Chapter 4

There Is a Redeemer!

"Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!"
(Ruth 4:14 ESV)

John Piper, in his sermon on this chapter of Ruth said, "The Christian life is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there." He says it's not like a trip through Nebraska on I-80. Have you ever driven that? It's straight; It's flat. You can go miles without a significant curve in the road, or even a decent sized hill. It's an easy drive: You hit cruise-control, crank up the tunes, settle in and relax. Does that describe your life in general? Piper says it's more like a county road in the Blue Ridge mountains. Now, I've never been through there, so allow me to speak of what I know... a country road through the Ozarks. There are wash-outs, hairpin turns, 50 ft. drop-offs, rockslides. You never know what might be around the next curve. Your shoulders are tense. You better be alert at every turn. But, Piper says, every now and then, there's a sign on the shoulder saying "The Best Is Yet To Come!" Life is full of setbacks, but for a believer, there are no dead ends. It's not a straight line to glory, but we're on our way! It's been a long and winding road for Naomi and Ruth. The whole book is full of setbacks: from desolation in the land of Moab to gleaning in the fields of Boaz. We've seen Naomi in particular run the gamut of emotion from complete despair to finally a glimmer of hope. Through it all, God has been working in circumstances and directly in the lives of these women. We see evidence of God's hand working to turn Bitter back to Pleasant. For the first time since returning from Moab, there is long term hope. The dark shadow of a doubtful future no longer hangs over Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is coming. But, there are still setbacks to deal with. The question that still lingers is "Who?" Who will step up to be their redeemer?

Negotiations at the Gate
Boaz goes to the city gate to find the nearer kinsman. Why did he go to the gate? In those days, the city gates were the hub of activity. It's where people met, where business was conducted, where the elders met to administer justice and conduct the town's affairs. It was a meeting place, the marketplace, and city hall all rolled into one. As Boaz sits, along comes the one he's been waiting for. Boaz said "Come on over here and sit down, friend." Most translations call him 'friend' but the original has a slightly different meaning. It's something like "so and so" It's meant to be ambiguous as if you don't know someone's name so you say "hey, buddy" One version renders it "John Doe." I'm not so sure that Boaz doesn't know his name. I think more to the point, the author wants to keep the guy anonymous. So the two are there together at the gate and Boaz also asks 10 of the city elders to sit down with them. Now we basically have a civil procedure or a legal court. Boaz wants to make sure whatever is decided here will be official. He goes on to explain the matter. Naomi is forced to sell her plot of land and I thought you should have first chance to redeem it. we wait with baited breath (does that mean our breath smells like worms??) to find out who will be the redeemer. So, as I alluded to last week, we're now told for the first time that there is land involved. The details are sketchy at best, but it seems that Naomi had this land that belonged to her husband and is forced to sell, possibly because she's not able to work the land herself. Another possibility is that the family had to abandon the land when they left for Moab and it was claimed by someone else, so now a redeemer is needed to buy back the field for Naomi. Whatever the disposition, Mr. "So and So" is offered the opportunity to redeem the land and he jumped on it! He says, 'I will redeem it." Aww no! That's not what we want to hear! we've gotten to this place in the story... we're rooting for Boaz... and the whole thing has just fallen apart! Boaz adds "By the way, there's just one more little detail. Whoever redeems the land, also has to marry that Moabite woman, Ruth and give her a son." Mr. So and So says, "Whoa... slow down, son. I can't do that! It will put my own inheritance at risk." What's his objection? It was all peachy when there was only the land involved, but he backed out quickly when Boaz mentioned marriage to Ruth. It might simply be that he is already married and was in no position to marry Ruth. Or maybe part of the problem was marrying a pagan woman? He may have considered that to be shameful. But, he did say that it would endanger his inheritance. I think his thinking might be like this: He can buy the land, realizing that only Naomi is part of the bargain. She's an older woman without children and no doubt unable to have any at this point. So, once she dies, not having an heir, he'll have full title to the land. But, if Ruth is also part of the transaction, it's a whole different story. Ruth is still of childbearing age. If he has a baby with her, particularly a son, then the child will be an heir. When he's of age, he can acquire the land and Mr. "So and So" would be out in the cold. It's just too risky now. So, Mr. So and So relinquishes his right to be redeemer and Boaz is in the clear. Whew, that was a close one! Interestingly, there was no paperwork to sign nor even a handshake. The transaction was officially completed by Mr. So and So removing his sandal and handing it to Boaz. This, we're told was the custom of the day.

