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Mercies In The Shadows

Redeeming Love

Rev. Philip Miller | August 30, 2020

Selected highlights from this sermon

The entire Bible points to one central person: Jesus Christ. As Pastor Miller examines five aspects of Boaz’s redemption, we learn how this story is a foreshadowing of the person and work of Jesus and His redeeming love. It also serves as a reminder that God’s unseen hand of providence is always working in the shadows.

The Bible is a masterpiece. Sixty-six books with over 40 different authors, written on three separate continents over nearly two thousand years, and all of it pointing to one central hero, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, He is foretold. In the Gospels, He is revealed. In the Epistles, He is explained. In Revelation, He is anticipated. And the Bible is, from the beginning to the very end, the story of Jesus and His great redemption of humanity. And even in the old tales, in the Old Testament, before anyone knew the name of Jesus, He’s right there. He’s just out of sight.

Remember in Luke, chapter 24, on the road to Emmaus, as Jesus led a little Bible study there, we read in verse 27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” And so, according to Jesus, everything in the Old Testament is actually about Him, these Old Testament tales are pointing beyond themselves, anticipating, foreshadowing, revealing. They are signposts along the road to a greater and truer reality that is found in Jesus, and every story whispers His name. And this is true of the book of Ruth, the book we are studying, this tender story of sorrow and grief and loss that is turned to joy and fullness and life. It is a foreshadowing of the redeeming love of Jesus. And this becomes abundantly clear in the passage we’re going to look at today, as Boaz redeems Ruth and Naomi. It’s a beautiful scene. In many ways it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It is, as the French would say, the denouement of the story.

Now, you’ll recall last week that Ruth had boldly asked Boaz for redemption, not just for marriage, but for redemption. She asked him to be a goel, a redeemer. This Hebrew word refers to a practice in the Ancient Near East, and also it’s still practiced today in some Asian and African cultures. It was a practice called levirate marriage. And if a man died, leaving his widow without an heir, it was the responsibility of that man’s brother (if he was unmarried) to marry his widow and provide an heir in order to keep the clan intact and provide a line for inheritance which was at the time, of course, passed down the male line. Now, in Ruth’s and Naomi’s case there is no such brother who can rise to the occasion, and so it falls now to the broader family, the broader clan, to act redemptively on behalf of Naomi and Ruth. No one is obligated, so it’s a question of who will do it. Who will volunteer to be the goel, the redeemer of this family?

And Ruth asked Boaz (last week) for that particular thing, to marry her, to provide an heir in Mahlon’s name, Elimelech’s name, so that Naomi and Elimelech’s line, and Mahlon’s line might not go away, but it might continue in Israel. And to our surprise, Boaz quickly said yes. And we are so excited. Yes, it’s going to happen, and then he told us some little piece of data that changed everything. There’s another relative, a closer relative, another redeemer, another goel, one who is next of kin, closer to Naomi. And this guy, whoever he is, has the first right of refusal. And that’s, of course, where we left things last week in total suspense.

So we’re going to get out of that suspense this morning, which is good news. And here’s what I want to do. I want us to walk through the text together. I want us to understand what’s going on in this beautiful story of Boaz’s redemption of this family. But then I also want us to see another thing. I want to show us five aspects of Boaz’s redemption that actually foreshadow Jesus today, how this story is pointing to the person and work of Jesus.

So, we’re going to be in Ruth, chapter 4. If you have your Bibles with you would you pull those up, and let’s join together. We’re going to be in the first 12 verses here in Ruth, chapter 4. As we turn to God’s Word, would you bow your head? Let’s pray together.

Father, we ask you now to come be our teacher, to show us Jesus, to show us ourselves, and to show us the beauty of His redeeming work in our lives. Help us to trust you, to follow you, to give our lives to you, we pray, in Jesus’ name, our great Redeemer. And all God’s people said Amen. Amen.

Alright, Ruth, chapter 4, beginning in verse 1 here. “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. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down.”

