More Than Seven Sons
Topic: Default Passage: Ruth 4:1–22
We are finishing our walk through the book of Ruth today. To catch some of you up to speed, there was a famine in israel and Naomi and her husband, Elimelech fled to Moab, which, as we talked about, was a very bad decision. Then they married their two sons to Moabite women, another bad decision we talked about. The tragedy struck. Naomi’s husband and two sons all died.
Naomi is then left in a life threatening situation with no food and no family and she now has to provide for these two daughters in law. She tries to convince these young women to return to Moab and start over which one daughter in law does. The other, though, Ruth, doubles down on her devotion to Naomi and Naomi’s God and they return to Bethlehem where they hear food has returned. That’s chapter one.
Chapter two. God does incredible things to resolve the food issue and we finish with an inkling that He might be working on the family front as well. There is a kinsman redeemer. That is, someone Ruth could marry AND keep her vow to Naomi AND continue the family name. That redeemer is a man named Boaz whose field she just ‘happened’ to wander into and he has shown interest in her.
Chapter three. The harvest season is winding down and Boaz hasn’t pursued Ruth so Ruth takes things into her own hands. Things looked like they were going to get spicy, but, in short, we saw that Boaz never pursued Ruth because he didn’t think she’d be interested. Ruth’s plan works and Boaz says he would like to marry her, BUT there is another man who is a closer relative and has first right of refusal for Ruth. Huge plot twist! And that is where we left off.
Chapter four is where it all comes together. We know Ruth will be married, but we don’t know who she will be married to. We know close to nothing about this other man, but we do know one thing: we don’t like him. We want Boaz. That’s where we are and as this story comes together we are going to see faithfulness on display.
It’s interesting to me that, in God’s providence, faithfulness is the main thing being taught in Ruth 4 and that I was preparing this message as I was speaking at a Weekend to Remember marriage retreat. If there is one theme that we are trying to communicate at this retreat, it’s faithfulness. Not just any kind of faithfulness though, the kind of faithfulness that will last decades and endure all kinds of trials and hurts.
At every single conference we talk with people who feel like they have fallen out of love, people who feel uncared for, and people who have been straight up betrayed. And, at the end of the week, couples who so desire, will have the opportunity to renew their vows to each other.
I say this often in weddings, but vows assume difficulty. I will never have to vow to hunt and drink too much coffee. That will always come easy to me. Angela will never have to vow to sit by the fire and read. She loves to do that. We vow to do the hard things and faithfulness through the hardest of times is at the core of our vows.
So, how can we be faithful people in every area of our lives? Where does the power for that kind of faithfulness come from? Well, this chapter answers that question. This chapter finishes this great story of Naomi and Ruth and gets to the core of the Christian message. We are going to walk through this story and see 1) Boaz’ faithfulness to Ruth, 2) God’s faithfulness to Naomi, and then, 3) God’s faithfulness to us.
- Boaz’ faithfulness to Ruth vs 1-12
Verse 1: Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. - Ruth 4:1
Ok, a few things we need to understand here. First, land belonged to God. We see that in Leviticus 25. And because it belonged to God, there were provisions that allowed people to get land back if they had to sell it off in a tough time.
Second, Deuteronomy 25 tells us how 1) widows are provided for and 2) family names (which were crucial to get your land back) were protected. A widow should not be married outside of the family of her husband, but his brother or a close relative of her dead husband should take her in. The person was called a redeemer. If a child is produced from that relationship, that child will continue to the name of the dad father if it is any different from the biological father. If a close relative objected to being a redeemer, it was a huge disgrace. The elders of the town were supposed to come together, pull of the man’s sandals and spit in his face. That might sound more like an episode of Jerry Springer, but it is important to understand that taking care of widows was a big deal to God.
So, in our story, we have the land issue AND the widow issue AND the family name issue all at play. Remember, Naomi’s husband likely sold his land before they left. The only way these women can be provided for, the only way to continue the family name of Elimelech, and the only way to get the family land back is for Ruth to marry one of these two men.
Now, Boaz goes to the city gate and ‘behold’ - this is the same kind of ‘as luck would have it’ language - the nearer redeemer walks by. And it’s hard to see it in English, but the author calls him ‘friend.’ The actual Hebrew word is rhyming gibberish. It would be the way we might say ‘Mr. So and So.’ Boaz sits with Mr. So and so. Let’s keep reading. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 2 ( so there are now witnesses to this discussion roughly in line with Leviticus 25) 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 Elimelech. 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.” - Ruth 4:2-4
With context, this all makes sense. This is the redemption of the land we talked about. The redeemer can take Naomi and the land at a price and since Naomi doesn’t have children and may even be past childbearing age, the land would to to Mr. So and So’s children.
