Archive for the ‘Ruth’ Category

The whole book of Ruth has pointed to the need for Ruth’s and Naomi’s redemption. In Chapter 4, they are redeemed! Is there anything better than redemption? Absolutely not!

Redeemed!

Posted: April 8, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 4, “Redeemed!”

Is there anything better than redemption? To be purchased out of slavery – to be ransomed away from death – to be bought with a price, knowing without doubt that we truly belong to the Lord God – such a thought is almost too wonderful for words! Apart from Jesus, we are enslaved to death, being hopeless in our sinful state, destined to face the wrath of God due our sins. But then Jesus intervened! He went to the cross, shedding His blood for us, paying our debt on our behalf and ransoming us from the grave. This is the glory of redemption!

Normally, when crafting a sermon, we might start with an illustration or some other lighter idea to help prepare us for something with more theological heft, like the idea of redemption. Why start with it right out of the gate? Because that is the subject of final chapter of the book of Ruth. Whereas Chapter 1 began with repentance, Chapter 2 focused on providence, and Chapter 3 focused on surrender, Chapter 4 is all about redemption. It is here that we see the fulfillment of all of the hopes that had been laid out since the book’s beginning. It is no understatement to say that if we miss the idea of redemption, we miss the main meaning of the book of Ruth. Two women were lost, but through the merciful intervention of a righteous man they were redeemed, having been given a home, a life, and a future.

This is what happens to each of us with Jesus. In ourselves, we are lost having no hope of forgiveness or eternal life. In ourselves, we are naught but sinners, treasonous rebels against the God who gave us life and who daily sustains us. But through the intervention of a righteous Man – the Righteous Man – we are redeemed, given everything for which we hope yet can never gain on our own. We are purchased by our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what is seen in the book of Ruth. It all began with tragedy, the sad result from the judgment of an Israelite man leading his family in rebellion against God as he abandoned the land of the covenant for what he believed were greener pastures. The man Elimelech, along with his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, eventually died in the land of Moab leaving behind three women as widows to mourn them. Although one of the Moabite daughters-in-law returned to the family of her birth, the other loved her mother-in-law Naomi and joined herself to Naomi’s people and the family of faith. Together, Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel childless and impoverished, with nothing to eat other than what Ruth would be able to glean from the fields of Bethlehem.

Undeterred, Ruth went to the fields and God providentially guided her to a worthy and wealthy relative of Elimelech’s who had heard of Ruth’s kindness toward Naomi. The man Boaz was more than willing to help Ruth, ensuring that she took home far more than a gleaning of food, but several weeks’ worth of groceries. This continued throughout the barley and wheat harvests, of which Naomi noticed as a sign of their possible redemption.

At the end of the harvest, Naomi counseled Ruth to go to Boaz privately and present herself for the kindness of redemption, which according to Hebrew law and custom meant that Boaz would pay off the debts of Elimelech and take his dead relative’s household to himself, providing for them as his own family and giving an heir to the man who had died. Boaz understood the custom well and when Ruth presented herself in such godly humility, he showed himself more than willing to help. Ruth could have had any husband in Israel: young, old, rich, handsome, etc. But she surrendered herself willingly to Boaz because this was Naomi’s only hope for redemption. Ruth loved Naomi too much to leave her and was willing to set any of her own comforts aside for her.

Boaz brought up only one potential wrinkle: there was another relative who was next in line. That man had the first right of refusal when it came to redemption before Boaz could step in and do it. Yet even then, the mercy of redemption was going to be granted. By the end of the day, one way or another, Ruth and Naomi would be bought back from hopeless poverty. The only question was who the redeemer was going to be.

Chapter 4 picks up at that point. Boaz does not waste any time but goes straight to resolve the matter. And resolve it, he does! First, we see the act of redemption itself, followed by its wonderful results.

We have our wonderful redemption in Christ Jesus, who gave everything for us…and the results He brings into our lives are glorious!

Ruth 4

  • Redemption (1-12).

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.

  1. If verse 1 sounds like it is picking up in the middle of the story, that’s because it is. In Chapter 3, we saw the nighttime meeting of Boaz and Ruth when he promised to see to her redemption in the morning, and that was exactly what happened. Naomi had assured Ruth that Boaz would not rest until he had concluded the matter and she was right. Although it was not necessarily first light, Boaz was purposeful with his day. Once the town started going about the business of the day, Boaz went straight “up to the gate and sat down.” This was the ancient equivalent of going to city hall. Boaz went to the place where official business was conducted and sat himself there awaiting his turn to be heard. As it turns out, he didn’t have to wait long. The other “close relative” (the other go’el, kinsman-redeemer) just ‘happened’ to come along at the right moment. Boaz didn’t miss a beat and asked the man to take a seat so they could discuss business in front of the city elders.
    1. Question: Was this providence or planning? Boaz had a definite plan for the day but there is no record of him sending word to this relative asking for a city meeting. Certainly, Boaz could have done so (via one of his servants), and perhaps planned to do exactly that once he arranged the city elders to be present. Yet as it turned out, God brought the man along at exactly the right time.
    2. For the Christian, careful planning is wisdom in action. The proverbs tell us that “the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,” (Pro 21:5) and that “plans are established by counsel,” (Pro 20:18). The key is to remember that even our most carefully laid plans ought to be submitted to the will of God. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” By all means, be diligent to plan ahead; just be also flexible to the superior plans of Almighty God. He knows what is best and He can redirect us to something better than what we imagined for ourselves. We can trust and rejoice in His providence!
  2. Who was this relative? We don’t know. In a book in which nearly every name is meaningful, it is interesting that there is no name given for the other close relative. Many Bible versions paraphrase it as “friend,” a more accurate translation that communicates the meaning would be closer to “So and So.” The Hebrew terms are what writers would use if they were referring to someone generic but unnamed, like an ancient “John Doe.” It might be better translated, “So Boaz said, ‘Come aside certain someone, sit down here.’” Did Boaz know the man’s name? Of course…he was a relative. The man’s name was purposefully not recorded.
    1. Is this an indication of the man’s disgrace? We know from later in the chapter that he did not follow through on his covenant and family duty, and for selfish reasons at that. That alone is shameful. But there is mercy in his anonymity. This man would have lived with the personal knowledge of having neglected his duty, but his posterity was not forever branded with his shame. His name was not recorded either for good or bad; he simply passed unknown into history.
    2. That said, God knew, just like God knows each of us. God knows our hearts, knowing us better than we know ourselves. He knows our thoughts and our motives. He knows who has faith and who does not. Just like this unnamed man had to eventually answer to God for his sins (both sins of commission and omission), so will each of us. For us, there is one book in which we do want our names recorded: the Lamb’s book of Life. Our inclusion in that book is the only way we are saved from God’s judgment (and it is available to all!).
  3. FYI: Why did Boaz call 10 elders specifically? We don’t know. Later in Jewish history, this was the number necessary as witnesses to a Jewish marriage or to have quorum for a synagogue. Perhaps the custom dates back to this event in Ruth 4.

3 Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 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.’ ” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

  1. He got straight to the point, describing the situation and speaking of the need and the opportunity for redemption. Everyone in town had known of Naomi’s situation as her return to Bethlehem caused quite a stir. They knew she came back husbandless and childless, with only her daughter-in-law Ruth by her side. She also came back penniless and somehow estranged from her husband’s covenant inheritance of land. Although Boaz mentioned that Naomi “sold the piece of land” that was originally Elimelech’s, we aren’t told the details. We don’t know how it happened or when it occurred. We don’t know if Elimelech sold the land prior to leaving Bethlehem on his way to Moab, or if Naomi lost the land due to the death of her husband and sons, or if somehow the land was sold to provide at least a bit of food for the two women. Whatever had happened, it left Naomi destitute and the land in need of redemption.
  2. And redemption is the main point. Notice the repeated use of the word “redeem”: 5x in one verse. It is the exact same root as the word often translated “close relative” or “kinsman redeemer.” It was technical legal term that related specifically to this kind of situation, when something needed to be purchased back for the family inheritance. – Why did it matter? Remember why anyone in Israel had land in the first place: God. This was not real estate that anyone in Israel earned on their own or was inherently theirs; this was land that belonged to Almighty God and God gave it as a gift to His people. And God distributed it out to His people according to His will, as seen in the latter chapters of the book of Joshua. Thus, the physical land of Israel was not something that the people of Israel could randomly buy, sell, or trade. It needed to stay within the tribes and the clans to whom God gave it. Israelites could make temporary real estate deals, but every 50 years it had to go back according to God’s original distribution.
  3. What did that mean for Boaz and this situation? Redemption was required. The inheritance of Elimelech was required by God to stay within the overall clan to which Elimelech, Boaz, and Cousin So-and-So belonged. Someone had to make this purchase on Elimelech’s behalf. Of course, Boaz was happy to do it, but he couldn’t yet move on it. He spoke openly of his desire to redeem but knew it needed to first be offered it to his relative according to the law. Boaz certainly had his preferences, but he understood that even his preferences needed to be submitted to the word of God. The only way he would proceed was if he could do it the right way.
    1. Don’t miss the point for us: redemption is still required. There is only one way any of us goes to eternal life in heaven: if we have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like the land of Israel belonged to God, so do all of our lives. And just like the land of Israel was sold to someone else, so do our lives belong to death because we have sold ourselves into death through our sin. And there is no buying our own way out. There is no work any of us can do that would purchase our own freedom. The wages of sin is death and we have been sinning since before we can remember. We have an unfathomable number of sins, not even counting our inherent sinful fallen nature. Yet we only have one life to live. This is why we must be redeemed. This is why it is essential we surrender ourselves to our Redeemer, Jesus!
  4. As for the land redemption, Cousin So-and-So initially wanted it. And why not? There would be a bit of expense involved, but it would be worth it as he would grow his own inheritance. After all, although he would have to give a home to Naomi, Naomi was past the age of childbearing. Any land he purchased from the widow of Elimelech would surely go to his own children. As far as land deals go, this one seemed to be a great return on his investment. That was when Boaz hit him with the catch…

5 Then Boaz said, “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.”

  1. There it was: the land came with a bride. Not only would Cousin So-and-So bring Naomi into his home, he would also have Ruth…someone who was of childbearing age. Now there was a responsibility along with the real estate. By law, he would have to try to give a son to Ruth and the inheritance that he purchased through redemption would to that child rather than one bearing his name.

6 And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

  1. Once he thought of the ramifications, the man refused to be the redeemer. Why? Because he cared more about his land than either the law of Moses or the loving principle behind the law. He did not want to dilute any inheritance that his own sons might receive with a newcomer from another wife. It didn’t matter that it was commanded by God in His word, nor did it matter that the reason God commanded it was for compassion and mercy to be shown to a widow in desperate need. This man looked only to his own needs and acted in selfishness.
    1. Remember what Jesus declared to be the two greatest commandments: (1) to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and (2) to love our neighbors as ourselves. Through this man’s selfishness, he broke both He had no respect for the word of God, nor did he have any compassion on those among his own relatives who were in need.
    2. We don’t need to be in this man’s position in ancient Israel to commit the same sort of selfishness. Any time we put ourselves over the word of God, especially in the areas where God’s word instructs us how to relate to other people, we commit the same sin breaking the two greatest commandments. When we refuse to forgive as Jesus instructs us to forgive, we break the commandments. When we refuse to love as Jesus tells us to love, we break the commandments. When we harbor hatred in our hearts towards others (especially other Christian brothers and sisters), we break the commandments. How often we can break the two greatest commandments before we even get out of the house in the morning!
    3. Don’t forget: although we do break many commands of God every day, we need break only one to be guilty of the whole law (Jas 2:10). Again, we require Jesus’ redemption!

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. 8 Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal.

  1. There is some disagreement about the custom. On one hand, there is a specific instruction in Deuteronomy 25 regarding the relative who refused to act as a redeemer. Deuteronomy 25:9–10, “(9) then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ (10) And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’” If it seems harsh and disgraceful, that is because it was. To refuse to provide for one’s own family showed how particularly cruel the individual was, and this rightly deserved condemnation. (FYI: The principle still applies today. Paul wrote that the person who refuses to provide for his family through a willingness to work is worse than an unbeliever. ~ 1 Tim 5:8.)
  2. On the other hand, for as much as the law of Moses is in view on the issue of land and family redemption, this particular interaction does not seem to have the atmosphere of disgrace. It isn’t Ruth who removes the man’s sandal – no one spits in the man’s face – he is not publicly humiliated among the townspeople. Instead, this is said to have been a “custom in former times,” indicating something that took place on a regular basis – something that would not describe the rite of redemption.
  3. Some have suggested that the exchange of a sandal does not indicate a disgrace, so much as it symbolized the right to walk on the land as one’s own property. Deuteronomy also speaks of God giving the Hebrews the land from every place their feet had trod, i.e., anywhere they walked in the Promised Land belonged to them. It is possible that the custom seen in Ruth 4 reflects the same kind of idea.

9 And 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. 10 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 at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”

  1. Remember that Boaz had gathered 10 elders at the city gate before the transaction took place. They served as public witnesses for the purchase. Should any question arise in the future over to whom Elimelech’s land belonged, any one of the ten elders could verify the purchase.
  2. Was money exchanged? Was a title deed composed? None of that is said, but none of that is the main point. The main point is simple: the redemption was now complete! All of Elimelech’s house now belonged to Boaz. More than the land of Elimelech now belonging to Boaz, the surviving women in his home now were under Boaz’s care. Naomi and Ruth were saved, with Ruth becoming the new bride of Boaz.
  3. Notice that Boaz did it for the right reason. Unlike Cousin So-and-So who feared what might happen to his own inheritance, Boaz spoke clearly of his intent: “I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dad through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren.” Even at a personal cost, Boaz was willing to do the right thing. Remember that Boaz was not a young man. He probably already had children. Now he was starting all over again. Additionally, now the inheritance of his other children might decrease a bit with the birth of any future children that would come from Ruth. We are told of one son that she bore, but it seems possible that she would have had several children. Only one would have inherited the land of Elimelech; all the others would share in whatever inheritance Boaz passed to the rest. So yes, this cost Boaz…but it was worth it. Doing the right thing for the glory of God is always worth it!
    1. Our redemption came at great cost, without question. The only begotten beloved Son of God was whipped, beaten, bruised, pierced, and tortured for our sakes when He hung on the cross. There is no doubt that when the wrath of God fell on Jesus, it cost. But gloriously, to God, the cost was worth it! Isaiah prophesied that “it pleased the LORD to bruise Him,” (Isa 53:10), being that it fulfilled the will and plan of God. The apostle John saw how the future multitudes in heaven sing of Jesus, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom,” (Rev 5:12). Our redemption came at great cost, but it also gives great glory to God. He determined that the cost was worth it.
    2. How can we fathom such a gift? It is beyond our comprehension! It will take an eternity for us to wrap our minds around. The best we can do today is to proclaim His praises. May we do so with grateful hearts!

11 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. 12 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.”

  1. The city elders approved and gave their blessing to the purchase and to the union. In fact, they gave two blessings/benedictions:
  2. Blessing #1: Rachel and Leah. These were two of the famous wives of Jacob/Israel, sisters who were often jealous of one another especially during the years they gave birth. Interestingly, Rachel is listed first even though the tribe of Judah (which was the correlating tribe over Bethlehem) was born from Leah. Although both women gave birth multiple times, Rachel struggled with barrenness for much of her life. Perhaps this was a hint from the city elders of a potential struggle of Ruth’s with barrenness (which we’ll look at in a moment).
  3. Blessing #2: Perez, borne of Tamar. That Perez was of the lineage of Judah and thus an ancestor to many in Bethlehem is matter of historical record. It’s the mention of Tamar that stands out in the blessing. Recall that Tamar was actually the daughter-in-law of Judah, who was originally married through the process of levirate marriage to two of Judah’s sons (Gen 38). Both his older sons died as a result of God’s judgment on their sin (not unlike Mahlon and Chilion!), and Tamar had to result to deception to gain a son through Judah himself, since he refused to give his third son to her as a husband. The whole affair is rather sordid and an example of when levirate marriage goes wrong with people acting in selfishness rather than selflessness. Yet what God brought out of that situation was wonderful! Judah repented of his sin, grew in his maturity and character, and this ended up being the lineage that led all the way to Boaz (as will soon become clear).
  4. Overall, the blessings were the same: that YHWH God would be glorified in the lives of Boaz and Ruth through the multitude of children that would come from their wedlock. – Not every married couple is blessed with children (as seen through many godly examples in Scripture!), but for those who are, every child is a blessing – every child is a gift. In opposition to those in our culture who deride babies as burdens or unexpected pregnancies as punishment, God sees life as a gift! Children are to be treasured, brought up in the training and admonition of the Lord and the reason for our thanks to God.

Three and a half chapters had held out the hope of redemption for Naomi and Ruth. Finally, it was brought to completion! Boaz went straight to the task, not delaying – he did things according to the word of God – he did things according to the heart of God, not thinking of himself nor considering the cost. In doing so, Boaz becomes a great picture of the Son of God, who did all these things for us in our redemption. 

  • Results (13-22).

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.