Now, just pause for a second here. You will remember, I am sure, that where we left off at the end of last week, it was first light, and Boaz sent Ruth in to town to go see Naomi. And apparently Boaz has made a beeline now to the city gates there in Bethlehem. The cities, of course, at this time have walls around them for protection, and so the way in and out of the city was the major area of commerce, and it was also the place if you wanted to have connection with other people or meet with townspeople or the city elders, you would meet in the gates. And so here Boaz is waiting in the city gates for just this moment.

And as he sat there it says, “Lo and behold, who should show up but the goel, the redeemer,” the very redeemer that Boaz had been talking about just a few verses ago. And what a coincidence this is. Right? Well, again, our narrator is winking at us. He wants us to see God’s unseen hand of providence working in the shadows here. And Boaz says to this man, “Friend, sit down. Turn aside here. Sit down with me.” The word for friend here in Hebrew is actually a phrase. It’s a weird phrase. It is ploni almoni, which is funny. You could say that wherever you are. Ploni almoni! Yeah, it’s a weird phrase. It means “What’s his face!” (laughs) In Hebrew literally! What he’s saying is, “Well, look who showed up! It’s Mr. So-and-So!” And of course, this is not his real name. Boaz would have said his proper name, but our author is cloaking it under this phrase, “Mr. What’s His Face,” because he’s signaling to us this guy is of no consequence. We don’t need to know his name. He’s just an extra. He’s an expendable. Don’t pay attention to him. He’s just ploni almoni. We’ll move on to the next thing in just a moment.” So Boaz has this chap, whoever he is, sit down. He gathers ten elders around as witnesses because he has business to do.

Verse 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. 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.’”

Now, this is very clever on Boaz’s part here. He’s really thought out his approach. He leads here with a land transaction. And you say, “Wait a minute. I didn’t think that was the issue. I thought the issue was levirate marriage and who was going to marry Ruth and provide an heir. Isn’t that the front–burner issue?” Well, it is. It is. That’s the ultimate issue, but Boaz doesn’t want to lose Ruth here. He’s fallen in love, and he’s playing his cards strategically. If Ruth wasn’t in the picture, Naomi would come back childless, without a husband, without being able to bear additional children. And when she came back to the land, if Ruth wasn’t involved, Naomi would have no option except to sell the land to survive. And so Boaz starts with that scenario. He’s not going to introduce Ruth yet.

“So Naomi is selling the land that belonged to Elimelech. You’re the next of kin. You get the first right of refusal as to whether you want to acquire this land. Will you redeem it? Will you redeem the land?”

Now this is how that would work. Mr. So-and-So buys the land for a fair market value. He pays Naomi. Naomi now has enough money to live on. He then gifts the land back to Naomi. That’s the redemption part. She then rents it back to Mr. So-and-So who farms it, paying her an annual sum. He gets honor in the community because he’s the redeemer and he’s done a good thing. But when Naomi dies, because there’s no heir, the land falls to Mr. So-and-so’s estate. So, in other words, what he is basically doing is pre-paying for land he will one day inherit. And he loses some rental along the way, but basically he just has to cash-flow the situation.

And so Mr. So-and-so thinks it over here. And he says, “There’s very little downside for me. I get to significantly increase my land holdings, and yes, I have to cash flow it and pay some rental on the way, but that’s just like interest on a mortgage, and besides I get to be the town hero, and redeem Naomi (He doesn’t know about Ruth yet.). I’ll redeem it. Of course, this makes sense.” This is a financially savvy plan for him. But Boaz here has an ace up his sleeve, doesn’t he? Look at verse 5. “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.” And just like that (snaps fingers) everything changes. This whole deal changes. “If you want the land, you acquire Ruth too.”

Now, this is what’s fascinating to me. We know Boaz is smitten with Ruth. Right? We know he really likes her, but he’s at the negotiating table here, and he’s savvy in the way he does this. He presents Ruth as a total liability. Total liability. He says, “You acquire Ruth.” In other words, There’s like a lien on the property. “You have debts that come that are incurred with this property. You have to deal with Ruth. You acquire her.”

This is business language. This isn’t about marriage and love and family. This is just business. She’s a Moabite, a foreigner, probably suspicious in most people’s minds. She’s the widow of the dead. Bad luck. Right? The last guy who was with her totally died. She’s cursed. This is not good.

