was a close relative, a possible kinsman redeemer that she went to him at the threshing floor that night.  And when Boaz acquired Ruth the Moabitess to be his wife in chapter 4, he was not just thinking of his own desires, but he took Ruth as wife to perpetuate the name of the dead!  In Ruth 4:10 he said,

“Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position a the gate.”

And that is what makes the story of Ruth so special, for through it we see not just how mourning is turned into joy for Naomi and Ruth, through it we see not just the love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man, but through it we see how the Lord redeemed Ruth and Naomi and the house of Elimelech so that they might belong to His covenant people forever.

When Ruth had asked Boaz to act as her kinsman redeemer in chapter 3, Boaz had been delighted with her request and agreed to do this for her.  But Boaz also was a virtuous person and he was determined to follow God’s way in all of this.  He did not want to marry Ruth at any cost or any price.  He set his love for God and God’s law above the love that he had for Ruth.  Boaz would not take Ruth to be his wife, nor would he play the role of kinsman redeemer unless it was God’s revealed will for him to do so.  And for that he had to receive the blessing of the men of Bethlehem, he had to be declared the one who would be the redeemer of the house of Elimelech.

But for that to happen, one matter needed to be resolved first.  For there was another man, one who was closer to Elimelech than Boaz was.  And that man had the first responsibility to be the kinsman redeemer.

And so the morning after Ruth had met him at the threshing floor, Boaz went up to the gate of the small city of Bethlehem and he sat down to wait.  It was a good place to wait for someone, because since Bethlehem was a walled city, all those who left the city to work in their fields during the day would have to walk through those gates.  And so this was the public meeting place and where disputes and public affairs were settled.  And Boaz did not have to wait long before the close relative he was waiting for came by.  And as he walked by, Boaz called to him and said,

“Come aside, friend, sit down here.”

And the man then did so.    But what Boaz had to say to this close relative was not for his ears alone, and so before he spoke what was on his mind, he went out and took ten men of the elders of the city and asked them also to sit down.  And so a public meeting was held, with the elders of the city being witnesses to all that would take place that morning.  And then, when the elders had taken their seats, Boaz turned to the close relative and he began to speak.

“Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.  And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people.  If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”  (Ruth 4:3,4)

Now that is interesting!  There we were, thinking that Boaz wanted to talk about Ruth, the Moabite woman he wished to marry, but instead he starts talking about a piece of real estate!  What is happening here?  What has a piece of land got to do with things?  Ruth had not gone to Boaz asking him to sort out the sale of a piece of land, had she?  So what is Boaz up to?

But the redemption of land did, in fact, have everything to do with what Ruth had asked Boaz to do.  You see, the land that Boaz was speaking of was the land that had been passed down through the generations since Joshua to Elimelech, the husband of Naomi.  This was the land that had been given to Elimelech’s forefathers to possess.  The was the inheritance that the LORD had given to them.  And the LORD had expressly told His people the following in Leviticus 25:23 –

“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.”

What this means is that for Israel the land was always so much more than just a piece of ground on which to grow some food.  The land was God’s inheritance to His people and it was to be held on to from generation to generation so that in this way they would have a place among the people of God.  To sell the land permanently, therefore, would be to give up your place in the covenant, you would no longer be counted as one God’s people.  And that is why the people were not allowed to permanently sell the land.  The only thing that could be sold was a land lease, future harvests.  And the land could redeemed at any time by a close relative or it would go back to the family every 50th year, on the Year of Jubilee.

But for the people of Bethlehem, the land that had belonged to Elimelech would have been the subject of much discussion.  It appears as though the land was not in Naomi’s possession and it is assumed by many that Elimelech had probably sold it before they had gone to Moab.  After that, Elimelech had died as well as Mahlon and Chilion.  So who now could redeem the property – and who would ultimately own it?  And now Boaz had made his move and, in the presence of the ten elders, he asked the relative that was closer than himself if he was willing to redeem the property that had belonged to the family of Elimelech.

And hearing this, the relative said,

“I will redeem it.”

