Boaz: A Willing Redeemer
February 19, 2012 / No. 3607
Dear Radio Friends,
Today we come again to the book of Ruth. We are in chapter 3 and we will be looking at verses 11-18. In the earlier verses of the chapter we looked at the marriage proposal of Ruth to Boaz. Naomi, out of her concern for Ruth, says in verse 1: “Shall I not seek rest for thee?” And she means in marriage. She has a plan for Ruth to go where Boaz is sleeping at the threshingfloor and to request of him that he fulfill the responsibility of a near kinsman by marrying her and redeeming the land of Naomi. So Ruth goes out and finds the place where Boaz is sleeping. She lies down near his feet. She lifts his blanket to cover herself. According to verse 9, this is a symbolic gesture. She says, “I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” She is not simply asking Boaz to share his blanket because she is cold, but to provide security and protection for her as the near kinsman.
As we looked at this proposal, we answered the question: Was this appropriate behavior? What we saw was that it was the widow’s right, by the law of God, to initiate the kinsman request if nothing was happening. We saw also the godliness of both Ruth and Boaz. There is no indiscretion here. Instead Boaz praises Ruth for her desire to raise up the name of the family of Elimelech and he blesses her in the name of Jehovah.
At this point of the story there is some suspense. How will Boaz respond? Is he willing to fulfill the role of the kinsman/redeemer? Ruth has gone out and she has made herself vulnerable. There is the danger here of rejection, of rumor, and of a scandal. How will Boaz respond?
Today we are going to look at the response of Boaz to Ruth’s request. There are three things that we want to see in these verses. First, the willingness of Boaz; second, the godliness of Boaz; and third, the patience of Ruth. As we do this we remember to look through this story to Jehovah, the God of providence, and to Jesus, the true Redeemer who is pictured here in Boaz.
You have here, first, the willingness of Boaz. That willingness is expressed in verse 11 when Boaz says to Ruth: “Now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest.” Boaz is saying, Whatever it takes, Ruth, I am willing to do it.
But there is an obstacle. In verse 12 we find that there is a nearer kinsman, a closer relative who has the right of redemption before Boaz. Maybe this is a detail that Ruth, being new to Bethlehem, does not know about. But Boaz knows about it, and he is telling Ruth: “Legally, I cannot do this. I’m willing to take on this responsibility, but it’s not my right. There is a closer relative who has this right.”
Is this a disappointment for Ruth, a setback? Probably it is. And that is why Boaz says in verse 13: “If he [that is, the nearer kinsman] will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth.” Understanding Ruth’s disappointment, he makes a vow to see to it that someone will redeem her and marry her. How reassuring this is for Ruth. He does not chase her away. He does not say, “Well, there’s a nearer kinsman, so this is not my responsibility.” No, he tells her, “Lie down till the morning. Be at rest about it, because now it is in my hands, and I will take care of it.”
So she rests till the morning and gets up early to leave. As she is leaving, Boaz again demonstrates his willingness by giving her six measures of barley to take home to her mother-in-law, Naomi. We do not know exactly what six measures is. Some speculate that a measure was about twenty pounds. So six measures would be 120 pounds. But I doubt that Ruth would carry home 120 pounds of grain. Regardless, the point here is this, that he gave her a good supply of grain—not just what she needed for that day or for two days, but for many days. And he gave that to her as a gift to confirm his word, as a token of his promise. Boaz realizes that this is a promise not just to Ruth but also to Naomi. In verse 17, as he gives Ruth the grain, he says, “Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law.” He wants Ruth to let Naomi know that he is willing to fulfill the part of a kinsman.
This token reminds me of the gift that Joseph gave to his brothers to take back to Jacob their father in Canaan. When they came back and they told Jacob, “Joseph is yet alive,” Jacob had trouble believing it until he saw the wagons and the supplies that Joseph had sent back to bring him and his family to Egypt. Then he believes it. Boaz’s gift of grain is something like that for Naomi. The parallel today is that a man, when he asks a woman to marry him, puts an engagement ring on her finger. It is a token of his promise that he will keep his word.
And that was exactly how Naomi read it, too. In verse 18 she says to Ruth, “The man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.” Boaz has made a promise. And he has confirmed it with a gift. He is a man of his word. He is willing to pay the price of redemption.