Just as an aside, I should explain that there is debate as to when the book of Ruth was written. Some say during or shortly after the reign of King David. Others assert that the story wasn't written down until the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. This little detail about the sandal custom, seems to argue for the later date. The audience obviously wasn't familiar with the custom since the author felt the need to explain it. If this was a common thing during the time of the Judges, a fair amount of time must have passed. Boaz says to the council of elders that they are witnesses; it is official. He has bought the land of the family of Elimelech and also claimed Ruth to be his wife so that the family name will continue. All the people, there (It looks like these proceedings have drawn a crowd!) and the elders enthusiastically offered their support and a prayer of blessing for Boaz and his bride. They, in essence, asked God to bless them with a family. They compared Ruth to Leah and Rachel, the two wives of Jacob who bore what would become the twelve tribes of Israel. And also the house of Perez, who was the son of Judah and Tamar. Perez was Boaz's ancestor, as well as many of those in Bethlehem. So the crowd blessed the marriage and hoped for a large family that would make the name of Boaz well known. Do you think God honored their desire? He sure did. Boaz's name is still with us after all these millennia. It's interesting that Mr. So and So declined to be the redeemer because he worried how it would affect his family's future. Yet, the name of Boaz is known throughout the world and Mr. So and So's name is lost to history.

A Baby for Naomi
So as the story unfolds, there's just one setback to deal with, one more hazard on this mountain road. God has one more act to perform. There's a child to be born. I think that this might be a bigger event than the writer lets on. It's so "matter of fact", Boaz married Ruth and God granted conception. Just that easy. Now, it hasn't been addressed, but I have to ask: Was Ruth barren? Remember, she was married for ten years to Mahlon. It would be highly unusual for a couple to go childless for that long. Maybe it was Mahlon who was unable to father a child, but of course in those days, it was always blamed on the woman. Whatever the cause, there was no baby up to this point, but now, the Lord granted conception. That's a big statement. Do you realize that of all the things that God has done in this story, of all the ways he's guided and worked everything out, there's only two incidents where it's said that God has done something. The first is when Naomi learned that "God had visited His people" and ended the famine and now when He brought about the birth of a baby. And now surprisingly, Boaz and Ruth both fade into the background. At the end of the story, we're focused again on Naomi as we were at the beginning. We find Naomi holding her new grandson with all her friends from town gathered around, oohing and awwing. It's like a baby shower of ancient times. But, what the women have to say is also surprising. Praise God! He has provided you with a redeemer! But, who are they talking about? Boaz, no doubt? No, as they see it, Naomi's redeemer is the baby. He will be the one who ultimately is the answer to her problems. It because of this little boy that Naomi's future is secure. He will grow up and take care of his grandma. But, the baby has no name. The ladies take the opportunity to give him a name. He will be called Obed, which means Servant. Not Obadiah, which would mean God's Servant, but just Obed... since he will, in a

sense, serve Naomi. Remember last week when I hinted that Naomi may be an even bigger part of the story than we might realize? I really think the book is misnamed. I don't think that it's a book about Ruth as much as it's about Naomi. It's the story of how God worked behind the scenes to come to the rescue of a bitter, broken, desolated old woman. He took the one who was empty and filled her, once again. He transformed Mara back to Naomi - from bitter into pleasant. The book opened up with Naomi standing over three tombstones and here at the end she is reveling over the miracle birth of her grandbaby. I really don't think it's a stretch to call this The Book of Naomi. In some ways, Ruth and Boaz were just the means that God used to bless Naomi. The signs were there all the way through, even back in Moab... The best is yet to come! Do you recall, in the first chapter, that I mangled Dickens’ ‘Tale of Two Cities’ to make a point of how bad the times were? Well, It’s only right that we revisit Dickens to show what God has done for these folks. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way But, interestingly, the story doesn’t end with the restoration of Naomi. If this was only a story about how God worked in the lives of a little Jewish family, it would be a beautiful story, but not much more than that. This certainly isn’t the only story that could be told about how God worked in the lives of His people. But, it is even more than that. God has done something great for all His people through the lives of these ordinary folks. It’s there in the last few verses: 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. (Ruth 4:18-22 ESV)
That little boy, who was the hope of Naomi was also a link in the chain that brought Israel her great king, David. He was the one who God was to use to bring a loose collection of clans into the great nation of God’s people, Israel. The great king who was the forerunner of an even greater king who is to come. The story isn’t complete even at this point. There’s another boring genealogy list to look at. Look at Matthew 1. All that God has done in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz had a significance beyond their lives and even beyond David and the nation of Israel. Through them came the greatest gift to the whole world, God's greatest expression of Hesed: our Savior and our Lord, Yeshua. So, out of Bethlehem, this small little village in Judea came a redeemer for Naomi, a king for Israel, and a Savior for the world. Yes, Naomi, The Best IS Yet to Come!

