From Eden to the New Heavens and Earth: From Eden to the New Heavens and Earth: The Unfolding of Redemption in the Bible: Ruth

Sermon by Billy Joseph on January 27, 2010

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Wednesday Evening Prayer Meeting
January 27, 2010

Ruth

The Reverend Mr. Billy Joseph

The story of God’s people had gotten so bad and so ugly toward the end of Judges
that if that’s where you’d stopped, you would wonder “What is God doing?
Is God there? Is God at
work?” Now we know God is at work
and we know that He is at work in all of redemption bringing all things
together. And as He brings all
these things together they’re brought together in light of Genesis 3:15.
I’m going to read that again because this whole series is based on this
passage as it’s demonstrated in all the books that we’re going to be reading.
So if you have your Bible kind of hold your place there in Ruth but flip
over to Genesis 3:15 and hear these words again.

This is God, cursing the serpent, and in cursing the serpent is our salvation:

“I will put enmity” the Lord says “between you and the woman and between your
offspring and her offspring. He
shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”

Now we’re going to look at that as we go through Ruth, but before we do, let’s
get an overview of Ruth so that we have an idea of generally what happens.
How many of you are familiar with Ruth, raise you hand?
Now you see that’s better than the
Silmarillion,
isn’t it?
Okay. It’s a great short
book, gentlemen, for you to read, but it’s a book of course about a love story.
It’s not just about this love story, but the love story is such of a
nature that it’s an easy read. It’s
easy to read because it has basically three characters.
It has Naomi, who some commentators say that the whole story is really
about Naomi, and I kind of lean in that direction.
And then there’s Ruth from
Moab
who the book is named after. But
then there’s Boaz who is probably in, I think, in redemptive history is probably
the most important person in the book of Ruth.
So let’s look real quickly.
Now it’s only four chapters so you can kind of skim with me.
We’ll kind of work through each chapter a little bit.
Four chapters. There’s an
introduction, there’s a conclusion, and then there’s four sections in the midst
of the book of Ruth.

The introduction you find in verses 1 through 5.
You see there it’s “in the days when the judges ruled there was a famine
in the land and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of
Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.”
So there is a person from
Bethlehem who, when a famine comes, leaves and
goes to Moab
where there’s more food. He’s
taking care of his family. His
name, as you read in the next verse, is Elimelech.
His name basically means, if I remember right, “God is King.”
Great name. Great name
particularly in light of the fact that you’ve just waltzed through Judges and
you keep wondering — is God — you know God’s in charge, but in the practical way
that the people are living you keep going, “Where is God?
Why didn’t He do something?
Why isn’t He bringing a king into this picture?”
And so here you have a man whose name means “God is King” and he and his
wife Naomi, whose name interestingly means “delight” — the meanings of names are
sometimes the most interesting parts to me of the Scriptures because you get the
meanings of these names and all of a sudden you see, “Oh, wow.”
But we’ll keep going.

They move. As soon as they move her
husband dies. It’s interesting.
He leaves Bethlehem because he’s afraid he’s going to
die from starvation, goes to where there’s plenty of food, and he dies.
He goes. His sons, they
marry Moabite women. They marry
Moabite women not forbidden in the Scriptures.
Moabites were only forbidden to be worshipping with the Jews but the
Moabites, here they are in Moab, and the
two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, they marry Orpah and they marry Ruth.
In ten years, both the sons have died.
That’s the introduction. And
you see there in verse 5, “they live there about ten years and both Mahlon and
Chilion died so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.”
She’s a great picture of a submissive wife because she follows her
husband even in a direction that she might not have liked.

The first section after the introduction is we see the return to
Bethlehem.
Naomi, she there with her daughters-in-law, realizes that she hears — through
God’s providence — she hears that there is now bread, there is now grain, back
in Judah and she begins to move back in that direction.
She says in verse 6 there, “she arose with her daughters-in-law to return
from the country of Moab for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the
Lord had visited His people and had given them food.”
And so she is starting to make this trip.
She begins to set out for the place with her two daughters-in-law and
they return with her. But she
begins to think about what that means for her daughters — her daughter-in-laws —
and she encourages them to return home.
She encourages them to return home — why?
Well, she has no sons, she has no husband, no possibility of having
children. In the
land
of Israel, when a brother
died and left his wife a widow then his other brother would marry.
Well, because Naomi didn’t have any children, there was no way that these
two daughters-in-law would be able to have husbands.

