|THE REDEMPTION OF RUTH
Series: Ruth: There is a Redeemer - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 18, 2014
The past three Sundays we’ve been looking at the book of Ruth which takes place in the time of the Judges. Which was a time when pretty much everyone was doing pretty much whatever they pretty much felt like doing. Judges 25:21 tells us that “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Times similar today. Relative morality. Its all good. As long as your good doesn’t interfere with my greater good.
We’ve been asking the question: In the insane busyness of our lives - where there’s no finish line - living in the techno driven semi-controlled chaos of today - when people are pretty much doing whatever they feel like doing - how can we live and experience God’s presence in our lives?
We looked at a Hebrew word: “hesed” - which, in a nut shell, describes God’s undeserved persevering commitment of love towards His people. The kind of “hesed” love that sends Jesus to the cross for us. God, in His sovereignty choosing to lavish His undeserved kindness and love on us.
In other words - in the craziness and places where we do life - how can we experience that kind of relationship with God? How can we live out that kind of relationship with God in our relationships with others - family, friends, people we go to school with or work with. What could that be like for us?
Boaz who is man of exceptional strength and cultural ability. Boaz who is a man focused on God - someone who has experienced God’s “hesed” in his own life. Boaz who treats this young Moabite woman - Ruth - with “hesed.” And - as we looked at last Sunday - during an late night encounter at Boaz’s threshing floor - marriage is proposed and Boaz commits to being the kinsman redeemer for Naomi and Ruth.
Point being that in a time when everyone is doing whatever they see is good for them - Boaz commits to doing what is the right thing to do before God.
Before we come to chapter 4 we want to take a look at a short video which may be familiar to you. As you’re watching this video ask yourself the question: “What’s in my heart?”
(video: What’s In Your Heart)
Question: What’s in your heart?
Think about this word: Integrity. Someone said, “Integrity is the person your cat thinks you are.”
Integrity is not duplicity. That involves division. Integrity is not hypocrisy. That’s being a poser. People with integrity live without fear because they have nothing to hide. They live free. They’re whole. They’re walking and breathing integers.
Which describes Boaz. Boaz is a man of integrity. In his heart there’s no division. Its not God and… whatever. Its God. Period. Devotion to God.
What we’ve been seeing - and what we’re going to see and think about for ourselves here in chapter 4 - is that Boaz being a man of God focused heart level integrity - in the godlessness of his time - Boaz is used by God not only to change the trajectory of Naomi and Ruth’s lives - but the trajectory of his nation.
Let’s get into Ruth. Ruth 4 - verses 1 to12 describe for us how Boaz Steps Up. Because Boaz is a man of Godly integrity - Boaz steps up. He doesn’t just talk about it. Or post about it - like like like… He does it.
Let’s walk through this together. Verse 1: Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there.
In Boaz’s time the city gate was a kind of forum - a public meeting place. The town leadership - elders and others who’d earned the confidence and respect of the town - they gathered there to decide judicial matters. It was a kind of outdoor courthouse. In a town the size of Bethlehem sooner or later everyone came by the city gate. It was the place to run into people. It was a place to take care of business.
Boaz - first thing in the morning. First thing because he’s an integer - a “worthy” man of Godly “hesed” who’s stepping up - taking care of what needs to be taken care of. Boaz - first thing in the morning goes to the city gate and sits down.
And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by.
“Behold” meaning - wake up and don’t miss this. Boaz probably didn’t have to wait long until the kinsman redeemer “came by.” Literally in Hebrew “came by” is not as random as it sounds. He didn’t just happen to drop by at that time.
What we need to “behold” here is the sovereignty of God on display. Meaning - don’t miss - in what comes next - that God is the One working behind the scenes through God’s man Boaz.
So Boaz said - to the redeemer - “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.”
“Friend” in Hebrew is an idiom that we need to understand. Literally it has the idea of “Mr. So-and-so.” In other words - notice that the name of the next of kin “redeemer” is never mentioned in Ruth.
Its not that Boaz doesn’t know the name of this man. Going down to verse 3 Boaz calls him a “relative” of Elimelech. The Hebrew word for “relative” can also mean “brother.”
This is my opinion. But - having studied through this - I believe this is within the realm of possibility. Mr. So-and-so may be a brother of Elimelech and the older brother of Boaz. That’s a close relationship.
Point being: Boaz knows his name. He just chooses not to use it. And the author doesn’t give it to us. In a culture where names are very significant the question is: Why?
We saw in chapter 1 - when Ruth and Naomi arrived in town the whole town turned out. There was a huge commotion. Naomi and Ruth have been in town at least 6 plus weeks. In a town the size of Bethlehem Mr. So-and-so knows that they’ve come back. But he’s made a choice to turn away from all that.
