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Sep 03, 2017 | Ryan Bleyenberg

Ruth 3:1-18 ~ "At The Feet Of The Redeemer"

Today we actually come to chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Ruth. We could easily get lost in dissecting some of the cultural background, but the heart of the message of these chapters can be drawn out together. Next week  we will celebrate and take time to intentionally pray for the work that God is doing in our midst. The week after that, we joyfully welcome Pastor Joshua back to the pulpit as we excitedly listen and wrestle with what God says to us in the book of 1 Timothy.

            So let’s jump into these last 2 chapters of Ruth. And to prepare us to do so, we need to talk about milk and cookies. Now if you were to ask me if I prefer cookies or cake, then I would definitely choose cake. And if you were to ask me if I prefer cake or pie, then I would say not to even mention pie unless you’re prepared to deliver. I love pie. Even the cheap, not-so-good pies from the grocery story. To me, unless it’s completely burned and inedible, then there’s no such thing as bad pie. However, pie is more of a special dessert, so if you asked me what my favorite snack was, then I would most certainly tell you it was milk and cookies. I’m not crazy about cookies. There’s a lot of them that I would turn down if they were offered to me, but if you offer a tall glass of cold milk alongside of it, then again, there’s almost no cookie that’s not redeemable. The cookie is good in itself. It carries promise of satisfaction, but for me, it only truly becomes transformed and truly satisfying when you dunk it in the milk and then wash it all down. I’m certainly not trying to over-spiritualize sugary junk food, so let’s get back to Ruth and what a cookie might have to do with that.

            The actions and interactions of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz are a portrayal in common life struggles. We’ve seen the desperate situations of Naomi and Ruth. Last week, we were introduced to Boaz, the kinsmen redeemer who brought grace and hope anew. He provided and protected for Ruth and Naomi. In those actions, we saw God give some clarity to Naomi and lift the veil of bitterness and pride to see the beautiful providence of the sovereign God. Ruth and Naomi’s lives have not been changed. They’ve simply received some relief and glimpses of hope. But it’s like the cookie. The cookie isn’t complete without the milk. Ruth and Naomi are still waiting for and in need of full redemption. That’s what we will look at today. They, and we, are not left without a full redemption.

            Chapter 3 is one of those passages where you have to do a double take, “What did I just read?” You go from a beautiful realization and proclamation of God’s sovereignty in chapter 2 to what almost seems like scandalous seduction. Naomi busts out a plan. Wash up and get pretty. Make sure you smell really nice. Put your best clothes on. Go to the man alone in the dark and take off his blanket and wait for him to tell you what to do. It is confusing, but as always, good and faithful hermeneutics will help us decipher and make sense of the context clues.

            Verse 7 [READ Ruth 3:7-10] Look at Ruth’s actions and words. See what’s there and what isn’t. She isn’t forcing herself upon Boaz. She isn’t offering herself up like a prostitute and negotiating a deal. She isn’t manipulating Boaz. The humility that she has shown at every step is now also taking hold in Naomi, who instructed Ruth how to act toward Boaz. Ruth could have publicly called for Boaz to fulfill his role as a kinsman redeemer. Instead, Naomi instructs Ruth to humbly make her request with the opportunity for him to deny her. In this marriage proposal, Ruth uses the same language that Boaz used when he explained why he was showing undeserved grace to her. Boaz recognized and honored Ruth’s faith in the Lord and the refuge she had taken in God by coming under His wings. Ruth has come not in seduction, but in humility. Ruth says here, “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” A helpless chick comes under the wings of its mother to survive. Just as Boaz gave provision and protection to Ruth because of her identity as a child of God, Ruth is asking for marriage on the same grounds. She is reiterating her faith if God. Her marriage proposal then stems out from her desire to serve and please God and do what He wants .