And you’ll notice in her words to them that she’s very concerned.
Look at verse 11 — “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me?
Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
Turn back, my daughters, and go your way, for I am too old to have a
husband. If I should say I have
hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you
therefore wait until they’re grown?
Would you therefore refrain from marrying?
No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that
the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
She is acknowledging the situation that she’s in and Orpah, one of her
daughters-in-law, goes ahead and goes back, but Ruth stays with her.

In all my years of counseling college students who were about to get married,
one of the most surprising things was how many young ladies were about to get
married and thought that the biggest problem with their in-laws would be their
sons having problems with their parents.
They were always surprised when I told them, “No, most of the time the
biggest problem is daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law because you can’t have
two queens in one house. And when
your mother-in-law comes to visit, she sets things up the way she’s used to in
her kitchen, but you’ve set your kitchen up the way you want it to be.”
Here we see a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law who love each other.
But we also see a daughter-in-law who’s been converted because of her
relationship with her mother-in-law.
Because look at what Ruth says when Naomi says to her in verse 15, “See,
your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after you
sister-in-law.” But Ruth says what?
“Do not urge me to leave you” — and you all have heard this — “Do not
urge me to leave you or to return from following you for where you go I will go
and where you lodge I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people and your God my God.
Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.
May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me
from you.” What a relationship
between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law for her daughter-in-law not only
to acknowledge that she has come to know the Lord, but to bind herself to her
mother-in-law in this way.

Ruth is a great picture here of counting the costs when you come to Christ.
Many of us came to Christ because we are covenant children and covenant
children don’t always have to count the costs in some ways because they always
knew about Christ. They knew that
He was there. Now when they meet
themselves sometimes they have to learn to count the costs, and they see their
sin and they know what they’re like and they turn to Christ.
But counting the costs is one of those things who, every person who comes
to Christ, needs to be encouraged to do.
And look what Ruth does. She
could have gone back, she was still young, could have found a husband, and lived
among her people. And yet she
chooses to go live with her mother-in-law in a situation that could in many ways
be a desperate situation — they might not have enough food, they might not live,
they might not make it. So this
first chapter paints this picture of their return.

It ends in the first section, the end of chapter 1, it ends with them returning
and all the folks that see Naomi and recognize her they see her, they’re not
real sure, but here’s Naomi. Naomi
says to them in verse 20, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty
has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me
back empty. Why call me Naomi, when
the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon
me?” Now think about that.
I went out Naomi, “delight;” I come back Mara, “bitterness.”
And yet at the same time she’s not complaining about God in the way an
unbeliever might. She’s complaining
about God and acknowledging that He has brought this one.
He’s in charge. She’s not asking,
“Why has He done is?” She’s
accepted the reality of the Scriptures that He has done it, that He’s in charge
of everything, that He was in charge of the famine that came, that He was in
charge of the plenty that came after ten years.
She’s acknowledging that.
And then notice in verse 22 at the end of verse 22 — “And they came back to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley
harvest” — very important because then we go to our next section.

The next section is, Ruth encounters Boaz.
Ruth, very industrious, knows that the Scripture has given permission for
those without food, those who are poor, to glean in the fields, and she goes and
begins to glean in the fields.
Almost immediately, “Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi, ‘Let me go into the
fields and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find
favor.’” And she goes out.
Now look at verse 3 of chapter 2 — “So she set out and went to glean in
the fields after the reapers and she happened to come to the part of the field
belonging to Boaz who was of the clan of Elimelech.”
She just happens to. I love
those kind of statements in the Scripture.
It’s just like, you remember, as Joseph was looking for his brothers he
comes across a man who knows that his brothers have gone from, let’s see,
Shechem to Dothan or Dothan to Shechem, I never can remember, but he tells
Joseph, “Oh they’re down there.
They’re not where you’re looking for them.”
How did that man know? God
was in charge. She doesn’t walk
into that field, but here she goes to the field.

