(Unfortunately, we were unable to record audio for this session due to a change in our usual location. Sorry!)
We have all known men who were not honorable men. Men who took advantage of their power and position to intimidate women. Men who turned their backs on the weak and the vulnerable. Men who said one thing but then acted differently. Men who only cared only about their reputation and image.
Maybe specific men have come to mind – personal examples or images from the media. Unfortunately, it’s not difficult these days to find dishonorable men.
Thankfully, today we don’t have to dwell on such men. Today, we are thinking about an honorable man.
A man who went out of his way to protect a woman.
A man who cared for the weak and vulnerable.
A man whose word was dependable.
A man who was not concerned about his reputation with others but his reputation with God.
Of course, I’m speaking of Boaz. Today, we come to the climax of the book of Ruth. In chapter three, Boaz indicated that he would redeem Ruth but this week he carries through with action. Let’s walk through this passage and unpack Boaz’s redemption of Ruth.
First, we see Boaz taking initiative to redeem Ruth. Naomi gave us a hint to that effect at the end of Chapter 3 when she said “the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” Probably she was speaking based on her knowledge of Boaz’s character. She probably would have known Boaz even before she left for Moab. She would have formed an opinion of him. Coming back from Moab and seeing how he ran his business would only have reinforced that opinion. These words certainly would have comforted Ruth as she waited at home for the answer.
In Chapter 3 Ruth took initiative with Boaz at Naomi’s urging. Naomi could urge Ruth to take that kind of initiative because she knew Boaz’s character. She knew that once Ruth had made her interest known Boaz would take over. Ruth wouldn’t need to continue to take initiative. Ruth didn’t need to orchestrate a meeting with the other redeemer. Boaz took the lead and did what was necessary to initiate the redemption.
Ruth 4:1 tells us “Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there.” Boaz takes action. And he takes action right away. The text implies that Boaz didn’t go home to change clothes and have breakfast. Of course, all of this would have been perfectly acceptable. He had been working hard at the threshing floor. But no, he went immediately to the city gate, the place where people congregated. The place where he was bound to meet the other redeemer (or Mr. So-and-So, as our study fondly refers to him). Boaz is a man on a mission. And, sure enough the redeemer happens by.
Now let’s look at the way Boaz goes about the redemption of Ruth. As we look at the text we realize that he has a carefully-conceived plan to redeem Ruth. Boaz calls to the other redeemer in a casual and friendly manner –“Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” This friendly call would have put the other man at ease. Furthermore, the man was probably flattered that an important man like Boaz was seeking business with him.
Next, Boaz gathers ten elders of the city and asks them to sit down as well. Boaz is in the place where official business was conducted – the city gate. He has gathered a sufficient number of men to witness his business and make it legal. Boaz has planned carefully. Whatever happens, whatever is said, will be witnessed by a large group of the elders.
Not only does Boaz ensure there will be witnesses, but now everyone’s curiosity is piqued. If Boaz wants ten elders to sit down this must be interesting. They are eager to hear Boaz’s business.
Boaz gets to the matter at hand. At first it doesn’t seem as if Boaz has any business at all but that he is merely looking out for someone else. He tells the redeemer that Naomi is selling land and he encourages the other man to buy it. It seems straightforward.
He then proceeds and introduces the language of redemption when talking about the land. It’s as if Boaz is reminding the redeemer and everyone else present of God’s laws concerning redemption. Land was not just bought and sold amongst Israelites. It was redeemed and there were specific laws governing that redemption. Just in case someone might be tempted to shirk God’s law, Boaz wants witnesses to the fact that they are dealing with an issue of redemption.
Even with that language, it looks as if Boaz is going to lose out since the redeemer says he will take the land. He even uses Boaz’s language, saying that he will “redeem it.”
I’m sure you noticed that in telling the redeemer about the land Boaz left out one small detail – Ruth.
This is shrewd planning on Boaz’s part. It’s as if Boaz says, “Oh by the way, did I tell you about Ruth?” Boaz knows human nature. He knows the man is excited about the land, excited about enlarging his estate. He is now going to make the man’s responsibilities clear in front of all those witnesses. He knows this man’s character. He knows this man is not prepared to accept those responsibilities. But Boaz is also above reproach in his dealings. No one can accuse him of not offering this man the right to buy the land.
Boaz goes on to explain the man’s lawful duty concerning Ruth, “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.” He says all of this in the presence of those ten witnesses. Everyone has been clearly reminded of the redeemer’s duty concerning Ruth. If Boaz can’t have Ruth he is making sure she will be properly cared for.
What does this language mean? As you may already know, the man would be required to marry Ruth with the hope that she would have children. He would be responsible to provide for her and all of her children. But most importantly, the inheritance would then pass to her children. The man would be spending money from his current children’s inheritance to purchase land that would then pass to Ruth’s children. Rather than enlarging his children’s holdings he is potentially jeopardizing their inheritance for Ruth’s children.
