Dear Radio Friends,
In our study of the book of Ruth we come today to chapter 4. We are going to talk about the first ten verses. If you have a Bible close by, I would encourage you to follow along.
Up till now, the widows Ruth and Naomi have come and settled in Bethlehem. They are destitute, and so Ruth has been out gleaning for grain after the harvesters. In His providence, God led her to the fields of Boaz, who, it turns out, is a close relative. At Naomi’s prodding, Ruth has requested of Boaz that he fulfill the role of the kinsman/redeemer by marrying her. Boaz has expressed his willingness to do this. But because God’s law says that the closer relative has first rights to do this, and because Boaz has a high regard for God’s law, he cannot do it without the consent of the closer relative.
In the verses we look at today, we come to the resolution or climax of the book. Will Boaz marry Ruth? You can imagine the anticipation of Ruth and Naomi as they wait to hear whether this will actually happen. So we have a key passage in the book.
It is also a key passage because it presents Boaz, the redeemer, to us as a clear Old Testament type or picture of Jesus, our Redeemer. It answers many questions about the possibility of our redemption from sin. When we read that Boaz said, “I will redeem her,” we should hear the voice of Jesus Christ saying this to and about His people: “I will redeem them.” When we think of the sacrifice and the price that Boaz was willing to pay, we should think of the price of the blood of Jesus Christ that was paid to redeem us from sin. Though we will say some things about Boaz today, our focus will be Christ.
The first thing we need to understand here is the law of redemption. What is redemption? And what was the law for redemption in the Old Testament? Very simply, redemption is to set someone free by paying a price. A good illustration of this comes from American folklore. Whether this story is true or not, we do not know. But it is said that Abraham Lincoln once witnessed a slave auction and began to bid on a teenage slave girl, a dollar higher each time, until all other bidders were silent. And he won the auction. Then when the girl asked him, “Why did you bid on me?” he answered, “So that I could set you free.” He paid a price to give her liberty. That is redemption.
In the Old Testament, the law of redemption had two parts. The first part had to do with a person’s land or inheritance. God had given to each family a portion in the promised land of Canaan. But if a man or family became poor so that they could not eat, or if they had a debt that they could not pay, then they would give their land over to their creditor. They did not have banks or loans, so they paid the debt with their land. Here in Ruth 4:3 we see that Naomi had a piece of land that she wanted to sell. She obviously needed to buy her food and clothing. And with no steady income, the best option for her to survive through the winter months when there would be no gleaning was to sell her land.
Now, one thing to remember about this land-sale was that it was not permanent, that is, you would sell your land to someone else and it was theirs for a period of time. God’s law said that at the year of Jubilee, which fell every fifty years, that land would return to its original owner. The reason God had made the law that way was spiritual. Every family’s piece of land was a picture of their inheritance in the heavenly Canaan. That is why, in I Kings 21, Naboth refused to sell his land to Ahab, who wanted a summer garden. Naboth’s reason was spiritual. He realized that this was not his land to sell, but that it belonged to the Lord, and that there were stipulations in place about its sale. Even if he would get a better piece of land and money far above its value, he cannot sell the inheritance of the Lord. God wanted the land to be preserved in the name and possession of the family that it was first given to.
Boaz, realizing this, wants the land of Naomi to stay in the hands of her closest relative. Naomi could have, I suppose, sold the land to just anyone. She was interested in the money, not the land. But she was not permitted to do this. If you look at Leviticus 25:25ff., you see that she had to sell it to a closest relative. And the closest relative was actually under obligation to buy it if he could. The reason was, not just the preservation of the land, but of a name, a family name, in Israel. That is where the second part of the law of redemption comes in.
If your family name was cut off or ended, that was a sign of your having no spiritual part in the coming Redeemer Jesus Christ. Then His blessings were not for you. And we can think of people like Esau or Onan (the son of Judah) who despised the idea of preserving a name, who did not care about having a part in the coming Messiah’s blessed kingdom. The desire to preserve one’s name and inheritance in the Old Testament was an expression of one’s faith in the promise of God concerning the coming Messiah. Esau, who was an unbeliever, did not care about that. He despised his inheritance.
But now, how did this law of redemption in its two parts work?
Well, if you lost property, it was quite simple. In the fiftieth year the land simply went back to the original family. But what happened if you lost your name? That is, what happened if all the men of the family died and there were no children and no one to carry on the family name? That is the situation now for Ruth and Naomi. They have land. But after they die, there is really no one left to own it.
That is the second provision of the law of redemption. In this situation, not only did the closest relative have to purchase the land to keep it in the family name, but he had to marry the widow. And the first son of that marriage would not be considered his son, but would take on the name of the deceased husband of his mother. That is the law of redemption.
