December 22, 2019
1 And Bo′az went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the next of kin, of whom Bo′az had spoken, came by. So Bo′az said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here”; and he turned 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. 3 Then he said to the next of kin, “Na′omi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land which belonged to our kinsman Elim′elech. 4 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.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Bo′az said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Na′omi, you are also buying Ruth[a] the Moabitess, the widow of the dead, in order to restore the name of the dead to his inheritance.” 6 Then the next of kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next of kin said to Bo′az, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. 9 Then Bo′az said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Na′omi all that belonged to Elim′elech and all that belonged to Chil′ion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabitess, 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 brethren and from the gate of his native place; you are witnesses this day.” 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 prosper in Eph′rathah and be renowned in Bethlehem; 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
13 So Bo′az took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Na′omi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Na′omi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Na′omi.” They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron of Ram, Ram of Ammin′adab, 20 Ammin′adab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, 21 Salmon of Bo′az, Bo′az of Obed, 22 Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
Friends, I want you to think through all that takes place in our town in a given year - If I were to ask you what day in Dillon is filled with the most hope or promise, what would that be? Maybe some would say it’s opening day of hunting season, for others opening day at Maverick, maybe some parents would it’s the day when their students get their drivers license and no longer have to play the role of chafer and are able to regain some sense of freedom. All of those would be fine answers, I suppose. But let me throw one more out there. And that is Youth Challenge Graduation. Callie and I had a chance to attend yesterday in what was a wonderful celebration. And while we really only barely have sense of what all the program entails, it was clear what a monumental achievement graduation is for each and every cadet. And in midst of all the pomp and circumstances, it’s a day that is teeming with hope and promise. Here you have a bunch of students, who just 5 months prior had come from a variety of difficult circumstances, broken homes, drug use, addictions, failing grades, and the like, yet as they graduate, have experienced a transformation of sorts, and now look ahead to a new and bright future, one filled with hope and promise. In many ways, it’s a story of redemption.
And that’s the story of Ruth as well, as we’ve seen throughout these past few weeks. It’s a story of hope and promise and redemption too. It’s a story that moves from death to life, grave to a birth, from sorrow to joy, despair to hope. Our story began with Naomi losing not only her husband, but her two sons as well. Yet, now in her hands is a child, baby Obed, a child who will grow up and support her in her old age, a son who will carry on the family line. And as for Ruth herself, as she marries to Boaz, moves from foreigner and servant to wife and mother. Her story began by losing her husband and moving to a foreign land and unknown future, now here she is, with a promising new beginning of her own. Overall, it’s just beautiful how God takes the brokenness of their lives and weaves it all together for their good.
So how did we get here exactly? How did we go from what we began as some sort of Greek tragedy to this kind of storybook ending? How did that happen? And how might this story from some 3,000 years ago speak into our stories today? That’s what we’re going to consider in these next few minutes, and to do this, we’re going to have to look beyond just chapter 4 and rather at the whole book in it’s entirety, so let’s get going.
First thing I want you to see is this mysterious relationship or interplay between God’s actions and our actions, or maybe we could say, our faithful obedience. Or framed in another way, does the story move from tragedy and death to joy and birth because of God’s actions or because of ours? Well, truth is, it’s a little bit of both.
Here’s a quick recap:
After her husband and sons pass away, Naomi decides to move back to Bethlehem. Why? Well, it’s because she’s heard the Lord has provided food there (so, God’s actions).
But then Ruth, even though it’s against her best interest, out of her love and loyalty towards Naomi decides to go back with her (so, our actions).
But then what do you know? There’s a family member back in Bethlehem named Boaz who can redeem the family line, who Ruth just happens to run into one day (so, God’s actions).
But in order to meet this this unknown family member, Ruth has to sacrifice and go do the hard, unglamorous work of gleaning in the field day in and day out. Then, at Naomi’s direction, essentially asks Boaz to marry her, and Boaz agrees (so, our actions).
But then the only way they can carry on the family line is if the Lord allows them to conceive, an older man and a barren woman whose previous marriage ended with no children, and yet he does! (so, God’s actions).
It’s back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. This mysterious relationship between God’s actions and our actions. And just like Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, our lives play out in a similar way.
If you’re a parent, do you or do you not have control as to what kind of adults your kids become? Well, truth is, it’s a little bit of both.
When it comes to your body, do you or do you not have control over your health? Well, truth is, it’s a little bit of both.
If you’re a farmer, do you or do you not have control over the success of your crops? Well, truth is, it’s a little bit of both.
And I’ll let you in on a little inside baseball, the same dynamic is true of preaching as well. There is undoubtedly work that I can do that can make a sermon more powerful or clear or helpful or engaging. Absolutely there is. But as for the effect it has on you, some of that’s out of my control, based on how God is working in your life in a given season, or what events, good or bad happened to you in a given week, or depending on how much coffee you had this morning. So, is preaching in my control or not? Well, truth is, it’s a little bit of both. One of the most frustrating yet wonderfully humbling things about preaching is that the some of sermons I come in feeling best about get little response and yet the ones I feel worst about sometimes get more.