In a time when everyone is doing what’s right in their own eyes - this relative - who knows what he should do before God - chooses not to do it. Maybe he’s thinking that all those laws were written way back then. That God couldn’t have really meant that for today. Or that God doesn’t know his particular circumstances or the things he’s dealing with.
Let’s be clear. That he hasn’t stepped up to take responsibility for the widows and property isn’t necessarily wrong. Its within his right to pass on the responsibility. But it is a choice. A very self-focused choice. And its a shameful choice - that he hasn’t stepped up. He’s made a deliberate choice that has brought suffering and hardship on Naomi and Ruth.
The author - and maybe even Boaz - are getting that point across to us. Since Mr. So-and-so hasn’t chosen to have his name associated with this family he isn’t worthy of having his name associated with this family.
Verse 2: And he - Boaz - took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative - possibly brother - Elimelech.
Why is Naomi is selling this property? We don’t know. But aside from Boaz’s help they’re destitute. How is she selling the property? Craig's list? We don’t know. What are her legal rights to the property? We don’t know. Bottom line is she’s selling it. Which is huge.
It is extremely important in Israel that land remains in the family. Land is more than dirt. This is about reputation and standing in the community. One’s inheritance. What gets passed down. The future well being of the family. One word: Legacy.
Generations will be effected by this. This is huge way beyond Naomi and Ruth and some elderly men sitting at a city gate.
Verse 4 - Boaz goes on: So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.”
God’s law said that if a family fell into poverty - which was the situation of Naomi and Ruth - poverty where they would have to sell everything or themselves into slavery in order to survive - the kinsman redeemer was suppose to step in on their behalf and buy everything back - to redeem it - so that nothing would be lost. Keep the land - the inheritance - in the family. (Leviticus 25:23 ff)
Kinsman meaning he’s… kin. The nearest kin having first choice to obey. Redeemer meaning what he does. He redeems. A kinsman redeemer had to be able and willing - because not everyone was - able and willing to redeem. “Bro - you need to make a choice because I’m next in line to be the redeemer.”
Are we together? We’ve hit a crisis point where passive doesn’t cut it. Property and people and legacy are on the line. “I thought I would tell you of it” is an understatement. Boaz is bringing this hugely important issue before the elders and community and laying it on the line for - Mr. his name is not mentioned - to decide what he’s going to do.
How many of us would do that? Wouldn’t that just stress you out? It would me. There’s significant loss of sleep, chewing down my finger nails, stomach churning stress here. Been there? “Boaz. What are you doing? Don’t give that dweb that kind of opportunity to mess up everyone’s lives.”
How did the un-named brother get to the gate? He just “came by.” Which is all about... God. God Who is sovereign.
Boaz is a man of Godly integrity. Singular - at the heart level - focus on God. He’s been living focused on God. Pursuing God. He’s a worthy man of “hesed.” While it may seem like Boaz is willing to risk everything, in reality he knows that whatever - what’s his name decides - God’s got it under control.
There is huge confidence - stability in life - for the man or women of Godly integrity. Yes?
Finishing verse 4: And he - the un-named brother - said, “I will redeem it.” In Hebrew its even more emphatic. “I, I will redeem!”
If we’d have been there we would have told Boaz this would happen. Told you so. Everything is ruined. Epic failure.
But look where Boaz goes with this. Verse 5: Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.”
Boaz begins to tell him what he’s also agreeing to acquire. What’s behind curtain number 3.
Along with the property you also get Naomi - the bitter angry mother-in-law. I somehow have this picture of Norman going into the basement and there’s his dead mother propped up in a chair. Cue the Psycho music. Maybe that’s obscure. But think about what its going to be like living with the bitter old Jewish mother-in-law.
And that’s not all. You also get Ruth - abused - damaged goods. From Moab. Think pagan and perverse. Reading through this - Bro really doesn’t seem to have a clue about Ruth’s character like Boaz understands Ruth’s character. She is a woman of integrity. Bro doesn’t seem to give a rip about that. He’s seems to just be thinking about getting stuck with damaged goods from Moab.
And then the whole purpose of this is what? To perpetuate the name of the deceased Mahlon - inheritance - legacy. If Bro is Boaz’s older brother that being older is something to think about. I hear that one of the joys of being a grandparent is you can hand the grandkids back after you’ve spent the day spoiling them. “So Bro - how are your diaper changing skills? Get ready to lose some sleep.”
What we’re seeing here in real time is what Jesus told His disciples: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
Understand how the world operates. Use that wisdom. Work within the world’s way of doing things without compromising your Godly integrity. Put another way. Be astute. But don’t be deceitful.