And there in the fields she hears Boaz say the very first thing, the first thing
that’s recorded of Boaz. Look at
what Boaz says first, verse 4 — “Behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and he said to
the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you,’ and they answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’”
This man was a man who was concerned about his workers.
He greeted them, the folks that worked for him, the folks that helped him
in the field. He was as concerned
about him and how they were doing.
This is just a wonderful man to see and look at because he is the epitome of
Jesus as we look at him. He then
sees, he recognizes that Ruth is there, he asks who she is.
She had already asked permission from his foreman to work in the field,
to glean in the field, and then he goes and gives her added permission to do
others. “Listen my daughter” — look
in verse 8 — “Now listen my daughter, do not glean in another field or leave
this one, but keep close to my young women.
Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them.
Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?
And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink.”
He even makes sure later that the men leave out more so that she can get
enough.

The first day, guess who much she gleans?
Now it says an ephah. Now,
I’m going to give you a way to visualize what an ephah was, okay?
An ephah is the equivalent of eleven two liter bottles of Coca-Cola.
You got me? You with me?
Most of you men go to the store for your wives you know, you pick up two
or three. If you come back with
eleven, it really meant the eleventh item on the list, not eleven cokes, okay?
Eleven. That much grain she
was able to pick up that first day.
And it impressed the workers. They
noticed how she worked hard. She
just rested a little it talks about.
And so she returns and Naomi begins to say, “Where did you glean today?
Where did you work? Blessed
is the man who took notice of you.”
And then she tells him who it is, that it was Boaz.
And Naomi immediately remembers the rest of the Scriptures, Deuteronomy
and Leviticus where it talks about the kinsman redeemer, that he is the one who
is related to Elimelech and that he is the one that by Biblical law should be
the one to redeem the property of Elimelech and to redeem the line of Mahlon who
was the husband of Ruth. She
recognizes it and it changes how she begins to advise Ruth.

We come to the next section where we have Ruth’s visit to the threshing floor,
so go to chapter 3. In chapter 3
you see there Naomi recommends that her daughter-in-law go there to the
threshing floor where they’ve been working all day and that she lay down at the
feet of Boaz after he’s asleep, that she kind of hide off in the distance and
not make herself known and then that she come and do that.
Now, it’s a weird thing. It
looks like an indecent type of situation.
It looks like she is there and when he wakes up and sees her, notice her
response. In chapter 3 verse 9 he
said, “Who are you?” and she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant.
Spread your wings over your servant for you are a redeemer.”
Now Boaz had been good to her and Boaz probably knew — he did know — that
he had a responsibility through Elimelech, but she is coming to him and claiming
and asking him to be the redeemer.

What is interesting, if you go back to Deuteronomy and you read in Deuteronomy
and you read that the brother is to take over for the brother who died and marry
the wife, if the brother doesn’t do it, the woman who is widowed has the right
to go and force the situation. It’s
a protection for the widows. And so
when she says this, this isn’t a seduction, this doesn’t have a sexual
connotation and overtone to it.
This is her saying, “You are the one God’s Word has said are to be my redeemer.
You’re the one who has the responsibility to do this.”
And what is interesting is, Boaz recognizes it, acknowledges it, but also
acknowledges that there’s someone else in the line that she wasn’t aware of.
And so Naomi’s advice to her daughter-in-law to go and lay at the feet of
Boaz is very Biblical as it calls them to obey God’s Word.
These aren’t people just doing this because it was a habit, they were
obeying the Word of God in the process.

And if you look, look at Boaz’s response in verse 10 — “May you be blessed by
the Lord, my daughter. You have
made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after
younger men, whether poor or rich.
And now, my daughter, do not fear.
I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are
a worthy woman. And now it is true
that I am a redeemer. Yet there is
a redeemer nearer than I. Remain
tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it.
But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will
redeem you. Lie down until the
morning.” And then notice what else
he says. And so he is saying to
her, “Look, here is what God’s Word says, here are my duties, but there is
someone that is the closer.” And so
what you’re seeing in Boaz is one who is saying he’s already seen Ruth, he’s
interested in her, he’s helped her, and now he is in a situation where she is
claiming a relation with him and yet he is still staying consistent with the
Word of God and what God calls him to do.
He’s not rushing ahead.

And then look at Naomi and her response in verse 18 — “She replied, ‘Wait, my
daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest
but will settle the matter today.’”
In other words, you have Naomi trusting God and trusting her kinsman redeemer,
Boaz, to do his duty.

