SERMON TITLE: Ruth: Our Family Redeemer
TEXT: Ruth 4:1-17 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
Before we get to the sermon — a quick reminder. I hope you plan to come Hang with the Hansons on Saturday at Suter’s Farm. My family plans to arrive around 2pm and we’ll start the corn maze at 2:30. So come and enjoy some apple cider, donuts, games, and the corn maze as you Hang with the Hansons this Saturday.
Now — enough about the corn maze — we’re returning to our Finding Jesus series today. This is a series where I introduce you to a book of the Bible that you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll give you an overview of the book — followed by a closer look at a particular section of it. And then — each week I’ll show you how to find the one story the whole Bible is telling — the story of Jesus.
And — specifically — we’re looking at the books referred to as the history section of the Old Testament. Some of the books cover hundreds of years while others cover a brief period of time — but — together — they tell the history of God’s people. And — today — we’ll be looking at the book of Ruth. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Ruth chapter four.
In previous weeks we’ve looked at the books of Joshua and Judges and — in coming weeks — we’ll look at 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles.
BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW OF RUTH
Now — for the book of Ruth — we’re going to do something a bit different. We’re going to cover the historical time period of the book while we review the content of the book. I know that sounds ambitious, but — in my mind — this is the best way to understand the book of Ruth. So — let’s give it a try — and I hope you’ll see that Ruth is a book you’ll want to go read for yourself
So what do we know about the book of Ruth? First, the author of Ruth is unknown. And — similar to the book of Judges — there’s a Jewish tradition which states that the prophet Samuel is the author of Ruth — though there’s no clear evidence if this is true.
So what about when the book takes place? The events found in Ruth take place during the time of the Judges. We know this because of the opening verse of the book.
Ruth 1:1 (ESV)
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
So the events of Ruth overlap with what takes place in the book of Judges. Something interesting about Ruth is where it’s placed in the Bible. The order of the books — in our English Bibles — is based on the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament which was originally written in Hebrew. When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek and Latin — the translators rearranged the order of some of the books to put them in chronological order. Thus Ruth got moved and was placed between Judges and First Samuel because — chronologically — that’s where the events take place.
However — in the original Hebrew Bible — Ruth came right after the book of Proverbs and just before the Song of Solomon. And — you may be wondering — “Why does any of this matter?” Well — if you’re familiar with the book of Proverbs — you’ll know that the last chapter of the book describes a godly woman who honors the Lord with her life. In fact — I want to read to you the words of the proverb so you feel the connection as to why Ruth was placed just after it in the Hebrew Bible. Here are the words of Proverbs 31 — beginning in verse 10.
Proverbs 31:10–31 (ESV)
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
So — imagine having just read these words from the book of Proverbs — describing the ideal godly woman — and then continuing in your Bible and coming to the book of Ruth — where you discover the story of the woman who the book is named after. Ruth is a Moabite — so she comes from a people who are not part of God’s chosen people. Her future in-laws — Elimelech and Naomi — came to her homeland — with their two sons — due to the famine that we read about in the opening verse of the book. And — while in Moab — Elimelech dies — leaving Naomi and her two sons in this foreign land. Her sons marry Moabite women — and this is how Ruth finds herself married into God’s family. But tragedy strikes the family again as both sons die around ten years later.
Now it’s hard for us to feel the hopelessness of the situation for Naomi — Ruth’s mother-in-law. She’s living in a foreign land. Her husband has died and so have her two sons. So she’s completely on her own and — in this time period — to be a widow living in a foreign land was a death sentence. So Naomi decides to return to her homeland — to the land of Judah.
But — before she leaves — there’s a beautiful moment between Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws.
Ruth 1:8–10 (ESV)
8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”
But Naomi tries to persuade them to stay in their country. There’s no point in them coming with her — it’ll only be hardship for them as foreign women living in her homeland. So she says to them...