Boaz knows his brother. And he has pretty good understanding of how he looks at things and how that’s going to come down on Naomi and Ruth if Bro says yes. So Boaz is being wise in a way that demonstrates love for everyone here - Naomi - Ruth - even his older brother.
Boaz has given out part of the information. Bro bites. “I’ll take that offer.” Now Boaz is astutely helping him to understand just what he’s agreeing to. Here’s some more of what you need to understand.
That may bother us a bit. But it is wise. Letting out a little information at a time as we’re following God through all that, with integrity and God’s “hesed” love for others.
Not with deceit. But wisdom that comes from knowing how people think and how much God loves all of us. Helping them to see beyond where they are to where God desires for them to be.
Verse 6: Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
Notice all the personal pronoun “I’s.” No Name - focused on himself - says, “I’ll take that deal.” Which is all about the acquisition of property. The financial bottom line. What’s good for him. Same focus as he’s backing out of the deal. “I can’t go there.”
Boaz is helping him to understand that there’s more to the deal. Given the vision of the bigger picture Bro could have - even then - stepped up. But he backs out because he’s only thinking about what’s good for me, myself, and I.
Grab the contrast. Why is Boaz doing this? Boaz has left his fields. His threshing floor. His grain. For Boaz this isn’t about something as temporal as economics. Boaz is stepping up because he’s a man of Godly integrity. Boaz has been and is pursuing God. He’s a man who loves God and God’s people. He loves Ruth with Godly “hesed.” That’s what’s coming out of Boaz’s heart in what Boaz does.
For our own thinking about why we do what we do and what we get all stressed out about. The “What’s in your heart?” question. The contrast between the kinsman who doesn’t rate a name and Boaz who’s pursuing God. That contrast is huge.
What are we pursuing and why? Is what’s in our heart, God, or God and something else? God and what’s important to me? What comes out of our heart when we’re asked to step up? In the stuff of life? When we get squeezed? In a crisis? Is that something that God will use to move people closer to Him?
This is brutal. I struggle in preaching truth like this because as I’m prepping I seem to get hammered with the failure in my own life. Let’s be honest. Most of us are more like the bro with no name than Boaz.
The good news of that is that while integrity is not formed in a day God will form integrity within us in the day to day stuff of life if we’ll submit our hearts to Him as we go through the daily stuff of life. Hang on to the hope we have because God really does love us. He really does desire for us to be people of Godly integrity.
To seal the deal they handed you a sandal. Like we used to seal deals with a hand shake before all those reams of legalese. Imagine in Israel today. “Remember the good old days when we used to seal a deal with a sandal.” “I got your goat. You got my sandal.”
Verse 8: So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. - Done deal.
Verse 9: Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
Let’s be clear. Up to this point all of the men in Naomi and Ruth’s family have let them down. Elimelech. Chilion, Mahlon. No Name. There have been a series of bad - self-focused - self-trusting - godless decisions. Until now. Boaz is stepping up as a man focused on God and Boaz is changing all of that. Redeeming this family.
Hear what Boaz is saying: “You all are witnesses that I am redeeming this family. This is a new beginning for this family. A new legacy. Based in God’s faithfulness. In God’s “hesed” love.”
Verse 11: Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
“We are witnesses” is probably a legally required response. What comes next - this blessing - is over the top. There are two parts to the blessing. The first part focuses on fertility.
Rachel and Leah are the great revered matriarchs of the nation. Women who’s births - the opening and closing of their wombs - was orchestrated by God. Women who between them gave birth to 12 sons. The founders of the 12 tribes - our nation. Fertility means sons - posterity and prosperity.
That’s redemption. May Ruth - formerly seen as from that cursed pagan and perverse land of Moab - may Ruth - the Moabitess - be like these great women of our nation - blessed by God with fertility.
Part two of the blessing focuses on fame - renown - legacy. May your house be like the house of Perez. Perez who’s in the line of Judah. Ephrathah is the ancient name of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in Judah. May you’re name be renowned - famous - in the generational line of Judah.
All that is over the top. Every prayer in Ruth gets answered by the end of the account. These elders and the crowd by the gate probably had no clue how God was going to answer that prayer. But, we’re going see in a few verses how amazing God is. When we will trust God - when we allow God to redeem us in our brokenness - when God redeems us He gives to us what is way beyond even what we can begin to imagine His blessing may be for us.
Coming to verses 13 to 22. What takes place when Boaz Steps In to marriage - into this God blessed unfolding legacy.
Verse 13: So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.
The law required the Kinsman Redeemer to acquire the widow and have a child by her. Marriage was not required. This all could have been taken care of in a formal - legal - manner. But, Ruth becomes Boaz’s wife.
