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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
Title:God's Daughters are Restored
Text:Ruth 4:1-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Rev. David Stares (transcription credit - Seth and Esther de Reus)

Ruth 4: God’s Daughters are Restored

Today we once again open up the book of Ruth. Many of you may remember the trajectory of the book of Ruth so far. We began with the lows of Chapter 1, the discipline of these women whose husband died in the land of Moab, and yet who God was calling back to the land of Israel. You may remember the highs of Chapter 2 where Ruth and Boaz meet one other, where Boaz shows himself to be a faithful man, who is willing to care for Ruth and Naomi, because Ruth has taken shelter under the wings of his God. And then remember the tension of Chapter 3, where Ruth is placed in a precarious situation, where who knows what could happen, but where Ruth and Boaz show themselves to be faithful, obedient, godly people.

What’s consistent through the whole book of Ruth is that God is working out His plan to save and bless his daughters. And he is the one who is going to make it happen. And he first makes it happen through his discipline, and then he makes it happen by his providence, leading them where they need to go. And finally, today God will conclude his goal of bringing Ruth and Naomi back to himself.

What you may have noticed as we read our passage today is that Ruth 1 and Ruth 4 have so many contrasting elements. We will see that many of the elements picked up in chapter 1 are resolved in Chapter 4, because in Chapter 4, all that was promised will come to fruition. Because the redeemer that they need, that was promised all throughout the book, has become realized. Their faith has become sight.

This afternoon we are going to see that because the Lord has not left us without a redeemer, we will serve the one who restores our life.

1) Boaz is the Redeemer, 2) Ruth Enters the Family, 3) Naomi Has a Son

1) Boaz is the Redeemer

You may remember when we looked at Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor, Ruth asked Boaz for something specific, but in two parts: She said “spread your wings over me, for you are a redeemer”. This brought up two separate but related issues.

Firstly, when she said “spread your wings over me” she is saying “marry me. I want to become your wife”. To that Boaz gave an enthusiastic yes. He was honoured that she had chosen him. She could have chosen younger, wealthier men, but instead she had chosen him.

And second it brought up the fact that he was her redeemer. I mentioned last time that there were three responsibilities that a redeemer was expected to fulfil in Israel. They were responsible for buying back relatives who sold themselves into slavery, to avenge a family member if they were murdered, and responsible to buy back land sold from the family inheritance.

Because Boaz is a faithful man, he swears that he will help, that he will buy back the land. But he says there is a problem, because he is not the closest family member. He says “I need to go through due process, and a closer relative must be given the first opportunity to do this service for you, to buy this land back. But he promises that he will make sure Ruth and Naomi will be taken care of, and he swears that this will happen today.

We read in the beginning of Chapter 4 he goes immediately to the gates of the city where things would be decided, and he knew the other close relative would be somewhere around, and as it so happens, as it providentially happens, the redeemer does come by.

Boaz invites him to sit down, and he calls 10 elders to come and witness what is about to take place. There is a problem in the redeemer’s family, and what it seems to be is that Naomi is going to sell his field. Now when Elimelech moved his family to Moab, he probably didn’t sell all his assets. This was a time of famine, and how much is farmland worth in a time of famine? Probably not a lot. And in a time of famine, how much money do other people all around you have to buy the land? Probably not a lot. The land wasn’t valuable at that time, so Elimelech left it and went to Moab.

And now Ruth and Naomi have returned, at harvest time. It’s too late to get any produce from their field, there are no servants to work the fields, Ruth and Naomi can’t make any money of this land that they still own.

They have survived by gleaning until now, but now that harvest time is over, they need money. They need to downsize; they need to sell this parcel of land to someone who can farm it.  And so, Boaz, knowing his responsibility, and the closer relative’s responsibility to not let this land leave the family, is saying to this other redeemer ‘Redeem it if you are willing’.

It is likely that this other man knows Naomi’s story in general terms: how Naomi, and Elimelech Mahlon and Killion went away, how only Naomi returned, because the rest of her family were dead. But clearly, he doesn’t know all the details, he hasn’t heard about this Ruth, this Moabitess. What he is probably thinking to himself is: “Naomi is old, her husband has passed away, there is no one else in the family to inherit this parcel of land. I am the closest relative. Even though I will technically ‘redeem’ this for her, at the end of the day it’s going to come back to me. I am going to keep this in the family, because I am the one who will eventually inherit this land.

We don’t need to see this as sinister, but rather a fool proof business decision. Of course, he is going to redeem this land. And so he says “yes! I will redeem it.”

And Boaz it seems, expected this answer, because he comes back with a complicating factor. Verse 5: “Then Boaz said “On the day that you buy this field from the hand 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.” He brings up the fact that Naomi isn’t only one with a claim on the land. That she brought back Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of her son and that when he acquires Naomi, and her claim, he also acquires Ruth and her claim on the land, that he is also to be providing for her as well. And this is a much riskier investment. Because now the inheritance will not fall to him, but will fall to the widow of Mahlon, and will fall to any descendants that Ruth might have.

