Now please take a copy of God’s Word in your hands and turn with me in it to the book of Ruth, chapter 4; the book of Ruth, chapter 4. We’ll read from the thirteenth verse to the end of the chapter. Before we do that, let’s bow our heads as we pray. Let’s pray together.
Open our eyes, O Lord, that we might see marvelous things out of Your Law, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is the Word of Almighty God. Ruth chapter 4 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. 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 your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.”
Amen, and we give thanks to God that He has spoken to us in His holy Word.
Hardwired for Redemption
It’s become fashionable today in movie scripts for there to be no happy ending. The romantic comedy, you know the one, where boy meets girl, they fall for one another, then they break up, and then it used to be that the movie would end with the relationship being restored and they would live happily ever after. But nowadays they break up and the movie just ends. I hate that! Don’t you feel cheated? It’s like a sneeze that never quite arrives! You know, there’s a big build up and then nothing! Of course it may just be because we feel we’ve wasted a couple of perfectly good hours watching a story that goes nowhere, but I think there’s a deeper reason that we find stories like that so unsatisfying. I think, you see, we are hardwired for redemption. We are hardwired for redemption. We want stories with complete narrative arcs that move from crisis to a completed resolution. It may not be cool or edgy or post-modern, but we still love a happy ending, don’t we? We want stories with complete, redemptive arcs. It’s one of the reasons that the book of Ruth is so compelling. It does not leave us hanging, wondering whatever will happen. There is a complete resolution to the crisis that was introduced, you recall, at the beginning of the story. Actually, as we’ll see, the resolution to this story transcends our expectations in wonderful ways. People sometimes say the difference between myth and fact is that in myth the boundaries of what is possible are all taken away and so the redemptive resolution to the story can be fantastical and imaginative and surprising. But actually the real difference between myth and fact is that the redemptive resolution of a make-believe story is always limited by the imagination of the author, however fantastical it may be. But in a factual account of real, divine redemption breaking into human experience like the account that is before us here in the book of Ruth, the redemptive resolution always exceeds our wildest imaginings. It is altogether more wonderful.
So with that in mind would you look with me at this last section of the book of Ruth? We read it together a moment ago. You will remember from last time that Boaz has managed to secure from the other, nearer relative, the rights to redeem a plot of land belonging to Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, Ruth’s father-in-law. And along with that land he has also required the right of redemption to Ruth and Naomi as well. He’s now free at last, in other words, to marry Ruth and raise an heir to Elimelech and Mahlon, Ruth’s dead husband, according to the ancient custom of levirate marriage. The way was clear finally, after all that Naomi and Ruth have been through, for their story to end not in sorrow but in great joy. And we pick up the narrative as the final resolution to that drama at last takes place. And as we watch all the loose ends of the story finally being tied off, we’re actually being taught here about the nature of the salvation that God provides.
I. Salvation is Marriage
And the first thing to see is that salvation is not a mere transaction; it is a marriage. Salvation’s not a mere transaction; it is a marriage. 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.” The language there, “Boaz took Ruth,” highlights an aspect of the marriage ritual in those days, Deuteronomy chapter 20 verse 7, where the bridegroom brings his bride into his own home. He took Ruth into his house. The elders refer to that part of the marriage custom back in verse 11. “May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel.” Boaz has publically secured the legal right to marry Ruth and now by taking her into his own home he completes the ritual. It’s interesting to notice that as the story has progressed toward this climactic moment, Ruth herself has gone on a journey, not just a physical and geographical journey from Moab to Bethlehem, but a journey in terms of her fundamental status and standing. In chapter 2 verse 10 she referred to herself as a foreigner, a stranger, an alien. Then in chapter 2 verse 13 she uses a word for slave or servant or even slave. Then in chapter 3 verse 9 she is a maidservant. And now at last in chapter 4 verse 13 she has become a wife. Ruth has been utterly transformed, do you see, from an outsider and a foreigner and an alien, to a slave, to a maidservant, to a wife. This Moabite girl is likened, remember in the blessing of the elders back in verses 11 and 12, to the matriarchs of Israel. Everything about Ruth, do you see, has changed forever.