Ruth 1:13b–18 (ESV)
13 No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Now think of that Proverbs thirty-one woman and what we’re seeing in Ruth. She demonstrates commitment and faithfulness to Naomi despite the hardship she’s sure to face. But it’s not just hardship from being a foreigner in a new land that she faces — Naomi’s grief has blinded her to the act of kindness Ruth has shown her. For when they arrive in Bethlehem — Naomi’s hometown — look at what she says to the women they meet.
Ruth 1:20–21 (ESV)
20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
“The Lord has brought me back empty” — yet Ruth’s standing there right by her side. I wonder how Ruth felt about Naomi’s statement — to show such faithfulness and yet be regarded as nothing of significance. Yet this doesn’t deter Ruth from continuing to demonstrate faithfulness to Naomi — and this is where the connection to Proverbs chapter thirty-one really starts to be evident.
In order for them to survive, Ruth must find some kind of work. So Naomi tells Ruth that she has a relative who owns a field where she can go work. And Ruth puts all of her effort into her work. “Strength and dignity” are indeed her clothing. She doesn’t eat the “bread of idleness” — no — her work ethic is praised by the men who work for Boaz. This is all Proverbs thirty-one characteristics of a godly woman — and it catches the attention of Boaz — the family member who’s the owner of the field.
Boaz — a godly man himself — begins to watch out for her. He protects Ruth. He makes sure his workers know how to treat her. Boaz wants Ruth to be blessed because of her commitment and faithfulness to Naomi. So — through her hard work and — unbeknownst to her — Boaz’s kindness — she brings home around fifty pounds of barley — so add physical strength to her list of characteristics — and this is all a surprise to Naomi — it’s an obvious blessing for the woman who believed that God was against her. And she tells Ruth to keep returning to Boaz’s field — for Naomi understood the blessing of protection that was found under Boaz’s care.
And now we’re to chapter three of the book — it only has four chapters — so things move quickly — but chapter three is where the love story begins. If you remember — I said that Ruth was originally sandwiched between Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. We’ve seen the significance of the Proverbs thirty-one connection to Ruth’s story — and now begins the Song of Solomon connection. For the book that originally followed Ruth describes the love and commitment of a husband and wife. A love story — right here in the Bible — that seems to spring forth from the love story of Ruth and Boaz.
Naomi sees the possibility of Ruth finding — not only protection while working the fields — but a lifetime of protection under Boaz’s care as his wife. But — you should know — there are all sorts of reasons for this to not work out. For example — Ruth is a Moabite — not exactly an ideal marriage candidate for an Israelite man. In fact, God’s people were told to not intermarry with foreigners — so there’s that.
Also, we learn that there’s a bit of an age gap between Boaz and Ruth. And — to make things more complicated — there were ancient customs about how widows were to be taken care of — including who in the family had the responsibility to take care of a widow through marriage. I know this sounds strange to us today — but know that these customs were in place to protect widows — for an unwed widow — with no sons to take care of her — and especially one who was a foreigner — well — everything was stacked against her. She would be at the mercy of someone to fulfill the role that was called the kinsmen — or family — redeemer. A family member who was eligible to provide an heir for the dead husband of the widow — someone who must be willing to have a son for the widow’s dead husband.
But there’s a catch — a cliffhanger — at the end of chapter three. Boaz isn’t the first in line to be the kinsmen redeemer for Ruth — there’s another family member who’s first in line to fulfill this role. And it’s this tension — in Ruth’s story — this tension for this Proverbs thirty-one woman — this tension in the book which sets up the book of intimate love between a husband and wife — the Song of Solomon: Will Ruth and Boaz end up together or not? That’s the tension setting up our passage.
RUTH’S FAMILY REDEEMER
And hopefully you’ve found Ruth chapter four — we’ll begin in verse one.
Ruth 4:1 (ESV)
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.
Something I don’t want you to miss is the fact that this other potential family redeemer is a man who isn’t named. One Bible scholar states that the author of the book of Ruth “goes to some lengths not to give his name.” In the original language — what’s translated as “friend” — in verse one — is a phrase that basically means “Mr. So and So.”
Ruth 4:2 (ESV)
2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.
What we’re observing is the ancient custom of how this situation was to be handled.