In the beginning of our first study, we had a list of themes that we’d run across in the book of Ruth. Let’s go back over the list to see what we’ve discovered from our study. Contrasts the depravity of the time of the Judges with a family following Yahweh, showing that in even the worst of times, God has His remnant. For Israel, it wasn’t a good time. It was a time when Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. But, even out of a time like that, God raised up a family that honored him. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to serve the Lord when so many around them lived their lives outside of the Lord. It can be hard for us to swim against the current here in the Quad Cities, as well. But, God works in us and through us, giving us the strength, just as He worked in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Displays God's concern for Gentiles, giving us a glimpse of Gentiles being grafted into Israel's vine. Did you notice how often that the writer referred to “Ruth, the Moabite” Even well after she had made her great confession of faith, even after the entire community marveled at her commitment, she was still known as the moabitess - the outsider. The author was making a point, I think. This woman wasn’t an Israelite, she wasn’t part of the covenant community, she was an outsider. Yet, God in His grace brought the young pagan who once worshipped idols into His fold. Ephesians 2:12-14. All of us should rejoice in the example of Ruth. We are all Gentiles, “goyim,” outsiders. God, through Christ, has opened the doors of the Kingdom for those who were once outsiders. Gives a practical example of a kinsman redeemer and foretells of Christ, our kinsman redeemer. Honestly, within the narrative, I didn’t want to make a big issue of comparing Boaz the redeemer to Christ our redeemer. Some would talk of Boaz being a type of Christ. Technically, that’s probably right, but it can be taken too far. We can’t take every part of the story and relate it directly to Jesus. For instance, in Ruth, there is a closer relative than Boaz, one who probably should have played the role but chose not to. How does that relate? But, there are some things that Boaz teaches us about a kinsman redeemer that do relate. We see what it take to be a kinsman redeemer? 1. Have the right relationship. Boaz was a relative of Elimelech which allowed him to be a kinsman redeemer. Jesus is our kinsman in that he was fully man. He has the right relationship to all of the human race. 2. Have the means to redeem. Boaz’s relationship to Ruth and Naomi would mean little if he didn’t have the means to pay the price to redeem the land. Jesus was the sinless lamb of God who’s sacrifice was able to redeem us all. 3. Have the willingness to redeem. Mr. “So and So,” certainly met the first two conditions, yet didn’t end up as the redeemer because he was unwilling to do all that was necessary. Jesus was willing to do all that was needed to be our redeemer. Philippians 2:8 tells us that: he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of
death, on a cross.

Tells of God's working to provide a king for Israel and a Savior for the world. The story of Ruth has far-reaching results. Little did these ordinary people realize that they would be a part of Israel’s history and the story of our redemption. Shows God's 'Hesed' - loving kindness to His people. The story of Ruth is a story of Hesed. The love between Naomi and Ruth. The love between Boaz and Ruth and ultimately the Hesed of God for this family and all of His people. Shows how God works "behind the scenes" in everyday lives to accomplish His purposes. As we’ve already noted, Naomi had no idea what God was doing in her life. Providence is best read backwards. But, He definitely was at work. Notice that God’s dealings with Naomi didn’t depend on her good attitude or upright character. All the while Naomi complained of God’s treatment, even as she accused Him of cursing her, God was at work to bring her hope and rescue. You know, consider what God may be doing in our own lives. It may not look like much, right now. It may seem that He is nowhere to be seen in our circumstances. It may even seem that He's cursed us and nothing good is happening. But, take it from Naomi, He's at work! Someday, you will look back and see a wonderful result... that's a promise!

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