            Verse 10, Boaz responds to Ruth’s marriage proposal. “You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.” The word which Boaz uses for kindness is again “hesed”. So in coming in secrecy and asking for marriage, Boaz recognizes Ruth’s action as underserved covenantal loving kindness which stem from God’s covenant with His people. Boaz was likely an old man, as old as Naomi or more. Ruth is not providing for herself. She is not catching a man. She is not getting what she might physically want. Instead, she is proposing marriage to an unlikely candidate because of their mutual love for God and in hopes of also providing for Naomi. Boaz did not give lip service to Godliness and then proceed with ungodliness by taking advantage of Ruth. He also doesn’t accept the offer simply because she’s a pretty younger woman. He accepts because of the trust that he has in the observations of his fellow townsmen. They’ve come to know Ruth as a Godly woman. So Boaz and Ruth’s relationship is not ruled by passion and desire, but it is subjected to the righteous will of the Heavenly Father.

            Just a side note here, but very few give weight to the idea of a father needing to give approval for marriage. Giving approval for dating seems even more foreign. However, if the person or people giving approval are Godly people, then their approval or disapproval goes far beyond an attitude that they won’t let their daughter date until they’re 30. They might actually protect the boy and decide that their daughter is not mature enough to be in a relationship. When in it’s founded in selfless Godly counsel, this practice actually gives protection and freedom to the people in the growing relationship, and it lives out the gospel in that its connected and subjected to accountability. Now, executing this idea takes years of preparation. For example, say I let Abigail run wild in such a way that she rules our house. It doesn’t matter what I say if I eventually cave to her every demand and desire. If I raise her in that way, then when she’s a spoiled and selfish 14 year old who wants attention, then when she gets that attention and wants to date a dangerous 20 year old, then I will have no ability to correct her or protect her. It won’t matter that she’s too young. It won’t matter that she’s too immature. It won’t matter that it’s dangerous. It won’t matter if it’s wrong. All she will know is what she wants. She will also know that she gets what she wants. But if I carefully teach her to seek and obey truth, if I teach her to value righteousness over gratification, if I show her that God’s ways are trustworthy, if I prove myself to be a trustworthy example of God’s direction in her life, then she won’t be dating that dangerous 20 year old at 14. Instead, when she’s grown and in mutual agreement with me that she’s mature enough to pursue Godly relationships, then she will know what to look for. She will be able to discern between admirable character and dangerous behaviours. And she will hopefully seek my wisdom and approval as well, not just as meaningless gesture before marriage, but she’ll be seeking my wisdom and guidance in even knowing who to date. My desire to see Abigail live righteously has to be strategically pursued even now.

            That’s what we see in Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. Naomi had a plan. They were strategic about how the went about seeking Boaz to be their redeemer. Boaz also shows strategic intentionality. If he simply desired a beautiful younger woman, he had every opportunity to take advantage of her. But he truly desired her good. He wants to fully rescue her. Though nothing immoral occurred, Boaz still protects Ruth’s name by sending her home before she could be recognized or accused. He gives her more grain. The exact reason behind this isn’t known but there are 2 main possibilities. It gave Ruth a reason for being out. Or it could have served as token of guarantee that he would do all that he promised. In both cases, everyone’s actions are thoughtful. They are carried out after consideration is given to righteousness.

            And so it is with all of us who desire to live holy and righteous lives. Sanctification, being made more and more into the image of Christ, requires strategy. It requires prayerful deliberation and preparation. It requires honest and humble reflection. It requires the help of believers. Men, if you wake up and find a woman offering herself to you, you will do what is wrong unless you are fully prepared and committed and experienced in discerning between righteosness and sin as well as denying the things you want for the grander and more satisfying desires of the Holy God. None of us will stumble into holiness. We have to pursue it. As much as we may throw out terms like “spiritual disciplines”, do we even know what they are? By their very definition, they are things that we do to actively live out this faith that we have in Jesus. And living out these beliefs is not easy. Hence, it requires discipline to be trained to become faithful in our prayer, in our reading and listening and understanding of the word, in our worship, evangelism, service, fasting, journaling. Stewarding our time and resources, faithfully entrusting God with our tithes and offerings, that’s not easy. How about learning? It takes discipline to turn the tv off and read a heavy non fiction Christian book. It takes discipline to come to church at 9:00 in the morning to wrestle with ideas that might be easier for us to leave with the leadership. When Jesus talked about being His disciple, He talked about leaving behind our comforts. He talks about denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following wherever He leads, even if it’s to our pain and torture and physical death. If we are going to continue walking in the ways of Christ, if we hope to avoid the painful wandering which Naomi gave into, if we hope to hear that final commendation “Well done good and faithful servant”, then we must be faithful. We must strategically plan and seek to be made righteous and holy examples of Christ. You must talk about how to do that at home. We have to have friends who will help us do this. We have to work alongside each other, even when we’d rather be home on the couch. You never know what conversation you might have while you’re doing some task, and how God might use that to stir you, or convict you, or give you hope. We have to pursue sanctification with discipline.