Ruth 4:3-4 (ESV)
3 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.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
The authority to redeem the land was in this “no name” man’s hands. And this seems like a great opportunity — so he says he’ll take it — “I’ll be the family redeemer” — building more tension in the story. Will all be lost — will Boaz and Ruth not end up together because some other guy gets in the way? Well Boaz has saved some information as if he was anticipating how all of this would go.
Ruth 4:5 (ESV)
5 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.”
“You don’t just get land — with the land comes a Moabite widow who you will have the responsibility to make sure her dead husband has an heir.” A deal that seemed like a no-brainer a moment ago — a bunch of land and all you have to do is care for Naomi — now comes with a catch. Ruth complicates things.
Ruth 4:6a (ESV)
6 Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance.
To redeem the land would mean to take on the responsibility of having an heir of Ruth’s dead husband. And — his heir — would be the recipient of the land — not this “no name” redeemer’s children. All that to say — the land comes with a cost — and with very little to gain. So this “no name” relative says to Boaz...
Ruth 4:6b-10 (ESV)
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 redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. 9 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, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
And that’s the end of the story for the unnamed relative. He remains unnamed and he is forever known as “Mr. So and So.” He passed on the opportunity — unbeknownst to him — to have his name live on as part of a family that would be talked about for all eternity.
Now — before we judge “Mr. So and So” too quickly — can you see how we face the same temptation in our day? We live in a time when everyone’s trying to make a name for him or herself. There’s a pressure to be the author of your own story — to blaze your own trail — to make decisions based on how it benefits you. It’s so easy — isn’t it — to weigh the pros and cons of a decision — “what’s the benefit for me versus what it’ll cost me?” It could be financially, could be relationally, could be your social status — but — as a caution — if you’re considering Christianity — and as a reminder to those of us who follow Jesus — God calls his people to a different set of values. For example, to care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow regardless of what we’ll get out of it. The life of the Christian is a call to love others — and it’s costly — it’s sacrificial — and it will seem foolish to the eyes of the world.
To “Mr. So and So” — this opportunity was foolish — but to Boaz — this was simply another moment in his life of obeying God — of being faithful — no matter the personal cost.
Ruth 4:11-13 (ESV)
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 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.” 13 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 was married to her first husband for ten years and was not able to conceive. I can only imagine how difficult those years must’ve been for her. Maybe you don’t have to imagine — maybe you know the sorrow of infertility — the pain of another year going by without a pregnancy — the feeling of hopelessness and not knowing what to say to family and friends when they ask you about having children. Know that God is aware — and he is with you. And though I have no idea what his plans are for you — I promise you that he is good — and he is faithful — and he is with you.
Ruth 4:14-17a (ESV)
14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, 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 given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”
Though I don’t know your situation — here’s what I hope we’ll all grasp hold of from Naomi and Ruth’s story. Naomi was so bitter at God that she couldn’t see his blessing upon her life even when the blessing was literally right next to her — Ruth. And yet — through all of this — God drew Naomi back to himself. God never withdrew his blessing from her — in fact — God’s blessings only multiplied in her life. Yes — she lost her husband and two sons — but look at what she gained: A daughter-in-law who loved her — a daughter-in-law more valuable than seven sons — a daughter-in-law who’s given birth to a son.
Yes — Naomi has experienced tragedy and sorrow — but — through God’s hand at work in her life — she’s also experienced joy, love, and hope. It may not be the life she hoped for — but it was still a life of blessing.
FINDING JESUS: OUR FAMILY REDEEMER
So how do we find Jesus in the book of Ruth? Though there are many options — let’s look at two.
First — and this is the easier one — and one we saw when we looked at the book of Joshua — we can find Jesus in the final words of the book. The son that Ruth had...
Ruth 4:17b (ESV)
They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
And David would become king of Israel. He’s the one to whom God would make this covenant promise regarding his throne.
2 Samuel 7:16 (ESV)
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”
And what we discover — in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels — is that Jesus is the descendant of David who now sits on God’s throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. As I said — that’s the easier way to find Jesus. So let’s find him another way — a more personal way for each of us.