He is packaging this in the worst possible way. “Not only do you have to provide for her,” he also continues, “you are obligated to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” In other words, “You have to raise up an heir to inherit the land.” And see, that’s what changes the land deal. If Ruth is a part of the deal, and there’s an heir that is to be raised up, and it’s likely that that will happen because she’s young, “If there’s an heir, then he will get the land in the end. Not you.” Not ploni almoni. So the scenario now changes. Instead of redeeming the land in order to inherit it long-term, now ploni almoniis going to redeem the land and say goodbye to his assets forever. And so this is a gift now of grace. And not only that, but we don’t know the situation here for Mr. So-and-So, but if the heir that Ruth bears happens to be his only heir, then not only does he lose Elimelech’s land, he would endow all of his own assets to Elimelech’s line if there’s only one heir to inherit everything, so it potentially could impair his entire estate.

And so this whole situation swings dramatically. Instead of it being a lucrative land acquisition deal, it now becomes a costly and risk-laden venture. And so in verse 6 the redeemer says, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” And so ploni almoni finds the price of redemption too high here. And look at what happens in verse 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 a testing in Israel.” So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal.

Now (chuckles) what’s with this sandal? I mean, this is just weird stuff. Well, obviously this is an ancient custom we’re not familiar with. We get the basic gist of it. The ploni almoni is handing off his right of redemption with this sandal. As the goel, he’s handing that obligation, that right, off to Boaz, and Boaz is going to pick it up and run with it. We get that, but where does this whole thing come from?

It’s very interesting. Here’s your homework for the week. You can look at Deuteronomy 25:5–10. And there you will see God as He lays out the prescription surrounding levirate marriage. And what’s interesting is if the brother (who was obligated to marry his deceased brother’s widow [right?] in levirate marriage) if he refused to do that, there was an appeal process. And the woman was to take him to the gates to the elders and say, “This man won’t do levirate marriage. He won’t redeem me.” And the elders were to plead with him and say, “Please, please, please do this.” And if he dug in his heels, and he wouldn’t do it anymore, and he said, “I’m not going to do it; I don’t want her,” there was a ritual, a shaming ritual. The woman was to take off his sandals, spit in his face, and proclaim loudly that he was not a worthy person.

You say, “Boy, that’s a rough day.” Yeah, it was kind of rough, but he’s leaving her destitute, and he’s not fulfilling his responsibility, his honorable responsibility in the clan.

Now, in this case, ploni almoni is not the brother, and so he is not obligated to redeem Naomi here, so he’s not being shamed in the same way. But what he does is he pulls off his own sandal, symbolically saying, “I am unwilling to be the goel here, and I am giving you responsibility to be the goel. Here, Boaz, you do it instead.”

And then in verse 9 it continues: “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 Mahlon. 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 the brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”

And so, friends, Boaz does what ploni almoni would not do. He purchases Elimelech’s estate, land, houses, possessions, debts, everything. He redeems them, pays for them, and gives it back to Naomi. He leases from her the land so that he can farm it every year henceforth. He marries Ruth in order to provide an heir, a legal heir for Elimelech and Mahlon, so that when he comes of age, all of this will belong to him. Do you realize what this means? It means that Boaz permanently compromised his own wealth in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth. This was exceedingly expensive, what he did here.Verse 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, 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.’”

There’s a threefold blessing here. We need to unpack it shortly here, but number one, they say, “May the Lord bless Ruth. Make her like Rachel and Leah.” This is, of course, a reference to the two women, Jacob’s wives, who together bore the 12 sons who became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. In other words, this is a blessing. May Ruth have a son. That’s what this is code for. “And may your house be built up and endure.”

Secondly, they say, “May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem.” This is the language of prosperity and honor. In other words, you have just sacrificed greatly, Boaz, to redeem this family. May the Lord reward that with prosperity and honor.”

And then thirdly, “May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring the Lord will give you by Ruth.”

