In Greek mythology there is a figure named King Midas. It is said that King Midas worked out a deal with the god Dionysus in which he was granted one wish. Midas was a greedy man who never had enough so he wished for the ability to turn anything he touched into gold. He loved this gift at first and rejoiced, but as the myth goes, Midas prepared a great feast to celebrate and as soon as he touched his food it turned to solid gold. There are varying accounts of what happened to Midas at this point but this legend has had a large enough impact on the world that today we have as part of our culture’s vocabulary the phrase the ‘Midas touch’ referring to someone who seems to do well with anything they set their hands to do. I bring this up today not just for fun or for a pre-sermon storytime, but purposefully because in Ruth 4 we see Boaz having a sort of Midas touch of his own. Everything he touches he succeeds in.
So, Boaz wakes up from his eventful evening at the threshing floor, and goes to the gate to take care of business. In v1 the text says Boaz goes to ‘the gate’ because the gate is the center of town which served as a town hall and a courthouse, this gate was where all the things that matter happened. Notice v1b, ‘It just so happens’ that as Boaz sits down at the gate the other redeemer walks up. Boaz seems to have the ‘Midas touch’ here in these first few verses. He tells the redeemer to sit down and the other redeemer sits down. Boaz goes and gets 10 elders of the city, tells them to sit and they sit down. You get another view in these events of the worth of Boaz. Only a man of quality could command such obedience, and that both the redeemer and the 10 elders obey Boaz shows how much the town thought of him. Now the stage is set for the legal transaction to take place concerning Naomi, Ruth, and their land. But before I move on, did you see that this other redeemer isn’t given a name in this story?
I think it becomes clear why the author left him anonymous when you compare him with Boaz. This unnamed redeemer was legally obligated to take care of Naomi and Ruth because he was their closest family, and to this point in our story he’s done nothing for them at all. Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem with no home, no food, and no hope, and this man didn’t do a thing for them. He didn’t go visit them, didn’t feed them, shelter them, didn’t listen to them, or grieve the death of their husbands with them, he did nothing, he didn’t lift a finger for them. Boaz, on the other hand, has no legal obligation to Naomi or to Ruth at all, yet we read in the story that Boaz was the man doing everything for these two widows. Of all the 3 main men of the book of Ruth Boaz stands above them all: a) we have Elimelech who took the family out of the promise land to go back into the pagan wilderness of Moab, he was a risk taker, but he was a fool. b) We have the other unnamed redeemer of chapter 4 who doesn’t do anything and who’s not responsible at all. c) Than we have Boaz who is not only picking up the mess that these other two men made but is freely and willingly giving over and above what he was required to do. He lavishes gifts upon Ruth and Naomi, he makes sure they’re well fed, and that they won’t have to worry about things. Boaz is a godly man, the other two are not. Though the book doesn’t tell us, you can imagine the author doesn’t identify the unnamed redeemer because he doesn’t think much of him. For our purposes here, let’s call the unnamed Redeemer, Biff.
I want to call him Biff, because every love story has the moment when some kind of intruder comes into view, who’s trying to break up the love between the two main characters. This is what the unnamed redeemer is doing here. Remember it was Biff Tannen who tried to break up the love between George McFly and the young Lorraine in Back to the Future 1, it was the older Biff Tannen who tried to break up the love between Marty and his mother in Back to the Future 2, and remember it was Mad Dog Tannen, Biff’s great grandfather, who tried to break up the love between Doc and Clara Clayton. For some reason it seems that the Tannen’s and the McFly’s are caught in a multi-generational battle of good and evil.
Boaz and Biff have such a moment at the end of v4. After Boaz tells Biff the details of redeeming Naomi and her land, he says, ‘I will redeem.’ Instantly we think…NO! You’re telling me that after all Boaz has done for Naomi and Ruth in the previous 4 chapters, that Biff’s going to get the girl and ride of into the sunset!? NO WAY!
Thankfully the story continues, and thankfully Boaz has a wise plan. At this point Boaz tells Biff the whole story. If Biff chooses to redeem Naomi’s land, he not only gets Naomi, he gets Ruth ‘the Moabitess’ as well. v5 is the only time in the entire book of Ruth where Boaz calls Ruth the Moabite. He does so to remind Biff of Ruth’s foreign nature, to remind Biff that Ruth is from a wicked people, and that upon acquiring Naomi and her land he’ll have to marry Ruth the Moabitess and face social rejection for a long time. Upon hearing this news this Biff realizes his dilemma. He would be obligated to have children with Ruth in order to continue the line of her dead husband Mahlon. So what does Biff do? He puts his lack of quality on display and says he can’t redeem Naomi because he doesn’t want to mess up the inheritance of his own children. At the root of it Biff only changed his mind about this legal transaction when he learned of Ruth, so it’s clear from v6 that Biff doesn’t want to do what God had commanded him to do, so he gives his right of redemption to Boaz.
Next in v7, as was the custom in Israel, they traded sandals to let everyone know they made an agreement. This is the equivalent of signing a contract today. (side note here: that an explanation of the sandal transaction is present lets us know that by the time the original audience of Ruth read this book the practice of exchanging sandals to confirm a transaction was no longer in practice. This leads me to believe Ruth was written some time after the period of the judges. So who would have known of Boaz and Ruth and who lived after the period of the judges? David. Though it doesn’t say who wrote it I do think David is the best fit for the author of the book of Ruth. For him this story was a family story that he would’ve grown up hearing about, so he would’ve had adequate details of the story, and lived long enough after to have to explain the sandal exchange.) Well, after exchanging sandals Boaz stands up and tells the people what he has just agreed to do. He will redeem the land of Elimelech, bring Naomi into his home, gain Ruth as his wife, and have children with Ruth to make sure the lineage of Elimelech continues. After Boaz speaks we see his Midas touch again in that all the people present affirm this transaction and give their blessing to him.