In Ruth chapter four, there’s a theme that’s meant to leap off the page. The author repeats a similar word thirteen times in the seventeen verses of the chapter. Did you notice the repetition as we read the text? I’m talking about the repetition of the words “redeem, redeemer, and redemption.”
The word redemption — biblically — means the “act of buying back or rescuing something or someone that was lost, enslaved, or in a state of bondage.” In the Old Testament, one place we see the idea of redemption is in the Exodus story. The people of Israel are enslaved in Egypt and God — because of his covenant with his people — his promise to love and be faithful to them — he redeems them — God rescues them out of slavery. And Moses — in response to God’s mighty act of rescuing his people — sings a song of praise to God.
Exodus 15:11–13 (ESV)
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. 13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
And — this God — who redeemed his people out of their slavery in Egypt is the God who would one day come to earth — born as a babe — in order to redeem his people from their enslavement to Satan, sin, death, and Hell. A day of redemption — of rescue — purchased on the cross of Calvary by the blood of the Lamb of God. And the day of our redemption will be fully realized when Jesus returns to earth — a day guaranteed for God’s people. For — as Paul says...
Ephesians 4:30 (ESV)
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The promised day of redemption which — for us — will do what Naomi’s day of redemption did for her: It will put into perspective the suffering and sorrow and heartaches that we experience in this life. Experiences we may not have desired — but experiences that do not negate God’s blessings. Again the apostle Paul is helpful when he writes...
Romans 8:18–24a (ESV)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.
Friends, our present sufferings — though real and hard and painful — won’t be worth comparing to the glory that will be ours on the day when Christ returns. For that will be the day when our redemption is complete — a day of eternal blessing. A day he’s guaranteed to us as our family redeemer. A day promised to us at great cost to himself — though it is great gain for us. The day when we’re welcomed — forever — into God’s family.
But know that this is a day promised because Ruth was faithful and loving towards Naomi. And this day is guaranteed because Boaz was faithful and loving towards Ruth. But — behind Ruth and Boaz’s love and faithfulness — is God — who is always faithful and loving towards his people. For — it was God — who was working behind the scenes of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz’s lives so that Jesus — our Family Redeemer — would be born.
As the angel said to Joseph about Mary...
Matthew 1:21 (ESV)
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
And as Jesus said about himself...
Luke 19:10 (ESV)
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus came to redeem his people.
No matter who you are — know that the love that Jesus has for you is far greater than the love Ruth displayed for Naomi. She left her homeland in love for her mother-in-law — which is admirable — but do you want to hear something incredible? Because he loves you — Jesus left Heaven for you. And the faithfulness that Jesus has for you is far greater than the faithfulness Boaz displayed to Ruth. For Jesus didn’t redeem you with silver or gold — but with his life. And — in doing so — he’s been given the name above all names. And history has shown that Jesus’ name will never be forgotten. He will never be a “Mr. So and So” — but he is the One who loves all of us “Mr. and Mrs. So and So’s” who receive him as their family redeemer. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your amazing love for us. We are in awe of your providence — how you work out all things — even the behind the scenes events of our lives — for our good and your glory. Like the meeting of a family redeemer and a foreign widow who would have the King of kings as their descendant — I wonder what wonderful things you’re working behind the scenes in our lives.
Spirit of God, remind us and reveal to us your presence during life’s difficult and exhausting days. When family members take their final breath — when another pregnancy test comes back negative — when life is bitter — may we know that you are with us, leading us, guiding us, directing our steps. Holy Spirit, you are our promised Comforter — comfort your people.
And — Jesus — thank you for being our family Redeemer. In love, you gave your life so that we’d be set free from our enslavement to Satan, sin, death, and Hell — set free to live for the One who loves us and has called us to be his own people. What love you have for us — what freedom you offer to us — what a joy it is to know that the day of our redemption is drawing near. In your name we pray. Amen.
May you go having received and responded to Christ’s love for you — love that guarantees your day of redemption. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.