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Sunday, October 07, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Ruth and Jesus"

“Ruth and Jesus”
Gleanings from the Book of Ruth
October 7, 2012
Ruth 4:1-22

This is our third and last sermon on the book of Ruth in a series we’re calling, “Gleanings from the Book of Ruth.”

The story takes place during the time of the judges which was a terrible time of men doing what was right in their own eyes instead of what was right in God’s eyes.  And the inevitable consequences.

We’ve learned that during that time, a man named Elimelech and his wife and two sons left Israel and went to the foreign country of Moab.  There the two sons took foreign wives.

And then, tragically, all of the men died.

Leaving three widows behind in a precarious position.

Naomi decided to go back home because she heard that the LORD had provided food again in Bethlehem.

Her daughter-in-law Orpah stayed behind and rejoined her Moabite family.

But Ruth, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law clung to Naomi and vowed to return with her to Israel, taking on the responsibility of caring for Naomi and coming under the protective wings of the LORD.  She showed kindness to Naomi, and she became a convert to the God of Israel.

Naomi came back with Ruth but felt like she was alone.

She was bitter and said that she had gone away full and come back empty.

But she had Ruth.

And Ruth took risks for her.  She bravely took to the fields of Bethlehem and began gleaning in the unharvested corners of the barley fields.

And it just so happened[!] that she gleaned in the fields of a man of integrity and character and faith in the Lord, named Boaz.

And it just so happened that Boaz was a relative of her deceased father-in-law.

Boaz took notice of Ruth, and Boaz showed kindness and compassion to Ruth letting her continue to glean for herself and Naomi in his own fields, with his servant girls, fed and watered from his own table, un-harassed by his field hands, and favored with generous extras.

And then Naomi got a crazy plan to put to two of them together.

And even though it was crazy, God allowed it to work!

And so one night, Ruth secretly approached Boaz at the threshing floor where all the men slept (where he just so happened to sleep at the far end which was accessible to her).  

And she asked him to marry her.  To spread the corner of his garment over her.  To take up the responsibility of caring for her and caring for her mother-in-law.

And, Boaz surprisingly said, “Yes!”

But there was still one complication.  One obstacle.

They could not marry because there was someone ahead of Boaz in line.

And he would have to be dealt with before any marriage could take place.

And that brings our story to today.

Ruth chapter 4.  Have you found it?

One of the things I love about the book of Ruth is that there are no miracles in it.

We just got done with the book of Judges which has amazing miracles that the Lord did.

But the book of Ruth is kind of more like everyday life for me.  I haven’t seen many extraordinary miracles happen in my lifetime, though I do believe that God still can and does do them.

But more often than not, God intersects my life like He does in the book of Ruth.  He is at work in all of the details working things together for my good and His glory.

And my job is just to be faithful and committed to Him in the little details of life.

Last week, we called that “character.”  Boaz and Ruth were a man and a woman of noble character.  I guess, that’s a kind of “miracle” itself!

Boaz promised to take Ruth for himself if he could.  And he was going to do it today, if at all possible.

And he was a man of integrity, a man of his word. It seems that he didn’t even go home before going to get this business taken care of.

Our first message was called “Ruth and Naomi.”  We were introduced to the people and their problems.

Our second message was called “Ruth and Boaz.” We were introduced to this good man and a possible answer to their problems.

We’re going to call our third message, “Ruth and Jesus.”  Not because Jesus’ shows up miraculously in the Old Testament ahead of schedule!  But because we’re going to see how this story connects us to Jesus’ story.

And we’re going to get three points of application from Ruth and Jesus for our lives today.

Ruth chapter 4, verse 1.

“Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, ‘Come over here, my friend, and sit down.’ So he went over and sat down.”  Now stop there for just a second.

We have to get a little understanding of this term, “kinsman-redeemer.”

King James just says, “Kinsman.”  The English Standard Version has just “Redeemers.”  New American Standard says, “Close relative.”  Revised Standard says, “Next of kin.”  The NIV update from 2011 says, “Guardian Redeemer.”

The Hebrew word is “Go’el,” and it was a legal term to describe the role of the next of kin in the Law of Moses to rescue a family member from distress.

The “Go’el” might be called upon

- to rescue a family member from slavery by buying them back

- to bring justice for the killing of a family member

- to help with a lawsuit

And a number of other problems that family members can get into.

The kinsman redeemer was called upon to get a family member out of trouble.

They were protectors and providers and redeemers (that is, those who buy things back) to maintain prosperity and security for the family.

That’s a pretty big job.  

And of course, during this time of the Judges, not everyone did what they were supposed to do.

And the big question is: what will this kinsman-redeemer do?

Boaz goes to the city gate and sits down.  That’s important. 

This is basically going down to city hall or the courthouse and doing a bit of business in public.

Sitting down means, I’ve got some public business to transact.