And it’s vital that we understand how it is that that transformation has taken place. How has her story been so utterly and pervasively reversed? Her story has been reversed because Boaz has married her. Everything has changed because Boaz has become her husband. And while the levirate laws and the customs of ancient Israel no longer obtain today, we no longer have kinsman-redeemers, we still understand something about that reality even in our own lives and experience, don’t we? The fact is, there are very few things more life altering than a marriage. When a man and a woman are joined in marriage they cease to be what they were. “The two become one flesh,” the Scripture says. It is a union that is utterly transformative. And those of us who are married have to say that we are who we are, in no small measure, because of the profound bond that we share with our spouses, which is precisely why in the Bible marriage is a key, perhaps the key metaphor, to describe the way God loves Israel and Christ loves His Church. As Paul puts is in Ephesians 5:25 and following, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing of water with the Word, that He might present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound.” And Paul says, “I am speaking about Christ and the Church.”
Throughout the story of Ruth we’ve found in Boaz a picture of the perfect Redeemer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. And here we learn how it is that our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, takes us from being unwelcome outsiders, like Ruth the Moabitess, and brings us to belong in the central stream of the life of the people of God. He does it by taking a foreigner and making of her His wife. Christ saves His Church by loving her and giving Himself up for her to sanctify and cleanse her, make her splendid and radiant, holy and without blemish. That is how Christ has loved you, not from a distance, but as a bridegroom who gives himself for his bride. When you read back in verse 1 through 11 of chapter 4 of the formal transaction between Boaz and the other redeemer and the elders in the city gate where he secured the right to marry Ruth, it might well have seemed to you like a cold, legal business, hardly the most romantic preparations for a marriage. And it may at times be tempting to think of the Christian Gospel itself in similar terms - a desiccated, dry abstraction; a cold, legal business; a thing of doctrines and duties and nothing more. But the truth is, believer in Christ, you have been redeemed because you have been beloved by the Bridegroom Himself who has pursued you and taken you into His house and made you His own. You are a Christian because Jesus Christ has given His life to redeem you for Himself. “From heaven He came and sought her, to be His holy bride. With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.” That is how Jesus loves the Church.
And as you trace the satisfying, complete redemptive narrative arc of the book of Ruth, the truth may nevertheless still be that you still feel that the narrative arc of your own storyline remains unresolved. Believer though you are, wedded to the Bridegroom though you may, as you examine your own life and experience you may feel that so many of the loose ends, as it were, are unresolved. It is unsatisfying; it is an incomplete story. Let me say to you, if you have the greater than Boaz for your Redeemer, you can have utter security in the knowledge that one day soon your Bridegroom will come to take you into His house and make all things new. “Then I saw a new heavens and a new earth,” the apostle John writes, “and I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with man! He will dwell with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away!’” That is the promise of the Bridegroom to you. That is the promise of the Bridegroom. And as we watch all the loose ends of the story here finally coming together, what we are seeing is a picture of the way God will bring all the loose ends of the Biblical storyline to its own perfect resolution. And as you see the loose ends of your own life remaining unresolved, find in the storyline of the book of Ruth a reminder, a narrative promise, that one day soon the Bridegroom will come and He will keep His promise and He will be to you a perfect, a perfect and complete Redeemer. We are told here that, in the first place, salvation is not a mere transaction. Salvation is a marriage.
II. Salvation is Personal
And then secondly, we need to see here not just that salvation is more than a transaction, it is a marriage, we are taught here that salvation is more than a mere idea; it is profoundly personal. Look again at verse 13. “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.” That is a stunning statement that underscores for us the importance of the child who was born. In fact, there are at least four ways in which the narrator here highlights the importance of the child being born. First of all, that language, “the LORD gave her conception,” there’s only one other time in the book of Ruth where “the LORD” is the direct subject of a verb. It is back at the very beginning of the story in chapter 1 verse 6 where, you remember, Naomi and Ruth are far away in Moab and they’ve resolved to return to Bethlehem and “the LORD has visited His people and given them bread.” Here are two constructions that are designed at the beginning and the end of the story to echo one another, as though to highlight that something of similar significance that’s happening at the end as began to happen at the beginning of this story. The coming of this child is like another divine visitation. This child is no ordinary child, and we’ve seen hints and allusions to that in the blessing of the elders in the earlier part of the chapter. There’s something of moment and destiny about this child.
