Rev Peter shares out of Ruth 4: 1 – 12
There are only two books in the Old Testament that bear the names of women, Ruth and Esther. God used both of these women in two distinct ways to change the course of history. The books of Ruth and Esther show what it means to make difficult decisions during difficult times and how God can be working behind the scenes in many circumstances. However, Esther and Ruth come from very different backgrounds and circumstances.
Ruth was a poor widow who supported her mother-in-law and was a convert to Judaism. In contrast, Esther was a young woman raised a Jew and became the King of Persia’s wife. Despite their contrasting backgrounds, both were women of great faith and became redeemers for their people.
Let me tell you the story of Ruth – 4 chapters that you might just miss if you were not looking. This is during the time of the Judges around 1500BC. There has been a huge famine in Judah and Elimelech and his wife Naomi have gone to the country of the Moabites ( gentiles) to seek refuge. While they are there the two sons of Naomi – Mahlon and Khilion marry two Moabite woman, one whose name we all know – RUTH and the other Orpah (not Oprah).
While they are in this foreign land Elimelech dies and Naomi is left with her two sons. After ten years the sons Mahlon and Kilion also die.
Naomi had heard that the Lord was providing food for them again in Judah and so she planned to return with her two daughters – in- law.
Naomi pleads with them to return to their mother and their Moabite home. Orpah kissed her mother goodbye, but Ruth clung to her and said – “Don’t urge me to leave you or 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 will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
This is a profound moment of loyalty to both God and Naomi, and remember she is leaving everything that she knows, but is also moving into a mentorship program.
But back to the story : They travel to Bethlehem ( the place of bread) and when they arrive, the whole town is stirred by their arrival – Could this be Naomi. She is obviously looking rather tired and she asks them to call her Mara ( woman of sorrow or afflicted one).
Elimelech had a relative called Boaz – a man of standing. Ruth goes to gather the sheaves behind the harvester as a slave woman picking up the leftover grain. This was their custom.
Boaz is sweet to her and allows her to stay on and he talks with her about her faithfulness to Naomi. A favour to another can always have an impact on our future. Be careful to treat all well, because you never know when you might need their favour later. 2: 12 Boaz says : May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Now we see Boaz quite fancying ( he took notice of her) Ruth and giving her opportunities to be more than just a slave, but one of the workers.
Naomi says to Ruth in verse 20 – That man is one of our kinsman redeemers ? :
– they were responsible for protecting the interests of members of extended family.
– To provide an heir for a brother who had died.
– To redeem land that a poor relative had sold outside the family.
– To redeem a family member who had been sold into slavery (Le 25: 47 – 49)
– To avenge the killing of a relative.( Numbers 35: 19 -21)
– Redemption is key in the theology of the Old Testament – occurs 23 times in different forms in Ruth.
– Redemption is about transformation and destiny, hope and grace, love and joy.
The plot to charm Boaz.
In Chapter three, Naomi now plots with Ruth to catch the attention of Boaz. She is instructed by Naomi to put on her best clothes, perfume and to go down to the threshing floor and hide until Boaz is finished eating and drinking. Once he is a little tiddly, ( Barley is obviously well known as an ingredient in the brewing of alcohol), then she is to find where Boaz is lying, uncover his feet and lie down with him. She did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. In Jewish custom it was possible for a woman to show her interests in a man by making it clear to him of her intentions.
Boaz is now a little challenged. He really likes Ruth, but knows that in order for her to inherit the land she needs to be married to the first in the line of relations who are close to Elimilech, Naomi’s husband. He lets her sleep for the night. She sneaks off in the morning with the blessing of six measures of barley – Don’t go back to your mother in law empty handed. Good advice to anybody going back to a mother in law by the way.
Chapter 4 Boaz marries Ruth.
Boaz goes off to the town gate to find the kinsman redeemer and he meets with him along with the elders. The issue is of the buying of the land to redeem it for the sake of the family – Naomi and Ruth. In those days a deal was sealed through the taking off of one sandal. The kinsman redeemer who Boaz finds is in a predicament because he already owns land and so if he were to buy another piece of land, and be the kinsman redeemer, he would put his entire family in jeopardy and their inheritance. In chapter 4:8 So the kinsman redeemer said buy it yourself and he removed his sandal.
The verses 9 – 12 9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!” 11 Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Now this little transaction is so power filled because it reflects on the way in which Jesus Christ has acted as a kinsman redeemer on our behalf.
We had no rights to God’s grace in any way as outsiders and part of the world of gentiles. Our access point has also been depleted by our history and we need someone to stand in the gap for all of us. This is effectively the compassion and love of Christ for us, because he does this transaction through his body. It is painful and sacrificial, but it marks us as ones who share in the inheritance of an eternal destiny that is available for all who choose to accept it. He is the kinsman redeemer.
Not only this, but he also calls us to be kinsman redeemers. Can you just imagine that you have received news of the fact that someone has an enormous inheritance, but you never tell them about it. This would be crazy. If in monetary value or land you would tell them and also do everything in your power to ensure that they get what they deserve.
We are blessed with the eternal love of the Father who provides for us A Kinsman redeemer in Jesus and gives us all that we need. It is not earned nor is it deserved, but rather it is a free gift of God’s grace. We are not given this gift of grace so that we can selfishly cling to it ourselves, but rather it is a giving gift that we are able to give to others. The father gave the son and the son gave the spirit and the spirit gives us life so that we can give the gift of life!!!