An aside here – Where has this guy been? He seems to know nothing of Ruth. Bethlehem is not a large place. Boaz had heard all about Ruth and how she had been caring for her mother-in-law. This guy’s lack of knowledge implies that he doesn’t know much about people who can’t directly benefit him. It also speaks again to Boaz’s uncommon care for the stranger and the outcast. And Boaz isn’t afraid to capitalize on his knowledge.
Once the other guy hears about Ruth he is no longer interested. Not only is he not interested but twice he says, “I cannot redeem it.” As much as he might like the land, he feels that his hands are tied. Isn’t it interesting that the man who was so concerned about his inheritance – concerned about preserving his own family line – is not even named in this book? He passes into history unnamed, whereas Boaz – who was willing to take risks to care for Ruth, a poor foreigner, a nobody – is going to have a very famous family line. God’s ways are remarkable, aren’t they?
Why did I just walk us through all of this? It continues to highlight Boaz’s character and the way he uses his abilities for good, but what does it have to do with us? As Ruth’s redeemer Boaz is a picture of our Redeemer.
When we have interactions with less than honorable men or when we hear stories from other women, we need to remind ourselves that our Redeemer is so very different.
Other men may not be taking appropriate initiative in our lives, but our Redeemer has taken initiative with us. Other men may not plan for our good, but our Redeemer did plan and does plan for our good.
That initiative and those plans began in the garden right after Adam and Eve are discovered in their sin. God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” He is making a promise to Adam and Eve. He is promising to send someone who can defeat Satan on their behalf.
He then takes initiative with Abraham, leading him to a land that he will one day give to his offspring as an inheritance. He shows Abraham the stars of the sky and tells him his descendants will be that numerous.
God continues his plan of redemption with Moses. God raises up Moses to redeem the people from their bondage in Egypt and to lead them to the Promised Land. Moreover, Moses’ miracles confirm that he is sent by God. They also prepare the people for another one, sent by God, who will do even greater miracles.
Even though the people continually sin in the desert, God is not done planning on their behalf. He raised up Joshua who led them into the promised land.
Even when the people reject God as their king, he anoints David as a good king for them. A king who was after his own heart. A king who ruled the people well and prepared them to receive an even better king.
Not only this but God gave the people the ten commandments and the sacrificial system. He gave them the law in order to make them aware of their own sin and therefore ready to receive a Savior. He gave them the sacrificial system to prepare them for Jesus, who would offer the perfect sacrifice on their behalf. One who could pay the penalty for their sin and act as a true redeemer.
Our savior has been planning to redeem a people for himself since the beginning of time. If you haven’t received that redemption, come to him today and receive his redemption. If you have received that redemption, remind yourself of how carefully he has planned and initiated redemption on your behalf.
A Certain Redemption
Let’s go back to Ruth for a moment. The great climax in our passage comes in verse 6 when the other redeemer says to Boaz “take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” At this point, Boaz is named the Redeemer and everything else is almost pro forma. There is lots of great stuff verses 7-12 but if we think about our plot diagram for a moment the climax comes in verse 6 – this is when the outcome was secured and verses 7-12 are the resolution.
There’s another parallel here with our personal redemption. For those of us who have submitted to Christ, he secured our redemption on the cross. His death and resurrection were the great climax of redemption, the great climax of history. We are in the resolution phase. Granted, this resolution phase has been going on for over 2,000 years. Those of us who accepted Christ many years ago have been living in a personal resolution phase for years.
But we can’t forget where we are headed. We are headed to a new setting. That new setting will not come on this earth but will come when we are taken to heaven and ultimately when Christ comes back again and creates a new heaven and a new earth.
Redeeming a Worthy Woman
Let’s head back to Ruth one more time. Boaz is redeeming a worthy woman. We’ve talked about this many times in our study already – she was willing to go with Naomi despite bleak prospects, willing to do the hard work of gleaning to provide for them, and willing to follow Naomi’s direction. We could go on.
Here the parallel with our redemption ends. We were not worthy women when we were redeemed. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Christ’s redemption is so much greater than Boaz’s redemption. Boaz’s redemption of Ruth was temporal, while Christ’s is an eternal, heart changing redemption. Boaz was motivated by Ruth’s righteous character. Nothing about our character recommended us for redemption. Christ redeemed us when we were unworthy. I’ve made references to dishonorable men several times. That offer of redemption is not just for us, it’s available to them as well. Christ offers redemption to all. And those who acknowledge their unworthiness and accept the offer of redemption are in the process of being made worthy.
Let’s let this beautiful story of Boaz’s redemption of Ruth cause us to praise our Savior even more for his carefully planned, costly redemption of us.