  1. Result #1: Marriage. This came part-and-parcel with the redemption, but it is important that we see its fulfillment. Boaz did not merely stand in the city gate declaring how he acquired Ruth as his wife; he actually wed her. He followed through on his statement.
    1. So it will be with us and Christ. Although today this is still a promise for the future, the Bible already describes the church as the Bride of Christ. One day, this Bride will be present at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19). What will it look like? We have only glimpses in the New Testament and the book of Revelation, but it will be wonderful!
  2. Result #2: Children. Although this was one of the primary hopes of redemption, childbearing is by no means guaranteed. Yet the husband and wife were blessed with a baby boy. Notice how the son was born to Ruth: “the LORD gave her conception.” Of course all children are given by the Lord, but there is a deeper implication here: Ruth was previously barren. Although nothing in Chapter 1 is specifically mentioned of her being restrained from getting pregnant while in Moab, she and Mahlon obviously had no children while living outside of Israel. At the time, this may have been viewed as a curse or a judgment, though it surely was not due to any fault of Ruth’s. (Mahlon was a different story! He was judged by God.) Yet whatever sadness she endured during her time of childlessness, we can see at the end of the book that her childlessness was actually a blessing that was part of the plan and provision of God. How so? Think about it: if Ruth had already given birth to children in Moab, she would not have been eligible for redemption upon moving to Israel. Those children would have carried on the name of their deceased father and would have eventually grown to an age to care for Ruth and Naomi (if Naomi had survived). That means that Ruth would never have been married to Boaz, producing no children from him. As becomes clear later in the chapter, that would have completely eliminated David’s family tree, having a massive impact on the Messianic line. Much of what we know of Jesus’ lineage traces back to Ruth’s redemption. And her redemption traces back to her earlier childlessness. What was originally a tragedy was turned by God in His eternal plan to be a blessing for countless generations!
    1. What is it that is a hardship in your life? Although it seems tragic and impossible right now, we can be certain that it has not come as a surprise to God. He has known about this from before the foundation of the world. Trust it to the sovereign plan of God! Paul famously wrote of this idea to the Romans: Romans 8:28–30, “(28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Notice two things in that: (1) This is promise and guarantee for believers; not for the world. Christians have this assurance; no one else. (2) Whatever else good that God brings out of our trials, His ultimate plan for us is to bring us to Himself in heaven. The things that God allows in our lives right now as believers serve to mold and shape us as believers, continually conforming us to the image of His Son, in which one day everything will be revealed when we stand glorified by the grace of God in heaven. IOW: It isn’t always about now. We tend to look at short-term gains, for the ways God is working good right now. It might not be right now; it might be something that serves a long-term or even eternal purpose. God had a long-term plan with Ruth’s redemption to bring forth Jesus from her lineage. That was an eventuality she never saw in this life; Jesus was born over 1000 years after she died…but that was God’s plan for her. What is God’s plan for you and me? He will reveal it in His time…even if it is in eternity.

14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

  1. Result #3: Restoration. Boaz and Ruth were not the only people to receive a public blessing in the redemption; Naomi did as well. This time, the blessing was not pronounced by the elders at the city gates but by the women who initially witnessed Naomi’s return to Bethlehem and were astounded at her trials and grief. Now, the grief was gone! Naomi had been truly restored. No longer was she “Mara,” the bitter one; now she was once again pleasant “Naomi,” who could praise God and declare Him the blessed one for all of His gifts in her life. Notice the reversal from Naomi’s situation in Chapter 1. She originally left Bethlehem full and returned empty; now she was full once again. She left town with two sons; she came back with one daughter-in-law who was better than seven sons. Moreover, God gave Naomi not only the go’el redeemer in Boaz, but also the go’el redeemer of this newborn boy, who would provide for both Naomi and Ruth in their old age.
    1. Does God restore us in our redemption through Jesus? Yes! Though we were once estranged from God, having made ourselves His enemies through our own sin, now we are reconciled to Him. We have renewed and restored fellowship with God, something only possible through Christ. We are restored to things we never realized we lost, prior to our faith in Christ!

16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. 17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

  1. Result #4: Generations. Of course, the son born to Boaz and Ruth was already mentioned in verse 13, but what is clear in verses 17 is how the genealogy did not end with this one son. This son went on to have children of his own, eventually showing himself to be the grandfather of the future king David. Multiple generations were impacted by this one act of redemption. On top of that, far more generations were affected by this one family line than only the generations of Boaz. All Israel was affected when David became king and his sons followed in the dynastic line. There was a ripple effect that went out far beyond this one family tree.
    1. So too, with us. For every person who comes to faith in Christ, there are many others impacted by our testimonies. And we pray for many more! Just like our faith is the product of someone else witnessing to us (and from someone who witnessed to them, and so on), so do we carry on the lineage as we share Jesus with others.
  2. Result #5 (the best one!): Messiah! Although this is not directly stated in our text, the ultimate impact of the rise of David’s dynastic line as king of Israel is the true Son of David, the Lord Jesus. This is the lineage from which God sovereignly chose to bring forth His Son. The redemption of Ruth and Naomi has a direct tie to our redemption and the redemption of the rest of creation as Jesus makes right what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. For clarity, by no means is every single human saved – for that, we need repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. But the end of the Bible shows us the eternal state when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, all of which is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The entirety of the redemptive plan of God rests on Jesus, and His family lineage goes straight through Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi.
  3. As for the text, we might need to make couple of notes: First, Naomi helped raise the boy, sharing the role of caregiving. The wording might be a bit confusing for us, as we don’t often think of grandmothers as nurses. One commentary notes that “the word translated ‘nurse’ means guardian rather than wet nurse,” (EBC), hopefully clearing up the confusion. Second, the boy was named by the townspeople, rather than by Boaz and Ruth. Specifically, the name came from “the neighbor women.” There are different thoughts to the meaning of his name. Some translate “Obed” as “worshipper;” others link it to the word for “servant,” suggesting that Obed is short for Obadiah (“servant of Yah”). Either translation is appropriate to the situation. Naomi and Ruth did most definitely worship when the gift of this son was given, and they no doubt raised young Obed to worship the Lord himself. Similarly, both Naomi and Ruth understood their roles as servants of the Lord God, and they desired the same for this baby boy.

18 Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; 19 Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; 20 Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; 21 Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; 22 Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.

  1. Some have viewed this as a later appendix to the book, being that it is a direct break from the narrative of the story as a whole. Yet it is this genealogy (which is an expansion of what was given in verse 17) that is the reason for this book’s existence in the first place. Why would anyone care about two widowed women being redeemed? Because it led to the birth of the greatest king in Israel’s history! And again, more importantly, it led to the King of kings and Lord of lords: Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

We end with the same question with which we began: Is there anything better than redemption? And the answer is a resounding no. For Naomi and Ruth, it was what they most needed, and it was brought to completion through the selflessness, mercy, and love of Boaz. He was willing to set himself aside that these two women might be redeemed to the glory of God and God used it in a marvelous way, bringing about wonderful results. These were results that not only impacted the immediate lives of these women, but impact each and every one of us today.

Of course, our redemption is not found in an ancient farmer from Bethlehem. It is found in a carpenter who was born in Bethlehem. It is found in the holy Son of God who set His own glory aside, humbling Himself in selflessness, mercy, and love, that He might pay the price for our redemption, reconciling us to God. He deemed it worth the cost and through His work He brings wonderful results.

How we should rejoice in the work of Jesus’ redemption! Every day we wake is another day we can praise God for the gracious gift of His Son. It is a day we can remember the blessedness of God and declare His goodness to those around us. We have been redeemed! We have been purchased and restored unto God and the results from that will last through all eternity.

For Ruth and Naomi to have any hope of redemption, it meant that Ruth needed to be willing to completely surrender. She had to give up, in order to gain. So do we. Surrender yourself to Jesus and receive His redemption!

Give Up to Gain

Posted: April 1, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 3, “Give Up to Gain”

Years ago, there was an SNL character named Stuart Smalley who satirized the idea of the power of positive thinking. No matter how bad things got for Stuart, he could always look at himself in the mirror and give himself the same pep talk: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!” It might work for TV but it is worthless in real life. Try believing you can fly through the power of positive thinking. You’ll feel great about yourself as you jump out the airplane all the way down until you become a spot on the pavement!

Even more ludicrous is the idea that positive thinking works to guarantee us eternal life. Multitudes of people believe that God will take them to heaven when they die, all because they were relatively nice people and God is a loving God. In essence, they say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, God likes me!” Tragically, they will be just as disappointed as those deluded into thinking they can fly.

The fact is we cannot think ourselves into heaven. There is nothing we can do in this life that will earn us our place in the eternal life. We are not good (not at all!), we are not that smart, and although God is a loving God who sees us as one of His creations, He will still judge those who remain in their sins. God judges according to His perfect righteousness, even as He maintains His perfect love. What can we do about it? In ourselves, nothing. We have zero to offer, and our best, most positive self-thoughts are powerless. But the good news is that Jesus has already done everything. We need only surrender ourselves to Him, putting our lives totally in His hands. We give up trying to get ourselves into heaven and we rely fully on Jesus – on His work and His promise, and He gets us there. When we give up everything to give ourselves over to Christ, we find that He gives us precisely that which we could never get on our own: redemption.

We see this pictured in historical Israel as the book of Ruth continues. In Chapter 1, the reader was introduced to a tragic family story during the days of the judges. One particular man from Bethlehem in Judea followed in the ways of so many other Israelites in their abandonment of God. This man took the next step by even abandoning the promised land and marrying his sons to two Gentile Moabite women. At some point, the father died in judgment, as did the two sons who freely chose to remain in Moab (confirming the rebellion of all three men). This left three widows – one of which went back to the Moabite family of her birth.

The two women who remained were the Jewish mother-in-law Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth. Although Naomi implored Ruth to leave (for her own sake), Ruth loved Naomi and loved Naomi’s God and refused to turn away. The women thus returned to the land of Israel, fully expecting to face a life of poverty and hardship.

Yet hope returned in a big way as God providentially directed Ruth to the man Boaz, whose fields she wanted to glean for a bit of leftover grain, fending off starvation. Boaz had heard of Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and he was determined to honor this young woman for her sacrifice. He took Ruth from being an outsider and beggar gleaning the fields to virtually treating her as one of his own cared-for workers. Moreover, he ensured she took home so much grain that it was overwhelming just to see her. Naomi need only the slightest glance at the burden in Ruth’s arms to know that she witnessed a miracle of God.

Something wonderful had happened, and it was only the beginning. Chapter 3 picks up at that point, showing the hope of something wonderful develop into a true promise of redemption.

The narrative of the chapter breaks into three main sections: the plan, the execution of the plan, and the report of the plan. What was the plan? Surrender. Neither Naomi nor Ruth would be able to gain anything on their own. Ruth needed to surrender herself to another, if she hoped to be redeemed.

In terms of eternal salvation, none of us will ever be able to achieve anything on our own. Our only hope is surrender. Surrender yourself to Jesus and receive His redemption!

Ruth 3

  • Naomi’s plan for Ruth (1-5).

1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.

  1. For all of the talk of how much Ruth loved Naomi, it cannot be denied that Naomi also loved Ruth. Although Naomi originally tried to persuade Ruth to go back to her birth parents, that wasn’t done out of hatred for Ruth; it was an act of love and concern not wanting Ruth to suffer needlessly. Here, Naomi acts on her love for her daughter-in-law as she sought out a new husband for her. The life Ruth had willingly chosen was a difficult one, and Naomi hoped for something easier for her. She wanted her daughter to experience “security,” or (per NASB and ESV) rest and comfort. She desired provision for her daughter-in-law, looking towards her long-term needs. Gleaning the fields was sufficient in a pinch, but it wasn’t desirable as a career. Something permanent was required for true security.
  2. She immediately suggested Boaz as a potential for that security. “Relative” = “one known.” It is a different word from the term later in the chapter speaking of the specific kinsman-redeemer, but it is obvious from the context that this is what Naomi had in mind. A relative was required for redemption. The idea for redemption is primarily that of purchase. It is most easily seen the redemption of someone out of slavery. That is when a purchase price is paid and the slave is set free. This is the picture often painted of our own salvation in Christ. One of the purposes of the cross was to pay off the debt we owed against God through the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son. We owed death; Jesus paid it. As Peter writes, we were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as the Lamb of God (1 Pt 1:18-19). This was the picture seen in the Passover as the blood of lambs were shed in place of the firstborn sons of Israel, redeeming them from Angel of Death. Yet there was another aspect of redemption in Israel: when a family member would pay the price for a kinsman in dire trouble. Perhaps someone sold off his family inheritance due to debt and trouble…a kinsman-redeemer might purchase that property back to ensure it remained within the family (Lev 25). Or perhaps a family member was murdered in cold blood…the kinsman-redeemer would pursue the murderer to justice, hoping to avenge or “redeem” that which was taken (Num 35). To the point in the case of Naomi and Ruth, another role for the kinsman-redeemer was to perpetuate the family lineage of a brother who had died. It was considered a tragedy for a family line in Israel to perish (particularly in relation to the land specifically given to the family by Almighty God), so a kinsman-redeemer would purchase the property of the dead brother, marry his widow, and raise up children for that man’s line (Dt 25). It was both an affirmation of the ownership of God over the land demonstrating that His gift remained a gift, and a method of benevolence for the widow ensuring that she would not starve. – This was Naomi’s desire for Ruth. Naomi knew of someone who would serve as a perfect kinsman-redeemer for Ruth: Boaz. Boaz had already demonstrated tremendous kindness to Ruth, not only in his initial provision from their first meeting in the fields, but in the weeks that followed as Ruth went back day after day through the barley and wheat harvests. This was someone already providing security and comfort to Ruth…surely he would continue to do it in his covenant role as a kinsman-redeemer.
  3. From the details given, it is obvious that this was no “off the cuff” brainstorm from Naomi. She thought this through, to the point of knowing where Boaz was from day to day. She knew that Boaz would be busy that night “winnowing barley.” For those of us not from farming backgrounds, to “winnow” the grain was to crush the freshly harvested stalks under foot, throw it into the air and allow the wind to blow away the chaff leaving the pure grain behind. In Israel it generally took place in the evening due to the increase in wind coming in from the sea. Because it would happen at night, the person would work until he couldn’t do any more, then lie down in the threshing floor and go to sleep. The hour made it late to attempt to gather up the grain for storage, but the produce still needed to be guarded. A sleeping laborer on the threshing floor served the purpose.
    1. That Boaz personally did this work is itself interesting, considering how many men labored for him in the fields. Surely his wealth afforded him the opportunity to hire out the work, something that was fairly common at the time. Perhaps it is an indication of Boaz’s solid character and work ethic, himself doing whatever it was that he would ask a servant to do. Or perhaps it is another indication of God’s providence at work. A man like Boaz did not need to make himself available in a public place overnight like the threshing floor, but God ensured that Boaz did it which made the whole plan of Naomi possible.

3 Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”

  1. Step 1: Ruth was to clean up and go to Boaz. We get the picture of Ruth preparing herself for her best date, perhaps as if she’s getting ready for prom or her engagement photos. That might not be entirely accurate. After all, Ruth and Naomi had little money. Although Boaz had ensured the two of them had plenty to eat, it is doubtful that they had so much money that they were able to improve their wardrobes. Most likely, both Naomi and Ruth were still dressed as widows. Their daily rags were still clothes of mourning, publicly declaring their grief over their lost husbands. Thus, Naomi seems to have told Ruth to put off her widow’s garment and put on something fresh. Ruth was to anoint herself with oil and present herself as a woman available to be taken as a bride. The very look of Ruth would have been a statement of her willingness to wed.
  2. Step 2: Ruth was to uncover Boaz’s feet and wait. There are different thoughts as to what it meant for Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet (which we’ll see in a minute). For now, notice the passivity of the instruction. Ruth is to go into Boaz, uncover her feet, and simply wait. Naomi does not command Ruth to say anything. Naomi counted on the fact that Boaz would know what to do. Ruth’s approach to Boaz was to do nothing but uncover his feet; Boaz would do the rest.
  3. Look at this now in our redemption found in Jesus. We do not by any stretch of the imagination clean ourselves up (all the newness we have comes from Christ!), nor do we somehow “uncover” the feet of Jesus. We do, however, go to Christ in faith, submitting to Him trusting that He will know what to do. We come to the end of ourselves, understand that we can do nothing, and we place ourselves in His capable hands. We surrender, knowing that Jesus is going to act according to His word and promise.

5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”

  1. This was full and ready obedience. Even if the custom sounded weird in her ears, Ruth trusted Naomi and was prepared to do whatever Naomi asked. As a Moabitess, this might have sounded like something strange among the Hebrews. Even so, she was still ready and willing to obey.
  2. Obedience may sound simple, but when people don’t understand the reason for a particular instruction, they have trouble following it. [Especially me!] We see this all the time regarding God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. People are told to repent of their sins and trust Jesus by faith, but when they can’t (or won’t!) wrap their minds around it, they refuse to do it. We like the idea of personal control, being the “captains of our own fates,” and when it comes to surrendering control to God, we tend to rebel. … Worse yet are those who get a flimsy version of the gospel, stripped of our true need of redemption in Jesus and forgiveness from the wrath of God due to our sins. When someone is told to “give their heart to Jesus” in order for them to have a better life and be spiritually fulfilled, that is something that doesn’t even make sense. Without knowing the reason for Jesus’ cross and resurrection, why would anyone ask Jesus to be Lord? Why give Jesus your allegiance and worship when you don’t have a reason? Our failings in evangelism aside, Biblically speaking we DO have a reason. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins. Our only hope is repentance and faith in Him, receiving Jesus as our Lord…yet so many people still refuse to do it. We need willing hearts to the call and invitation of God! (God, give them!)

Naomi had a plan at work. Was this simply an example of a matchmaking mother-in-law? Was this the bunch of scheming of a shrewd woman? No. Whereas Naomi had a plan, her plan was according to God’s plan. Remember that all of Naomi’s ideas were based on what was already written in the word of God. She had no reason to tell Ruth to go to Boaz making herself available for redemption, unless there was a provision in the law of God detailing redemption. Naomi knew Hebrew customs, but more than that, she knew the God behind those customs. Her ultimate plan was that God’s word would prove true.

God’s word always does! May we make our plans based on the written plans of God!

  • Ruth executes the plan (6-15).

6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. 7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.