            Now let’s continue on with the rest of the story. We’ve just briefly touched on the language about Boaz being a kinsman redeemer to Ruth and Boaz. It was the responsibility of relatives to take care of the widow and family should a man die. This involved the closest eligible relative of the deceased taking the widow as his wife, and in the event of children being born, the first born child would actually live as an heir to perpetuate the name and legacy of the deceased man. This idea of a redeemer means to avenge, or buy back, or rescue. The role of a redeemer was to rescue or buy back a family in order to guarantee continuance of life and God’s promises to that family.

            We can’t really discuss this idea of a redeemer without relating it to our ultimate redeemer Jesus Christ. Before we do though, we need to remember that the old testament is not an allegory. The book of Ruth is not an allegory. The tendency with Ruth is to draw parallels between every person and action to the here and now. The story of Ruth, especially the character of Boaz is a most beautiful foreshadowing of Christ who redeems us. It is a story that actually happened. God worked in this situation. And God used that story to communicate part of His nature to us. But we have to remember to read it with the correct understanding. Boaz is the unlikely redeemer of Ruth and Naomi, who by Naomi’s estimations were beyond hope of redemption, beyond hope of being rescued. The circumstances were too difficult, too costly, and too much to ask of any man. And then, in the hidden beauty of God’s providence, we get introduced to the redeemer who has been perfectly prepared by God almighty to save.

            The better part of chapter 4 tells how Boaz continued in faithful righteousness to fully meet the standards of the law. He approached the man who had the first right to redeem Naomi and Ruth. When he was not able to redeem, Boaz then redeemed Naomi by buying back the land that her husband Elimelech had owned. He redeemed Ruth, the widow of Elimelech’s son by marrying her.

            Now read with me in chapter 4, beginning in verse 13 [READ Ruth 4:13-22].  Ruth had been married to Mahlon for as long as ten years, and still had no children. She was likely barren. Look at what this child means to Naomi. When the women talk about her redeemer, they’re not talking about Boaz, they’re talking about this baby, Obed. He is the man who will receive the inheritance and perpetuate the name of her husband. Her husband’s labor and land will benefit the livelihood of this boy as he becomes a man.

            What’s more, is what the women say about Ruth. She is more than seven sons to Naomi. Seven was a symbolic number which represented perfection and completeness. There is significance in that. Ruth was not God’s backup plan for Naomi. Naomi thought God had taken everything away from her. Yet, he sovereignly uses her sons’ sins to give Naomi something better than children, He gave her true love. He showed Naomi the powerful true love of a true child of faith. God used Ruth to bring Naomi back to humility and faithfulness. God’s holiness working in Ruth brought completeness to Naomi. God’s plan for His church is not to be a backup plan for people who can’t find happiness on their own. The church is God’s plan for love. His church is His plan for family, for help and service and friendship. It is full. It is robust. It is completed and fulfilled in Christ. We are His body. We reflect His image. He is the head.