And that is what we see working out here in the book of Ruth, especially here in chapter 4. There is a man who is a closer relative than Boaz to the family of Elimelech. We can properly call this man the man with no name. In verse 1 we read that Boaz, when he sees this man calls out to him, “Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here.” It is very likely that this is not actually what Boaz said to him. Boaz would have known the man’s name and probably addressed him by his name. But what we have here is a deliberate hiding of the man’s name and identity by the Holy Spirit who is the author of Scripture, so that what is said about him is similar to when we would call someone: “Mr. So-and-so,” or “What’s his name.” The man with no name.
This man is very happy to buy the land. In verse 4, after Boaz tells him that Naomi has some land for sale and asks whether he, as the closest living relative, would like to buy it, he responds, “I will redeem it.” The English does not capture it, but in the original this is emphatic. He is saying something like this: “I, even I, will redeem it.” Or, “I, and not you, will redeem it.” He is saying to Boaz, “Keep your hands off it.” Now, why is he so happy and ready to buy the land? Well, because there would be a financial advantage for him in this. There was a limited amount of land that they could own. But this would allow him to extend his real estate. He would get the use of this land until the fiftieth year. And maybe in his mind he even realizes that Elimelech has no son. And so, he might not even have to turn his land back because there would be no one to return it to. This was a good deal, he is thinking. And so he is very willing to buy the land.
But Boaz tells him in verse 5, “When you buy the land, you must also marry Ruth, the wife of Mahlon, who is dead.” And Boaz, before the elders of the city here, is simply stating what the law of God requires. How then does this man respond? In verse 6 he says, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance.” He means that this will in some way jeopardize or put at risk his own finances and inheritance. How it would do that is not exactly clear to us. But the point is that the man is more concerned about money and land than the preservation of a name and inheritance in Israel. That is why we call him, “The man with no name.” His name is not remembered because he did not care about preserving the name and inheritance of Elimelech, his relative, in Israel. Because of this he is shamed and he loses his own name and place in the kingdom of Christ.
Verses 7 and 8 tell us what happened. For his refusal he was publicly shamed. He had to take off one of his shoes and give it to Boaz. And Deuteronomy 25 tells us that someone would spit in his face. And then he would hobble off, shamed before God’s people. He is called the man with no shoe and no name because he refused to redeem his brother’s family. Like Esau and like Onan, he despised the inheritance of God’s people.
In contrast to this man we have Boaz. The Holy Spirit puts this man in the Bible to show us what Boaz was willing to do and what Christ did in order to redeem His people.
But before we move on to Boaz, there are some spiritual lessons for us here from this man with no name.
First, God tells us by this law of redemption that our place in heaven ought to be far more important to us than what we have on this earth. We should not put our roots down too deeply here on the earth. This is not our home. But here we are pilgrims and strangers traveling toward our heavenly home.
Second, God tells us that we ought to put others before ourselves. That is the principle behind the law of redemption that this man was unwilling to follow. We need to have the mind of Jesus Christ, in which He esteemed others better than Himself and in which He put their needs before His own.
Then, third, God teaches us the importance of preserving our spiritual heritage. The heritage that God gives today comes through the church and His work in the church. We can sell that short by ignoring the work of God in the church and in the history of the church in this world. When we do that, we are selling a spiritual heritage. God has redeemed a bride, a church. We need to be a part of that church that is faithful to Him. We need to be students of the history of the church. We need to love the heritage of truth that God has given to His people in a faithful church.
Well, let us look now at Boaz and from Boaz to Christ the Redeemer.
We see in this passage again the godliness of this man Boaz. He is a man of integrity. When it comes to the question of Ruth’s redemption, he wants to follow the Word and law of God. No matter his admiration for Ruth and his desire to marry her, the nearer kinsman must first relinquish his right before Boaz will do it. And he presents the whole case to the man in the most favorable and straightforward way. He does not manipulate the circumstances to get what he wants. Also, he is a man of his word, a man of faithfulness and commitment. He keeps his promise to Ruth. He is willing to do this, not for his own sake, but for the sake of Ruth’s deceased husband Mahlon. In verse 10 he gives us the reason that he has married Ruth: “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.” What the other fellow will not do, Boaz will do. He is a man of action. He knows that God is at work in this history. But that does not mean that he sits back and does nothing. No, he assembles the elders in the gate of the city. The gate was not just an entrance, but the place for legal transactions. He uses the means that God has appointed. And he follows carefully the Word of God. What an example Boaz is for us.
But as we look at Boaz, we must not see simply a man, but we must look through this redeemer to the other Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I want to draw out some parallels here that point us to the gospel of redemption through Jesus Christ.
We need redemption. By nature we, and I mean every last human being—that includes you and me—by nature we are all in bondage. Our bondage is a spiritual bondage of sin. We are born into the bondage, born slaves to sin. By nature we are under the power of Satan. We are followers of the course of this wicked world that is opposed to God. We are in bondage to ourselves and our sinful flesh. Ephesians 2 describes it as being dead in trespasses and sins and walking according to the course of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air. Because of this bondage we are fit for the judgment of God, we are fit for the wages of sin, which are eternal death in hell. This is the price that must be paid for our redemption.