  1. Ruth followed the instructions of Naomi and found everything as she described. Boaz had a hard day’s work winnowing and threshing the barley grain and had laid down to sleep. Be careful not to get the wrong idea about his eating and drinking. Although Boaz’s “heart was cheerful,” the text does not imply that he was overtly drunk. This was not a night of carousing for Boaz; it was simply a drink or two with a satisfying meal. If anything, the wine probably helped Boaz get to sleep in such a public place and hard surface as the threshing floor. 
  2. With everything in place, Ruth followed through on everything Naomi told her to do. Not saying a word, nor making a sound, “she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.” She didn’t call attention to herself nor demand that Boaz wake. She simply went to where Boaz was, made herself available to him, and waited.
    1. Notice that in all that Ruth did, there is not even the appearance of hesitation. She seemingly had total faith that she would be safe, neither being abused by Boaz nor being cast out by him. Such trust! This was trust not only in Naomi’s plan but also trust in God. Remember that Ruth declared that Naomi’s God would be her God (1:17). Her faith was in the God of Israel. Ruth could proceed without fear because whatever happened was something that God allowed, and her life was in the hands of YHWH.
    2. Do we have that same trust? It seems that Christians proceed is so much fear and uncertainty in our present time. We’re scared of viruses, we’re scared of the news, we’re scared of all kinds of things. It would be as if we forgot the repeated command in the Bible to “fear not.” Beloved, when we belong to Jesus, our trust is in our sovereign God! Whatever comes our way is whatever He allows. That isn’t permission for us to be foolish and bring the consequences of sin upon ourselves, nor to play a spiritual version of Russian roulette with our lives. Rather, it is a call and opportunity for us to trust God as If we live, we live unto the Lord; if we die, we go to be with Jesus. Come what may, God is glorified! May God give us the faith to live likewise!
  3. FYI: Many people have either implied or outright accused Ruth of committing a sexual act with Boaz. Elsewhere in the Bible, the Hebrew term for “feet” sometimes refers to a man’s genitals (as when Saul was “attending to his needs,” when David’s men snuck up on him [1 Sam 24:3], literally “cover his feet,”). Such an assumption speaks far more about the depraved imaginations of the critics than either Ruth’s moral character or the text itself. The entire book shows Ruth to have a pristine character, being a model that even the Hebrews could follow. She wasn’t perfect (no more than anyone else), but she lived an upright life. To assume that she would engage in a perverse act of fornication simply does not fit the text. Just because an expression is used symbolically and euphemistically in some parts of the Bible does not mean that it is always used that way. Sometimes “feet” are just “feet.” This was an act of purity on the part of Ruth. She uncovered Boaz’s feet, and no more. She placed herself at his feet, submitting herself to his authority, asking for his grace in lifting her up. This was a beautiful request; not something born from the evil imaginations of men.
    1. As an aside, it is a good reminder to those not-yet married to conduct themselves in a way that examples godly purity. At one point in our culture, chastity was seen as a virtue. Sadly, those days are long gone, popularly speaking. In the church, it should remain! Those who belong to Jesus ought to strive to glorify Jesus in every aspect of our relationships with one another. Be it when we date/court, or when we wed, or if we remain single, may we glorify God in all we do!

8 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. 9 And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”

  1. At some point during the night Boaz woke up and wasn’t initially sure of what was going on. All of a sudden, he noticed a woman lying at his feet and he asked the obvious question: who’s there? Obviously from Chapter 2, Boaz was already well-acquainted with Ruth, yet he did not recognize her on the threshing floor. Was this confusion because of age? Because of sleep? Both? The text does not tell us precisely, but it is not difficult to imagine there is a little bit of everything involved. Boaz seems to have been of the same generation as Elimelech (at least), making him quite a bit older than Ruth. There’s no question that Boaz had a sharp mind, but even the smartest of people get a little fuzzy when waking from a nap. In any case, Boaz was confused and asked the question.
  2. First, Ruth identified herself, giving her name and her position. “I am Ruth, your maidservant.” Although Ruth labeled herself as Boaz’s “maidservant,” it is interesting that this term is a different word than the one she used to describe herself in Chapter 2:13. This “maidservant” is of a slightly higher social status. Perhaps she uses the term because now she knows of Boaz’s kinship to her, something of which she was not previously aware. Ruth was not one of Boaz’s employees and directly part of his household, yet she was more than a typical Gentile stranger.
  3. Second, Ruth made her request. Bible versions render this differently, some referring to Boaz’s cloak covering her. Although that was the intended meaning behind the symbolism (with Ruth moving Boaz’s cloak off his feet, that he might cover Ruth with that cloak, putting her under his authority and household), the Hebrew is a bit more picturesque. It might be more literally translated “spread your wing over your maidservant.” If the word picture of “wing” sounds familiar, it should. Boaz used the same idea with Ruth in Chapter 2, when he observed that Ruth had come under the wings of YHWH seeking refuge (2:12). Possibly, this was an intentional choice of words for Ruth, asking Boaz to be the instrument of God in her refuge. – Either way, the idea is clear: Ruth asks for the covering and provision of Boaz. She desires his protection over her.
    1. Is this not our request when we present ourselves to Jesus in faith and surrender? We acknowledge our sinfulness and our need, and we ask Jesus to cover us with His wings – to cover us with His authority and His sacrifice, being our protection and provision. How glorious it is that He gives it!
  4. What was the basis for her request? Boaz was a “close relative,” a go’el, kinsman-redeemer. This is the specific word used in the Mosaic law for the role previously inferred by Naomi. This was the covenant responsibility of family to care for family, to ensure that a brotherly line did not die in destruction. Ruth knew the law in the word of God and asked Boaz to abide by it. — Just the fact that Ruth said anything is of interest, because this is not something that Naomi instructed her to do. Naomi had told her to go to the threshing floor and remain out of sight until Boaz was asleep, and then to uncover his feet not saying anything…all of which Ruth did. But nowhere did Naomi tell Ruth what to say; Naomi trusted that Boaz would know what to say and do. These words from Ruth were unexpected and bold…but also wonderful. How so? Because although this was bold, it was a holy boldness based on God’s word. This was not a moment of pride and ego for Ruth; this was her reliance on the authority of God’s word as revealed in the Mosaic law. What the extent of Ruth’s theological education was, we do not know, but it is obvious she knew enough to know about the responsibility of the go’el kinsman-redeemer. And what she knew of that was enough for Ruth to confidently hold to that promise and boldly ask for God’s will to be done according to it.
  1. Would that we might have such confidence in the word of God! And again, why is it that we can have faith that Jesus will save us? Because He promised He would! That is the guarantee from His word. Paul wrote it to the Romans: Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is as clear-cut as it gets. Men and women are not saved because of all the good things we do; we are saved because of the work of Jesus Christ and our confession in Him expressing true, sincere faith. When we have renounced our own lordship over our lives, receiving and confessing Jesus as our Lord and God – when we truly believe in our hearts that He did everything the Bible claims that He did, including rising from the dead three days after His crucifixion unto death – when we do those things, we will be saved. There is no room for doubt in such a confession, for it is based on the unchanging word of Almighty God. God declared it; it will be done!

10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.

  1. Boaz blessed Ruth, blessing her in the name of YHWH God. Again, this was a woman who exampled everything that a Hebrew woman ought to have been, though she was originally a Gentile Moabite. Although it would not be written for several more generations to come, she was the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman, the virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies (Prov 31:10). Even as a Moabitess, Ruth’s trust was in the God of Israel and she acted upon His word. No doubt she was already blessed of God, and Boaz’s prayer for her was that she would continue to be blessed.
  2. Why? Boaz gave the reason: Ruth had demonstrated true ḥesedkindness” according to God’s own character. And she did not just demonstrate a bit; she gave an abundance of it! And what makes this so wonderful is that Boaz here is not even referring to himself, as if he was flattered that the beautiful young Ruth would be interested in an older man like Boaz. Look closely: to whom was Ruth showing this godly “kindness”? Naomi. Boaz acknowledges this by saying this demonstration of Ruth’s kindness was greater than at the first. What was the first? Ruth’s first act of ḥesed kindness was to Naomi; so was this one. How so? Because Ruth could have been married to anyone. Boaz knew that Ruth could have had her choice of husbands, even among the rich in Israel. Yet Ruth appealed to the elder Boaz. Why? Because Ruth was not seeking only her own security; she was looking out for Naomi. Ruth could have been any with husband from any family in Israel; Naomi would find redemption only from one of her relatives. Ruth’s kindness towards Naomi was to put her own needs aside and go to the one person (of whom she knew) that Naomi could be redeemed.
    1. That is a kindness that cannot be ignored! Although if we try to assign spiritual types and roles to the various characters in the book, Ruth most often pictures the church, in this she demonstrates far more of the love and kindness of Christ. Ruth set aside her own needs so that Naomi could experience redemption. What did Jesus do for us? The same thing to an infinitely greater extent! Jesus set aside His own glories for our redemption. He set aside His own comfort and safety for our salvation. Jesus was willing to be humiliated on our behalf, that we might be made the children of God. No greater selfless love or covenantal kindness can be found, than that of Christ!
    2. Yet if we look at Ruth in the role of the church, we see something else. It is a reminder that our redemption is only found one place: the Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth did not turn to any other family because Naomi’s redemption was only found in one family (her own). We cannot turn to anyone else or any other religion for forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. We find it only in Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6).
  3. After the blessing came the promise. Boaz promised to act according to his own covenantal role. He recognized that everything Ruth said was true. He was a go’el redeemer, having a covenantal duty to his family. He would ensure that Naomi and Ruth were redeemed, even swearing upon the holy covenantal name of God to declare it would be done.
    1. Swearing is not commended to us by Jesus. Far better to let our yes be yes, and our no be no (Mt 5:37). Even so, there is nothing sinful in Boaz’s oath. This was his own promise to abide by the word of God, based on the holiness of God. His desire was to see God’s will done, and he was calling upon the name of the Lord to do so.
  4. BTW: Notice the commendation of Ruth’s moral virtue. Boaz knew that Ruth had a wonderful reputation in the town of Bethlehem. This was the same description of Boaz himself from Chapter 2, describing him as a “man of great wealth/worth,” (2:1). Ruth did not have riches of gold but she was wealthy in virtue. Boaz knew this, as did the rest of the town. This is yet another reason not to assume she performed any act of fornication.

12 Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”

  1. There was more than one go’el relative-redeemer available. As a man seeking to honor the Lord in his actions, Boaz needed to give the other man the opportunity to fulfill the covenant obligation. If Boaz skipped over the place in line, then God wouldn’t be honored. No doubt, Boaz desired to redeem Ruth himself, but he had a greater concern for following the commands of the Lord the right way. Either way, the outcome was good for the women. One way or the other, Boaz would ensure that Ruth was redeemed.
  2. What did this mean? It meant that the plan was successful! Again, this wasn’t a scheme to try to manipulate some kind of outcome for Naomi and Ruth. This was an honest appeal to a covenant command in the word of God that would both honor the Lord and help two women in desperate need of it. And because all the people involved were willing to submit themselves to God’s word, a God-honoring outcome was assured.
    1. It was assured, but not fulfilled…not yet. The fulfillment would come in the morning, but until that time, Ruth could rest in the promise. The promise was just as certain as the actuality, even if the fulfillment would bring with it extra blessings.
    2. This is our own assured comfort in Jesus! There are certain aspects about our salvation that are not yet fulfilled. We are promised a kingdom, and although we live as kingdom citizens today, we do not yet see Jesus’ physical reign on the earth. We are promised eternal life, something we cannot truly see fulfilled until it arrives. Yet our promises are no less certain. We have full confidence in these things, based on God’s word. The promises are just as good as the actualities, although the actual fulfillment will bring extra blessings. (So praise God for those promises today!)
  3. With the promise given, Boaz instructed Ruth to lie down and go to sleep. To send her away in the middle of the night would expose her to danger and was unnecessary. Again, this speaks highly of Boaz’s own moral character. He did not dare take advantage of this younger woman, even though he could have potentially been betrothed to her in a few hours.

14 So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”

  1. Although neither Ruth nor Boaz did anything unseemly, it was still a bit of a tricky situation. A man and woman alone, in darkness, lying next to each other on the ground? Anyone coming upon that sight would have started the rumor mill. Boaz sought to protect Ruth from that sort of thing. Surely the servants coming to Boaz in the early morning hours to help gather the grain would have seen Ruth. Boaz commanded their silence. Obviously, their meeting was not kept forever a secret…otherwise, we would not have it recorded in our Bibles! But Boaz could not take the chance that Ruth’s meeting might threaten the possibility of her redemption by the other go’el, nor of ruining her reputation in town as a virtuous woman. Already, Boaz looked out for Ruth’s best interest, guarding her with his own “covering,” as it were.

15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.

  1. Not only did he protect Ruth from the gossips; Boaz provided for her physical needs. Ruth hadn’t brought a basket with her, so he had her take up one of her extra shawls to take home a bunch of food to her mother-in-law. How much was an “ephah”? Estimates vary, with most scholars believing it was close to a bushel. In this case, “six ephahs” would be the equivalent of just under 20 gallons! That said, notice that the NKJV italicizes the word “ephah,” indicating that it is not technically in the text. NASB, ESV and others use the word “measure” in place of “ephah,” but neither is that word in the text. Literally, the text says only “six barleys,” with the exact measurement unknown. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a small amount, although it was an amount that Ruth could easily carry by herself.
  2. Question: Was this really necessary? After all, one way or another, Ruth was going to be betrothed by the end of the day. It wasn’t as if she was going to starve in the next couple of hours. No, it wasn’t necessary; it was a gift. It was a symbol of joy and provision and honor…something that becomes clear in Ruth’s later explanation.
  • Ruth reports the plan (16-18).

16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her. 17 And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”

  1. Naomi’s question might seem a bit strange to our ears. Surely, she knew what her daughter-in-law looked like. It was one thing for Boaz not to initially recognize Ruth lying at his feet in the midnight hour; it was another for Naomi not to recognize Ruth in the morning. Perhaps the simplest explanation is best, that Naomi had difficulty recognizing Ruth in the pre-dawn light. Although she was waiting for Ruth to return, she just wanted a bit of confirmation it was her before asking any specific questions. – That said, another idea has been suggested that the better translation of the question is, “Who are you, my daughter?” Perhaps Naomi’s question was specific, asking whose bride Ruth now was. Was Ruth still the widow of Mahlon, or was she now the betrothed of Boaz? Had the plan worked? Had Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s surrender to him and followed through on his covenant commitment? Yes!
  2. Ruth faithfully reported the news of everything that happened that night. She also gave the gift of barley to Naomi. Here, we learn the reason for the gift of food. It wasn’t so much for Ruth as it was for her mother-in-law. The six measures of barley (whatever quantity the measure was) were perhaps to be viewed as a type of dowry, or at least an acknowledgment of thanks and kinship. In Naomi’s mind (and surely as intended by Boaz), this was a symbol of his commitment…something she soon acknowledges…

18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”

  1. Naomi had complete confidence in Boaz. There was no need to worry or be anxious. Neither Ruth nor Naomi needed to pace back and forth waiting to see what was going to happen. They could set still and trust the word of Boaz, and (more importantly) trust how Almighty God would work through Boaz. One way or the other, Boaz had spread his covering/wing over Ruth and would ensure that she would be redeemed.
  2. Interestingly, the chapter begins and ends with the issue of rest. Different words are used, even reflected in the English (“security,” 4:1; “rest,” 4:18), but the concept of rest overlaps between the two. Naomi wanted Ruth to experience rest; Boaz gave the assurance that rest would come; Boaz would not rest until it did He was going to do whatever it took for the comfort of redemption to be fulfilled.
    1. This is our Jesus! When Jesus did the work of redemption on the cross, He did not rest until it was fully accomplished. For Him to declare tetelestai “It is finished!” was not for Jesus to say that it was mostly done or nearly done. It was done! The payment due our sin was brought to full satisfaction, with nothing remaining. Jesus’ suffering and death accomplished it all. As a result, we have no doubt of our redemption! In what Jesus has finished, we can rest!

Conclusion:

An old TV character used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together!” Here, a plan came together but it was not the plan of a doting mother-in-law trying to set a match for her daughter-in-law. Nor was it the scheming of a couple of women trying to hone in on some gold-digging riches. This was the marvelous plan of God, as laid out in His word and trusted by His people. This was the provision God had made; all His people needed to do was walk in it.

What was it? Redemption, via surrender. There was a simple way for Ruth and Naomi to experience the redemption offered by Almighty God, for them to be brought back from the dead (or at least, brought back from a dead lineage and a hopelessness that leads to death). It meant surrender. It was simple trust in God’s word, with Ruth giving up any hope of her achieving anything on her own and placing all her trust in the man designated as her kinsman-redeemer.

God’s plan for redemption has not changed. It takes surrender. We need to give up, to gain. This should not come as a surprise; it is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Want to save your life? Lose it unto Jesus. Surrender everything to Him, placing your life in His hands. And according to His word which never fails, Jesus will redeem you. He has already made the purchase of your redemption at the cross; the only thing that remains is imputing it to your account. That happens the moment we place our faith and trust in Him as our Lord.

But it isn’t only about our initial forgiveness and justification. The Christian life is about continual surrender. Yes, we have been redeemed (gloriously so!) but we still struggle in this world. The way we deal with those struggles is through the power of Christ, available to us in the Holy Spirit. For that, we need to surrender.

What is it we most need in life? Grace. We need the grace of God in this life and in eternity – we need grace all day, every day. That grace is found in Jesus. In Ruth 2, we see the need for grace, the experience of grace, and the news of grace.

The Importance of Grace

Posted: March 25, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 2, “The Importance of Grace”

Is there anything more needed than grace? Surely not. If it were not for the grace of God found in Jesus Christ, we would have nothing…at least, nothing of lasting value. We might achieve some minor things in the short-term, even building a comfortable life here on earth, but that is where it remains. When it comes to the stuff that matters – when it comes to the stuff that truly lasts, we need grace, or we won’t have anything at all.