And who should come along but Elimelech’s closer relative!

And Boaz says, “Hey, you! Come sit down.”

It’s interesting that the author doesn’t give us this man’s name. I think that’s on purpose. Some of the scholars I read this week say that Hebrew translated “my friend” in verse 1 could be translated, “So and So.”  “Hey, so and so, come here!”

Everyone else in this story has a name even the dead husbands. But this guy doesn’t get named.  I wonder if that’s because he’s not going to distinguish himself as a great man?

Either way, Boaz handles him masterfully.  V.2

“Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, ‘Sit here,’ and they did so. [Witnesses.]  Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, ‘Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.’”  STOP RIGHT THERE. DON’T READ THE NEXT SENTENCE!

Pretend that you don’t know what that next sentence says!

In verses 2 through 4, Boaz presents the situation to “Mr. So and So.”

And it’s a little surprising. 

Because up till now, we’ve not heard about any land belong to Naomi.

I think that’s because right now, it doesn’t.

She’s a widow.  It was land that belongs to Elimelech, her husband. It’s probably not really hers under this system of law.

And, more than that, it was probably sold (or the use of it was sold) when Elimelech left Israel for Moab.

Remember, in Israel, all of the land belongs to the LORD and he granted land to tribes and clans in the book of Joshua, and they can sell the use of it, but they can’t really sell away the land itself.

At least every 50 years the land reverts back to the original owners and their heirs.

And who was the heir of Elimelech?

Nobody.

No living sons.
No living grandsons.

Just some widows with very little legal or economical standing (on their own–their family unit should be providing that). Make sense?

So, Boaz is saying, “Cousin So and So, Naomi is ready for Elimelech’s land to be redeemed, bought back into the family.” She is giving up her right to hold it in trust and somebody in the family needs to acquire it.

In fact, you are the closest and have first dibs on that land.

(What hasn’t gotten mentioned yet?  I think that’s on purpose.  It’s there. It’s public, but he hasn’t gone there yet.)

And now, everyone is on the edge of their seats.

Will the kinsman-redeemer do the redeeming?  V.4.

“‘I will redeem it,’ he said.”

Oh no!  What does that mean for Ruth?  

But Boaz isn’t done. V.5

“Then Boaz said, ‘On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess [there she is!], you acquire the dead man's widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.’”

Now, it’s not clear exactly why this is.

It appears to be adding to the law of the Go’el (the kinsman redeemer) the law of Levirate marriage. That is that a brother (and by extension, another close family member) should marry his brother’s wife to preserve his family name and inheritance.

Or it could be that somehow there was a prior agreement in place (that Boaz knew about!) that Naomi or (more likely) Ruth’s marriage rights were tied to the land.

Either way, Boaz says, “If you want to redeem, you have to marry.”

And then everyone leans forward to see what Cousin So and So will say... V.6

“At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, ‘Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.’”

Oh.  So that’s how it is.

This kinsman is no redeemer.

He is only thinking about himself.

The situation might be complex. For example, he might already be married.

And he might be worried about his own name. The firstborn son of a marriage like this would have the rights of Elimelech. The other sons would have this fellow’s rights and inheritance. What if there was only one son?

And maybe there was more to it than that.

Either way, this fellow was not interested, and he wanted out of the responsibility.
V.7

“(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) [Pretty cool. I wonder if we should be doing this again today?  Jim and Mary Beth, you guys bought some property this week. Did you come with any extra shoes?  No?  Actually, the practice of shoe swapping had already died out by the time Ruth was written. That’s why they have to explain it here! V.8]

“So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it yourself.’ And he removed his sandal. [And I think he took off.]  Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!’”

Now, this is weird to us.

We don’t do marriage like this.

But I want to emphasize that Ruth would have been overjoyed by this transaction, especially because of Boaz’s kindness.

#1. KINDNESS.

It’s easy to miss for the details, but Boaz is taking a wife and lot of responsibility, including financial responsibility, for someone else.

Yes, he gets a wife. And, hopefully, children, too. And yes, the use of the property.  
But it comes at a significant cost–a cost greater than Cousin So and So was willing to pay.

A cost out of his own pocket.

And, as it is clear in verse v.10, he is doing it for Mahlon.

“To maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records.”

He’s doing it for Mahlon!

And he’s doing it for Ruth!

And he’s doing it for Naomi!

He is being generous to Elimelech’s family.

He is showing lovingkindness.  The word we’ve been learning about is “hesed” which is kindness-beyond-duty. Kindness for others at a cost for yourself.

The other man in this chapter could only think about himself, but Boaz thinks about others.

That’s what kindness is.

Where you have experienced kindness?
To whom should you extend kindness?

We’ve been talking about this for the last few weeks.  I wonder if anyone has kindness story to tell because they’ve been listening to these messages?

The kinsman redeemer, in this case, had to take on a cost to himself to show kidness.

