Sermon for Sunday, June 18th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Rth 4:1-22 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. 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 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.” 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.” 6 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.” 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.” 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. 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.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
New Testament reading:
[Eph 5:25-33 ESV] 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
[Mat 1:1-6 ESV] 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
Each of the chapters of the book of Ruth have a different setting. The first is in Moab. The second is the field. The third is on the threshing floor. And now the fourth is at the city gate.
This is a narrow place where all people must pass to get into or out of the city. It is a good place for you to find the person you’re looking for. And you can see that it would easily become a gathering place for doing business.
So Boaz is looking for the man who is nearer of kind to Ruth than he is. This man is to have the first right of redemption. For Boaz to marry Ruth, this man must first decline.
We see here in the actions of Boaz (and of Ruth) just how right their character was. They are doing the right thing and following the law of God. Had they ignored the law of God and chosen their own way, they would have skipped this whole episode of speaking with the nearer kin and just eloped. But they do things the right way. They don’t let their interest in one another trump God’s law.
Now, over and over I see on a particular Christianity forum I read online, people ask questions like “Is it ok if I live with my partner before we get married?” It is hard to believe that they don’t know that such is sinful. But they are perhaps looking for some loopholes, or some person to say “go ahead, the Scriptures don’t apply anymore, do what you want.” Such “living together” before marriage is not acceptable. That is very clear. A man is to leave his parents, cleave to a wife, and the two are to become one.
So Boaz and Ruth are to be commended for doing things the right way. In our times, a couple looking to marry wouldn’t have to check if there are any nearer kinsman-redeemers, but they should certainly still obey the Lord and avoid relations before marriage. And throughout courtship they should each honor their own fathers and mothers in the process, and also have the wisdom and prudence to do premarital counseling and work through practical matters like “Where are we going to live?” Where are we going to go to church?” “Where are we going on the holidays?” Etc.
So Boaz and Ruth are examples to us. Do things in the right order (especially in courtship), not putting the cart before the horse.
I. A Shoe but No Spit
So Boaz finds the man, and brings him before the elders of the city. That way there are witnesses to the man’s decision. He cannot renege, or change his mind.
When the man hears about the land to redeem, he says YES. And maybe your hopes for Boaz and Ruth are then shattered! (So that’s the end of the story … the marriage doesn’t happen … some other guy swoops in. … and thats the end. … Of course not.)
The man is told that to redeem the land he must also redeem the lady.
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.” 6 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.”
He’s more interested in his wealth than weddings. So he says no. This opens the way for Boaz.
But first, there is the whole thing about shoes!
Now, here, our text says:
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.
But it seems to have been described a bit differently back in Deuteronomy 25:
7 And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face.
It wasn’t “giving the other sandal” it was “pulling it off and spitting in his face.”
Well, I don’t know why, but the spitting is forgotten. Perhaps the shoe itself was sufficiently symbolic of the disgrace.
Shoes, even today in the Middle East, are a sign of disgrace. Do you remember when an Iraqi man threw a shoe at President George W. Bush? Why did he do this? Well, because shoes are unclean and he thought the American’s to be illegally occupying his country. I don’t want to discuss American foreign policy, but I can at least agree that shoes are dirty, gross, unclean. And, if you didn’t know, in the Middle East it is even improper to sit cross legged so as to display the bottom of your shoe.
The disgrace of the shoe is really the disgrace of not honoring your kin. By not taking Ruth as his wife, this man disgraced the name of Elimelech.
And, interestingly, the man is never named. In fact, the author of the Book of Ruth seems to go out of their way NOT to identify this man. Apparently the disgrace in his time was enough, and it would have been overkill to immortalize his name in writing.
II. Boaz Redeems Ruth
So Boaz then redeems the land and redeems Ruth in marrying her. He perpetuates the name of Elimelech. That is, when they have children the family continues.
And that is something we haven’t noted before – despite the fact that Ruth had been married before to Mahlon for about 10 years, they did not have any children. The text doesn’t tell us the reason. But it is in great contrast when Ruth with Boaz has a child, Boaz.
And this son is not just a son of Ruth, perpetuating her line, but is a son to perpetuate the line of Elimelech and Naomi. You could envision Grandma Naomi happily holding baby Obed.
And so a great transformation has occurred.
The Book of Ruth started with death. Three deaths. But it ends now with life. A child being born.
The book started with funerals. It ends with a marriage.
It started with grieving, it ends with joy.
This is our story as well. And it is the story of the Bible. From sin and death to forgiveness and life. … because of a redeemer.
III. Restoration in a Son
In this story, in addition to redemption, there is restoration.
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.”
So while Boaz is a type of Christ as a redeemer, Obed is a type of Christ as a restorer. He is a child born who brings life to others and nourishes life. Christ brings eternal life and he “restoreth my soul.”
Our souls are restored in that we are given new life and forgiveness. In Christ we rest and in that rest we have restoration. Our grief turns to joy, and we have a renewed purpose in worshipping the Lord. Being restored is being refreshed, and indeed that is what we have in Christ. He restoreth my soul.
IV. In No Way Cast Out
These are great things about our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the redeemer. And he is the restorer.
But what makes this so great is that he did not turn us down. He did not say “no” to us, when the opportunity for redemption came about.
Look at this un-named man in the book of Ruth. The nearer kin. He said no. He was more interested in his own business, he didn’t want to bother with redeeming someone in need. His plans trumped all else.
But Boaz didn’t hesitate. He didn’t have to think it over. He didn’t have to talk to his accountant. He just said yes. “I will be your redeemer.”
And Christ is like Boaz, but Better. Boaz had compassion on Ruth and redeemed her from poverty. Christ, in his compassion, redeems his people from death and depravity, himself dying on the cross for our sins.
And when Christ redeemed his people, he did not cast us out or turn us down.
Christ did not say “I have better things to do.” Rather, he said “I will lay down my life for the people I love.”
Let us be glad that Christ did not prefer something other than to redeem us. We are in his inheritance.
In Hebrews 12:2 it says of Christ that he is “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The joy set out before him was OUR REDEMPTION and OUR RESTORATION.
Similarly, we hear in Micah 7:18 of the Lord God:
[Mic 7:18 ESV] 18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
We are that whom he desires.
Praise God that Christ did not cast us out. Out to the field to glean? No. Right to His Home is where we are to go. Welcomed in.
[Jhn 6:37 ESV] 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Then, Christ is like Obed but better. He restores us fully to righteousness.
The son Obed is born. But soon another son shall come, from the same line, the very Messiah, Jesus Christ to redeem and to restore his people.
The plan of the Lord is at view in the book of Ruth. His plan and promise that all things work together for good for those who believe in him. Even for the “little people.”
So we had Naomi “down and out.” She said “the Lord has dealt bitterly with me.” And we find ourselves in that same place. Loved one die around us. We’re sometimes left wonder where our money is going to come from; where our food is going to come from.
But in the lowest depths of despair, we have hope in Jesus Christ.
Though we have sinned grievously against the Lord, we are promised forgiveness in Christ.
And even if we die — which we all shall barring that Christ returns first — even if we die … through starvation or anything else, we shall be restored to new life by Him who overcame death and rose on the third day.
So we have great words of comfort. As Boaz says “I will redeem Ruth” so Christ says “I will redeem you.” What great comfort that is. Redeemed and restored by the one who has the power to do so, the loving Lord Jesus Christ.