It doesn’t take a Wall Street executive to see a good deal here. This is a no brainer. High reward, low risk. So, how are we feeling right now? What a crummy story if this is how it ends! Imagine if Ruth were listening to this conversation. We already know she’s good at spying on people:) How do you think she would feel? Is Boaz trying to get rid of her? Is he going back on what he said?
No. What he’s doing is actually pretty brilliant. Let’s keep reading. 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.” Ruth 4:5
Oh, yeah. There’s one more thing Mr. So and So. Did I forget to mention Ruth? And just for the extra punch, Boaz makes sure to call her ‘Ruth the Moabite.’ You’ll have to marry her and give her heirs this property. Does that change the deal for you in any way?
How brilliant! Boaz has to acknowledge his willingness to be a redeemer or Mr. So and
So would have been obligated to proceed. But, if Boaz comes in too excited, Mr. So and So might think, “Well, if you want to marry her that bad, then maybe I do too!” This is what I call the Tom Sawyer effect. Do you remember when he made painting a fence look like so much fun that all the kids wanted to do it? If someone else is enjoying something that doesn’t look so great, maybe I should do it. You may see this in your kid. A toy will sit unused for a month, but the moment a sibling shows interest in it, well, now that’s the most fun toy in the house and they will not rest until they have it! Boaz doesn’t want to create interest where there currently is none.
Let’s see how Mr. So and So responds: 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.” - Ruth 4:6
Yes! This is exactly how we want this to go! Mr. So and So is just in this for himself. He isn’t interested in actually caring for the poor. One commentator said, “Mr. So and So was interested in ministry to the poor only if there was a payoff for himself and his family. Costly ministry without any personal payoff? Forget it.”
And here we get to the first observation about faithfulness. Faithfulness pays a price. Whether we are talking about faithfulness to fulfill a societal obligation like taking care of the poor or faithfulness to marital vows or anything in between. Faithfulness isn’t primarily interested in the payoff, it’s interested in the person.
Taking on Ruth meant challenges. For one, you would marry a woman from a different background. Any time two different cultures marry, there are always unique challenges many of us can’t appreciate. Two, you would be marrying a social outcast. And three, Ruth’s children would get the land. But, Boaz isn’t just willing to do this, he wants to!
It’s almost as though Boaz can’t see the cost because he is so committed to Ruth.
That’s true faithfulness! When you are so committed to a person or a cause that you are almost blinded to the cost! What would we say we are called to be faithful to? Do we have a faithfulness that pays a price?
Ok, back to the text. Let’s look at how they close the deal. dNow 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 redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. (Ok, a sandal in the transaction, but no spitting.) 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. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, - Ruth 4:7-10a
I love that he says her race again. Nothing about the word Moabite would have had good connotations in that society. Boaz could have easily dropped the Moabite part, but he doesn’t care. He loves Ruth. Think about how far we have come in this story. The Israelites can’t even mention the presence of Ruth in chapter one because of her race and now Boaz is proudly saying to all the elders at the gate, “I will have her!”
Here is a second quality of faithfulness. Faithfulness isn’t guided by what other people think. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care what other people think. But, it does mean that we do what is right regardless of what other people think. This is especially important to you middle and high schoolers. Look at me here. There is no season in your life when you are more tempted to make decisions based on what other people think than the season you are in now. Maybe one of the most important parts of this season is deciding what you will be faithful to. Is it what your friends think of you? Or is it what God wants for you? You can’t have both and you will pay a price. But it will be worth it.
Ok, we have to keep reading. Let’s see how the people respond to this. 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. (What a prayer!) May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 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.” - Ruth 4:11-12
This prayer can be confusing so we need to make sure we see what they are saying. May this woman bless and build up all of Israel. That’s pretty big prayer! And, as we will soon see, a pretty prophetic one as well.
And then you have this business about Tamar. After Ruth 3, I’ll spare you the salacious details. We went out to lunch as a family after Ruth 3 and I asked my kids what they thought and one kid said, “Well, you made it pretty awkward with all that sex stuff.” To be fair, it’s all in the Bible. But, I’ll throw that kid a bone here and summarize what’s going on here with Tamar. The whole story is in Genesis 38, but like Ruth, Tamar was an outsider to God’s covenant people. Like Ruth, Tamar married into the family under uncertain circumstances. Like Ruth, Tamar lost her husband and had no child. Like Ruth, Tamar dressed up in pursuit of a child and a future. And, the hope is that Ruth, like Tamar, will be a Canaanite woman who carries on the line of Judah.
And here is a third observation about faithfulness. Faithfulness blesses others. All these great blessings on Ruth are possible because of Boaz’ faithfulness toward her. Boaz is a great example of faithfulness for us. But, now the author shifts his focus away from Boaz and toward God. Let’s look at God’s faithfulness to Naomi.