And in the last chapter we see Boaz doing his duty, but Boaz demonstrates that
he’s thinking things through, because what does he do?
As he approaches the kinsman redeemer who has the prior claim, as he
approaches him, he doesn’t approach him about Ruth, he only approaches him about
redeeming the property. And the man
says, “Well, I’ll redeem it.” And
then he says, “Oh by the way, you also have to marry this Moabitess, Ruth, who
is Mahlon’s wife.” And he can’t do
it. He doesn’t want to do it.
And that opens the door then for Boaz to do it.
And as Boaz does it then you come and you see these words — listen to the
words of the people, the elders, as they make a pronouncement about the legality
of this. In verse 11 of chapter 4
it says, “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 of 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.’”

Now that is really interesting because Judah and Tamar and Perez the son born of
them, was a case where Judah didn’t
fulfill the duties of kinsman redeemer.
He didn’t give his youngest son, when Tamar’s husband died, he didn’t
give his next son to her — forced her to fool him playing a prostitute and then
he had a child by her himself and that child was Perez.
So even as the town is blessing them and blessing their marriage, you are
again reminded that the people of God are not a perfect people.

And then it comes to this. Look at
verse 13 — “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.
And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a
son.” Why?
Because God blessed it. So
you have God working in this family in
Bethlehem
when all this other stuff in Judges is going on.
So even though Judges gives you this picture of the decline of
Israel, yet in the midst of it, God continues
to preserve His people. He
continues to hold them and to deal with them.
And then look at Naomi how she ends up here in verse 14 — “Then the women
said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a
redeemer, and may his name be renowned in
Israel!
He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of old age, for
your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has
given birth to him.’” In other
words, she is looking at her grandson as the redeemer.
Does that sound familiar?
“Enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed” — that
when Eve had her first son, she rejoices because here is God’s salvation coming
in my seed, in my children. Well
look how the book ends in its conclusion in verses 18 and following — “Now these
are the generations of Perez” — and it goes on down and tells who all these are,
and then it ends with – Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse
fathered David.”

In other words, as we look at this passage, with the history around it, the
bigger story going downhill, you still see God being faithful to provide the
redeemer, to provide the king, the one who would help crush Satan’s head.
Because remember that’s how Genesis begins — “I will put enmity between
you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring.”
Elimelech dies. Mahlon dies.
Chilion dies. For Naomi
things are getting bad. It’s as
though everything is going against her, and yet in that suffering that she has
to go through, her hope is still in God, and yet through, though she is bruised,
though God’s people are bruised, they’re still pointing to the Lord Jesus who is
the one who will crush the head of the serpent.

Boaz is one of those interesting people.
You really can’t find any sin mentioned of him.
You can’t see – he is a good type of the Lord Jesus, a representative of
the Lord Jesus. He is, yes, a
sinner. He’s not the perfect
redeemer. He could only redeem
Naomi and Ruth. The Lord Jesus is
the one who redeems all His people, who does not fail in any way to save
everyone that the Father has given Him.
He is the picture, Boaz is the picture of the redeemer to come.
The one who would also be the King and rule over us.
The one who would be our prophet, who would proclaim to us the Word of
God so that we might please our Father because He has already loved us.
But also our Priest who would make us perfect in God’s sight, taking our
sin upon Himself and giving to us His righteousness.

And so in the book of Ruth, though the book of Judges paints a downhill picture,
when it deals with this family you see the God who is the God of redemption
redeeming His people in their daily lives.
This is a picture of what?
If nothing else, it’s the picture of harvest time.
It’s the picture of daily life, of them struggling to make it.
It’s God redeeming His people, not just in the big picture, but in the
day to day realities. And for us,
that’s where Ruth ought to be an encouragement — that when everything around us
is overwhelming and doesn’t look good, God is still at work in the lives of His
people.

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank You for Ruth. We
thank You for the reality that You are our Redeemer.
Here we have a picture through Boaz of a very good man, made good by your
grace and mercy, who acts as the redeemer, the kinsman redeemer, who not only
buys back the property, but also marries Ruth.
We praise You for that picture, for Lord Jesus, we know that You have
married Yourself to us. We are Your
bride. And so we praise You and
thank You that You are the One who has made us and clothed us in bright raiment,
that we are clothed with the righteousness of our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
And so we pray these things in His name.
Amen.

Let’s stand.

And now may grace, mercy and peace, from God the Father, God the Son, and God
the Holy Spirit, be and abide with each one of you both now and forever.
Amen.

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