Yet many people do not look for grace today. Especially here in America, we are a land of self-achievement. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and with enough grit and determination, we can do anything…or, so we think. The reality is that even the richest person in the United States (be it Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or anyone else) is a spiritual pauper in our sin. We cannot survive one hour in eternity relying on our own merits, because we have none. What we need is the grace of God. Jesus offers it in abundance, but we will never experience it if we never go to Him for it.

This simple lesson is portrayed in the second chapter of Ruth. Obviously, we need to remember that the story of Ruth is not a fairy-tale or a morality-tale; it is a real account of real people in history. But the things experienced and learned by these real people are lessons we can still learn today.

The book of Ruth introduced us to a tragic family situation during a tragic time in Israel. It was during the period of the judges when there was no king in Israel thar the nation frequently fell into apostasy and sin, bringing upon themselves the covenant judgments of God. As the book began, we learn that the Israelites had entered into one of those periods yet again with the result being a famine that fell across the land.

One of the families affected in Bethlehem (the “house of bread”) left the land to go find bread among foreigners. This man, along with his two sons, basically abandoned their covenant with God, preferring to remain among the Moabites than to go back to Israel. All three men were judged by God and died. They left behind three widows: the Hebrew mother and two Moabite daughters-in-law. Realizing her need to return to the land of her nation and covenant, the mother Naomi turned back to Israel, imploring her daughters-in-law to return to their respective families. Nothing but hunger and hardship awaited Naomi in Israel (or, so she thought) and she wanted to spare the daughters that same hopelessness.

One daughter refused to leave her side: Ruth. Ruth was fully committed to Naomi in love and fully committed to Naomi’s God in faith. Whatever God had in store for the both of them, Ruth wanted to do it by the side of her beloved mother-in-law. Thus, the two women returned to Israel, to the town of Bethlehem. Naomi was bitter and hopeless, but God had a plan already in motion. That plan starts to be revealed in Chapter 2, and it is all about grace.

As Ruth sets off to put food on the table for the two of them, she understands her need for grace – she experiences an outpouring of grace – finally, she shares her news of grace. Ruth required favor and God gave it in abundance.

We too, are impoverished and hopeless in our natural state of sin, in need of grace. That grace is found in Christ Jesus and we have the privilege of sharing the news of His grace with others!

Ruth 2

  • The need for grace (1-7).

1 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.

  1. The chapter begins with an introduction of Boaz. He “was a relative” of Elimelech, literally “one known,” by the family. There are different words used throughout the chapter to refer to kinship; here, it is less of a theological significance and more of a statement of fact. Naomi was not totally barren without family in Bethlehem; there was another relative who was known to her (even if she forgot about him).
  2. If you’re following in an ESV or NIV, you might notice a difference in translation from “a man of great wealth” to “a worthy man.” Perhaps a more literal translation would be “a man of great strength,” as the primary meaning of the word in question relates to strength or power. Depending on the context, it can also refer to either wealth or the strength of one’s character. In fact, in the two other instances the word is used in the book, it refers to personality. Ruth 3:11 uses the word in Boaz’s description of Ruth as a “virtuous woman.” Likewise, Ruth 4:11 shows the town praying over the redeemed women that they would “prosper in Ephrathah.” As for 2:1 and its description of Boaz, it perhaps refers to both his character and his wealth. Chapter 2 shows Boaz to be a godly man willing to provide for Ruth, but it is his wealth that makes that provision possible. Either way, the bottom line is that Boaz is seen as a hero.
    1. Already, there is a contrast with the earlier men mentioned by name. Be it Elimelech as the father, or his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, these were men under the judgment of God. Boaz (probably of the same generation as Elimelech) was in the blessing of God. From a narrative point-of-view, it shows that the times and circumstances have changed. Things are looking hopeful, as God was moving in wonderful ways behind the scenes.
  3. Herein is the primary point of introducing Boaz in verse 1: God’s providence was already at work. Naomi’s return to Bethlehem was not a random chance occurrence; nor was it God’s punishment for her, forcing her to be publicly disgraced. God led Naomi to return to the one place in all Israel that provided the possibility for her hope and provision. God had a man in Bethlehem who He would use as His instrument of provision, and Naomi and Ruth got there at just the right time to meet just the right man in just the right way.
    1. How important it is for us to remember God’s providence! The things we believe to be chance, are not. God is sovereign over our world, working all things for His glory. It may be difficult for us to see in the middle of our trials, but it is no less true. When things go haywire, it is a reminder for us to submit ourselves to God, asking for His will to be done. He has a plan at work; we need to trust Him for it.

2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

  1. What Ruth asks to do was basically the benevolence or the welfare of the day. To glean the fields was for someone in need of food to walk behind those harvesting a field, picking up any scraps or grain that might have been left behind. The law of Moses made provision for this practice, as an expression of their dependence upon God and thankfulness for God’s mercy (Lev 19:9, 23:22; Dt 24:21). Because the land ultimately belonged to the Lord, and He gave it to the tribes of Israel, God used that land to provide for everyone in Israel, including the poor and the stranger. A landowner did not need to feel that unless every grain was gathered that he would starve; God would provide for him, just as God provided for the poor. Of course, the poor still needed to take the initiative to walk through the fields, but it was a merciful way to keep people from starving.
  2. Notice that Ruth asked permission to do this. Here, Ruth submits to Naomi, giving honor to her as the current head-of-household. Just like Ruth would have honored her own parents, so Ruth honored Naomi as her mother-in-law. It is just one of several demonstrations of Ruth’s godly humility. Never once in the book does she promote herself; she always defers to others. Like Jesus taught about someone who would sit in the lowest place at a table, allowing others to move them up, so did Ruth humble herself that she might be exalted by others.
  3. In her humility, Ruth already knows her greatest need. She seeks grace: “in whose sight I may find favor.” The word translated “favor” is often translated “grace” [ḥen (חֵן)]. It can refer to cultural nicety like “charm,” but it is also the Hebrew word most often translated “grace” in the Old Testament. When we have a need that we do not deserve, if we receive that need, it is called grace. Should a peasant go before a king and ask for a debt to be forgiven or a gift to be granted, it is grace. The peasant has no right to demand anything, even if the need is overwhelming. It is solely up to the king to grant it. Should he do so, he shows favor to the peasant, granting him that which he could never hope to get on his own. That was Ruth’s desire in her circumstance. As a beggar from a foreign land, she had no right to demand much of anything from anyone in Israel. All she could do was hope that someone in Bethlehem might be merciful to her day after day. She had no guarantee of daily food; she had only a hope of finding favor from someone. She required grace.
    1. This is our great need! We have no right to demand anything from God. He owes us nothing but wrath and judgment. Our only hope for any of His provision (be it today or in eternity) is God’s grace. Until we recognize our need, we won’t go to Him and ask.
  4. Of course, Naomi gave permission for Ruth to glean. (What other choice was there?) As Ruth left for the day, the narrator tells us that “she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.” The wording is almost ironic. The narrator intentionally phrases it in such a way that gives the appearance of chance, yet the reality was very different. As already seen in verse 1, the reality was the outworking of God’s providence. There was nothing accidental about the field to which Ruth went; she went to precisely the field that God intended her to go. Keep in mind that Ruth didn’t understand this at the time. We have no record of any instruction from Naomi for Ruth to search out Boaz, nor do we have Ruth inquiring about any landowner who might be related to her dead-husband. Instead, she simply head out for the day’s work, and “happened” to go to exactly the right field in the town that would give her the perfect provision of God.
    1. Although we often use the terminology, there is no such thing as “coincidence” for the Christian. Granted, not everything we see in life has giant theological impact. Just because you and your friend happen to see each other at the same restaurant for lunch doesn’t mean that we need to look for a divine sign. At the same time, there is nothing that happens in our lives by accident. The more we look for the providence of God in our day-to-day, the more we will see God’s hand in ways we never thought to look. As a result, the more we will be aware of our Heavenly Father and the more we will praise Him!

4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered him, “The LORD bless you!”

  1. Boaz enters the scene, almost as if unexpected. This is a bit of literary suspense, again showing the coincidence/not-coincidence brought about by God. It would not have been unusual for Boaz to work his own fields, but it was not necessarily required if he were rich enough. He could have easily hired the work done without showing up day after day. Of course, he could have just as easily been there day-after-day, himself contributing to the work. Either way, it is presented almost as a surprise, yet it was all according to the plan of God.
  2. The mutual greeting demonstrates that these were God-fearing Israelites. Unlike the faithlessness that was demonstrated in the book of Judges, this group stands apart. Boaz and his workers show the primacy of their faith in YHWH as God, with His name being even in their greetings. Contrast this also with Elimelech and his sons who abandoned God; Boaz and his house embraced the Lord. This was a man of obvious faith. Not only did he have great wealth (or worth); he was a man who loved the Lord and lived by the Great Commandment (the Shema) to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, and strength.
    1. As an aside…there is something wonderful about bringing the awareness of the Lord into our greetings. We certainly need to guard against using His name in vain or without thought (as we sometimes do when saying “God bless you” after a sneeze); but as long as we are intentional with our usage, how good it would be to keep the Lord in our daily conversations with others. (It may very well change the tone of many of our conversations!)

5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

  1. After his greeting, the first thing that happened was that Boaz took note of Ruth. This young woman caught his attention. Perhaps it was the fact that she was a new face, something not often seen in a small town like Bethlehem. Perhaps it was a difference in the way she dressed, maybe reflecting some of her ancestry from Moab. Perhaps it was her beauty or attractiveness. This is a bit of a love-story, after all…maybe there was something about Ruth that caught his eye. Whatever the case, Boaz saw this younger woman and felt compelled to ask about her.
  2. The servant was quick to answer. Ruth’s story was well-known among the town (again, emphasizing the small-town nature of Bethlehem), and the servant was able to tell Boaz that this was the woman that Boaz had surely already heard about, who accompanied Naomi back from Moab. Again, Boaz had known the situation; he just hadn’t seen the woman for himself. The foreman of the reapers helped him put two-and-two together, identifying this young woman as Ruth.
  3. But there was more that the foreman had to offer. Although Ruth’s story was already known, the reapers had a chance to see Ruth for themselves. Her character was impeccable. Her initiative had her arrive at the fields early in the morning. Her humility was seen in how she asked permission to glean. Her work ethic was seen in her consistent labor throughout the morning, working hard until she had to rest. Already, she demonstrated her faithfulness and humility – she showed herself to be godly, even though she was of Gentile origin.
    1. Don’t gloss over Ruth’s humble request to work. The young man in charge of the reapers specifically noted how Ruth asked permission to glean the fields. Technically, Ruth was not required to ask. This was her legal right, seen three times in the Mosaic law. The fact she asked spoke highly of her godly character. That she was a foreigner from Moab underscores how respectful she was.
    2. How might our faith in God be seen in our attitude and work ethic? Our testimonies in those areas speak far louder than we might otherwise realize! Born-again Christians have a responsibility to present a faithful testimony of Christ, wherever we are and whatever we say.

This was just the beginning, but it was a very hopeful beginning. Waking up in Bethlehem without food and without land, Ruth understood her need for God’s grace in the life of her and Naomi. Without God’s provision, the two women would not physically survive. God demonstrated the start of His grace by guiding her (not) by chance to the very field of Boaz, a man familiar with the grace of God. At this point, she is already gleaning in the fields and her reputation is being told to others. It was a small beginning, but it was the start of something great.

Do you see your need for grace? It is a small step, but a necessary first step. Without us recognizing our need, we will never seek it. This is especially true in terms of salvation. If a person never sees him/herself in danger of sin, that person will never seek to be saved. Why would a guy cry out for a lifeguard if he doesn’t believe he’s drowning? Why would a woman go to the doctor if she doesn’t believe she’s sick? It is only when we see our need that we seek help.

We need grace. We need the forgiveness of God for our multitude of sins against Him. But we will never seek His forgiveness if we don’t see our need for it. 

  • The experience of grace (8-17)

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”

  1. After hearing of Ruth from his servant, Boaz went straight to the young woman. He was much impressed and had much to say to her. And the first thing he did was fulfill Ruth’s initial prayer for favor that day. Boaz showed her immediate grace.
  2. First, Boaz offered protection. As a presumably younger woman (widowed though still of childbearing age, still living with her mother-in-law), she would have been attractive to some of the younger men in the field and in the town. After all, she already caught the eye of Boaz…surely other young men wouldn’t be far behind! But Ruth could work safely and securely in Boaz’s field. Anyone who bothered her would face the wrath of their master and employer. Ruth was protected, though no such protection was legally demanded.
  3. Second, Boaz offered provision. Not only did Ruth have permission to glean freely, Boaz went up and beyond the legal requirements. Yes, she could glean the fields, but she could also drink Boaz’s water. In fact, Boaz gave Ruth the same basic status as the rest of his servants. She didn’t have to stay in the far back, trailing behind everyone. Ruth could join with the other young women in Boaz’s employ, taking part in the same benefits. Again, this was true favor and grace. None of this was required of Boaz; he gave it freely.

10 So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

  1. Ruth immediately recognized the grace that had been extended to her. She even labels it as such, noting she “found favor” in Boaz’s eyes. Considering that she was a “foreigner,” it was even more gracious. This was favor beyond Ruth’s initial hope for the day; this was something immeasurable. When the day began, all she desired was to find a place she could glean in peace; now she is being offered preferential treatment among the poor. What happened that she would receive this?

11 And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

  1. Boaz showed grace to Ruth because Boaz knew of the grace Ruth showed to Naomi. Ruth’s reputation had preceded her. All the town knew of Ruth’s commitment to her mother-in-law, how she left everything in Moab behind to help provide for this widowed woman, otherwise left hopeless and bitter from her tragic circumstances. The kind of grace Ruth showed Naomi was immense. Boaz saw his own actions towards Ruth as the very least he could do – it was a drop in the bucket. (Though surely far more than that to Ruth!)
  2. Not only did Boaz know of Ruth’s relationship with Naomi, but he knew of Ruth’s relationship with YHWH God. This Moabite woman had shown herself to be as committed as Abraham. She went to a land she did not know, among a people she did not know, all because of her faith in God and her love for her mother-in-law. The Moabitess Ruth had sacrificed in such a way that stood out to all the Hebrews, not the least of which was Boaz. Ruth demonstrated the love and grace of God in her life; Boaz wanted to demonstrate that same love and grace back to her. This was why Boaz blessed her the way he did in the name of the Lord. He wanted Ruth to know the blessings of God in response to all of the blessings she had already given to Naomi.
  3. Note: there is a big difference between the blessing Boaz prayed for Ruth in her experience with grace, and our own experience with grace. We do not look for a reward; we can only ask for a gift. Technically, not even Ruth looked for a reward; this was something that Boaz prayed for her. But considering that God was using Boaz as the answer to his own prayer, Boaz’s words make a bit more sense in the context. This was God’s gift to Ruth – a “reward” in the sense that it was what God chose to give. – In any case, our experience with God’s grace is never via reward or wage; it is only through the undeserved gift of Jesus. We make no demands upon God; our only way to interact with Him is through faith in Jesus. When we take “refuge” under the wings of Jesus, we take refuge under the wings of God.

13 Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”

  1. What a blessing Boaz had given her! Ruth had no reason to expect any blessing at all, yet Boaz was treating her as family. In response, Ruth both recognized the grace that she had already been shown and asked for more. Why? Because she knew she needed it! Ruth didn’t need grace only for the morning; she needed it constantly.
    1. How often do we need the grace of Jesus? All day every day! Do we need forgiveness for just a few sins? No – we need forgiveness for all the sins we’ve already committed and every sin we’ve yet to do. We need His provision morning, noon, and night. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us for everything that comes our way. There is no point in any of our lives that we are not in need of the grace of God. Yes, we ask for it at our initial salvation, but we also ask for it the rest of our lives.

14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.

  1. Lunchtime came (noon dinner) and Boaz invited Ruth to eat. This was one more thing that she had no expectation of, as one who gleaned the fields. Again, Ruth was being treated more like family than a gleaner of the fields. She was basically brought into Boaz’s household, partaking of benefits she never deserved.
  2. Practically speaking, the lunch was just a typical lunch for the time. The vinegar was a wine vinegar, used to moisten and flavor the bread. The “parched grain” would have been some of the harvested barley toasted over the fire and eaten as a kind of dry cereal. Nothing fancy, but definitely filling. Ruth ate enough to be satisfied for the meal and was even able to save some leftovers for home.

15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.

  1. Boaz took specific steps to ensure that Ruth got far more than the minimum. She was allowed to do more than just pick up what was left behind accidentally. Ruth could take some of the initial picking of the field, without being rebuked by the workers. They were also to purposefully leave some of the bundles behind, specifically for her to gather. And what she gathered was huge. One day’s work gained her 3.3 gallons of grain. This was enough to last the two women for more than a week.
  2. Regarding the amount of grain taken home by Ruth… There is no question that Ruth benefitted from the generosity of Boaz. At the same time, Boaz did not simply give Ruth the grain. He could have taken a portion that was gathered from his workers and placed it in Ruth’s hands. He could have told her to sit in the shade and relax while his own workers did the job for her. He did not. He ensured that an over-abundance of food was available to Ruth, but Ruth still had to do the work of gleaning. She had to willingly respond (intentionally respond) to the initiative taken by Boaz.
    1. Consider the parallels to the offer of grace we have in Jesus. God offers us an abundance of grace in Jesus. It is there for the asking…but we need to ask. No one is forgiven of his/her sins because of showing up in church, or because of how nice we might be to our neighbors. We are only forgiven of our sins when we partake of the grace that God makes available through Jesus. Until we personally and intentionally respond to Jesus in faith – until we knowingly believe upon Him, receiving Him as our Lord and Savior – until that point, we have not received God’s grace. We might have heard of it, but we haven’t receive it. We need to receive.