They pray for him and for his children saying in v11-12, “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, who Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.” They pray asking the Lord to make Ruth like 3 women God used in mighty ways: Rachel, Leah, and Tamar. Rachel and Leah were Israel’s first wives who each had numerous children and built up the house of Israel. Tamar like Ruth was another foreign woman who was also involved in a kinsman redeemer relationship. We read of Tamar’s story in Genesis 38 where we see Judah’s son Onan refusing to do the very thing Boaz was willing to do here in Ruth 4. Ruth being linked to Tamar reveals the same lesson we get multiple times in the Old Testament – the story of God’s people has always been one of God’s grace and human weakness. God delights to use those the world considers weak, needy, helpless, and marginalized for the growth and expansion of His Kingdom.
Well, we’re at the end of Ruth, which is easily one of the greatest love stories ever told, and it’s clear to see now that as it began in pain it ends in pleasure, as it began in emptiness it ends in fullness, and as it began hopeless it ends beaming with hope. I think a large lesson in this small book is that the Christian life is not a straight line to glory. Our path is not an interstate highway like I-75 all smooth and straight. Rather, the Christian life is more like a mountain road with slippery curves, and hair-pin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. The good news is that God doesn’t leave us alone on this daunting road, He puts signs on the side of the road that say, ‘The best is yet to come!’ ‘I’m working all this out for your good and My glory!’ ‘Don’t trust yourself and your own understanding, trust Me and what I’m doing, even if it feels like you’ll never understand it!’ This rough road will lead to our destination eventually, because God is sovereignly plotting and planning our course, paving our road to Himself, and He will see to it that our car makes it to the end, to our destination, to Him! This is why Ruth was written – to help us see how God not only plans, plots, and paves our road, but leaves us signs of grace, so that when the road darkens too much for us to navigate well, we’re reminded God, not us, has always been in control.
We see this play out as the story ends in v13-22. Our main characters are mentioned but it doesn’t take much time in these concluding verses until they fade from the spotlight. Naomi (which means ‘pleasant) once called herself ‘bitter’ is now full of hope and even has a grandchild. Ruth was nothing more than a pagan Moabite, and now she is a lover of God who’s got a husband and a son. She spent ten years with Mahlon in Moab and she had no babies. It was likely that she was barren until God opened her womb so the right offspring would be produced. This is a God thing. Notice who this son is. The women of the town name him ‘Obed.’ Obed grew up and also had a son named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons and named the youngest of them David. Of course we know much about David from 1 Samuel and the Psalms. Growing up with seven older brothers, anointed to be King at 16, defeated Goliath, served under King Saul, fled from King Saul, became King, and became the man after God’s own heart. God loved David, and made a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, promising that David’s Kingdom would never end, and that one of David’s descendants would reign on David’s throne forever. David had many sons, but one of his sons stands head and shoulders above the rest. Which one of David’s sons was also David’s Lord? Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself. Jesus was a descendant of Boaz and Ruth!
Don’t think that God is up to nothing in your life. They didn’t know God would bring forth David out of this mess, much less the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Grace flowing from what looks like scandal, shame, and rejection. God’s sovereignty seen in private and seemingly ordinary decisions. Little did Ruth know when set out from Moab that she would become the great grandmother to King David and ancestor to the Lord Jesus. The best is always yet to come.
So, church, look upon your troubles in light of Ruth. God is up to something, he’s always up to something.
I love the book of Ruth, for two reasons:
a) In Naomi and Ruth we see ourselves so clearly. Naomi was a bitter angry old woman who was made hopeful by the redeemer Boaz. Ruth was a Moabite, a pagan woman who was far away from God, who didn’t know God and didn’t know His Word. She was an alien, a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land. Ruth did nothing to be redeemed. It was all the grace of Boaz! She didn’t ask for it, she didn’t try to earn it; she was just making it from day to day. So too, we cannot do anything to save ourselves, God must do it, He sovereignly orchestrate our redemption. This foreshadows the church. Just as Naomi and Ruth needed to be redeemed and we’re redeemed, so too the Church needed to be redeemed and has been by our greater Redeemer. Such marvelous grace to two poor and impoverished women. Such marvelous grace has been shown to sinners like us. When we see this we will glory in our Redeemer.
b) In Boaz’s transaction with Biff we see the great exchange on the cross of Christ. The two sandals on Boaz’s feet proved that he had provided everything that was needed for the redemption of Naomi and Ruth. This foreshadows the Lord Jesus who redeemed men by becoming man, who redeemed sinners by taking the place of sinners, who enabled sinners to escape death by received sin’s penalty of death, who gave us full and free pardon by being rejected, who imputed to sinners a perfect righteousness. He brings to us all we need for redemption, enabling us to be accepted before a holy God.
O’ that you would see this wonderful grace and spend your lives knowing it and spreading it! I get so tired of watching my own heart become ‘used to my salvation’ as if I’ve forgotten the wonder of it all. May I, no, may we never get over our salvation! So what the main sermon application for this Sunday? BEHOLD YOUR GOD!
At the gate of Bethlehem Boaz redeemed Ruth. Right now, our Redeemer Jesus Christ waits for us at gates of gold, and when He calls us it will be paradise, His face forever to behold.