What a moment of joy and euphoria for Ruth and Naomi. Their hope and their desire is confirmed. Their prayer is answered.
And as we look at this, we should see the parallel in God’s revelation of His promise to His people. Boaz, the redeemer, stands as a type of Christ, the Redeemer. His willingness and promise are paralleled in the gospel. You can certainly see that throughout the Old Testament. Way back in Genesis 3:15 you have God’s promise of the Messiah—the seed of the woman. God confirmed that to Adam and Eve in the shedding of the blood of animals to provide a covering for their nakedness. All through the Old Testament God repeated and confirmed this promise of Christ over and over again. The prophets spoke the promise. And God confirmed it with miracles, with ceremonies, with sacrifices—all the while telling His people, “I will keep My Word and promise.”
And God works the same way today. Yes, we have the full revelation of the promise in Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price of redemption. He has demonstrated His willingness in laying down His own life to redeem His people. But the bride of Jesus Christ, the church of God, still waits for her final redemption. And, meanwhile, He gives evidences and tokens of His love and commitment to her. The Holy Spirit is called “the Earnest” of our salvation. The sacraments are signs to remind us of His death. The Sabbath Day is a day of promise and of hope in which we have a foretaste of the perfect fellowship that we will have with God in heaven. And all the while God continues to speak to us through the Word. “I love you, I laid down My life for you, I’m coming again to receive you to Myself that where I am there ye may be also.” In this way Boaz, the redeemer, in his willingness reminds us of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and His willingness.
The second thing from these verses that we should see is the godliness of Boaz. Coming back to the story, the question is: “What led Boaz to be willing?” It certainly was not just out of duty. In fact, Boaz could have walked away from this deal. He was not the closest relative. It really was not first his responsibility. Why was Boaz willing?
The verses indicate that Boaz was motivated by a personal godliness, that is, he was a man who lived constantly in the consciousness of God. When Ruth wakes him in the night he says, “Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter.” In his first waking thought, startled awake, God is on his mind.
And because of this, Boaz puts a priority on the Word of God. He was willing to marry Ruth. In fact, there are indications that he really wanted this. But there was something more important to Boaz: God’s Word. God’s Word gave the right of redemption to someone else before him. So Boaz will defer to the other man. Though he loved Ruth, he loved God’s Word more. That is the foundation for a good marriage. That should be the foundation for all Christian dating. God’s Word is more important than what we do in our relationships. If you are looking for a good husband, here is one of the first tests in your dating: Does this young man respect what God’s Word says about sex and its place only in marriage? He may say he loves you. But does he love God’s Word more than he loves you?
The godliness of Boaz comes out also in his evaluation of Ruth. Why was he willing to marry Ruth? Verse 11: “I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for [and here’s the reason] all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” He evaluates Ruth and others according to their relationship to God. He sees in Ruth a loyalty and a purity and a godliness. If she was not godly, we can be sure he would have hesitated. But he admires her for her godliness. And so he is willing to marry her.
Then also something of his character comes out in the way in which he behaves himself towards Ruth. This indicates the kind of husband that he will be to her as well. A godly woman deserves respect. A woman is not a thing or a slave or an object. Boaz calls Ruth “blessed,” and “my daughter.” He shows that as a man he is ready to provide for Ruth and her family, giving her all this grain. This may seem old-fashioned, but the man’s duty and calling from God is to be the breadwinner and provider for his family. Boaz is willing to do that.
And then also he gives protection to Ruth. He tells her: “Lie down till the morning.” He does not want her wandering home on her own in the night. But also, he protects her reputation. In the morning, when she is leaving early, he says to his servants: “Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.” This is not because something inappropriate had taken place and he is trying to cover up a sin. But he wants to avoid the very appearance of evil in order to protect the reputation of Ruth. That shows the kindness and love of Boaz. If someone is willing to sacrifice your reputation and to bring scandal on your name, that person does not love you. But Boaz protects the name of Ruth.
And one more thing. Because he lives before the Lord, Boaz is a man of his word. He will keep his promise because he lives before God.
God’s Word records all these things about Boaz for us as an example of what a godly man, a person who calls himself a Christian, should be. The godly person will live always before the Lord. His constant God-consciousness will motivate him to obey the Lord and to show kindness and love to others. And young people, young men and young women listening today, there is important instruction here for you in who you should be and in what you should look for in a prospective husband or wife—one who loves the Lord.