You see, our lives are this beautiful, mysterious, complex mix of God’s actions and our actions. God’s purposes and human decisions.
So, are you feeling like things are out of your control? Then pray about it, pray about it, and pray about it some more.
And do you have a sense of what’s in your control? As far as you are able, simply take the next step. Take the next step of obedience. Whether big or small, take the next step that moves you towards greater and greater faithfulness. In some respects, Ruth takes huge steps of faithfulness, she moves to foreign country! She asks for a man to marry her! That’s huge, risky kind of stuff. But in other ways, she’s takes the next small step. She goes out and gleans in the field. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy. Just a small, seemingly insignificant act of faithfulness.
Parents, you may be so tired of telling your kids you love them, only to have them not say it back or worse, give you the stink eye or this incredible look of embarrassment. But yet keep saying it. There’s going to be a day when they come home and those are exactly the words they need to hear.
Friends, whether it’s at home, with your spouse or kids, at your work, in your personal devotional life, what’s the next step of obedience and faithfulness that you can take, big or small?
It may be initiating a hard but needed conversation, helping a struggling colleague at work or striving to be more present with your family over the holidays.
Alright, that’s the first thing I want you to see as to how the story of Ruth moves from tragedy and death to joy and birth – it’s the mysterious relationship between God’s actions and our actions.
Here’s the second I want you to see, and that is,
Sacrificial love for the good of another.
This is another theme that permeates this entire book, and that is, sacrificial love for the good of another.
We see it throughout – first through Ruth, in her relationship with Naomi. Remember in chapter 1, Ruth, who is from Moab, which is Israel’s enemy, willingly, sacrificially, out of her love and loyalty to Naomi, decides to go back to Bethlehem with her. This is an unbelievably costly move by Ruth, to go to Bethlehem as both a widow and foreigner, and will very likely never get married again or escape a lifetime of poverty. It’s also crazy in the sense that she’s an immigrant moving to a foreign country. After all, why do immigrants move from one country to another? Well of course, it’s because they’re seeking a better, more prosperous life. But yet, with Ruth, it’s just the opposite. She’s likely headed to a more difficult one. Ruth shows incredible, sacrificial love for the good of Naomi. Notice what it says in our chapter today, that for Naomi, “Ruth, your daughter-in-law who loves you, is more to you than seven sons.” That just goes to show Ruth’s commitment to Naomi, and in a culture where land and inheritance were passed down through sons, that’s the highest of high praises.
And yet, the story can only move forward if someone else shows a similar kind of sacrificial love towards Ruth, and of course, that’s what Boaz does. We see this first in chapter 2, where Boaz gives Ruth special treatment in his field, allowing her to collect an abundance of grain, far easier that it often would be. Even more, his greatest display of sacrificial love is seen in our story today, where Boaz officially takes on the role of family redeemer. As we saw in our story today, there’s another family member closer to Naomi who has the opportunity and priority to be the family redeemer should he want to. And when he first hears about the opportunity to acquire land, he’s all for it. But yet, after hearing that he would also have to acquire Ruth the Moabite, he says, “I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance.”
Now, why is that? In what way, would redeeming it be damaging to him? Well, here’s the short and sweet of it -
This other redeemer, upon hearing the opportunity, must be thinking, “Oh man, this is sounds like a great deal. Sure, I’ll buy the land from Naomi. She has no sons in her family, Naomi’s well past child bearing age, so that means, when she dies, the land will ultimately go towards my children’s inheritance.”
But then, when Boaz reminds him that he’ll have to marry Ruth as part of the deal, well that changes everything. Because part of the purpose in redeeming the land is so that a son can be born who can carry on the family line and land, and when he learns that Ruth is of child bearing age with hopes of bearing a son, then the deal is off, because that means he would have to buy a land that ultimately goes to their firstborn son, who ultimately belongs, not to his family line but to Naomi’s.
And if you’re struggling to follow along with who’s who in this jumbled family tree or are thinking, “The whole thing is kind of weird,” well, don’t worry. The point is this - for Boaz to fulfill the role of family redeemer, it is an incredibly costly move on this part, and an unbelievable display of sacrificial love.
Obviously, parenting is a incredible display of sacrificial love, yet I also know that a number of people in our church are experiencing this sacrifice come full circle as you care for an aging parent. And while I have no real sense of what that’s like, I have to imagine just how difficult that is, in part because of the emotional toil, as you watch this person you love, someone who was always this rock and constant in your family, someone you may still picture as this young and vibrant person, now growing old in front of you. That’s a hard road to walk and an incredible display of sacrificial love.
Now, I also want you to see something else - notice one of Boaz’s motivations for taking on the role of the family redeemer. He’ll say this twice, “to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.”