            And now Ruth. Ruth’s redemption was not physical. It was not receiving a husband. It was not receiving a son. The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy. We have mentioned this, but now look at another genealogy in Matthew 1. [READ Matt. 1:1-6] Ruth was a child of Moab. These were people who rejected the one true God and puts themselves in enmity to him by embracing false gods. In humble recognition of the deity of the God of Israel, Ruth submitted herself to sovereign will of God and whatever that obedience would entail. Her redemption went far beyond material provision. He name is recorded in the genealogy of Christ when it wasn’t even necessary. Only a few women are mentioned. As we already noted, Ruth’s struggles share a commonality with all mankind, but her name is recorded to communicate something. Even though she was a gentile, she is listed as part of the family of Christ. Her faith was enough. She was God’s child! That is her redemption!

            God communicates to us throughout His word that true faith is not left without redemption! Those who trust in God will not be left without a rescuer. And though we will not always see the fullness of our redemption, we must remember that the fullness of redemption will not be seen in this life anyway. [READ Rev. 21:1-7] As we faithfully walk through the strategic righteousness of sanctification, God will carry us through death, through the end of this world, and into the completion of His salvation which is GLORIFICATION. We are not left without a rescuer and we are not left without a full redemption.

            Redemption cannot be taken. It cannot be earned; not through works, not through bold proclamation. This redemption can only be given by Christ. Just like Ruth in the darkness of the field, she may have had hope that Boaz would do what she expected, but she did not and could not demand it. I am helpless. I am under God’s protection. Please take me as your own. Please take my baggage. Please accept me. Please save me. No demands. Only pleas of mercy. This is God’s covenant of loving kindness. He does the work, not us. He is the redeemer, and we need to be saved. He is the hero. He alone.

            Christ alone gives true and full redemption. But how do we understand and walk in that redemption. Is it heaven, or is it a heaven on earth? Paul says to the Corinthians “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” {1 Cor 15:19} So certainly we have eternal hope of being rescued from certain and inescapable death. If Christ did not bring promise and hope of eternal life, then it’s no real hope at all. We were lost to the grave. He redeemed us. Christ bought us with his blood. He rescued us for eternity.

            So then is our hope in redemption in heaven alone? Is the only value and purpose of this life to endure a test of varying difficulty and length? What is the purpose of sanctification if glorification is our only real hope? Paul speaks to this question also in Romans 6 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sen still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4. We have been raised to walk in the newness of life! A new life. A different life. Later on in the same chapter Paul says that we are no longer slaves to sin. We have been set free in this life here on earth from slavery to sin. We are free. We belong to righteousness and holiness. We have been given the freedom and power to live the truly satisfying lives of righteousness! That hope is not for heaven alone. That is hope for today. Our hope is not merely justification, to be innocent. It’s not regeneration alone. If we are innocent and new, but cannot be made more and more into Christ’s likeness, then that also would be but half a life. Christ’s salvation and redemption, given as a gift through our faith in Him,  is full and complete. It justifies, regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies us! It’s not a dry cookie. It’s the cookie and the milk. It’s complete. So we must not neglect any part of that full salvation. Being justified, we can truly celebrate our innocence from the evil we once committed. Our sanctification helps ensure that walking in those ways of death is far behind us. Glorification, our hope that our imperfect lives will still one day be fully redeemed by Christ and reconciled to God the Father with nothing to separate us ever again.

            We’ve seen glimpses of those things in the book of Ruth. Ruth is story of salvation. And the beauty of Ruth is that it’s a real story of real struggles and real life. It’s not an allegory. It’s a beautiful example and reminder of how the story of God’s sovereignty, providence and salvation can be fully put on display in or lives. God wants our lives to be a work of beauty also. He does that work through the transformation of salvation. Amen.

Series Information

Obedience in everyday life pleases God. When we reflect His character through our interactions with others, we bring glory to Him. Ruth’s sacrifice and hard work to provide for Naomi reflected God’s love. Boaz’s loyalty to his kinsman, Naomi’s husband, reflected God’s faithfulness. Naomi’s plan for Ruth’s future reflected selfless love.
~ Chuck Swindoll

Other sermons in the series