Now, this third thing, third blessing, is a very interesting one. It refers to a very sad and messed-up story found in Genesis 38. Let me just summarize it here for us. Judah, this is Jacob and Leah’s son, Judah, who is the head of one of the tribes, the Tribe of Judah. He has a son named Er. Er marries a woman named Tamar. Er dies, so levirate marriage kicks in. A very similar situation, right? And so Onan is the next son, and he’s supposed to marry Tamar and provide an heir. But he disobeys, and so the Lord judges him and he dies. The next son is Shelah, and he is supposed to marry, he’s a younger fellow. But Judah, the father, starts to think Tamar is cursed. I mean she has married two of his boys and they’ve both died at this point. The problem must be her. Right? It’s not his boys. It’s her. And so he decides he’s not going to let Shelah marry her, because that’s his last boy. Right? And so Tamar is destitute, doesn’t have any options, and she basically tricks Judah, her father-in-law, into getting her pregnant so that she can have a son whose name is eventually Perez, who turns out is Boaz’s great-great-great-great grandfather. There are four “greats” in there. This is in Boaz’s line.

So Perez was Tamar’s redemption. This is part of Boaz’s story. And here’s the point. Tamar’s story is a sad one of men who failed repeatedly to honor and protect her, to provide redemption, to be the goel. In other words, in part of Boaz’s family tree are men who didn’t step up to become the redeemers, the goel, for this woman. And even in spite of that, the Lord gave her a redeemer. So here’s the point. Boaz, in stepping up to be the redeemer and the goel for Ruth and Naomi, is changing his family tree. He’s restoring honor to his family line. He has voluntarily given what his forebearers withheld, and so this redemption is not just for Elimelech’s line, it’s actually for Boaz’s line as well. He’s redeeming his life, his heritage, his story. And this is a beautiful story of redemption.

Now, let me show you five aspects of Boaz’s redemption that foreshadow Jesus, because all of this is pointing to the person and work of Jesus.

Number one, this is a voluntary redemption. It is a voluntary redemption. Boaz chooses this redemption freely, doesn’t he? Willingly, cheerfully. No one twists his arm. No one forces his hand. No one has to talk him into it. Just like our Jesus.

Remember when Jesus said this in John, chapter 10? “I lay down my life that I might take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” Jesus’ redemption of us, friends, is freely given. It is willingly bestowed. It is cheerfully done. It is a voluntary act that Jesus engages in.

Secondly, this is a covenantal redemption. It’s a covenantal redemption. Boaz here makes a public, ceremonial, covenantal commitment, doesn’t he? That’s why they all say, “We are witnesses.” He binds himself to Naomi and Ruth. There’s no fine print, no escape clauses, no prenuptial agreement here. He pledges his life, his wealth, his future, his everything to them without reservation. And again, this is like our Jesus, who on the night He was betrayed, remember He said at the Last Supper when He held the cup in His hand, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Christ, when He came and brought redemption, it was in His blood, in His life, in His everything, that is poured out for us that we might enter into covenant relationship and protection with our God through Him, that we might become, in the language of Paul, the bride of Christ, awaiting the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will drink again from the fruit of the vine with our bridegroom in the kingdom of His Father who is now our Father because of His redeeming love.

Thirdly, it is a substitutionary redemption. It’s a substitutionary redemption. Boaz’s redemption is accomplished as he substitutes himself for Elimelech and Mahlon. Right? He fathers an heir in their place, and for their sake, in order that their future may not be lost. In place of their weakness, Boaz brings strength. In place of their impotence, Boaz gives vitality. In place of their death, Boaz brings life. And where they were faithless, he became faithful, and once again, like our Jesus.

Paul, the apostle, writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “For our sake he (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” See, Jesus dies in our place for our sake, offers His life in exchange for us. He takes upon Himself our sin and grants to us His righteousness. The great exchange. In place of our weakness Jesus is strong. In place of our sin, Jesus is righteous. In place of our death, Jesus is our life. In place of our faithlessness, He is faithful.

The fourth picture here is that this is a sacrificial redemption. It’s a sacrificial redemption. It’s not only voluntary, covenantal, substitutionary, but it is also sacrificial. Boaz pays an enormous price of redemption here. At great personal cost to himself this redemption is accomplished. Why? Because of love. Because of love. His hesed, his covenant faithful, loyal love. And once more it is just like our Jesus.

