REDEEMED: WEEK TWO
Ruth and Boaz
We’re in our second week of a series called REDEEMED and we’re looking at several OT stories in order to learn the biblical meaning of redemption. Last week we talked about Abraham redeeming his nephew, Lot, the son of Terah’s third born son, Haran. Haran had died, leaving Abraham (then known as Abram)—the oldest living male of the household (the bet ab)—the responsibility of caring for Lot. His nephew gets himself in a tight spot when living near Sodom, being taken captive by a neighboring king. So Abram redeems Lot and recovers all the goods of Sodom.
We may all find ourselves in a tight spot…having made bad choices that put us in bad situations. We have all sinned against God and others and can feel confined…even paralyzed by our choices. But we have a loving heavenly Father who sent his Son to be our Redeemer, to rescue us from the effect of the sin nature if we will put our faith in Him.
Today we will look at one of the Old Testament’s greatest example of redemption…the story of Ruth and Boaz. Let’s read the prologue to our story. [READ RUTH 1:1-5]
As a review, it’s important we understand the patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal society in which the Old Testament people lived. These are our people since we claim Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the bloodline through which our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born. While we don’t live in that time and space, we have to understand it in order to appreciate the biblical notion of redemption.
The oldest living male was responsible for his household (bet ab), which would include his unmarried daughters, his sons and their wives and children, if married, and his servants. It was a huge responsibility. The economic future of the household rested on the decisions made by the patriarch. This is what patriarchal means.
The genealogy of Israel was recorded from the patriarch down through the male bloodline. This is what is known as patrilineal. And the extended family (sons, wives, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) all lived on the premises with the patriarch. This is what is known as patrilocal.
In our story today, we see that a family from Bethlehem, who’s patriarch is Elimelech, made the decision to temporarily relocate to Moab (just East of the Jordan River from Bethlehem) due to a severe famine in their homeland.
The patriarch had to make the decision he felt was best for his household, so he took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, across the Jordan, likely by way of Jerusalem, which is just 5 miles north of Bethlehem.
Life was okay for the Elimelech household since the plains of Moab are quite fertile and rainfall is adequate. But then Elimelech dies, making Naomi a widow. That’s awful sad for any couple, but the effects are not as potentially dire for us today in our society as it was for Naomi in a patriarchal culture. Without a husband to provide for her basic needs, she would be up a creek without a paddle. Good thing she has two strapping young sons!
Well, the boys marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Grandchildren must be just around the corner! But ten years pass and no kids. I’m sure the neighbors talked. “Poor Naomi. No little ones to bounce on her knee.” But something much more challenging is going on. Without male offspring, the household is in danger of economic struggle.
NOW the worst possible thing happens for Naomi…BOTH sons died! We don’t know what caused their deaths, whether they occurred at the same time, or a span of time passed between their deaths. But the results are the same: Naomi and her daughters-in-law have no husbands… no living males in their bet ab. Essentially, Naomi went from having a strong family with a great future to being a “NON-family.”
Some of us may know what that feels like. We have been a part of a strong community—a loving, tight-knit family…or a wonderful community of friends that you cared for and trusted. Then something happened. Maybe it was a divorce. Maybe it was a death. Maybe it was a job relocation situation. And you found yourself feeling isolated and alone. You may have even felt you had an uncertain financial future like Naomi.
Not only did she not have a husband or son to care for her, but she was in a foreign land far away from her kinsmen. She had no property, no economic means of support, and no social status. So Naomi does the only thing she can do—she plans to head home to Bethlehem in hopes one of her kin will take her in.
But there’s the issue of her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. She could not possibly ask them to leave their homeland as widows and expect them to make a new life in Canaan. So she insists they return to their mother’s household. Remember, when a man marries, he gives the bride’s father a “bride price” and the patriarch of that household transfers all responsibilities of the daughter to the new husband and the patriarch of his household. Since there is no patriarch, these women should return to their respective families in hopes of finding a new husband.