Can we say “Ahhhh.”? Try that, “Ahhhh.” There’s romance here. Expressed “hesed” love.
“and he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.”
The Bible’s “G” rated way of saying they were intimate is followed by the emphasis that all that means nothing without the working of the sovereign God. 10 years Ruth was married to Mahlon without children. Now seemingly suddenly she has a son. We need to be impressed that God is at work here.
Boaz stepping into marriage with Ruth is about God at work in and through Boaz and Ruth - this God focused couple.
Verse 14: Then the women said to Naomi, Who? Naomi. Not Ruth. When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem - approximately 6 weeks and 9 months earlier - Naomi - who’s name means… “pleasant” “agreeable” -Naomi tells the women of the town “Call me bitter.”
Verse 14 is like the God of “hesed” love hitting Naomi over the head with a 2X4 - in a loving sort of way - through the words of these women.
Verse 14: Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord - Praise be to God who has sovereignly brought all this about, who has not left you this day without a redeemer - look at what God has done. You were a childless widow - no more - and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age - There is a future now - a legacy to be lived. He is going to renew your life today - as grandchildren do - and in your old age he is going to care for you - for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
There’s culture here we need to grab. Seven sons was the ideal Hebrew family. Listen to what they're saying here. This one daughter-in-law is better to you than the ideal family. Ruth has loved you. She’s stuck by you. She’s provided for you. She has out “heseded” - out loved the entire Bethlehem community. And through her the sovereign God has blessed you - Naomi - with a grandson.
Verse 16: Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.
Verse 17: And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. Which means “Servant.” Perhaps having to do with his serving Naomi as her redeemer - renewer - sustainer.
He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
We’re back to the line of Perez - to Judah - reminding us that the line of the Patriarchs runs from Judah through Boaz and Obed - to David. And we know - because we’ve read the Gospel of Matthew - that this redeemed legacy runs forward through history to Jesus - and us.
Boaz probably had no idea of the legacy that he was stepping in to when he stepped up as redeemer. No idea that what he was doing would have messianic ramifications. He’s just living with integrity - pursuing God at the heart level. Treating Ruth with “hesed” love. Respecting and honoring her while everyone else is treating her like an object. Doing the right thing when everyone else was doing their own thing.
Processing Boaz and Ruth and Naomi and Bro - Three take home points for us as we head out of here into our own culture of “Its all good.” Processing integrity for ourselves.
Number one: God focused integrity doesn’t just happen.
Integrity isn’t something that we suddenly wake up with one morning and act with God focused integrity. The source of heart level God focused integrity is God. We need to come to Him for integrity. God grows integrity in our hearts over the long haul as we choose to focus on Him.
Which means prayerfully soaking in His Word. And choosing to be doers of His word not just soakers only. Letting God speak to us about what’s in our hearts and our choosing to let go of anything in our hearts - our lives - that is not of God. So that what fills our hearts - all that we’re pursuing - all that we’re devoted to - all that we’re trusting - all of what’s in our heart is God.
That’s not an easy process. Dying to ourselves in order to live with wholeness that comes from God. Not easy. But worth it.
Second: God focused integrity is not about popularity.
In a time when everyone is doing whatever they see is good for them Boaz commits to doing what is the right thing to do before God. Boaz steps up in front of the elders - his family - the town. Lays his life on the line for a bitter old widow and a barren woman from Moab.
Integrity is about doing the right thing even when no is looking. But also - integrity is about doing the right thing regardless of what people think even when they are looking.
We all get caught up in this. Sometimes we’re looking for the approval of others. Sometimes that’s even parents who are long gone. We get caught up in our concern for what people think about us. At the heart level who’s approval are we you living for?
Having God focused integrity frees us up from all that. Focusing our lives on the approval of the sovereign loving God who know a whole more about us then those around us - than we even know about ourselves. And He still loves us.
Third: God focused integrity is about legacy.
Boaz is focused on a bigger picture that is totally lost on his brother. Boaz is willing to leave the field - the threshing floor - the grain - whatever - to do the right thing.
Integrity prioritizes what lasts over what’s a good time today. Put another way: Our legacy will last a whole lot longer than what’s in our bank account.
Prioritize what lasts. Prioritize what God values.
Ultimately the world we live in doesn’t need more definitions of integrity. The people we rub shoulders with need more demonstrations of living and breathing integers - people of Godly integrity. At the heart level - trusting in the God of “hesed” and living out His “hesed” in the craziness of where we do life.
1. Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1974
General Reference: Gary Gaddini - sermon on Ruth 4:1-22 “What Ever Happened to Integrity?” - shared at Mount Hermon, CA, 08.06.09
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.