Think about how different that is from the other family member. He’s looking at the situation thinking, “What’s in it for me?” While Boaz looks at it and thinks, “I know this isn’t about me. I’m doing it for you. For the good of your family. So that your family can prosper, and keep the family land and inheritance.”
And here is the great irony in this part of the story. Friends, do you want to leave a lasting legacy, do you want your name to be remembered, to live a life of significance? Then make your life about somebody else. Seek to make someone else’s name great. Show sacrificial love to someone else.
Every main character in this story has a name. Yet not this other family member. He’s remains nameless. In fact, the Hebrew behind the word “friend” used of him, is roughly “so and so.” He’s just Mr. So and So, Mr. Blah Blah Blah. Is that kind of great? The one who wanted to protect his name and reputation remains nameless.
In a way it echoes Jesus words, when he said, “43 Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”
It’s the great reversal when it comes to greatness, greatness comes through sacrifice.
And in some ways, the sacrificial love and obedience of Ruth and Boaz echo the sacrificial love and obedience of another soon to be married couple years later, that is, Mary and Joseph.
We may look at Mary and Joseph as two people who got to play this special and glamorous role, but yet in many ways, God was calling them to something very costly, something that would require them to sacrifice their very lives and reputation for the good of another. After all, when the angel tells Joseph that Mary is pregnant, why does he plan to divorce her quietly? Well, it’s because he knows what people are going to say, they’re going to say, “Wait, this doesn’t add up. You got married on this date, but yet the child was born this date. Those dates are too close together. This must be an illegitimate child.” They’re entering into a life of scandal and disgrace, all for the good of another, and no matter how much Joseph tries to tell his buddies, “Guys, you have to believe me, this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit” you can’t blame them that they probably won’t believe him.
It’s a radical, costly, sacrificial love for another.
So that’s the second thing I want you to see. How do we move from tragedy and death to joy and birth? By displaying sacrificial love for the good of another.
Now, here’s the last big thing I want you to see.
And that is, the book finishes with a stunning and breathtaking claim.
A ripple effect far beyond we can see (v.17)
It says, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed, he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
And of course, that’s not just any David, that’s King David.
So think about it, this whole story, this whole chain of events, all this ordinary, everyday faithfulness and obedience and sacrificial love throughout it all will lead to this, just a couple generations down the road will be the greatest king Israel has ever seen, the King they needed, King David.
You see, God weaves together the faithful obedience of his people to bring about his purposes in the world through a widow in Naomi, an immigrant in Ruth, and a humble farmer in Boaz. Through the ordinary he does the extraordinary. The story of Ruth is a perfectly fine, but yet ho hum story if it’s just about a family welcoming a child into this world. But no, it’s not just about a baby for this family, it’s about a King for us all.
And of course, Boaz and Ruth when they were on the threshing floor on one late night, or rocking their son Obed to sleep a few months later, could have never, ever imagined that their lives would intersect in such a way that their great grandchild would one day become a King.
So friends, the choices and decisions we make can have a ripple effect for years and generations to come. And while that can be a little intimidating and scary in some ways, it can also be incredibly hopeful and beautiful, because there are times where we look at our lives and wonder, “Do my choices and decisions, or my life for that matter, matter in the long run?” “Am I making a difference in any tangible, meaningful way?” And the truth is, there’s a very real possibility that the fruit of our labor, the fruit of our faithfulness, will, should God so choose, run far beyond we can even see. Maybe you and I will plant trees whose shade we never enjoy.
The story of Ruth, through the ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys, ends with a baby, and one day, a King. Which of course, leads us right to Christmas morning and King Jesus himself. The story of Ruth ends in the town of Bethlehem, the same town where Jesus would later be born.
And while it’s beautiful that Ruth finishes by pointing us to King David, who in many ways is Israel’s shining star, the truth is, he is like all bible characters, deeply flawed himself. Thankfully, Matthew continues the family tree, showing us how we not only go from Boaz and Ruth to King David but all the way, one day, down to Jesus himself.
A God who gives us a King, Jesus, who in so many ways, was a foreigner, just like Ruth, who sacrificed the comfort and security of his own heavenly home, to go to a new land, who came down to earth, for the sake of another, that is, not just Naomi, but rather the entire world.
Jesus, who in so many ways, was just like Boaz, said yes to a costly redemption, yet not only one that would comprise his estate and inheritance, but would instead cost him his very life.
Friends, the greatest legacy we can leave, the greatest ripple effect we can have is just as Boaz sought to do for Naomi’s family, to carry on the name of another, to carry on the name of Jesus. To make his name great. Truth is, you and I will one day pass away, just like Naomi and Ruth and Boaz before us, but may just like them, may our lives, through our everyday ordinary faithfulness and obedience help to carry on and make great name of Jesus, long after we live, until that one day He comes again.