Then in the second place, notice that when the text says that “the LORD gave her conception and she bore a son,” that is the precise construction there, exactly, “the LORD gave her conception,” is only used twice elsewhere in the whole of Scripture. Most significantly, one of those places is Genesis chapter 3 verse 16 where we’re told that the Lord curses Eve and tells her that she will conceive and bring forth a child in pain and yet one day her son will crush the head of the serpent. Ruth here is like a second Eve, a new Eve, and her son carries the weight of the covenant promises of God.
Then in the third place, notice that it is Ruth after ten years of a prior marriage to Mahlon and has no children, who is said here to be given conception. The Lord intervenes and gives her a child who was childless. And so she takes her place, doesn’t she, alongside the heroines of Scripture whose children were given when all earthly hope of childbearing was gone because their children were children of significance in furthering the advance of the plan of God for the salvation of His people. Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and especially Mary the mother of our Savior. Again, this child born to Ruth is a significant child.
And finally, remember that although Ruth receives this blessing as a gift of grace to her from God, she names the child, or rather the women of the town name the child, in a significant manner, not just because of his significance to Ruth and Naomi but because of his significance to them all. They call him Obed. Verse 17, “They named him Obed.” Obed means “servant.” Now put all of that together. You see what we’re being taught here. Here is a child who is coming as the result of divine visitation whose conception portrays Ruth as a new Eve and places Ruth among the mothers of Israel’s heroes. And his name is servant! If Boaz is a picture of Christ as the Bridegroom as he marries Ruth, so too very clearly is his son in whom the hope of redemption is fully realized. Obed directs our gaze away from himself to Christ, to the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the baby of Bethlehem in whom God visits the world. Jesus is Eve’s Son who crushes the serpent’s head. Jesus is the Son of the virgin to whom the Lord gave conception and in Isaiah 53, we see very clearly, Jesus is the servant of the Lord upon whom the Lord has laid the iniquities of us all and by whose stripes we are healed. It’s impossible not to be thinking about Christ if you read this part of Ruth with care.
But just in case you somehow missed the signposts to Jesus thus far, the narrator drops all pretense at subtlety, stops playing a finesse game, and picks up a sledge hammer and pounds home the hope of a king to save Israel with unmistakable clarity as the chapter comes to a conclusion, doesn’t he? Verses 17 to 22. Look at the genealogy. “Obed was the father of Jesse. Jessue was the father of David. These are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” What is God doing in the story of the book of Ruth? He was certainly taking a Moabitess and making of her a child of God, that’s true, but He was doing much, much more. He was at work to secure the birth of Obed, the servant, whose arrival ensures the preservation of the line from which David would come, Israel’s great king, and he would be the one from whom the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ would descend. What is the book of Ruth, really? Isn’t it the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Servant-King, who redeems His people by means of the cross? The genealogy is here designed to point us, to rivet our gaze, upon the children, the child of the child of the child of the child of the union between Boaz and Ruth who would be the Servant, the Savior of the world.