What a day for Ruth! Once meeting Boaz, she experienced grace upon grace. Not only did she have food for the day, she had cooked food to eat for lunch, water to drink for her thirst, a leftover meal to take home, and enough groceries to last a week or more. And that was on top of the protection and kindness and promise for future provision. Ruth was showered in grace!

So are we, in Jesus! John writes of Him, “And of His fullness we have all receive, and grace for grace,” (Jn 1:16), referring to grace on top of grace. When we believe upon Jesus, He bathes us in the grace of God! He forgives us of every sin – He seals us with the Holy Spirit – He gives us the right to become the children of God – He shares with us His eternal inheritance – He makes us His eternal Bride – and the list could go on. There is no end to the grace we experience in Jesus! 

  • The news of grace (18-23)

18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” …

  1. We can almost picture the scene. Naomi would have waited all day for Ruth to return, probably wondering when she would see her daughter-in-law. She may have even thought that Ruth would be home earlier in the day, considering that there would not have been that much grain left behind in the fields. Even if Ruth went to several farms, she wouldn’t have brought home much – perhaps just enough to feed them for the day and keep them from starving. Yet when Ruth came down the road or through the door, Naomi immediately recognized that something amazing had happened. Just one look at the armful of barley grain was demonstration of an obvious miracle.
  2. She didn’t even wait for Ruth to tell her what happened. Naomi started peppering her with questions. Additionally, Naomi’s first real response was to ask God’s blessing of the one who showed favor to Ruth. She knew something had happened that day, and that something had happened because of the grace of God. That much was evident and undeniable.
    1. How wonderful is it when the people around us see the work of Jesus in us? It does not always work out that way, but there are times when a person’s life is so transformed that their friends and family cannot help but ask what happened. They went from drug addict to soberly saved – they went from homosexual to surrendered to the Lord, etc. It need not even be that outwardly dramatic. Anyone who is saved by Jesus has been miraculously transformed from the inside-out. We have been brought from death to life – we have been made new creations in Christ. That is a transformation we ought to want other people to see.

… So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”

  1. The good news came that it was Boaz and Naomi rejoiced! Naomi both blessed Boaz again and recognized that this was the provision of YHWH God. There is a bit of debate on this. Who exactly had not “forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead?” The Hebrew is somewhat ambiguous. Due to how the wording is used elsewhere in Scripture, some argue heavily for this as a reference to Boaz. Boaz was indeed the one whom Naomi declared blessed by YHWH, and it was Boaz’s actions to his relatives that was the reason for the blessing. Yet the grammar also makes it possible that Naomi spoke of the Lord Himself. Boaz was blessed by YHWH and it is YHWH who shows His faithfulness to His covenant people.
  2. Should this be a reference to God (and it seems likely it was), notice that God demonstrated “His kindness.” This is a reference to God’s loyal love, His covenantal love (ḥesed). Part of God’s promise to His people in the Mosaic covenant was that He would provide for the poor and the widow, and Naomi recognized this as happening. Remember in Chapter 1, she felt abandoned and afflicted by the Lord. She believed that the Lord God was attacking her as an adversary, rather than being her advocate. All of a sudden, her perspective changed. She saw the obvious expression of God’s grace and immediately understood this was God keeping His promise. God was good to His word. (He always is!)
    1. Why is it that we can trust that God will forgive anyone who repents of his/her sins and trusts in the work and resurrection of Jesus? Because that is exactly what God promises! Any assurance we have of our salvation is not based on any works that we do (or don’t do); it is based on the unbreakable word of God. To be sure, the works we do as Christians are important evidences of God’s work within us, but those things never guarantee our salvation. Our only guarantee is found in the word of God. Because God says He saves those who believe in Jesus, He does. His word can be trusted.
  3. In addition to keeping His covenant, God introduced the possibility of redemption. The “close relative” mentioned by Naomi was a go’el (גָּאַל), or a kinsman-redeemer. This was the person who might avenge a family member who had been murdered. It was also the person who might wed the widow of a childless brother who had died. Levirate marriage (like gleaning) was an ancient form of benevolence. It was a type of social safety-net that ensured that no family member died of starvation. Family took care of family, and that meant that a widow who had no hope of a son providing for her future would gain a son through a surviving kinsman of the husband who died. This sounds unusual to our ears, but it was normal in the day and time. As for Naomi, she immediately recognized the potential of this situation. Not only was there the sure provision of food in the meantime, there was also the possibility of total redemption out of poverty. The introduction of Boaz introduced a new level of hope for Naomi, something she hadn’t yet imagined.

21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.”

  1. Not only did Ruth bring home enough food for over a week, she told of how Boaz invited her to come back day after day for ongoing blessing. This spoke of the potential permanency of the situation. In Ruth’s eyes, this was good not just for a day, but for quite some time to come. Of course, Naomi (as a good mother-in-law) saw a bit more! Naomi potentially saw this as confirmation of the writing on the wall regarding Boaz’s interest in Ruth, but moreover recognized the blessing and provision of God in this opportunity for Ruth to remain in one place. Not only would she be protected from any potential encounters with young men in other fields, but Ruth would continually find more favor with Boaz than if she went anywhere else. Now that she was in the care of Boaz, there was no reason to look elsewhere.

23 So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

  1. Thus, Ruth remained in the harvest fields of Boaz for several weeks. The text tells us that she continued “to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest.” The wheat crop followed the barley crop by only a few weeks. The typical harvest season for barley and wheat lasted from around late April to early June.

What did the good news of grace shared by Ruth bring to Naomi? Hope. Hope that she did not have before, she now held in praise of God…all because of what God did in the life of her daughter-in-law.

The news of grace brings hope!

Conclusion:

What a difference a day can make! Two women started the day in hunger; one started it in hopelessness. Ruth understood her need for grace and started to seek it in God’s provision. Sure enough, she found it in the fields of Boaz, to which God brought her in His providence. When God moved on Boaz, he showered Ruth with grace – so much so, that when Ruth shared the news with Naomi, even the bitter Naomi broke out in praise.

All of it due to grace.

When we have the favor of God through Jesus Christ, we have everything. Grace is what we lack, grace is what we need, and grace is what we receive in Jesus. Grace is how we experience the favor and blessing of God. It is how we are forgiven of our sins, how we are made holy in Jesus, how we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and how we are kept for eternity in the presence with God. How marvelous is God’s wonderful grace!

We need to see our need for it – we need to experience it for ourselves – we need to share the news with others. All of this goes hand-in-hand. Once we see our need, we cannot help but cry out to Jesus for it. No religion of the world offers it. Every other religion offers reward for work; Christ alone offers true undeserved grace. And the moment we ask Jesus for it, He showers us with it – we receive grace upon grace upon grace. It is what we experience not just once, but every day for the rest of our lives. Every day we get to wake up thankful for the grace we have in Jesus – we get to praise God that every morning is filled with new mercies – we get to look forward to the eternity we can spend in the presence of our Creator and King. Knowing all of that, how can we not share the news? Surely this is something we want all people everywhere to experience! And they can. Praise GOD, they can!

The book of Ruth begins with terrible tragedy, due to sin among a family of Israelites. Eventually, the surviving mother turned back, with her loving daughter-in-law right beside her. God gives us the opportunity to turn back to Him…don’t waste it!

Turning Back

Posted: March 18, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 1, “Turning Back”

God is good all the time – and all the time, God is good. We say it often in churches, but do we believe it? Do we really believe that God is always good in every circumstance, trusting Him to do what is best for His will and His glory? Do we believe in the inherent goodness of God’s providence, that He is always sovereign and always perfectly benevolent and just – that He takes every circumstance and uses it for His good purposes for those who love Him (per Romans 8:28)? Again, we might affirm it intellectually, but we often struggle with it personally. Yet, for all our troubles and doubts, it is true.

We see it in the book of Ruth, particularly in life of a woman for whom the book is not named: Naomi. Although the book is named for Ruth and features the blessings of God in her life and her redemption through the kindness of her eventual husband Boaz, the first three chapters feature Naomi prominently at the beginning and end, and even chapter 4 concludes the book with God’s blessing in Naomi’s life. It could have just as easily been named “Naomi,” as it was, “Ruth.”

Naomi struggled with the goodness of God. She believed in God’s sovereignty, but not necessarily God’s providence (if we can split hairs between the two). She believed that God ruled over every circumstance in the universe, but she struggled with the belief that God’s rule is always good. Perhaps it might be better said that Naomi believed in the sovereign will of God, but that His providence and interaction with men and women was not always beneficial.

Yet Naomi learns in the end that God’s providence is good. God is good, all the time – and all the time, God is good. Even when we cannot see it, God is good, and He works all things for His good and for His perfect will.

As for the book itself, although there is much historical background we know, there is also much that remains mysterious. As becomes clear in chapter 4 as the genealogy of David is traced, the book was written at some point after his coronation as king of Israel. In fact, David’s ancestry is the very purpose of the book, showing how God worked in wonderful miraculous ways to bring about the lineage of the king (and ultimately, the lineage of the Messiah). As to who wrote it, we do not know. Tradition assumes the prophet/judge Samuel to be the author, but tradition also assumes Samuel to be the author of the books named after him, even though he dies relatively early in the narrative chronology. The book itself does not claim an author, thus it is technically anonymous.

The opening verse tells us much about the historical background. It took place during the days of the judges, although we cannot know for certain when during the 300-400+ years of the judges. Overall, these were chaotic days for Israel. They were sinful days, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. With Israel’s sin came God’s divine judgment and discipline, often in the form of delivering Israel over to their enemies. Though their time in the promised land began well, Israel quickly departed from the covenant they affirmed under both Moses and Joshua, with the following centuries marked by their sin. They placed themselves under the covenant discipline of God, and it was evident in their constant state of turmoil. The final line from the book of Judges summed up their troubles: Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Israel desperately needed a king who would lead the nation in their covenant with God. The book of Ruth shows what God did to provide such a king.

It all begins with the troubles in Naomi’s family. They had turned away from God and suffered terrible hardships. Naomi turned back to her covenant roots, but she did not necessarily turn back to hope and faith. Yet for all their problems, God had not turned away from Naomi or Ruth. He had a plan for them and provided for them every step of the way.

Wherever we may find ourselves, as long as our hearts are not yet hardened to God, God gives us the opportunity to turn back to Him. May we respond to His loving call in faith!

Ruth 1

  • Turning away from God (1-5)

1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.

  1. The setting is established in the days of the judges, with a specific detail given: “there was a famine in the land.” That itself raises some questions. Was the famine a divine judgement? Famines were by no means uncommon in the land…even the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob knew what it was like when rain did not fall in Canaan. That said, remember that neither Abraham nor Jacob lived under the Mosaic covenant. When God gave the covenant to Israel through Moses, He specifically promised to give them rain by blessing their crops and their livestock. If they obeyed the covenant, God would bless Israel to the point of so much wealth that they would lend to the nations who would come to borrow from them during times of trouble (Dt 28:1-14). At the same time, famine was something that was also promised by God as a curse. If the nation disobeyed the law and disregarded their covenant with God, God would judge them in righteous discipline (Dt 28:15-18). Put it together and the only way Israel would ever experience famine in the land would be due to their disobedience. Considering what we know about Israel’s sinfulness during the days of the judges, a nationwide famine might be rightly expected! This had come because of the national sin.
  2. In those days, there was a certain family suffering along with everyone else. Ironically, they lived in the town of Bethlehem, which translates “house of bread,” yet they did not have any bread. What did they do? They did the logical thing, the human thing: they went somewhere they could find food. In this case, it was in the land of Moab. That does not mean that what the family did was right; it simply made sense at the time. The problem? If the famine was a judgment of God on the land, then the solution is not to leave the land; it is to repent of the sin. This family did not seek the Lord. On the contrary…they fled from Him! The father led his family in the opposite direction, personally and specifically rejecting the national covenant of his people, and thus also rejecting their God.
  3. Who was this family? Nearly all of the names in the book of Ruth are significant, seen first in these initial introductions. Elimelech = “My God is king;” – Naomi = “Beautiful/pleasant;” – Mahlon = “Sickly;” – Chilion = “Pining.” (There is no doubt the sons had terrible names! There are different theories as to why. Perhaps they were born during the days of the famine and they grew up sick as the nation pined for better days. Or perhaps the names here are symbolic, simply looking ahead to their own tragic lifespans.) What makes Elimelech’s naming so ironic is that he acted exactly opposite of his name. Instead of relying on YHWH God as his King, Elimelech became his own king, deciding for himself what was best. And what he believed was best was leaving the land of his inheritance, seeking provision among foreigners, remaining among them. Elimelech did not simply depart for a few weeks; he “went to the country of Moab and remained there.” Again, this emphasizes Elimelech’s total rejection of God. When he left the land of the covenant, he did not look back.
    1. How often do we compound sin on top of more sin? Perhaps we lied and then we were forced to lie some more, to cover the lie we told the first time. Or perhaps we spouted off at someone in anger, but instead of asking forgiveness when we knew we were wrong, our pride did not let us say anything. We do the same thing with God. We sin, but instead of dealing with the sin through humble confession and repentance in Christ, we dig in our heels and keep digging ourselves a deeper hole. We continue in our estrangement from God, being unwilling to do anything about it.
    2. The best time to deal with sin is right now. We cannot go back to the past to undo what we did, but we need not continue on into the future with the burden of sin on our backs. Right now, we can turn to Jesus in confession and repentance, asking His forgiveness…and He will give it!

3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.

  1. This was a lot of grief for poor Naomi! First her husband died and over time her two sons died. It is bad enough to bury your spouse; it is exponentially worse to bury your children. Naomi had sorrow on top of sorrow.
  2. Question: Why did Mahlon and Chilion die? Was this a random tragedy? The ongoing result of Elimelech’s sin? Or…did Mahlon and Chilion have sin of their own? There is no doubt that the faithlessness of Elimelech had a lasting effect on his two sons, but they had sins of their own, two of which are outlined in the text. (1) They married foreign women. Although there was no law specifically prohibiting marriage to Moabites (as opposed to the Canaanites and Amorites), the Moabites were cursed by God for the way they caused Israel to sin during the days of Moses after the attempted curse of Balaam (Num 24). Additionally, it was an expectation of Israel’s covenant with God that the men would actively seek wives from among Israel, that they might perpetuate their names and inheritances. For Mahlon and Chilion to marry Moabite women indicated that they no longer cared for their covenant with God or their inheritances in the land. And that leads to the second problem, (2) like their father, the two sons remained in the land of Moab. Although the text is not specific as to how soon the father died after moving his family to Moab, the implication is that the two sons stuck around. All totaled, they lived in Moab “about ten years.” They considered Moab their new home without any thought of returning to Israel. – So, had the two sons sinned? They too abandoned their covenant with God. While their father lived, it might be argued that they had no choice but to remain in Moab under his headship. When he died, the sons could have chosen to go back to God in Israel; they didn’t. (We are always responsible for our own sins!)
  3. Although the sons were not encouraged to marry Moabite women, it is not the fault of the women that they were married. Mahlon (likely the eldest, due to his name being listed first) married Ruth (4:10); Chilion married Orpah. And, just like the other characters in the account, these names are significant as well. Ruth = “Friendship,” prefiguring her own wonderful friendship with Naomi. Orpah = “back of neck,” perhaps referring to how Orpah eventually turned her back (although scholars debate the etymology of her name).
    1. FYI: According to the Jewish Talmud (Sanhedrin 105b:12), Ruth was a Moabite princess, being the granddaughter of Eglon king of Moab (who was assassinated by the left-handed Ehud ~ Judges 3), and also in the same lineage as Barak, who hired Balaam to curse the Israelites in the last days of Moses (Num 22-24). It ought to be noted there is no Biblical mention of this; it is solely Jewish tradition based on the opinion of ancient rabbis. Is it possible? Does it add anything to the story? Apart from a bit of tabloid interest, no. The story is not how far Ruth “fell” from her Gentile royalty; it is about how much grace God showed to someone who was already at the very bottom and of the love of YHWH God that was overwhelmingly evident in the life of this Gentile woman.

This was a sad situation! The sin of Israel led to the sin of a man, who set a poor example for his two sons who committed sins of their own. In the end, it led to their deaths. Such is the result of turning away from God. The wages of sin is death. That was just as true in the days of the judges as it is in the New Testament when Paul wrote it to the Romans. It is just as true today. Our sin earns the righteous punishment of death. Just like God said to Adam regarding the forbidden fruit: in the day that he ate of it, he would surely die. Such is the case with all sin. Sin earns death, period. Our only hope is a covenant with God through Jesus Christ. If Elimelech and his sons had turned back to their covenant with God, they might have experienced mercy, but they didn’t. They waited until it was too late. 

  • Turning to God (6-18).

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread. 7 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

  1. First, Naomi heard some good news. God had given “bread” to her home, which previously had no bread in Bethlehem “the house of bread.” Perhaps there was repentance in the land (something seen in their repeated cycle of apostasy) and God responded according to His covenant by bringing back the rain and crops. When did it happen? We aren’t told. Although it is possible, it is doubtful that the famine lasted 10 full years. It seems more likely that the famine had ended years earlier (especially when we consider later how much grain was able to be harvested from the fields of Boaz); this was just Naomi’s opportunity to act on the news. As long as her sons lived, they were the heads of the home and they showed no inclination of returning to Israel. Now that they were dead, Naomi had no reason to remain where she was. She knew where the blessing of YHWH was, so she did what it took to partake of it. That leads to the second thing…
  2. Naomi arose to “return from the country of Moab.” The word used for “return” (שׁוּב) is significant in Chapter 1, with various forms of the word appearing 12 times. The most common use of the term regards a physical turning or change of direction, but it does have another theologically important use: it is the most common word used in the Old Testament to refer to repentance. In the New Testament, the most common word for repentance refers to a change of mind; here, it is a change of direction. A clear theology of repentance indicates that it is both. We will never change direction unless we change our minds; and if we never change what we do, it demonstrates that our thinking never changed. A true change of mind is always accompanied by a change in behavior. Action is the fruit of our doctrine. People can claim all they want to claim about their thinking; the proof is seen in what they do about it. The proof is in the proverbial pudding.
  3. Question: Did Naomi repent? Although it is later clear that she harbors bitterness in her heart, perhaps even being angry at the Lord, we need to look at what she did. She heard of the Lord’s covenant mercies, trusted that YHWH God would continue to provide for Israel, and prepared to travel back to the land specifically tied with God’s covenant promise and relationship with Israel. She turned away from the sins of her husband and her sons, going back to the things of God. It may not be a perfect example, but it sure looks an awful lot like repentance.
    1. It needs to be emphasized that no one is ever saved by works. Not a single person will be in heaven whose good deeds took them there. We are saved only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ: faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, and faith in Jesus’ work through His crucifixion and resurrection. But our beliefs about Jesus are evident in the way we respond to Him. At some point, actions will always accompany our words.