Both daughters-in-law refuse to leave Naomi, but ultimately Orpah is persuaded to return to her family (and who can blame her?), while Ruth clung to her mother-in-law. Listen to what Ruth tells Naomi: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Now how’s THAT for a Mother’s Day blessing!
So Naomi and Ruth head back to Bethlehem and once they arrive, the town began to stir because of Naomi’s return—I suspect because she was without her husband and sons and WITH a Moabite daughter-in-law in the same widow status as herself. Can this be Naomi (whose name means “pleasant”)? Naomi says, don’t call me that…instead call me Mara (which means bitter) because the Lord has made my life bitter.
Again, many of us can feel like we’ve gotten a raw deal in life. We may even blame God for our circumstances. “Why me, O God?” It’s understandable. When you’re at the end of your rope, you may just want to use it for a noose! But I suggest a better alternative, HOLD ON!
Naomi and Ruth’s situation is about to improve…quite radically, I might add. Ruth, a faithful and loving daughter-in-law who Naomi repeatedly refers to as “my daughter,” as if she were her own, goes out into the fields to glean behind the harvesters, another economic rule in that day. And she fortuitously happens to glean from the field belonging to a wealthy kinsman of Elimelech (and thus Naomi and Ruth) named Boaz.
Boaz takes notice of Ruth and offers the young Moabite tremendous hospitality and protection, suggesting that she follow his servant girls around in whatever field they go so that she would have plenty and be safe. Boaz shows great character and generosity because he finds out Ruth is kinfolk.
Naomi, when she learns that it’s Boaz’s fields that Ruth is gleaning, devises a daring and potentially risqué plot. She tells Ruth to get gussied up, put on perfume, and after Boaz has had a bit to drink, lie down at his feet and uncover them. In that day, that was seen as an invitation for sex. But when he does, Boaz does NOT try to take advantage of Ruth. Instead, when Ruth asked him to be her kinsmen-redeemer, he gladly accepts the offer.
To redeem in this situation means that Boaz will marry Ruth, buy back the patrimony of her deceased husband, take both Ruth and Naomi into his household (bet ab), and father a child in Mahlon’s name, thereby giving Elimelech an heir to whom the family inheritance will pass. What Boaz was asked to do was costly. His generous actions put his own resources on the line.
Boaz is willing to embrace the responsibility of a patriarch and become Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, but he tells Ruth that there is one other man who is a closer relative to Elimelech than he is. If HE refuses to redeem Ruth (and by extension Naomi) then Boaz will do it. As it turns out, the other guy refuses, saying it might jeopardize his estate. So Boaz steps up to the plate. He didn’t HAVE to, but he did because he was a man of integrity and great character, as was Ruth.
The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, was that Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who became the patriarch of that household. And Obed had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David, the second and greatest King of Israel. And through the covenant God made with King David that there would always be a king from David’s bloodline, we have King Jesus from the root of Jesse!
And all of this happened because a young Moabite widow named Ruth loved and clung to her mother-in-law like it was her own mother. Ruth is one of four women, not counting Mary, mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1. By the way, guess who Boaz’s mother was? Rahab the prostitute! Isn’t it amazing how God can redeem anybody?
Ruth rejected her old life, her family, her homeland, even her religion—all that she holds dear—to faithfully follow a Jewish widow back to a foreign land to her. Not only that, but she makes good on her pledge. Her devotion leads to redemption for Naomi and ultimately the world through her bloodline to King Jesus.
This morning, if you have experienced bitterness in this life…if life has thrown you a bunch of curve balls and you’ve swung for the fences and only come up swinging at air…then you need to hear this. God has not abandoned you. God loves you and has sent his Son to be your kinsman-Redeemer. It was extremely costly, but you are absolutely worth it. He has prepared a place for you in his household. Just call out to Him. Put your faith and trust in your Redeemer. We can go from a life of bitterness with a sure outcome of being cut off from God’s family because of our sin to being in pleasant pastures where we enjoy the benefits of God’s household. If you’ve not put your faith and trust in Christ for your salvation, would you do that this morning? As we close in worship, you are invited to come forward and give your life to the one who gave His life for you. AMEN.