So now with this complication, he realizes that it is unlikely to remain in his hands. This is a whole different business deal. He is now redeeming the land for someone else, now it is going to cost him. And so he says I cannot redeem it for myself because it will jeopardise my own inheritance. This man will not redeem the land for Naomi and Ruth. And so he removes sandal, as a sign that he will not do it, as was the custom in Israel, and so he passes the right of redemption on to Boaz, and says “you may redeem it yourself”.

And so now we see why Boaz is so essential to the story. We may have been wondering why it had to be Boaz, why he had to show up at all, and we realise that God had a plan in mind all along. That God brought Ruth to that field, that God brought Ruth to this man, because he is the man who is willing and able to redeem them. Without Boaz, they would have been left without redeemer, they would have lost their family property, they would have to wait until Jubilee, when all property went to its original family. But remember this was the time of the Judges. “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. They had no reason to expect that when the year of Jubilee arrived, they would get their land back.

A disobedient landowner could keep them off the land indefinitely, by force. Ruth and Naomi are alone, vulnerable. Without Boaz, they had no one to turn to when the money ran out. Without Boaz, they would have eaten the next day, sure, but long-term Ruth and Naomi would have ended up living in the field with the rest of the gleaners.

And that is why God provided them Boaz. Because Boaz was a redeemer who was willing to sacrifice for them.

What becomes clear when we look at Boaz, and his willingness to sacrifice for Ruth and Naomi, God instituted this system of redemption, this system of a kinsman redeemer to show his people the Gospel. To proclaim Christ to his people in the Old Testament. To proclaim to them that they needed someone who was willing save people who couldn’t save themselves. That ultimately, they needed to be redeemed even though they were helpless, that even though they were dead in their sin they needed a redeemer that would willingly give up their own rights for their sake. As we read in Philippians 2: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

That was the redeemer that was proclaimed by this practice of redemption. The one who would sacrifice himself taking himself all the way to death to buy his people back from the slavery of sin. In Boaz here we see a picture of Christ.

This brings us to our second point.

2) Ruth Enters the Family

What Boaz wanted was to be the security for Ruth and Naomi. He wanted to take care of them. And so he announces his intention. When the man hands over his sandal, he makes this announcement (V.9) 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.

What is interesting is that then he repeats what he spoke to the other redeemer with one crucial difference. See if you can pick it out.

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.

See above he used this word “to acquire” which does not typically mean to marry, it means to purchase something, but here he explains what he means by adding “to be my wife”.

He left it out in his words to the redeemer, because it did not necessarily mean that the redeemer needed to marry Ruth, but here he brings that into it. He is not only going to buy the land on their behalf, but as he has already promised Ruth, he is going to make her his wife. Now that the legal process has ended, now that he has the right to acquire the land, he is going to perpetuate the family line by also marrying Ruth the Moabitess.

Now the question is, how will the 10 elders respond? Will they object to Ruth marrying this upstanding Israelite man? Remember, Ruth was not an Israelite, but a Moabite. Of course, Boaz did not treat her as a Moabite. He doesn’t keep her at arms-length, but will the Israelite community recognize her? Will they welcome her as Boaz has?

In verse 11 we read “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; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.” 

What we see here is by the work of Boaz, by the redemption of Boaz, by him reaching out and taking Ruth to be his wife, she is now welcomed into the community of Israel. She is now given this blessing, she is now compared to the matriarchs of Israel, comparing this Moabite woman to Rachel and Leah, the mothers of the nation of Israel. They are saying we wish this Moabite woman will build up the house of Israel like our mothers did.

She is welcomed, so that this woman Ruth, who all throughout the book has constantly been called Ruth the Moabitess in v.13 is now simply called Ruth. And this beautiful comparison, shows clearly how she is now included in the community of Israel.

In verse 12, there is a more mysterious comparison. 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.

Now this comparison in some ways makes sense, as we see later that Perez is the ancestor of Boaz. But Perez has a questionable history, which you can read about in Genesis 38. Where Tamar has a husband named Er, whom the Lord killed. Judah told Onan Er’s brother to give her child, but he refused, and so he was killed. Judah refuses to give his third son, thinking his third son will probably die too, that this Tamar woman is poison. And so Tamar seduces Judah, and becomes pregnant by him, and has twins – and one of them is named Perez. This story about Perez is not exactly a wedding passage. And yet, as you notice, there are strange similarities between the two stories – Ruth and Boaz, and Tamar and Judah. There is a husband’s death, there is the failure to have a brother to pass on the family line, but there are important differences too.

In contrast to Judah and Tamar, both Ruth and Boaz are godly. Ruth never intended a seduction and Boaz shows himself to be a worthy man, above and beyond the call of God’s law, above the call of duty.

It’s fair to say that in making this comparison, the elders are not accusing them of any sort of impropriety, but they are instead pointing out that this marriage is a strange case in Israel’s history, like the story of Judah and Tamar was a strange case in Israel’s history.