I recently read a moving missionary story that highlights I think wonderfully how the genealogy with which Ruth concludes ought to function for us. Des and Jenny Oatridge were Bible translators. They were working in Papua New Guinea among the remote Binumarien tribe. They spent ten years living and working among them, witnessing for Christ, reducing the Binumarien language to writing for the first time and then beginning to produce portions of Scripture in their native tongue. In all those years, however, they had very little success in winning anyone to faith in Jesus. But one day all of that changed. They just finished the translation of the gospel of Matthew but they had forgotten to translate the opening seventeen verses. They worked with a native assistant, a man called Sisia, who assisted them and helped them in the translation efforts. And to their surprise, that day Sisia sailed through the translation of the passage. He translated it with an eagerness and without any hint of boredom as they actually expected him to show as he wrestled with the genealogy of Jesus. And when he was finished he stood and declared, “There’s going to be an important meeting tonight in Nameepi’s house, and I want you to come and bring what we’ve done today.” When Des arrived later that night in Nameepi’s house, and I’m quoting here from the account:
“The house was packed and overflowing. There was an odd sense of tension in the air that made him nervous. He was led to a seat on the floor right in the center of the room beside the fire and Sisia immediately spoke up, ‘I’ve asked Mata’a Des to come and read what we have translated this morning. I can’t tell it to you. I want you to hear it for yourselves.’ Then the room became extraordinarily still. Des was conscious that every eye is fixed upon him. He cleared his throat and he began to read. ‘These are the ancestors of Jesus Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob, Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah.’ Des couldn’t look up. His eyes are glued to the text. He’s trying to read as naturally as Sisia had spoken the sentences to him earlier that morning, but the tense atmosphere in the room is making it difficult. He did not see Fofondai’s eyes grow wider and rounder as did Maraa’aro’s and several others near him. He could sense, though, that every word he spoke was being grabbed and critically examined by his listeners. He became conscious that Yawo was moving near to him; so were A’aaso and Aaka and Yaa’a. He was aware that Sao watched his lips unblinkingly. As he continued reading more and more, people began pressing. The people from the other rooms were pushing into the central room. Fofo was so close that his beard almost touched the written page. Yawo’s arm was rammed right against Des’. Des suddenly felt scared. He had a sense of being crushed. It was not only the pressure of bodies; the uncanny silence. It seemed that not a dog barked, not a baby cried, not a person released his breath. He didn’t know if the list of names had offended some ritual taboo about which he knew nothing. If so, and the people were angry, that it was being so blatantly publicized, he was in an awkward position. There was no way of escape, hemmed in as he was. And with the atmosphere so charged he felt he dared not ask a question. There are volatile people; they could erupt in fury so easily.
And so he just kept on reading, ‘Matthan was the father of Jacob, Jacob was the father of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus the Messiah. There are fourteen generations from Abraham to King David and fourteen from King David’s time to the exile in Babylon and fourteen from the exile to Christ.’ They had heard him out. Des raised his eyes to look at those within a breath of his face and saw not anger but incredulity. ‘Why didn’t you tell us all this before?’ Yaa’a demanded. Des recoiled instinctively as if he had been struck. ‘No one bothers to right down the ancestors of spirit beings,’ Fofondai stated. ‘It’s only real people who record the genealogical table,’ A’aaso added. ‘Jesus must be a real person,’ someone else cried, his voice ringing with astonishment. Then everyone seemed to be talking at once. ‘Fourteen generations. That’s two hands and a foot from Abraham to King David. Too more hands and a foot from the time of the calibus, the captivity, and another two hands and a foot until Jesus’ time. That’s a very, very long time. This ancestry goes back further than ours! Yes, none of ours goes back two hands and a foot three times! Jesus must have been a real man on this earth then. This is not just white man’s magic. What the mission has taught us is real. Yes, real.’
Des pondered on that as he made his way home. The ancient list of names, which he’d always found boring and pretty well meaningless, had ratified Jesus as a real person to his unlettered friends. He possessed a genealogy like theirs. To the Binumariens, the truth of the Scriptures was now beyond all doubt.”