Of course, that makes us think about Jesus, doesn’t it?

Ruth and Jesus?

Jesus took on a great cost to himself to show us kindness.

And He, too, got a bride in the bargain!

Kindness.

Boaz says, “Today you are witnesses to the kindness that I am showing to the family of Elimelech. You saw the transaction. This guy gave up his right to redeem. I am doing it.  And the name of Elimelech and the name of Mahlon will continue!”  V.11

“Then the elders and all those at the gate said, ‘We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.  Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’”

These people recognize what’s going on, too!

They see the kindness at work.

Was there romance here?  Between Boaz and Ruth.  Maybe. Probably, in fact.

I think there are hints to that effect. Especially last night at the threshing floor.

But more than romance, there is “hesed.”

And God rewards “hesed.”

The leaders of Bethelehem bless Boaz and ask God to bless him abundantly.

“May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.”

Fertile and famous.

“May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.  Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of [your ancestor] Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

And you know what’s amazing?  God answered this request with a big resounding YES!

Little old Ruth the foreign women would become just as famous as Rachel and Leah and Tamar!

Not because of some great act in battle.

But just because of being faithful and kind in everyday life.

I think that’s amazing.

Here’s the principle.  God sees our acts of kindness every day and promises to reward them when they are done in faith.

God rewards simple acts of kindness.  Loving people more than they deserve.  Going beyond the call of duty. Showing simple kindness at a cost to yourself.

God sees it. And God rewards it.

Ruth showed kindness to Naomi.
Boaz showed kindness to Ruth and to Naomi and to the whole family of Elimelech.

And they are famously blessed today for it.

Did they know what their choices would yield?

No.  They just did ‘em.

And God rewarded them. V.13

“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. [10 years of barrenness, and now this!]  The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’ Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him.” 

This story has a very happy ending!

All good stories start with trouble, but this one ends on very happy note.

And here’s the key word:

#3. FAITHFULNESS.

God is faithful.  Look again at verse 14.  I think it’s the key verse of the whole book.

Out of the mouths of the women of Bethelehem, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.”

Naomi, God has not left you.

Did you hear that?

God has not left you.

God has not abandoned you.

God is faithful.

Praise God!

Naomi is bitter no longer. She has a bouncing little boy on her lap.

She is no longer empty, but full.

God is faithful.

We need to remember that every day of our lives.

God is faithful.

Remember how Naomi felt?  Do you feel that way?  Like the carpet has been pulled out from under you?  Like you’re tumbling down the stairs and you don’t know what will be at the bottom?  Like you are empty?  Running on empty?

Like the LORD has failed you?

Things are not as they seem.  God is faithful.

He has never left Naomi alone.  He gave her Ruth, and He walked with her Himself.

“‘Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.”

That might be talking about Boaz. But I think it’s talking here about this grandson.

Or maybe it’s talking about the LORD himself.

Because the LORD calls himself a “Go’El.”  He is the Redeemer of Redeemers.

He is faithful, and we can trust Him, no matter how it seems.

Remember again, this is during the time of the Judges.

Even though the nation was on a downward spiral, God was still up to something good for His people.

Because God is faithful.

“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.”

He has not left you.
He has not left you.

Do you need to hear that?

Let me say it again.

He has not left you.

He is faithful.  Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And He has promised, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.  He has not left you without a redeemer.”

But, there is still one more surprise in this book of surprises.

You probably already know what it is, but pretend you don’t and you’re coming down the end of the story, and you run into a genealogy.

The Hebrews loved a genealogy!  And they have a point.

What is the point, what is the punchline of this genealogy? V.17

“The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ [Legally, her grandson is her son by levirate marriage. What a joy it is!] And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.”

These are not just nobodies living in Nowheresville.

They were just nobodies living in Nowhereseville.

And Ruth a transplant to Nowheresville!

But God had big plans for this family that only would have come about by their everyday choices to do what is right. Their character and their kindness.

They are living in the time of the judges.

But they are the producing the family line that will provide the first God-given King of Israel – great King David!

Imagine the surprise in being one of the first readers of this book.

At the very end, the twist in the plot.

King David!

This is how we get King David!

They could never have seen this coming, but God was doing it all along.

#3. SALVATION.

There is one more connection to make.

Because we know what happens in this story even beyond King David.

We know about great King David’s even greater Son!

Matthew chapter 1 has another genealogy in it.

Here’s how it starts.

Matthew 1.

“Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.”

And then it goes on from David to Solomon and Rehoboam and a bunch of other names and then it ends here.

“Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

Salvation.

Ruth was in the bloodline of the Messiah.

The Moabitess was the great-great-great-great grandmother of Jesus.

And He was the Kinsman Redeemer of Kinsman Redeemers!

He showed the kindness of kindness!

Jesus paid the ultimate price to get His family out of trouble.

And He receives all who come to Him in faith.

Gleanings from Ruth

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