Jesus said in Mark, chapter 10, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Friends, Jesus redeemed us, not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price, ransomed and redeemed by our Savior, our goel.

Finally, this is a transformative redemption. It is a transformative redemption. Boaz, by his redemption, changed his family tree, didn’t he? He changed not only his family tree, but Elimelech’s family tree. He changed everyone’s family tree here. He did rightly what his forebearers had failed to do. He set right what had gone wrong in Elimelech’s line. And Boaz is making things right. It’s redemptive. It’s healing. It’s turning things to good. And again, once again, this is just like our Jesus.

Paul, the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15 says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Don’t you see that Jesus is setting right all that went wrong in Adam? Where Adam failed, Christ prevailed. Jesus is setting everything to rights. What Adam ruined, Jesus is making right. Sin is atoned for. Death is defeated. Satan is conquered, and the grave no longer holds sway, but resurrection life comes forth. And so don’t you see that in all of these ways, and there’s even more, but in all of these ways Boaz’s redemption here is pointing us to Jesus Christ who is the true and greater Redeemer. And friends, the takeaway for us is simple. Redemption is found in Jesus. Redemption is found in Jesus. And for those of us who trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, this is a call to worship, friends, because Jesus is our Redeemer.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4–9, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that (nobody) no one, can boast.”

Friends, this is our story. Do you realize Naomi and Ruth were not redeemed because they had figured it all out, because they were so obedient, because they did everything right? In many ways they botched this up. But in grace, redemption has come. And so it is in our lives. The royal hash that we’ve made, all of our sin, all the messed up stuff in our lives cannot stand in the way or the redeeming love of our Jesus, our goel. Aren’t you glad?

And for those of us who aren’t sure where we are with Jesus, we listened to this message and we’re kicking the tires on faith, and we’re not really sure if we’re ready to give our lives, our trust to Jesus. Friends, this is also an invitation. It’s a call to worship for those who have been redeemed, and it’s an invitation for your redemption because Jesus is willing to be your redeemer if you will let Him.

John 3:16 famously says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And so if you are sitting there today and you could use some redemption, if you’re tired of trying to live life on your own, and you recognize it’s only getting worse, can I invite you to open your heart to the redemption of Jesus, the great redeemer, the goel, the one who will ransom and set you free and give you a life and a future, and put everything to rights.

Coming to Christ is simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s as simple as A, B, C.

  • A, we admit. We admit that we are sinners, far from God and we’ve made a royal hash of our life.
  • B, we believe. We believe that Jesus has done everything to make us right with God through His life, death and resurrection.
  • And C, we commit. We commit our lives to Him, say, “Here I am. Come be my Savior. Be my Lord. Be my everything. I’m yours.”

And wherever you are seated this morning, can I invite you to just maybe pause and say a little prayer, and say, “I admit I’m a sinner. I believe that Jesus is enough, and I commit my life now to you.” And that will be the beginning of the most beautiful story of redemption you’ve ever known, that this redemption that we’ve seen of the life of Ruth and Naomi, which is just a foreshadowing of the great redemption that Jesus works in all of world history in redeeming and restoring humanity, can happen to you in your story, in your history, in this moment, that the great redeemer can become your great redeemer.

Won’t you trust Him? Won’t you give yourself to Him? He’s way better than you could ever imagine. Would you bow your heads, friends? Let’s pray together.

Father, we love you. We thank you that you did not leave us on our own in all of our misery and pain and selfishness and sin, that you did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, that if we would believe in Him, and cast all of our hopes on Him, and trust ourselves to Him, that we might find our lives experiencing a redemption, a love, a turn, a new birth, a new kind of life, a resurrection that we could never have seen coming in any other way.

Father, thank you for rescuing us. Thank you that Jesus is the great and better goel, that His redemption is total and complete. It cost Him enormously, but our futures can be changed in Him. And so we cling to Jesus today with all that we are, and all that we have. We love Him. We thank You for our Jesus. It’s in His name we pray, Amen.

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