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Redeemer--Ruth 3 & 4

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    Today we’ll finish the book of Ruth. In my opinion, two weeks is not nearly enough to fully delve into the pages of Ruth, but since it is a small book and we’re just doing an overview, we do need to keep our pace up.
    As we go through Ruth 3 & 4, we’ll see that Ruth’s story has a great happy ending, but we’ll also talk more about the greatest love story hinted at in Ruth that isn’t actually Ruth’s story.
    When we left Ruth last week, she had moved back to Israel, to Bethlehem, with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi had lost her husband, Elimelech, and both her sons, including Ruth’s husband. To provide for both herself, and her mother-in-law, Ruth goes to a field to gather wheat left-over on the ground from the harvest. We talked about the seeming coincidences that led Ruth to this particular field, which just happened to belong to Boaz, possibly one of the few Jewish men who adhered to God’s law and was kind and compassionate, even toward Ruth who was a foreigner.
    Let’s look at Ruth 3:1, “One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.”
    We’re told that some time has passed between the events of Ruth 2 and Ruth 3. We don’t know exactly how much time, but the next few verses indicate that it has been long enough that Ruth is familiar with not only Boaz, but the maids who work for him as well. She’s built up a rapport, a certain comfortable existence with them.
    The passing of time also tells us that potentially, Naomi was getting on in years and was beginning to worry that there would be nothing for Ruth to inherit and no one to care for Ruth if Naomi passed away. She wants to see Ruth set up, wants to make sure Ruth has security.
    Naomi devises a plan, which when you first read it, might seem really scandalous. This is what she told Ruth, Ruth 3:2-4, “Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
    Of course, there’s a lot more to Naomi’s plan that we need to understand in order to understand what exactly she’s suggesting. Here’s what Naomi knew that we need to know, too:
    She knew what a threshing floor was. Most of us are probably not familiar with this term, and have even less of an idea of what a threshing floor might actually be. So, a threshing floor was a large, usually circular plot of land that had been cleared of all plant life and had been trampled down to the point of being very hard dirt. This plot of land was very solid, in some cases there’s even evidence of it being paved with some sort of crude asphalt. It was in the open air, so not in a building of any sort, usually next to the field of wheat or grain. What would happen is the harvesters would take the grain to the threshing floor after it had dried in the sun, and they would toss it up using forks that were a sort of early pitch-fork. The good parts of the grain, the parts used for making food, would fall back down to the threshing floor, while the unusable parts of the grain would be blown away in the wind. So, that’s what a threshing floor was and what it was used for.
    Naomi also knew that in her culture, private bedrooms weren’t so much of a thing, especially for a hard-working, single, land-owner, like Boaz. Naomi knew that if Boaz even had a bedroom or a bed, it was highly unlikely he would actually sleep there. It was not unusual during harvest time for land-owners and harvesters to sleep on the threshing floor as a way of protecting their harvest from thieves. Naomi knew that since Boaz was a hard-working man, responsible and prudent, he was probably going to sleep on the threshing floor in the open air. So it wouldn’t have been a scandalous thing for Ruth to go to Boaz on the threshing floor at night. Chances are, there were probably some of his workers sleeping there too.
    Finally, Naomi knew that the act of uncovering Boaz’s feet also wasn’t a scandalous act. She knew that if Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet and lay near his feet, then Ruth would be signifying to Boaz that she was submitting herself to serve him, to be his servant. Not only that, but according to laws found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Ruth had the right to claim a marriage with someone from her deceased husband’s family. Uncovering Boaz’s feet to show that Ruth was willing to submit to Boaz also showed that Ruth was claiming her Biblical right to marry a relative of her husband’s, even though Ruth wasn’t actually Jewish!
    We’ve already seen that Ruth is a loyal daughter-in-law, and has chosen to act according to Naomi’s words, and to adopt Jewish custom and laws as her own, but legally, Ruth was bound by no law to seek a marriage. But, she does as Naomi tells her to do.
    Boaz is also not bound by any legal obligation to marry Ruth, and I’ll show you why. Ruth 3:10-13, “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
    I want to first point out that Boaz knows all that Naomi knew too, all that I’ve just pointed out. He knew the culture and the law, so he doesn’t view Ruth’s actions as scandalous either. In fact, he calls her actions, her willingness to marry him to save her family, kind.