And why not?  This was a great opportunity!  Sure, he might have to take care of Naomi for a few years, but the land would more than provide for her needs – and once Naomi died, with no heir, the land would be for him and his descendants forever! 

But there was one thing he had not counted on, and that is where Ruth the Moabitess fit in with all of this.  And so now that Boaz had determined that the relative would be willing to redeem the land of Elimelech for his own personal gain, he then went on to say,

“On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi [By the way, he probably would not be paying Naomi for it but he is buying the permanent rights to the land so that Naomi would no longer hold any claim to the land that had belonged to her husband] . . . On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, . . . to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”

And that changed things for the close relative!  What had looked like a good bargain had suddenly turned from being an asset to being a liability.  For should he marry Ruth and should she have a son, the son would not be counted as belonging to his line but to the family of Elimelech!  And then his own sons would miss out.  And so he said,

“I can not redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance.  You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

And there we see the difference between Boaz and this other close relative.  The other close relative had no desire to redeem the land for the sake of Elimelech and to perpetuate the line of the dead – what he wanted was that he and his own people would benefit from the land.  But Boaz on the other hand, showed a heart that was motivated not by personal gain but by steadfast love.   Yes he wanted to marry Ruth and was delighted to be able to call such a virtuous woman his wife.  But over and above the romance was a love and delight to show the steadfast covenant love of God to Ruth and to Naomi and to the family of Elimelech.  Boaz was pleased to follow God’s pathway of redemption so that not only would he be blessed to marry Ruth, but that through him the family of Elimelech would once more have a name and a place among the people of God.

Was Boaz obliged to be a kinsman redeemer for Ruth and the house of Elimelech?  Was it his legal obligation?  Probably not exactly.  Had he wanted to, it is likely that Boaz could have argued his case why he was not obliged to redeem the land of Elimelech and marry Ruth – a foreign woman of Moab.  And we do not get the impression that the other close relative was penalised in any way for refusing to be the kinsman redeemer.  But Boaz did not simply redeem the land of Elimelech and marry Ruth out of a sense of obligation but he did so with great joy!  You see, this is what steadfast covenant love is all about!  Having been redeemed by God himself, Boaz is now more than happy to live out of his redemption and to extend the grace that he had first received to Ruth and to Naomi and to the family of Elimelech.  Elimelech did not deserve this – and nor did Naomi.  And Ruth had a point when she had asked Boaz in chapter 2,

“Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

But that is what true love, the love that comes from God, is all about! 

And so Boaz said to the elders and all the people,

“You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi.”

And to seal the transaction, the close relative took off his sandal and handed it over to Boaz. The sandal that otherwise would have walked over the land of Elimelech was given to Boaz and, it appears, through this the close relative was saying, “The land is not yours: you can walk over it and make it your own.”

And with that the other close relative disappears out of the story.  The man who was so concerned about his own name and his own inheritance leaves the story – and we are not even told his name!  And even more, we now that now he will miss out on the great blessing of sharing in God’s plan of salvation, of being a part of the line from which would come king David and our Lord Jesus Christ.

But Boaz followed God’s pathway of redemption.  And so Boaz would receive the full blessing  of the steadfast love of God.

2. The pathway blessed.

It is interesting how the relative who was closer than Boaz refused to become the kinsman redeemer because he was fearful of what he would lose missed out on what would have been a great blessing, while Boaz who was willing to give all for the sake of Ruth, Naomi and the house of Elimelech, was filled with blessings beyond measure.  Concerning the virtuous wife, Proverbs 31 ends by saying that “her own works praise her in the gates” and that was indeed the case for Ruth.  Ruth 4:11,12 –

“And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses.  The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.  May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”

And Boaz was indeed blessed.  He did prosper and although he married Ruth to perpetuate the name of Elimelech and Mahlon, Boaz’s own name lived on also.  And so Boaz too is listed in Matthew 1 as a forefather of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But let’s look a little more closely at what the people at the gate and the elders said.  “The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house (that’s Ruth!) like Rachel and Leah . .  and may your house be like that of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah!”  Perhaps we can understand why Rachel and Leah are mentioned in this blessing – even though the marriage of these two sisters to Jacob brought more grief than joy.  For Rachel and Leah were the matriarchs of the people of Israel.