8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”

  1. They were all on their way to Israel when at some point Naomi stopped their travelling and released the two younger widows from any obligation to her. They had each been truly kind to her, and Naomi blessed them in the name of YHWH God, praying that they would experience His chesed kindness and the rest that only God could give.
    1. It was a wonderful blessing, but was it wise? This is where we see Naomi following the cultural conventions rather than thinking through the spiritual realities. Surely it would be far better for the younger women to leave their land of idols to live among a people who worshipped the true Living God. Doubtless, Naomi had shared her faith with her daughters in the past. She would have even more opportunity to do it in Israel. Sure, life would be tragically difficult, but far better to experience poverty in the presence of God than to live among the riches of the world.
  2. To the daughters’ credit, they were each committed to Naomi. They both pledged to continue “turning back” to Israel with their mother-in-law. Even so, Naomi did not give up easily…

11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!”

  1. Naomi did her best to dissuade her daughters-in-law. Again, her reasoning is understandable and culturally appropriate. As long as there was a possibility of levirate marriage, then Naomi had the legal responsibility to give any other sons she had to Ruth and Orpah as husbands. This was considered a benevolence and necessity, especially in a culture where women typically had no potential of providing an income for themselves. Family would care for family, ensuring that no one starved. Additionally, for the Israelites, it ensured that the land inheritances would not pass out of the family clan, emphasizing the perpetual gift of land that God gave to the nation.
  2. As for Naomi, this was not even in the realm of possibilities. (1) She was childless, as both her sons had already died. (2) Her husband was dead, making it impossible for her to bear more children. (3) Even if her husband were not dead, Naomi was well past the age of childbearing, having lost all “hope” of being a mother again. (4) If somehow, she both gained a husband and had the ability to bear a child, the daughters would need to wait 18-20 years for the sons to mature to adulthood. The situation was impossible. There was zero legal reason for either Orpah or Ruth to stay with her. Naomi could not provide for them, either in terms of food or in terms of husbands. It grieved her, but that was simply the way it was. (Interestingly, the word used for “grieved” is the same root that is later translated “bitter,” foreshadowing the name she soon takes to herself.)
    1. Sometimes circumstances stink. What do you do with them?
  3. Naomi’s response to this is interesting. On one hand, she seems to blame God (something that will be seen later in the chapter as well); on the other hand, she affirms God’s sovereignty. She claimed that “the hand of the LORD [had] gone out against” her. Had YHWH God personally attacked her? But had God exercised judgment over her family? It seems so, yes.
    1. We tend to think that God will only give us good circumstances – that the things He allows in our lives will always be for our short-term benefit. Biblically, we need to affirm that this is not always the case. Even Job realized this early in his own suffering. Job 2:9–10, “(9) Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (10) But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job had faith in God, in all circumstances. Job understood that the good and the not-so-good stuff came from the Lord, being allowed by Him in our lives. This is something that the modern Evangelical church needs to remember. God is sovereign over every aspect. If we praise Him during the good times, we ought to always praise Him in the hard times, knowing that God’s plan is still at work.

14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

  1. Although Orpah initially stayed with Naomi, this time she left. She understood the facts of the situation and was a realist, like Naomi. As much as she loved her mother-in-law, Orpah realized the apparent hopelessness of the situation and returned home. – This should not be seen as a condemnation of Orpah. Remember, she was fully prepared to go with Naomi and it was only after Naomi’s firm arguments that she was convinced to leave. That much is good. At the same time, Orpah cannot be commended as a woman of faith. She did not enter into a covenant relationship with YHWH. She did not abandon the worship of the Moabite gods. Orpah serves as an example of a relatively “good” person or a moral person, yet someone who was still lost. Orpah was nice, but she was a nice person headed for hell. (Sadly, not an unusual situation!)
  2. Ruth, on the other hand, could not be convinced to leave. Instead of leaving, “Ruth clung” to Naomi. Interestingly, the same word translated “clung” is perhaps better remembered for its translation as “cleave” or “be joined,” regarding God’s blessing of the marriage of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:24). Ruth no longer had a husband to whom she could cleave. Instead, she clung to her mother-in-law. Such was the love Ruth had for her – she was committed beyond any “normal” expectation. This is love beyond the norms…this was grace!
    1. Amazingly, Jesus loves us even more. Moreover, His love is for us is Him condescending to us, taking us to Himself that we might be those who cleave to Him. We are the Bride; He is the Groom.

15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

  1. Once more, Naomi implored with Ruth to leave. She could follow the example of her sister-in-law and go back to her home. Yes, she would be going back to pagan ways, but it was safe. She could have all the provision she needed. She might have the opportunity of another husband (a Moabite husband) at home. It did not sway Ruth one bit. Ruth was not interested in “safe;” her heart was already set in her commitment.

16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”

  1. There are two commitments in view. First, Ruth was fully committed to Naomi in love. Although the Hebrew language is different, this is a wonderful example of true agape This was not the love of romance, nor was it the love of a strong bond of friendship. This was the love of sacrifice. Ruth was willing to lay down her own life for her mother-in-law, and greater love has none than that! (Jn 15:13) Wherever Naomi went, that was where Ruth would go. Whether Naomi lived in luxury or in poverty did not matter; Ruth was committed and refused to look back.
    1. It is no wonder this passage is so often quoted at weddings, although the contextual relationship is far different than that of a husband and wife. This is the same sort of commitment married couples ought to have with one another: total and unwavering. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, the commitment should be total.
  2. Second, Ruth was fully committed to YHWH as God. Please do not miss this. Unlike Orpah who went back to the false gods of Moab (probably Chemosh among other idols), Ruth wanted nothing to do with her previous gods. The God that Naomi worshipped and of whom Naomi had spoken, that was the God that Ruth desired to worship. In fact, she already claimed as her own, even calling upon His covenant name in her oath to spend her remaining days with Naomi.
    1. Interestingly, it is possible at this point that Ruth even had a greater faith than her mother-in-law! Naomi may have been the full-blooded Israelite, but her Moabite daughter-in-law had full confidence that that God of Israel would bind them together and keep them in His land of promise. No doubt, Ruth still had much to learn about the Lord. But her little faith (dare we say, her “mustard seed” faith) was already mighty!

18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.

  1. Finally, Naomi stopped trying to convince Ruth. Ruth’s conviction was far too strong.

Naomi was turning back to her homeland and her faith, such as it was. Orpah was convinced to turn back to her original home and original gods. Ruth, however, had a commitment to Naomi that could not be shaken, and it was enough to turn Ruth to YHWH as her own God, having a faith in the Lord that rivaled anything Naomi would have seen in Israel.

Ruth had every reason to be just as grieved as Naomi, to be bitter and hopeless. She wasn’t. Why? Because she had all she needed in her relationship with Naomi and in her relationship with God. She was committed. Once that question was settled, everything else was (relatively) a piece of cake.

Is it any different with us? We have trials and troubles that can shake us to our core. But it will only knock us down if we are not already settled in Christ. Remember what Jesus said about the trials and storms that come. They may be harsh, but as long as we are built on the rock (i.e., our faith in Christ) we will not fall (Mt 7:24-25). Our commitment to Christ needs to come first. Once that is settled, we can take anything else that comes our way.

  • Turning away from hope…though God gave hope (19-22).

19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

  1. Even after 10+ years, the people of the town still remembered Naomi. They must have been shocked at her appearance. Not only for suddenly showing up after a decade but showing up not with her husband and two sons, but with a daughter-in-law and no one else. No doubt the grief had etched lines in her face and she barely resembled the woman she once was. The “pleasantness” of Naomi was gone, something which Naomi herself acknowledged…

20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

  1. Again, the names are significant. Mara = “bitter,” which was undoubtedly how Naomi felt. And her bitterness is understandable. Who wouldn’t be bitter after suffering the grief she had? Truly, when she left Bethlehem originally, her family was full. Now, a decade later, she was empty. Or, nearly empty…Ruth was with her, although Naomi had difficulty seeing this as a blessing and provision from God.
  2. Here, it becomes more evident that she did blame God for her troubles. She testified against the Lord that YHWH had “testified against” her and “afflicted” her. e., in her opinion, God treated her wrongly – He had injured her. Even here, the name she uses for God is significant, not only using God’s covenant name of YHWH but also His title of Shaddai, often translated “Almighty.” Scholars have difficulty tracing the origin and precise meaning of the word, but Shaddai seems to refer to a powerful warrior or ruler. Naomi sees God as almost an enemy who has taken up arms against her and she had no power to stand against Him, which left her as Mara.
  3. Is this fair? It certainly does not assume the best of God, but there is no doubt that God maintained His sovereign authority over the events of Naomi’s life. If God had wanted to spare her the grief of death, He could have. He didn’t. God chose something else for Naomi, something she did not understand. Like Job, Naomi had not lost faith in God as God, but saw God as her adversary rather than her Advocate.
    1. Perhaps we have felt the same way. We ask God, “Why? Why did You allow these things in my life? Why didn’t You stop the bad things from happening to me?” And again, we have to admit that yes, God could stop certain things from happening; sometime, God chooses not to do so. Does it hurt? Do we sometimes grieve? But it does not mean there is something wrong or evil with God. It does not mean that God has attacked us. No more did it mean that God attacked His only begotten Son when decreeing that Jesus would bear our sin in our place and bear the wrath of God in His body. Today, we can look back and see the glorious plan of God regarding Jesus and the cross. One day (if only in eternity) we will be able to look back and see the glorious plan of God involving us. In that day, we will no longer ask “why.” In that day, we will only give Him praise!
  4. Had God afflicted Naomi? God was certainly sovereign over those events, allowing them to happen due the sin of Elimelech and others. But neither did God abandon her. Even though Naomi could not see it, God was providing for her even in that moment. The very reason Naomi’s redemption becomes possible was because she was related to Ruth. If Ruth had not been with her, Naomi would have been just “one more widow” in the land. Because God gave Ruth to Naomi, God gave hope to Naomi. No one would have looked to marry Naomi alone, and if anyone had, Naomi could never have given birth to another son due to her age. This only became possible because of Ruth. Far from afflicting Naomi, this was God’s blessing upon her.

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

  1. Chapter 1 ends with a brief summary of the situation as it was. There was the sad sight of two widows, newly arrived in Bethlehem with nothing to their name. They were penniless and (at least for Naomi) hopeless.
  2. Yet there was a bit of hope on the horizon. They arrived “at the beginning of barley harvest.” The stories heard by Naomi were true: there was again food in the land. There was at least an opportunity for the two women to eat. There would be an opportunity for something far greater…but it would take time for Naomi to learn of it.

Conclusion:

As might be expected of any good book, the first chapter sets the stage for what is yet to come. When a family in Israel turned away from the God of Israel, they experienced great grief. Having hit bottom, Naomi did the only thing she knew to do and turned back to the covenant promises of God, even if her trust in God was not yet fully revived. Ruth, on the other hand, turned to God in true faith trusting in His promises. And though Naomi lost hope, God held out hope in the form of His providence. God had laid the foundation work for a demonstration of His great mercy and redemption – something that would eventually cause even the bitter Mara to once again rejoice as Naomi in the covenant grace of God.

How might you have turned away from God? Maybe there is a sin in your life that you’ve refused to acknowledge. Rather than humbling yourself in confession and repentance, you’ve continued in your rebellion. That road only lasts for so long. At some point, the consequences of our actions catch up with us. Either God brings His discipline to His children, or He brings His judgment to those outside His family.

Or perhaps you’re more like Naomi, having turned away from God in bitterness. Perhaps there is some grief in your heart you’ve refused to surrender to God. Maybe it is a hurt from the past you don’t understand, or a circumstance that you don’t know why God has allowed. Beware the hardness of heart that results from bitterness. Not only will it rob you of temporal joy, but it robs you of the relationship you can be experiencing with Christ right now.

However we may have turned away, it is always the right time to turn back. We must repent. Be it changing our mind, turning our hearts, or physically changing direction with our actions, we need to turn back to God, humbly following our Lord Jesus. The love Christ has shown us is far greater than anything shown to Naomi by Ruth – it is a love and grace that surpasses our understanding. May we fix our eyes on Him, that we might turn back to our sovereign God in humble trust.

Love and Redemption

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Route 66, Ruth
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Route 66: Ruth, “Love and Redemption”

Tell me if you’ve heard this plot before: boy meets girl – boy loses girl – boy wins the girl again – they live happily ever after.  It’s the classic love story.  The book of Ruth is also a love story, but it’s a bit less conventional: boy meets girl – boy and all his family die – girl is left destitute with her mother-in-law…and things go from there.  Not exactly like something you’d find in a 30-minute sitcom TV show!

Although it starts with tragic beginnings, the book of Ruth goes on to tell one of the greatest stories of love and devotion recorded in history.  We think of Ruth as a love story (and it is), but it is actually two love stories.  There is the relationship between Ruth and her future husband Boaz, but there is also the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.  It isn’t the romantic love, but the sacrificial love that shines through in all of these relationships.  Ruth is willing to lay everything aside for Naomi, and Boaz is willing to extend mercy and grace to Ruth.  Both Boaz and Ruth show the extent to which they will give of themselves to protect another.  Not only are they great examples to us, but they wonderfully foreshadow the full sacrificial love of Jesus for us.  No one gave more for our protection and provision than Jesus; He gave His very life at the cross so that we could be forgiven and live eternally with God.

That said, this is no mere fictional account.  The book of Ruth is not a parable or an allegory to try to teach us spiritual truths about Jesus.  We most definitely do see spiritual truths and illustrations here, but this is a historical account about real people.  These people really did suffer, and they really did both demonstrate and experience the redemptive grace of God.  That’s one of the most beautiful aspects about it.  If THEY could demonstrate the true sacrificial love of God for each other during their worst times, surely we can demonstrate the sacrificial love of God for one another during our time.

BACKGROUND:
Like many other Biblical books, Ruth is anonymous.  It never mentions its author, nor does it give an exact time for its setting and writing.  It does give some general information, and that is enough for us to get the background of the book.

We’re specifically told the setting takes place during the time of the judges (we’re not told which judge), but the writing of the book was certainly during the days of the monarchy.  The final few verses of the book demonstrate the reason for its writing: it was to chronicle the family tree of David.  If we go backwards via the generations listed in David’s genealogy, then it’s possible that the events of Ruth take place in the 12th century BC, during the days of Gideon.  Obviously Gideon (or his son Abimelech) had little to no impact on the story – the events taking place with them happened much further to the north (closer to Galilee than to Bethlehem and Judah).

Who exactly during the monarchy was the person responsible for writing the book is unknown.  Tradition ascribes it to Samuel, though some imply that he could not have done it due to the mention of David.  Of course, this isn’t exactly a problem.  Samuel himself anointed David to be the next king of Israel.  Even though Samuel didn’t live to see David’s coronation, he certainly knew what the plan of God was concerning him.  The argument against Samuel is that David’s mention implies that he was well-known among Israel & not just to the author – but again, David was a national hero long before he was king.  In any case, the author could have been Samuel, or perhaps even Nathan, or some other unknown writer.  We simply do not know.

Of course, it is named for Ruth (one of the main characters), and it is only one of two books of the Bible named after women (Esther being the other).  What makes this particularly interesting is that in Ruth’s case, she was not born a Hebrew, but was a Moabite convert.  The Moabites were off/on enemies of Israel (one of the early judges, Ehud, had delivered Israel from the Moabites), but they shared a similar family history with Israel.  The nation of Moab is one of two nations descended from Lot (the nephew of Abraham).  Lot and his two daughters had escaped the destruction of Sodom (via the miraculous intervention of God), and fearing to enter into another city that may yet be destroyed, Lot & his daughters took refuge in the mountains.  His daughters panicked thinking that they might never go back to civilization, and tricked their father into getting drunk so that he would impregnate them and their lineage could live on.  Thus Moab and Ben-Ammi were born, from whom came the Moabites and Ammonites (Genesis 19).

That’s a pretty sordid story.  Yet it’s out of THAT history that Ruth emerges.  When we think of Ruth, we don’t think of someone like Paul who was a Hebrew of the Hebrews.  Nor do we think of someone with strong ties to the Patriarchs or any other distinguishing Jewish feature.  We think of a Gentile – and not just any Gentile, but a Gentile from a nation born out of incest.  What kind of background is that?!  What can God do with someone like that?  Apparently, quite a lot!  God uses people from the most unlikely of backgrounds to highlight His mercy and salvation.  It’s interesting that all of the women included in Jesus’ personal genealogy had some sort of seedy or questionable background: Tamar had to sleep with her father-in-law to get pregnant (Mt 1:3), Rahab was a Gentile prostitute who came to faith (Mt 1:5), Ruth was a Moabitess, and so forth.  Even Mary was caught up in scandal, simply by virtue of the virgin birth.  It doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are – it doesn’t matter what other people might think about us – technically, it doesn’t even matter what WE think of ourselves…God can do amazing things in seemingly impossible circumstances.  God does amazing things to highlight His grace.