    Because Ruth wasn’t bound by Jewish law to marry someone in her husband’s deceased family, Boaz recognized that Ruth could have set her eyes on someone younger, richer, than Boaz. Boaz also recognized that by marrying him, Ruth would help Naomi keep whatever property or possessions she had. She would be helping her mother-in-law in an incredible way.
    Because of the great kindness that Boaz sees in Ruth’s actions toward him, he agrees to do what she has asked. But there’s a catch.
    Boaz says that he is a guardian-redeemer for their family, but…he’s not the closest guardian-redeemer. There’s another man in the family who has the right to claim the marriage with Ruth and Naomi’s inheritance.
    Now, I want to come back to this idea of the guardian-redeemer, or kinsman-redeemer. But I want to first finish out Ruth’s story.
    Boaz went to the other guardian-redeemer and presented the option to buy the land to keep it in Naomi’s family. The man said he would, but when Boaz mentions that the land also comes with Ruth as a wife, the man declines because it would mess up with his own inheritance. He tells Boaz to buy the land himself.
    Boaz does of course, because he loves God’s law and is a compassionate and kind man. He buys the land to keep it with Naomi’s family, and he marries Ruth, and they lived happily ever after.
    No, really.
    We’re told in Ruth 4:11-12 that even though Ruth is a foreigner, a Moabitess, from one of the most corrupt nations at the time, she is adopted into the family of God’s people, and they considered her one of their own. Better than one of their own, they gave her a place of high honor amongst the other women of Israel whose names were well-known.
    Ruth and Boaz have a child who, as we read in Ruth 4:18-22, is listed in the line of King David. So Ruth becomes an ancestor of King David, and we also understand that according to Matthew 1, that places her in the line of Christ.
    So, happily ever after!
    But let’s go back to the guardian-redeemer.
    The kinsman-redeemer is an Old Testament idea that we’ve kind of hinted at. It was a practice we see first in Genesis 38:8. A woman’s husband died and didn’t leave her any children, so the man’s brother was told that it was his duty to marry his brother’s widow to continue the family, to pass the inheritance down. By the time we get to Deuteronomy 25, it’s a law that a woman can claim this right through a close family member of her deceased husband. That if she does this, and he wants to redeem her, he can buy the inheritance that would normally have passed to her son.
    He can choose not to redeem her, of course, but then he relinquishes all rights to the land that might come with a marriage to the woman. However, if he chose not to do this, the woman would lose any land that might go to her son, because women could not inherit property or land. If she was not redeemed by someone in her family, she would lose everything. She would have nothing of value in that society. No children, no land, no husband. That would make her worth very little at the time. Fortunately for me, and other women, that’s changed significantly.
    The guardian-redeemer, in the Hebrew is called the goĕl. The goĕl wasn’t a judge, but a comforter, someone who extended life and love. It has an exact equivalent in Greek, and in the New Testament, we translate that word as ransom.
    Now, most of us probably understand the concept of a ransom. A ransom is the price that must be paid to save someone. So, anytime in the New Testament and Old Testament that we read that Messiah, Christ will save His people from their sins, or redeem His people, or set them free, we have to understand that what that’s saying is that He does that by paying the ransom required to save us, to set us free.
    In many ways, it’s the language of love, of romance, of marriage, that we can view ourselves as the childless widow, we are lost, we have no rights, and if someone doesn’t step-in and intervene, if someone doesn’t pay the price, we lose everything. We need someone like Boaz, compassionate, loving, to pay the price to buy us back from certain destruction.
    And that’s why, as amazing as Ruth and Boaz’s story is, it’s only the second greatest love story in the Bible.
    The greatest is this:
    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17.
    “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:32, 35-39.
    Christ paid our price. He is our ransom, our goĕl, our redeemer. He is our Boaz, but so much better, because he didn’t save us from losing some land or losing some property. He saved us from death, He saved us from the destruction of our souls. He saved us from eternal suffering. That’s so much more amazing than what Boaz did.
    He paid the price, and there was absolutely no one else who could.

1. Why do we need redeeming?

2. What does it mean to you that Jesus redeemed you? How has His redemption changed your life?

3. Look at Luke 1:68-75; Romans 3:22-24; Galatians 3:13-14, 4:4-5; Colossians 1:13-14; and 1 Peter 1:18-21 for more on Christ as our redeemer.

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