- God’s faithfulness to Naomi vs 13-16
Up until now, God has been in the background. Only now does He come to the foreground. Let’s read. So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. - Ruth 4:13
In that one verse, the whole Ruth story is finished. One verse: Got married, had a baby, it’s a boy. There are only two places in this story where the Lord is mentioned in this way. Here and back in chapter one when God brought food back to Bethlehem. Do you remember what the two main problems are in this book? Food and family. And both times it is clear that it is the Lord who provides. Only God can meet the great needs of our lives.
So, the Ruth story is finished, but the story is not yet finished. If this were a play, the lights would fade on Ruth and shine bright on Naomi. Then the women said to Naomi,
“Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, - Ruth 14a
Wait! The whole redeemer talk was always directed toward Ruth and Boaz. Now we are talking about a different redeemer for Naomi? Who is it? 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 ( This is a way of saying she is better than the best son out there. Now, we see who the redeemer is...) has given birth to him.” - Ruth 4:14b-15
Ruth’s son is Naomi’s redeemer! Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse - Ruth 4:16. Now we are closing out the Naomi story. Naomi who had lost everything and come back to Bethlehem better and empty is sitting here with the one who would continue the family line and reclaim the family land. The baby Obed has redeemed the name of Elimelech.
In this one verse we see potential death turned into life, a curse turned into a blessing, bitterness turned into happiness, emptiness turned into fullness, and despair turned into hope. That is the God Naomi serves. If that isn’t a picture of faithfulness, I don’t know what is. Naomi deserves nothing, but gets everything. She abandoned God when things got tough, but He remained faithful to her. And the story is still not finished. We are going to see that the same kind of faithfulness lavished on Naomi is lavished on us as well.
III. God’s faithfulness to us vs 17-22
There are certain movies that reveal such a big plot twist at the very end that it makes you want to go back and watch the whole thing again. Movies like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, or Momento. That’s what is about to happen here. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. - Ruth 4:16,17
This baby, Obed is the grandfather of King David!! The greatest king in Israel’s history! The Israelites haven’t even started asking for a king yet, but God is already preparing one. This story is larger than Ruth. It’s larger than Naomi. It’s a story about God providing for His people in the darkest of times. It’s a story about God pursuing his people when they need it the most and deserve it the least. But, it’s still not over. The author then gives a second genealogy, this time of Boaz and we see the source of His faithfulness.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 uAmminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. - Ruth 4:18-22
It’s hard for us to see, but not for the original audience. If you know Deuteronomy well, you know that it was absolutely forbidden to marry a Canaanite woman. But, look where Boaz comes from. In this genealogy you see three Canaanite women, Tamar was the mother of Perez, Rahab was the wife of Salmon, and, of course, Ruth was the wife of
Boaz. Boaz knew God’s grace. His mom was a Canaanite prostitute who came to faith. Boaz understood God’s faithfulness to those who humble themselves and that was the source of his faithfulness to others.
But, we know something even greater than Boaz did about God’s faithfulness. We know that in this marriage to Ruth God is preparing someone even greater than King David. He was preparing King Jesus. And this is the way the New Testament begins. By continuing the line of Judah through Ruth all the way to Jesus.
And in Jesus, we see the fullness of God’s faithfulness to us. Do you remember our observations about the faithfulness of Boaz? First, it pays a price. No one has ever paid a greater price for us than Jesus. Not only did He give His life, he took on the full wrath of God in the process. And in the midst of that unimaginable agony, as people watched and mocked, Jesus prayed for them. Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do. Like Boaz before the elders of the city, Jesus is saying in the loudest possible way, “I’ll have her!” But the ‘her’ isn’t a Canaanite woman, it’s us.
Second, faithfulness isn’t guided by what other people think. Jesus had a mission and His mission would cause all of the powerful people in Israel to hate Him. He wasn’t guided by what men thought, He was guided by what God thought.
Third, faithfulness blesses others. As a result of Jesus’ faithfulness, those who choose to give their lives to Him are brought out of a kingdom of darkness and into a kingdom of light. We are invited into a new existence as new creations and, even more, invited into an eternal relationship with the God of the universe.
If there is one message we should take away from this story, it is that God is faithful to His people! He will never leave us nor forsake us and that should shape the things we choose to be faithful to. Your job will not be faithful to you. Your popularity at school or social standing will not be faithful to you. Your money will not be faithful to you. Your health will not be faithful to you. But, God will. As you are betrayed over and over by every aspect of this fallen world, God is telling you loud and clear that He will be faithful.
He’s faithful to Ruth, He’s faithful to Naomi, He’s faithful to Israel, and He’s faithful to us.