But again, in the godliness of Boaz, we should see Jesus. Boaz was this godly man because, by the Spirit of God, he was created after the image of Christ. All godly virtue in a Christian is a reflection of Christ, who is the imagebearer of God and the firstborn among His brethren. In Christ we have not just a godly redeemer, but a perfect Redeemer. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish. That qualifies Him to take our place as Redeemer and to pay the price of redemption with His own blood.
That brings us to the third thing in these verses. That is the patience of Ruth. When Ruth comes home to Naomi in verse 16, Naomi asks her: “Who art thou, my daughter?” That is a rather curious question. She asks Ruth not “how did you fare last night and what did you do?” But “Who are you?” She inquires after her identity. Ruth, we know, was the same person who went out the night before. So why does she ask: Who are you? The answer is that, if Boaz has said, “Yes, I will marry you,” then Ruth’s identity has changed. Naomi is asking, “So, are you going to be the wife of Boaz? What is your identity?”
That is important for us as believers as well. The important question is not, How are things going in your life? Or what have you done as a Christian? But who are you? Are you one of Christ’s? Do you belong to Him? Things may not be going well in your life, but that does not matter so long as you are His. Who are you? Are you a Christian?
And Ruth’s answer has the same Christ-centered theme. In verse 16 she told Naomi “all that the man had done to her.” She did not talk to Naomi about herself and what she had done, but about the man, her redeemer, and what he had done. And that, too, is important among believers. We do not speak of what we have done, but of what He has done. If we would talk about what we have done, we would have nothing to say. But when we talk about Christ our Redeemer and what He has done, there is so much to say.
In the last verse of the chapter Naomi says to Ruth, “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall.” There is great wisdom in those words. What she means is this. Ruth, you’ve done all that it was your duty to do. Now it’s out of your hands. It’s in God’s hands. Don’t be anxious about it but wait on Him.
There is a great lesson here for us on waiting on the Lord. Ruth was an industrious woman, a hard worker. Naomi was resourceful, full of plans. These women were diligent in what God had given them to do in their situation. But now it is time for them to sit still and wait on the Lord.
What is it to wait on the Lord? Do you sit on your hands and say, “Well, everything’s in God’s hands, so I don’t need to do anything”? No, that is not waiting on the Lord. That is denying your responsibility and despising the means that God has given. As we wait on the Lord we are active in the duties that He has given. Just as Ruth was industrious and resourceful and did all that she could and must. What Ruth has to realize now is that the results are not in her hands. God commands us to be faithful, not successful. The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. One plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. Waiting on the Lord means that we are faithful and diligent and we commit our work to the Lord for His blessing. The results are in His hands.
That is such an important lesson for God’s people. Sometimes it is very difficult for us to sit still and wait on the Lord. It is against our nature and against what our culture tells us. Society says, If you want something, you put your mind to it, you put in the effort, and you’ll get it; the results are in your hands, you have the power. But the reality is that things are not in our hands, but the Lord’s. And we must sit still and wait on him. The wisdom of Naomi here encourages us to do just that. Maybe you are waiting for a marriage partner like Ruth was. Maybe it is your job situation—you have gotten the education and you have applied for the jobs but you have to wait. Maybe it is your health—something is not right and you have gone to the doctor; he has taken the samples, but it will be a few weeks before the results are clear. Maybe your concern is your children—you have raised them in the fear of the Lord but you do not see the evidences of God’s grace in their lives. There are so many areas in which this applies. And we are busy, busy, busy—but anxious, too, because we are not seeing the results that we want. God’s Word is: It’s in My hands. You sit and wait.
This is the lesson that David had to learn—anointed to be king of Israel, he was a fugitive and an exile for years. So he writes: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage; and he will strengthen thy heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14). Waiting on the Lord? This is the strength of the believer. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Who? They that wait on the Lord.
This is what true faith looks like. Ruth must wait on her redeemer Boaz, trusting his word and promises. And that is what God’s church and people, the bride of Jesus Christ, must do in this world. She waits. May God give us the grace and patience that we need in order to wait on Him.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the gospel of Christ and the wonderful promises of our Redeemer. Give us the grace of patience as we wait on Him. He said, “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching.” Keep us waiting always on Thee. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.