That Boaz is acting outside of the expected way the law would function. They are pointing out the uniqueness of situation, and yet they are wishing a blessing on this marriage. That as the strange union of Judah and Tamar turned out a line of godly people, that as the result was great then, may it also be great now!

So: with blessings of elders, Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife. And notice the immediate result: And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

See the contrast with Ch. 1. Ruth and Orpah were married for 10 years in Moab without having any children. And this harkens back to Deut. 28: Where God told his people if they disobey, they are more likely to be barren. “Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.”

In the Old Testament, these tangible blessings and curses were the way that God showed his people whether they were on the right track or the wrong trach. When Mahlon and Killion went 10 years without children, they should have realized that this was God telling them we are were on the wrong track.

But here we have the exact opposite, that as God said in Deut. 28, that if his people obeyed him, “Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.”

This conception showed a blessing from Lord as well as the blessing of the elders on this new marriage.

And this is the final chapter of Ruth the Moabitess. She now becomes Ruth, welcomed into the family of God, blessed by the people of Israel, and the elders of Israel, and by God himself. And with this, Ruth and Boaz exit stage right. Their story is finished.

And yet, moving onto our third point, there is one character left. There is one daughter whose story is not over. Remember, when we opened this series, I mentioned that while the book is titled the book of Ruth, it is more accurate to call it the story of Naomi.

3) Naomi has a Son

What will happen to this woman whose life is such a rollercoaster? What will happen to this woman who is such a mystery, whose actions and words make a happy ending seem very doubtful. Because up to this point, blessings seem to be exclusively for Ruth. Ruth is the one who has received a husband, an inheritance, she has received a child.

But has Naomi continued to be emptied? Is she now more empty, for now she has lost Ruth? What we see from the text that this is far from case, that all of these blessings – Boaz the redeemer, the Child - these are all for sake the of Naomi.

The women of town understand this. They pop up in chapter 1: they watched Naomi return from Moab, and see her arrive empty. She tells them “Call me Mara, for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me. But in contrast, these women have watched while God has done nothing but bless Naomi from the time she returned to Israel.

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.”

The women first say that Naomi has been blessed with Ruth, who is better to you than seven sons. They say to Naomi in Ruth alone, you have a full quiver, and no number of children would provide like Ruth, would give you hope, and a future like Ruth has. No other child would cling to you, provide for you, show you respect, invite a man like Boaz to redeem you like this. That in Ruth, and by Ruth, Naomi has received everything she needs.

But then we have another twist! Up till now, we have thought of Boaz as the redeemer, he is called the redeemer over and over. But here in verses 14 and 15 the women refer to Obed as Naomi’s redeemer – he is her hope. And the beautiful thing is, having been given this little redeemer, we read in verse 16: Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

For Naomi, in the city of Bethlehem, a redeemer has been born to her, whose name is Obed whose name means servant, or caretaker. The grandfather of David, David the hope of Israel. And it is from this line, the line of Ruth and Naomi, God is raising hope for his people. And this is the hope that is traced at end of book, where we read the genealogy of David from Perez. 

When reading the Bible, we often skim the genealogies. Often, they mean nothing to us, they are not interesting, or entertaining. Many of the details of the names in these lists are lost, with only a few preserved. We know some details of Perez, a few others, but as we come to the close of the sermon I’d like to have a brief look at Salmon, the father of Boaz.

If we look at Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1, we see parts of it are very similar to the genealogy in Ruth 4 – with one striking difference in verse 5: Salmon, the father of Boaz by Rahab. Boaz was the son of Rahab of Jericho! Rahab, the prostitute, who when she heard God had freed His people from slavery in Egypt, renounced her own people, and came to shelter under wings of almighty. She had a son whose name was Boaz, who was raised to be man of God and would then go on to embrace another outsider, Ruth. And the result was these women, Rahab and Ruth, were part of a line of kings, and in the line of the king of kings: the Line of Christ

This is what God does for those he loves. We see that God’s overflowing love in this book is a picture of the love God has always had for his needy people. For sinners. This lavish grace, poured out on this family, including Rahab, and Ruth, and Naomi, was teaching them about the gospel.

If the book of Ruth was only about land, only about genealogies, or an inheritance on this earth, it’s probably worth making a movie about, but it’s not worth hoping in. That hope would be fading.

But instead, the people of the Old Testament believed in so much more. Hebrews 11:16 speaks of OT Believers – “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” People like Boaz, and Ruth, and Salmon, and Rahab desired a city, land, that was better than the parcel of land that Boaz redeemed for Naomi.

Boaz is the redeemer of the land, Obed is the redeemer of Naomi’s old age, but this story is about God who does not leave his beloved people without a redeemer. Because 1000 years later, in that town, in Bethlehem a redeemer was born. That same gracious God would take on flesh and blood, and that redeemer paid for far more than piece of land in the Middle East. A redeemer who would pay with his own blood for their sins and ours.

This evening, let us pray that we too might be found worthy to be classed with believers like Salmon and Rahab, Boaz and Ruth, David, and yes, even Naomi, those who looked forward to an inheritance whose builder and maker is God himself.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. David Stares

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