SIGNIFICANCE
One of the most amazing things ever accomplished by the Lord is that of redemption, and that’s the undergirding theme throughout the entire book of Ruth.  Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi find themselves in the position of needing to be redeemed, and God raises up a redeemer on their behalf. 

The Hebrew word is ga’al, and (in various forms) is used 22 times throughout the book.  It refers to restoration & reclaiming something.  In the specific context of this story, it refers to the restoration of inheritance, and is based directly out of the law of Moses.  Deuteronomy 25:5–6, "(5) “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (6) And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel." .

This is the law of levirate marriage.  Remember that the land itself was a gift of God to the various tribes of Israel.  It had been portioned out very carefully among the people, and the book of Joshua went into great detail to show who inherited what.  That land was supposed to be passed down through the generations, from father to son, that the people of God would live on as a perpetual glory to God.  So what happened when the son died & the father had no other children to which to pass the land?  Would it go fallow?  Would it be taken over by foreigners?  Would the name and lineage of the father truly perish?  Levirate marriage was the safeguard against this.  In the worst-case scenario when all hope seemed lost, the brother (or close relative) would come in, marry the widow, and raise up children for the dead brother.  His name would live on, and the land would stay as the inheritance of Israel.

At least, that was what was supposed to happen.  Not everyone followed the law, and not everyone was willing to sacrifice for his brother (as we’ll see in Ch. 4).

This same idea of redemption carries over to the New Testament.  In our sin, we are also dead.  We are the ones who are lost and hopeless, and unless Someone steps into restore us and reclaim us for God, then we face an eternity of death and suffering.  And that is exactly what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross for our sin, and rising again from the dead.  1 Peter 1:18–19, "(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." .

Jesus paid an immense price for us!  He didn’t give a payment of gold or silver for the title deed over real estate; He shed His own blood so that the price of our sin could be paid.  Jesus IS the redemption for all who have faith in Him.  Without Jesus we are lost; with Jesus we are redeemed!

That’s what the book of Ruth shows the Christian today.  It highlights the sacrificial love of Christ for us as He gave Himself to be our Redeemer.  It truly is a love story, and the greatest love of all is between Christ and the Church.

GENERAL OUTLINE
This is the shortest book we’ve encountered so far in the OT, with only four chapters.  The plot divides fairly easily among the traditional chapter divisions:

  • Hope is Lost (1)
  • Hope is Restored (2)
  • Redemption Promised (3)
  • Redemption Accomplished (4)

The fall and rise of hope is seen through the promise and fulfillment of redemption.  That’s no less true with the characters of Ruth as it is with us.  Our grand hope is in our Grand Redeemer – and there is no better person in which it can be found.

Hope is Lost (1)
The Setting (1:1-5)
It begins like the ending of a classic Shakespeare play: everyone dies.  Everything that could go wrong was going wrong:

There was hopelessness in the nation.  This is seen in two ways:

  • First, the judges were ruling (1:1).  Remember that this was basically the dark ages of the history of Israel.  Judges 21:25 closed out the book of Judges with the summary statement that “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  The law of God was actively being ignored – the people of God were living as pagans.  The moral and civil state of the society could hardly have been worse.  Even if these events were concurrent with the judgeship of Gideon, we need to remember that the Hebrews of Gideon’s day were anything but faithful to God.  When Gideon was called by God, his first act was to tear down a pagan altar in the middle of the town square, which almost began a riot (Judges 6:28-30). People were more willing to take a stand for the pagan idol than they were for the Living God who had delivered them out of Egypt and given them the land in which they currently lived.  That’s a pretty sad state of affairs!
  • Second, there was a famine in the land (1:1).  Obviously there were many famines during the history of Israel, but we need to remember the times in which ancient Israel lived.  God had promised them that if they lived according to His covenant, that the land would always be fruitful (Deut 28:4), and that the famines would only come if they were unfaithful and disobedient (Deut 28:18).  Thus because there was a famine among Israel, it emphasized the faithlessness of the people, and how the nation was overridden with sin.

There was hopelessness in the family.  A man of Bethlehem left his inheritance given by God to go dwell in Moab.  Remember that this was the land of milk & honey – the land that was so abundant that the Hebrews would forever remember how God had given them this land as a gift, and the inheritance was to pass on through the future generations.  Now things are so bad due to the sin of the people, that this man was willing to abandon his inheritance from God and go live among the pagans.  He had lost all hope.  There is no small irony that a man from the town called “A house of bread” is in the midst of such a bad famine that he feels that he needs to leave.

  • What do you do when you lose hope?  Sooner or later, all of us are going to find ourselves in a situation that is so tragic that we don’t quite know what to do.  How do you hold on?  DO you hold on?  For many, they feel like a ship tossed at sea, and they’ve got nothing anchoring them to any foundation.  We need to be solidly anchored – and that’s what we have in our Lord Jesus.  As He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, the winds and storms can come, but when our faith is in Him, then He is our anchor; He is the solid rock upon which we can stand.

Pay attention to the names as we go through Ruth – they seem to have special importance.  Again, this is not a parable or allegory, but God does use the names of these historical people to highlight some of their role within the story.

  • Elimelech = “God of the King.”  This name is purely ironic.  Elimelech is a true Hebrew who should have been worshipping God, but his actions indicate the opposite.  Granted, we don’t know his heart, and the Bible doesn’t say much about him at all, but he certainly does not seem to be trusting in the true God of Israel as he flees Israel, abandoning the promises of God.
  • Naomi = “Pleasant.”  This comes up later in Ch. 1 in a specific play on words.  Naomi is well aware of the meaning of her name, and once tragedy befalls her, she feels as if life is anything but pleasant.
  • Mahlon = “Sick;” Chilion = “Consumption / Failing.”  These seem like terrible names to give to our children!  It’s possible that these names were chosen by the author as foreshadowing, rather than their historical names.  Whatever the case, their names are certainly fitting to what takes place.
  • Orpah = “Mane / Neck (stiff-necked).” How this relates to this other daughter-in-law is unknown; perhaps it’s a reference to a bit of stubbornness on her part.  Just a bit of trivia: this was supposed to be Oprah’s name, only it was mispronounced.
  • Ruth = “Friend.”  Truly this is a name that befits the historical Ruth well!  She was a friend to Naomi when all other friends had abandoned her.

Of course the problem is that all the men die.  Elimelech had taken his family to Moab for survival, and they experienced the opposite.  First Elimelech died, and instead of returning to Bethlehem at that time, his sons (and their mother) stay in Moab for another 10 years, having married Moabite women.  They had completely settled there when they died, leaving all three women as childless widows.

The Survivors (1:6-18)
Things are pretty bad for the women, and Naomi hears that the famine is over back home.  She makes preparations to leave, and tells her two daughters-in-law to go home to their families.  There was no way for Naomi to provide another child to give to either of them a levirate marriage (besides, there would be a generation’s gap between them!), and Naomi didn’t see any other option.

  • It’s difficult to fault Naomi in this.  After all, what else could she do?  She could either starve among the people of Moab, or go back home to Israel & perhaps starve there.  At least in Israel she would have access to the benevolence in the law of Moses (as long as people were following it).  Naomi may show herself to have lost hope, but it seems that she never truly abandoned her faith in God.

Two daughters-in-law; two responses.  They both initially refused to leave Naomi & wept with her, but it didn’t stay that way.  Orpah left Naomi (presumably to go back to her family), but Ruth remained.  No matter what Naomi said to her, Ruth refused to leave her side & spoke some of the deepest words of personal commitment found in the pages of Scripture: Ruth 1:16–17, "(16) But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. (17) Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”" .

  • These words are often quoted in wedding ceremonies, but notice this is not the love between a husband and wife, but between a daughter and her mother-in-law.  Whatever the relationship was between Ruth and Naomi, it was deep – and Ruth could not bear to be parted from her.  She was willing to give up her home, her security, her background, even her religion to be with Naomi.  She already expressed faith in the one true God as she committed herself to Naomi for life.
  • It may not have been spoken between a husband and wife, but it certainly is a good measure of commitment between husband & wife!  That “two become one flesh” is far more than a statement of physical intimacy, but it is something that takes place on a spiritual level.  They become one person, fully committed to one another for life.  When that sort of commitment is made, with the Lord at its center, it is a beautiful thing!
  • Notice one more thing Ruth does here in regards to her faith: she burns her bridges to the past.  By committing herself to Naomi (and specifically to Naomi’s God), she cuts herself completely off from any pagan religion she had in the past.  She placed herself under the hand and discipline of Almighty God for the possibility of turning back…that was something that just wasn’t going to happen.
    • When we come to faith in Christ, it’s a full 100% commitment.  To follow Jesus as our Lord isn’t to keep the door cracked to something else.  Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters; it’s impossible to do so.  Yet that is exactly what so many people attempt to do.  Burn your bridges to the past.  Make a full commitment to Jesus & follow Him alone!

The Sadness (1:19-22)
The two women return, and though over a decade has passed, the people of Bethlehem recognize Naomi, though they can hardly believe that it’s her.  But the person they remembered was gone.  Naomi had no more “pleasantness” in her heart; it was filled with bitterness instead & she attempted to take a new name to herself (“Mara”) to reflect it.  She blamed God for her affliction, and was prepared to settle in her discontent.

  • It brings up a good question: could God have stopped the death of her husband and sons?  Yes.  Why didn’t He?  We can’t say.  Knowing the rest of the story, we know how God ultimately used this tragedy in Naomi’s life: He brought forth David & eventually the Lord Jesus.  What started in deep bitterness ended in tremendous glory!  Yet at the time for Naomi, she had no way of knowing this & all she experienced was mournful bitter sadness.
  • This is one area in which faith becomes so important.  We don’t know why God allows certain things & not others.  We do know that God is sovereign & whatever He wants to do, He will see done.  Sometimes that matches up with our desires; other times it doesn’t.  What do we do with it all?  Trust the God who knows us and loves us.  Trust that God is indeed powerful enough to take all things and use them for His good and His glory.  Far better to trust God with unanswered questions than to grow bitter and angry at Him for not answering the way we want Him to.

Hope is Restored (2)
Enter the Redeemer (2:1-18)
Another character introduced: Boaz.  It’s uncertain what his name means, though it likely has something to do with strength.  One of the pillars of Solomon’s temple was later named “boaz.”   Who was he?  He himself was a strong pillar of a man: Ruth 2:1, "(1) There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz." .  He was not an immediate brother of Elimelech (which would have definitely fallen under the levirate laws), but he was a family member of some sort.  And he was a family member with “great wealth.”  Quite the contrast with these two widow-women!  They were destitute, unable to use the former lands of her husband.  They would be living off the barest resources and mercies of others.  Boaz, on the other hand, was a wealthy well-respected member of the community with fields and servants a-plenty.  If anyone could potentially help these two women, Boaz could.

In order to eat, Ruth and Naomi would have to glean from the fields.  This was basically the ancient Hebrew form of food-stamps: Leviticus 19:9–10, "(9) ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. (10) And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God." .  The landowner would harvest the fields for himself, but he wasn’t supposed to do so careful a job that every single bit of fruit or grain was plucked.  Some of it was supposed to be left behind for the poor to come and get some food for themselves.  (There’s an interesting difference here between the Biblical practice of gleaning & many modern ideas of welfare.  The landowners weren’t commanded to pick the fields for the poor; they were just to leave some fruit behind.  The poor had the responsibility to come in and pick their own food for themselves.  Benevolence did not absolve anyone of personal responsibility.)

This was the practice that Ruth was to engage in if she and Naomi were to eat (presuming that Naomi was too old to glean for herself).  She asked Naomi for permission to go, and she did.  Although Ruth had no idea, she was guided by God to a very specific field to glean: the field of Boaz. 

  • Just in this we see the supernatural sovereign hand of God!  Ruth was a stranger to the town & virtual stranger to Naomi’s family.  She didn’t have a clue who was related to whom.  All she knew is that she needed to work to bring home food for her and Naomi to eat that night, and this was the way she was allowed to do it.  She was faithful with what she knew; God did the rest.  God took her to precisely the right field at the right time in the right way that would ensure her provision was cared for not just that night, but the rest of her life.
  • Again, we may not understand everything God is doing in our lives, but we can be faithful with the things we have in front of us.  Be faithful with what you know; leave the rest to God.  He is more than capable of working things out for His glory!

The long and the short of it is that Boaz sees Ruth in the field, learns who she is from his servants, and commands his servants to both protect her and to provide for her.  He ensures that no one will bother her while she’s working, and gives her the freedom to drink water that his servants have already drawn from the well. 

Why did he do it?  Because he knew the compassion and commitment that Ruth had shown Naomi, and he understood how God was glorified by it all.  Ruth 2:11–12, "(11) And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. (12) The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”" .  Ruth had come to faith in God, and had come under the protection of God.  This Moabitess acted more like a true Hebrew than many others in Israel, and that was something that Boaz knew was worthy of praise.

  • People will take notice of the way we deal with tragedy.  Some of the greatest witnessing in your life might be done when you haven’t spoken a word.  When our faith is put into action, it speaks volumes. (Just as it does with inaction)

In addition to everything else Boaz had already provided for Ruth, he also invited her to dinner, take home the leftovers, and commanded his servants to leave even more barley behind for Ruth to glean.  He was abundantly generous with her, overflowing her with grace and mercy.  (Not unlike how God is with us!)

Recognizing the Hand of God (2:19-23)
When Ruth gets home that night, Naomi immediately sees what has happened.  Ruth had brought home around 26 quarts of barley grain (not to mention the dinner leftovers) – far more than what could have been expected from a “normal” day of gleaning!  She quizzed Ruth on the landowner, and upon learning it was Boaz, she erupted into praise! Ruth 2:20, "(20) Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”" .

  • Quite the contrast to Naomi’s earlier expression of bitterness!  She had felt afflicted by the Lord, but now realized that God had not forgotten her at all.  God had been providing in ways she could not have imagined, and she couldn’t help but giving praise to God.
  • We can’t see everything God is doing, but we can always trust that He IS working.  Trust Him in the midst of your circumstances, and praise Him for the provision you haven’t yet seen.

Notice that Naomi recognized Boaz as being “a relation…a close relative.”  Already she is seeing the provision of God that perhaps Ruth does not recognize.  Naomi is looking beyond the 26 quarts of grain to the possibility of levirate marriage and redemption.  She sees the potential of a redeemer on the horizon, and her hope is born once more.  Naomi tells Ruth to stay in the fields of Boaz throughout the barley and wheat harvest & see what will happen.

Redemption Promised (3)
The Matchmaking Mother-in-Law (3:1-5)
Time has passed, and the barley season has come to an end, and the winnowing has begun (when the grain is separated from the chaff).  There would be no more gleaning for a while, and Naomi believes the time is right to take the next step.  Due to their closeness with Boaz’s harvest, Naomi knew when Boaz would take his turn to guard the winnowed barley (keeping animals away at night), and Naomi hatches a plan.  She tells Ruth to get cleaned up and perfumed, and dress in her very best & go to Boaz once he settled down after dinner.  He would take things from there.

The practice sounds a bit unusual to our ears, but this would be an acceptable way for Ruth to present herself to Boaz as being available for marriage.  Ruth would no longer be in the garments of mourning, and she would present herself at Boaz’s feet, as a sign that she wanted to come under his protection.  Some have tried to imagine something unsavory here, but everything that is described was culturally considered chaste and honorable.

The Redeemer’s Commitment (3:6-15)
Boaz discovers Ruth, just according to Naomi’s instructions, and understands completely what it is Ruth is asking him to do.  He has a desire to be the kinsman-redeemer for her (completing the act of levirate marriage), but he also knows things need to be done in their proper fashion.  There was another relative that was closer to Elimelech than Boaz, and that other relative needed to be given the first opportunity.  Yet Boaz swore to see Ruth redeemed in marriage, be it through the other relative or himself.

He once more gave her a gift of food (perhaps 80 pounds worth of barley!) as a sign of his commitment to provide for both her and her mother-in-law, and sent her home in secret in order that the other relative could be approached without any bias.

Faith in the Promise (3:16-18)
Upon Ruth’s return, Naomi sees the gift of food and knows that the matter is settled.  She has faith that Boaz is going to be true to his word: Ruth 3:18, "(18) Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”" .

  • What is so wonderful about this statement is how it parallels with the work of our Savior.  Though Ruth was not yet redeemed, she could rest in peace as though she already were…Boaz would see the work done by the end of the day.  The work for OUR redemption has already been accomplished.  That work was finished the moment Jesus gave His last breath upon the cross, and it was confirmed when He rose from the dead three days later.  We’ve placed our faith and trust in Christ, and we’ve been saved!  Yet we still live here – we still struggle with our own flesh and temptation – we still have our own trials and hardships.  We know that one day we will see Jesus & we will be delivered from the things of this life, but what do we do in the meantime?  Rest!  Though we are not yet physically with Jesus, we can rest in His grace as though we already are.  God will complete the work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6) – we never need doubt the final outcome of our faith.  God is good to His word & He will conclude the matter!

Redemption Accomplished (4)
The Public Redemption (4:1-12)
Another character is introduced, but notice he has no name.  He is referred to as “the close relative,” and Boaz calls him, “friend,” but it is striking that for all of the other names in the book, this one very important character is anonymous.  “Friend” could be translated “So & so, such & such” – there seems to be a deliberate attempt from the author NOT to name him.  His name is not worthy to be mentioned.  The name and inheritance of Elimilech, Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth would live on through this single act of redemption, but the name of the man who refused to follow the Lord’s direction is lost from history.

Boaz had approached the man publicly and respectfully.  In front of the elders, Boaz presented the case for Elimelech’s inheritance to be redeemed.  Mr. “So & So” was interested in acquiring the land, but not so interested in acquiring another wife and an additional mother-in-law.  He was unwilling to follow through on the duties of levirate marriage, and publicly waved his right, giving it over to Boaz.  Boaz then made the redemption transaction in the full view of all the townspeople, and committed himself to perpetuating the inheritance and name of Elimelech, according to the law, and thus taking Ruth as his own wife.