God was at work when He sent Naomi to Moab with Elimelech and He was at work when He brought Naomi and Ruth back, broken and bereft and alone in grief and bitterness. He was at work when He brought Ruth that day into the field that just happened to be the field of Boaz. He was at work that day when Boaz met the other redeemer in the city gate. And He was at work when Boaz married Ruth and conceived Obed and at work when Obed fathered Jesse and Jesse fathered David. In it all, God was working, do you see, to give you Jesus, great David’s greater Son. The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the first part of which is written right here at the end of the book of Ruth, functions like the landing lights that illuminate the runway at an airport at night for the planes to land safely. Each generation in the genealogy, is like one of those lights, leading you step by step by step til the landing zone til you come safely to the Lord Jesus Christ. It directs us to Him. It turns your gaze there. Salvation is not a mere transaction; it’s a marriage, a union. But neither is it mere data, a mere idea, a worldview or a concept. It is profoundly personal. To know the saving grace of God is to know Jesus Christ. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that you may know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” Whatever your level of knowledge, however committed to living morally, however religiously observant you may be, the great pressing question the book of Ruth demands that we all answer is this - Do you know Jesus Christ? Do you know Him? He is real! And salvation is found in fellowship, in connection with Him.
III. Salvation is Comprehensive
Salvation is no mere transaction; it’s a marriage. Salvation is no mere idea; it is personal. It is a person! Now finally, salvation is not superficial; it is comprehensive. Look at verses 14 and 15. Notice how the women of the town pronounce their blessing on Naomi. “The LORD has not left her,” they say, “without a redeemer whose name will be famous in Israel! He will restore her life and nourish her old age.” Her redeemer is the child born to Ruth. The baby Boaz and Ruth produce is the catalyst for the final and complete reversal of Naomi’s brokenness and the certain provider of Naomi’s future. What will this union with Christ that’s likened in Scripture to a marriage do for you? What is it that knowing Jesus personally provides? Look at the passage. Obed, the servant, will redeem Naomi by restoring her life, nourishing her in old age. What a delightful picture of the complete reversal of Naomi’s fortunes. You remember the outline of her story? She went away from Bethlehem with her husband and her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion in tow. She went away full, she said. But after ten catastrophic years in Moab when Elimelech and their two boys all perish, she came back empty. “Do not call me Naomi,” which means pleasant, “call me Mara, bitter, for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me.” And we’ve watched as God superintended Ruth and Boaz’s lives bringing them together. And all the time we’ve watched as He’s been in pursuit of Naomi and Naomi’s heart, also wooing her and winning her back to Himself. We’ve seen hope rekindle in her heart and we’ve seen her missteps and her wrong turns and then we’ve seen her come at the end of chapter 3 to a place of total trust in the work of another, in the work of a redeemer, in Boaz instead of in her own efforts. And now as the book comes to a conclusion, we see God lavishing restoration and nourishment upon her. “He will restore your life and nourish you in your old age.”
Isn’t that what the Lord Jesus Christ gives us? He said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” “This is the promise He has made to us,” 1 John 2 verse 25, “This is the promise - eternal life.” Jesus is the restorer of your life, the nourisher of our years, the fountain of living water, the vine in union with whom the branches all have their life, apart from whom we can do nothing. The salvation Jesus gives isn’t superficial, surface change. It’s not an addition to your life as it now is. No, it is new life, renewed life, renovated life, and it is available only in Him. We’ve watched God the Matchmaker leading Ruth into the arms of Boaz and Naomi back to Himself, but the final purpose of God in the book of Ruth, the final purpose of God in the book of Ruth is to lead you into the arms of Jesus Christ, to bring you to your Bridegroom, and to make you say, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine! Christ is all in all to me, fairer than ten thousand!” Do you have Christ? Do you know Christ? Is your Christianity an idea, an abstraction, a moral code? If it is, it is an empty shell and a worthless imitation. It is Christ to whom the book of Ruth points us. He is all in all and all you could ever need - the restorer of your life and the nourisher of your years. May the Lord bring us together to Him. Let us pray.
Our Father, we bless you for the Lord Jesus, who is the Servant upon whom You have laid the iniquity of us all and by whose stripes we are healed. Thank You that He is the Bridegroom who loves us and has given Himself for us in union with whom we live. Thank You that He is the renovator of our lives, in whom there is renewal, the restorer of our life, the nourisher of our years. Would You bring us to Him, lead us to Him? The great purpose of all Scripture is to take us by the hand and bring us to Him and keep us close there. O Lord, work that great work in our lives, even now, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
©2015 First Presbyterian Church.
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