I ask you, dear radio listener, do you understand that? Do you see your own bondage? Do you see the price that must be paid to free you from the consequences of sin? Do you see that you are empty and destitute and that there is no way for you to pay and set yourself free? We live in an age when freedom is often talked about. People want political and religious freedom. People want freedom from addictions of drugs and alcohol and sexual sin. People want freedom to express themselves, the right to think and to say and to do publicly as they please. They want to be free to live as they desire. They want to be accepted, whatever their lifestyle. And it is supposed to be the most liberating thing for them to come out of the closet and to tell others about their sinful ways.
But is that liberty? No, the world is in bondage to sin. And the more its sinful way of life is accepted, the more it becomes clear that man is in bondage to sin and he cannot free himself.
What is freedom? Freedom is not the right to do whatever you want to do. No, freedom is the ability, from God, to do the things that by nature you cannot do. Freedom is the strength of God’s grace to do what you ought to do in honor of your Creator, God, and to enjoy living in obedience to the Word of God. That is freedom.
And that freedom can come only through Jesus Christ. In His work of redemption, Christ has paid the price to set free His people. He is freed from the wrath of God and the punishment that sin deserves. He is freed from the power of sin so that it should no more reign in us. And what a price He paid for that freedom—a price not of silver and gold, but the price of His own precious blood. That is our redemption in Christ.
Do you understand it? Do you see what was happening on the cross when Christ laid down His life? Do you understand the price that He had to pay for sin? Do you see that the suffering of Jesus Christ, not only at the hands of men but also at the hands of God, was the price for our sins? This is the “near relative,” the “kinsman,” the “Redeemer” coming to set us free. He lays down His life a ransom for many. He did not pay this price for every one, but only for His people. The Bible tells us that those whom He has set free are free indeed (John 8:36). The cross did not just make possible our redemption, but it sealed it so that we are free indeed.
That freedom is experienced by God’s people in their knowing His love, in their freedom from the powers and desires of sin, in their freedom from sin’s guilt, in their love for God, in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Oh, that we might understand the price that Christ paid for our freedom and never take it for granted! Sometimes we celebrate freedom by remembering the lives that bought our liberty. Let us remember the great price that Christ paid for our liberty.
And so we look at Boaz here and we see Jesus. I want to close by pointing to Jesus in, not just what Boaz did, but also in who Boaz was.
Boaz was a near relative. To redeem Ruth, he had to be a near relative. Jesus, too, had to be a “blood relative” of His people in order to save them. And He was. He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh—born of a woman. He became partaker of our flesh and blood. And He did that so that He could die for His people. Why did God become man? So that as a man, as one of us, He could die for sin.
Then also, Boaz was a man of resources. It would do you no good to have a close relative if he could not afford to redeem you. Boaz could redeem because he had the wealth, he had the wherewithal to do it. Jesus Christ is the only One who has the wherewithal, the strength, the resources to make the payment for our sins. No amount of earthly wealth or power can set us free. No, the Redeemer must be God, because then only is He strong enough to carry the burden of our sin, the weight of the infinite wrath of God against us.
The saints of the Old Testament understood this. Listen to Psalm 49:7. Speaking of a wealthy people, it says, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” They said this because they were looking for a Redeemer who was more than just a man. Jesus Christ is that Redeemer.
Then, looking at Boaz again, you see a willing redeemer. The kinsman here had a choice. The man with no name chose not to redeem. But Boaz shows his grace. And we must remember that Christ, as our Redeemer, was under no obligation to man. He was under no obligation to us. If you count yourself as one of the redeemed, understand that Christ did not have to redeem you. God would have done no injustice to leave every one of us to perish in our sin. The redemption that we have in Christ is a work of the free and sovereign grace of God to His elect people. If it at all depended on our worthiness, that would not be a work of grace. We would not be redeemed. Redemption is of grace.
Do you reflect on that? Christ the Redeemer did not pay the price reluctantly or because He was under obligation to us, but freely and willingly He gave Himself in love for His people.
Then, finally, looking at Boaz, we see the richness of our redemption in Jesus Christ. Boaz takes his redeemed, Ruth, into the closest fellowship. He makes her his own bride. She is not a servant or a beggar, but she is his wife, who lives with him, who shares his life and riches. And that is the blessing of the redeemed church. We become the bride of Jesus Christ and we share in all His riches and blessing. Not only are we set free from sin, but we are joined to Jesus Christ and brought into the possession of the blessings of heaven. When we think of what it means to be saved, this is what we should remember. Salvation is to know God and to know Christ in the closest communion and fellowship, the intimacy of a spouse, and to enjoy all the riches of God—to live and dwell with Him.
That is what heaven will be—the perfection of the covenant.
Let us pray.
Lord, bless Thy Word to us so that we may rejoice in our salvation and never take for granted the price that Christ paid for our redemption. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.