What was the response of the people?  Joy & blessing!  Their wish was for Boaz and Ruth to be prosperous and numerous, like Rachel and Leah bringing forth the children of Israel.

  • It was an act worthy of giving praise to God, so that’s what people did.  That’s exactly what our actions ought to cause people to do.  Our lights are supposed to so shine before men, that they would see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father (Mt 5:16).  Let all that we do, be done for the glory of God!

Hope is restored (4:13-17)
The hope that had been reborn as a glimmer in Naomi came into full bloom.  When Naomi had first returned to Bethlehem, she had told the women to call her “Mara” (bitterness) because God had afflicted her.  Now everything changed, and these same women recognized it. Ruth 4:14–15, "(14) Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! (15) And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”" .  Had God afflicted Naomi?  No!  To be sure, He had allowed her to go through some tragic heartache, but God had not abandoned her.  God had provided a redeemer for Naomi, and God’s hand had been in this since Naomi first acquired Ruth as a daughter-in-law.  If it had not been for Ruth, there would have been no hope for Naomi – God had laid the seeds for Naomi’s redemption long before Naomi could have ever have fathomed there would be a need.

When did God lay the seeds for our redemption?  Long before we can imagine!  We quoted 1 Peter in regards to our redemption earlier: 1 Peter 1:18–19, "(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."  Obviously the text doesn’t end there.  It goes on… 1 Peter 1:20–21, "(20) He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (21) who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." .  The seeds for our redemption were placed before the very creation of the world!  Think of it this way: before Adam sinned, Jesus saved.  Before the sin of Adam created a need for redemption, the redemptive work of Christ was already planned out by God.  It was finally revealed when Jesus went to the cross, but it had been the plan of God all along.  God’s plan was always to extend His salvation to you & me, that we might be redeemed to His own glory.

Genealogy of the King (4:18-22)
Although this is a bit of an appendix to the story, this really seems to have been the primary purpose of the book in the 1st place.  Whoever the writer was, he desired to give an account for David’s genealogy, which turned out to show that an act of redemption was not only made for Naomi and Ruth, but the seeds were laid for a far greater act of redemption for the nation of Israel.  No longer would there be the days of the judges, in which every man did what was right in his own eyes; there would be a king – one that would follow after God’s own heart.

Conclusion:
Ultimately, this all leads to a far better Redeemer…the Greater-than-Boaz & Greater-than-David: the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has redeemed us, not just from hopelessness, but from death itself.  We had nothing without Christ, but now we have everything IN Christ.  He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), and we have an eternal spiritual inheritance in Him.  All of it comes through His sacrificial love and all-sufficient redemption.

We can praise God for Ruth’s loving commitment and sacrifice for Naomi – we can praise God for Boaz’s loving commitment and sacrifice for Ruth – but most of all, we praise God for Jesus’ loving commitment and sacrifice for us.  He has redeemed us from the grave, and there can never be enough praise in return!

Are you resting in His grace?  Are you trusting in His sovereignty?  He is totally in control, and He will see us through until the end…until the very moment that we finally understand the fullness of our redemption.

Receiving Redemption

Posted: August 6, 2009 in Ruth

Ruth 4, “Receiving Redemption”
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Introduction:
When we last left our heroes, they were bristling with the anticipation of redemption. At Naomi’s instructions (good little matchmaker she was!), Ruth went to Boaz by night while he was threshing his harvested wheat, she laid down at his feet, & basically proposed marriage by asking Boaz to spread his wings (or skirt) over her. Boaz was happy to do it & blessed Ruth for her kindness (hesed) that was displayed towards him (and by extension, Naomi & even God!)… There was only one hitch: Boaz wasn’t the nearest of kin to be the kinsman-redeemer! There was another man, and legally he had to be offered the opportunity for redemption 1st. Yet even with that tension, Boaz assured Ruth that the matter would be taken care of that very day & he sends her off with abundant blessing.

So now what? Now the act of redemption has to actually take place. Keep in mind that this day (specifically this event) is THE event that the entire book has been leading up to. In Ch 1, Naomi & Ruth found themselves in need of redemption: they were left in a Gentile land mourning their dead husbands, and upon coming back to Israel they were facing death & starvation. In Ch 2, they started having hope in redemption as they were introduced to Boaz, who showered them with favor & instructed Ruth to come only to his field for gleaning. Naomi instantly recognized who Boaz was as family & they begin to hope. In Ch 3, they acted on that hope, and waited for their redemption as they brought their request to Boaz. Now in Ch 4 the time has come to receive that redemption. At this point, the only question is: will the redeemer be Boaz – the one whom they trusted? Or will it be someone else?

Ruth 4 (NKJV)
1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.

A. The basic significance of the gate is that this is where business was done. It was a place where witnesses could easily gather, and that’s exactly what they did when transactions or contracts needed to be made. They didn’t exactly have town hall where public records could be xeroxed & accessed – this was their version.

B. Who met there? The “close relative” Boaz has mentioned earlier. Ruth had apparently gotten back to Naomi without being seen & Boaz was able to arrange a public meeting with him. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew labels him as the “goel” – the redeemer…or at least, this is who it was supposed to be. Legally, this was his 1st right, and so he bore the title of “kinsman-redeemer” (even though he never redeemed anything).

C. Boaz’s name for him is interesting. “Friend” = Hb “peloni almoni” – a phrase used to refer to any generic person. (Clarke) “Hark ye, Mr. Such-a-one of such-a-place!” … Did Boaz know his name? Of course – they were close relatives living in the same small town of Bethlehem. But in the inspiration of Scripture regarding a story where every person’s name is significant, this other relative remains anonymous. He’s not worthy of being named. Keep in mind that one of the primary purposes of levirate marriage was to carry on the name of the person who died. This 1st relative is going to try to protect his inheritance by not taking the redemption; yet his own name is blotted out for all history.
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3 Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 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.’ ” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

A. Boaz offers the right (and responsibility) of the kinsman-redeemer to this other relative… [BIBLE – Lev 25:23-28] Two things about the law:
__a. The land ultimately belongs to God (Lev 25:23). Thus their responsibility to redeem it isn’t solely for family honor & inheritance; it’s a command from their King to distribute the land as He sees fit.
__b. No matter what happens regarding relatives, the land was automatically to be restored to the man (or his surviving children). Why? Because the land belongs to the LORD. (Re-emphasized for a reason! This was God’s perpetual provision for His people.)
__c. Basically what we see is not some casual real-estate deal. This is a Royal Divine Command in order to preserve His people…Boaz treats it with the utmost respect.

B. Note: Boaz definitely does want to redeem Ruth, but he’s being completely honest & up front here. Some think Boaz is being shrewd by not mentioning Ruth upfront, but that seems to be an inference from the text. By all appearances he’s legitimately offering the redemption up to the other relative. Why? It’s the right thing to do according to the law, and Boaz does things by the Book.
__a. Keep our typology in mind. Boaz adhered to the letter and the spirit of the law. So does Jesus regarding our own salvation & redemption… Matthew 5:17-18 (17) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (18) For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. [] And that’s exactly what He did! Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law (Gal 4:4) – He was tempted in all ways we were, yet without sin (Heb 5:15) – Jesus was in every respect well-pleasing to the Father (Luke 3:22). Jesus completely honored the law in our salvation. He didn’t go find a loophole to deny the law (because the law is good! He wrote it!), but instead perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law – even the parts that required death due to sin.

C. Mr. So-and-so actually agrees to redeem the land! Is this a good thing? Yes & no. Yes, in that it honored God by the letter of the law – this was his moral & spiritual duty & he was supposed to redeem the land. No, in that (as we’ll see in the next verses) he certainly wasn’t honoring the spirit of the law. He had a very selfish motive (to maintain & increase his own inheritance & lands) & he seemingly was only obeying the law in order to gratify his flesh.
__a. God cares about our motivations! He wants us to do the right thing, but (as we saw in Ch 3) He wants us to do it the right way as well. Both the end AND the means give glory to God; we want to glorify Him in every aspect.
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5 Then Boaz said, “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.” 6 And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

A. Boaz fills in the rest of the picture regarding Ruth. This redemption didn’t simply involve the legal aspect of the land, but also the levirate marriage responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer. [BIBLE – Deut 25:5-10] Why this law? Because culturally, women had very little means of providing for themselves – and there was the matter of the inheritance to pass along. Thus God provided for both the widow & His covenant through the law of the levirate marriage. Those who denied their responsibility were to be shamed as a result.
__a. To modern ears, this may sound pretty weird – and even taboo. But we need to keep the culture in mind & not judge them from a 21st century mindset. There were very few (if any) jobs available for women – rarely did they own land to grow crops – and without a son to help support them, they had little hope.

B. At this point, the man refuses to redeem, and his motives become crystal clear – he’s only concerned about himself & the inheritance he’d pass on to his own children. Some scholars refrain from attributing too much motive to the 1st relative, thinking perhaps he was simply too poor to purchase the property & care for the Naomi & Ruth (and any offspring). That seems pretty unlikely (to me) in that he was perfectly willing to purchase the land (and presumably redeem Naomi); his answer only changes when Ruth gets introduced to the mix & it becomes evident that any offspring between them would receive an inheritance of the redeemed land. IOW, he had the money to purchase it; but he didn’t have the money to purchase it & then give it away to another child upon his death. It definitely illustrates that his original desire to purchase the land was for selfish gain – not for anything dealing with Naomi’s benefit or honoring God.

C. Some see a parallel between the unnamed man & the OT law. People try to use the law to redeem themselves, but they can’t. It’s simply not something the Law is capable of doing. The law makes nothing perfect (Heb 7:19) & no one is justified by the law (Gal 3:11). To be redeemed, we must go to the One who has the power to redeem: Jesus Christ!
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7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. 8 Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal.

A. Also part of the law (Deut 25:9). [Cultural aspect of feet…considered dirty] This was more than the “closing of the deal”; it was also an admission of disgrace… If so, why didn’t Boaz (or the elders) spit into the face of Mr. So-and-so? Hard to say – possibly because the honor of the one needing redemption was still upheld; it was simply upheld by the 2nd in line & not the 1st. Some scholars also speculate a different reason for the sandal: that by taking off his sandal, the relative was symbolically giving up his right to walk on the land of redemption…

B. Whatever the case, the deal was confirmed. Mr. So-and-so forever relinquished his right to the land (and the women) & Boaz forever redeemed them to himself. The other relative no longer had any say or sway in the matter or their lives…
__a. Again, to use the comparison of the law, this is what happens with Jesus. We are redeemed by Him, and the Law has no more hold on us. We have become dead to the law through the body of Christ (Rom 7:4). In Christ, we are free to serve God in newness of life!
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9 And 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. 10 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 at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”

A. Boaz redeemed it all! Elimelech – Chilion – Mahlon – Naomi – Ruth – the land & any inheritances lost through sin & death, Boaz redeemed it all…

B. Jesus redeems it all! There is nothing left lost or undone when He redeems someone. It is absolutely complete. There’s no sin you committed that hasn’t been paid for; there’s no sin you will commit that hasn’t been paid for. There’s no wrath of God that’s “left over” for you to experience later; Jesus paid it ALL!
__a. What has He redeemed us with? Nothing less than His very own blood. Boaz paid a price (some unknown amount of money); Jesus paid so much more than money! 1 Peter 1:17-19 (17) And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. [] There is no more precious price!
__b. What has He redeemed us from? Death… What has He redeemed us for? Life! Specifically, life with Himself…we’re His bride. He purchased us as His own special possession – He’s purifying us to Himself – He’s cleansed us from sin & made us into new creations & His body. Why? So we can glorify Him forever as the Bridegroom as we spend eternity in His presence.

C. BTW – notice the order. Boaz redeemed Ruth, but to do so, he had to redeem the land. Did Boaz need the land? No – of course not. Outside of the law requiring that he purchase the land, he had no need of it. He had plenty (as demonstrated by the gleaning). He bought the land to get the bride. (Smith) “In that he becomes a very beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, who bought the world in order that He might purchase His bride, the church, out of the world.” Matthew 13:44-46 (44) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (45) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, (46) who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. []
__a. We’re the treasure to Jesus! He gave all He had – He left His glory in eternity with the Father to humble Himself as a man in the flesh…He was humiliated & rejected by those He came to save…He died the death of a curse (the cross). He gave everything in order that the price might be paid for us.
__b. ‘Wait a second…I’m not worth anything. I’m certainly no treasure!’ Outside of Christ, you’re absolutely right. But in Jesus, you’re washed, clean, and precious to Him. As Peter writes, we’re a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Pet 2:9). That’s not because of who WE are; it’s everything because of who HE is. Jesus called us apart & made us His saints. THAT is definitely a treasure!
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11 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. 12 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.”

A. The elders & people confirm the redemption transaction & the wedding – and in fact, the wedding is the major focus. This is one more indication that the 1st relative missed the whole point. He was looking to increase his land without personal cost & Boaz saw the land as just the means to share his love with his bride.

B. They give a blessing. And what a blessing it is! That God would make:
__a. Ruth “like Rachel & Leah”: to go from widowhood & childlessness to life & motherhood. That she would bear many children to the glory of God…
__b. Boaz “prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem”: 2 names for the same city/region. God certainly answered that! Boaz has been famous for thousands of years & far beyond Bethlehem. 
__c. Boaz’s house “like the house of Perez”: This is particularly interesting, considering the circumstances of Perez’s birth… [Judah & Tamar – Gen 38] Yet even after that infamous beginning, Perez was still considered blessed. He was originally the 2nd child, but came out with the birthright – Genesis 38:27-29 (27) Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. (28) And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” (29) Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. [] Consider the parallel here for the blessing…the 1st redeemer withdrew his hand & the 2nd redeemer received the blessing & honor. Perez was considered to be the father of those in Bethlehem, so it naturally fit.
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13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.

A. Redemption was consummated. (Obviously NOT at the gate! 🙂 )
B. Somewhat off-topic, but we see something pretty interesting here: “the LORD gave her conception.” We know the physical mechanics of conception, but from where does the conception of life actually begin? The LORD! … … And if the Lord brings forth life at the moment of conception, that speaks volumes about our so-called “right to abortion.” It’s not OUR right. Outside of providing the environment, WE didn’t do anything to create life. Conception is from the Lord & that life is HIS.
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14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

A. Naomi also received a blessing…but 1st they praised the Lord. Every good & perfect gift is from above (Jas 1:17), and that especially applies to children!

B. They also prayed for Naomi’s “close relative”/redeemer. Note here, it’s not a reference to Boaz, but to Boaz’s son Obed – “has borne him”. Him = “a close relative.” How is baby Obed a redeemer? They prayed he would be:
__a. “a restorer of life”: Naomi’s husband & 2 sons were all dead & gone. She had come back to Bethlehem, not as “Pleasant” (Naomi), but “Bitter” (Mara). But out of the depths of her mourning, there is new life in the form of her grandson & heir. Truly he restored life to her.
__b. “a nourisher of your old age”: Just as Boaz as a redeemer helped to feed & care for Ruth & Naomi during the gleaning, Obed would have the responsibility of caring for his grandmother in her old age when she could no longer provide for herself.
__c. Is this a prayer for Obed? Sure – but it seems likely it’s not just a prayer for Obed, but prophetically for the One who would come from Obed’s line: Jesus. Jesus IS a restorer of life… Jesus IS our nourisher…

C. Ruth is praised as well! She was “better…than seven sons.” High praise! Ruth cleaved to Naomi through the worst of times & because of her faithfulness, she was the vessel God used to provide for Naomi’s inheritance & old age.
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16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. 17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

A. Naomi was the child’s nurse/primary caretaker. Common practice for the time – but considering Obed was legally the heir of Elimelech, he was also considered Naomi’s son, so this is quite appropriate on several levels.

B. Translation “Obed” = servant (or worshipper…short for “Obadiah” – servant of God) – wonderful name for the boy who was brought about through this redemption! It’s a recognition that through their redemption, they are servants of the Most High God & worshippers of Him. And this servant ultimately leads to the “Suffering Servant,” the Son of David, Jesus Christ.
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18 Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; 19 Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; 20 Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; 21 Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; 22 Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.

A. Ending genealogy. Potentially some generations are skipped (not unusual), but here we see 10 generations leading from Perez to David…which of course makes this a wonderful bridge to 1-2 Samuel where we see the rise of the Davidic Kingdom. Interesting people here:
__a. Perez – who was born out of wedlock from Tamar’s relationship with her father-in-law Judah.
__b. Salmon – who married Rahab the harlot (Josh 2) & begot Boaz.
__c. Boaz – who married the Moabitess Ruth.

B. So what? So this isn’t just David’s genealogy; it’s Jesus’. And Jesus had Gentiles, prostitutes, and near-incestuous relationships in His family tree. … … Talk about the grace of God!

Conclusion:
Talk about your happy endings! Naomi is redeemed & has an heir for her late husband. Ruth is redeemed & brought into covenant relationship with the people of God. Boaz gains a wife & family. The Messianic line continues several more generations until God brings Jesus forth in the fullness of time. Keep in mind, it didn’t start out looking like it was going to be this way. If the historical record had stopped at Ch 1 – we would have mourned with those who mourned. But God wasn’t done with them yet. God wasn’t done until they were redeemed!

So what do we do now, once we’re redeemed? One thing’s for sure: we don’t go back to gleaning! [Ray Stedman – no “second book of Ruth”] We have been freed from the law of sin & death – we have been bought with a price & made the bride of Christ. We need never doubt His word, nor try our feeble attempts to please Him through the law. Instead we rejoice as His chosen & purchased possession – we worship Him in spirit & truth – and we live for His glory every day!