But Tamar?  And Perez?  The story about Tamar and Perez can be found in Genesis 38, and that is a story that in some ways we’d prefer to skip when we are reading the book of Genesis at the family dinner table.  In Genesis 38, after Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt, Judah had taken a Canaanite wife who in time gave birth to three sons:  Er, Onan and Shelah.  When he grew up, Judah arranged for Er, the firstborn, to marry a local woman named Tamar.  But Er was a godless man, and the LORD killed him.  Judah then told his second son, Onan, to take Tamar as his wife to raise up an heir for Er.  Onan, however, refused to do what was required of him, and the LORD killed him too.  But now Judah was afraid to give Tamar to his third son, lest he die also and so Tamar remained a widow for some time.  Meanwhile, Judah’s own wife died and then some time later, Tamar, unhappy that Judah had not given her his third son, Shelah, dressed up as a harlot, with her face covered, and she presented herself to Judah, her father-in-law.  And from that union she conceived and gave birth to Perez.  And it was this Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, who was the forefather of the people of Bethlehem.  And now the people said to Boaz,

“May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”

But what is even more amazing is that the LORD heard these words of blessing, and he did bless the marriage of Boaz to Ruth and she did bear him a son whom Naomi named Obed.  And Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.  And David was the forefather of Jesus Christ.

And so when you go to Matthew 1 and read the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will read the names of Judah and Tamar and Perez.  Jesus did not come from a perfect line, from a line of people more holy than others.  In fact, not only was Tamar and Perez in his line, but also Rahab.  And while Tamar simply dressed up as a harlot, Rahab actually was one!  But she too was listed among the names of the forebearers of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And so was Ruth, the Moabitess.  A virtuous woman perhaps, but one who came from Moab, a cursed people polluted with sin.

But why is this so?  Why is it that our Lord Jesus Christ descended from such a line of people?  Why was it that his own family name was so tarnished, so blackened by sin and by scandal?  The answer to this question can be found in Matthew 1:21,

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

And this is the point!  Through the Scriptures the LORD reveals the pathway to redemption.  It was through a line of normal, human, sinful men and women – yes, men and women like you and me – that God sent His Son.  As one commentator, Iain Duguid, explained, “At the beginning of his life, Jesus came into this world . . . not separated from sinners but descended from a long line of them.  . . . He could not save [us] by staying at a safe distance from [us] but only by coming alongside [us] and identifying with [us].”[1]  And so He did, becoming like His brothers in every respect yet without sin.  And so He emptied Himself, He gave Himself up, He laid down His life for us, the Church, His Bride!  The steadfast covenant love tht Boaz had for Ruth and Naomi can be seen in its fulness in Jesus Christ.

And so you may be sure that God Himself has blessed the Pathway to your redemption.  Whoever you are, whatever you have done, wherever you have come from whatever your bloodline might be, there is no one of you who can say “My way is hidden from the Lord, my sin is too great for Christ to bear, the cost to redeem me is too high for Him to pay.”  For the steadfast covenant love of God, that love that we saw in Boaz, was fully shown to you and me in our Saviour Jesus Christ, the One who was born to take away our sins.

“May Ruth be blessed!” the people of Bethlehem exclaimed.  “May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”  And what great words of blessing these were!  Here was Ruth, an outsider, a stranger, a Moabite widow, now to become the wife of Boaz.  Yes, may she be like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel.  And she was blessed!  And through Ruth all Israel was blessed.  And so were we!  For through the Great Descendant of Ruth, Jesus Christ, we too have been joined to people of God, we too belong to the seed of the Woman, we too may live forever in the steadfast love, the covenant love, of our God and Father.  Amen.



[1] Iain Duguid Reformed Expository Commentary: Esther & Ruth 2005, P&R Publishing, p188f.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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