Well, we’re continuing with our incredible love story between Ruth and Boaz, found, not surprisingly, in the book of Ruth. We’ve discovered along the way that this love story pictures so well the love story between God and us. And that portrait continues today.
One of the words we hear in terms of what happens when a person becomes a Christian is “redemption.” Christians are often referred to as “the redeemed.” Familiarity, however, can lead to contempt, and we’re not actually sure sometimes what the word implies. But through the events in Ruth today, we’re going to learn what redemption is all about.
Redemption in the Old and New Testament comes from a word meaning exchange or trade. Think of a marketplace. You see something you like and something you want. You deem that thing worthy of possessing. The merchant will want to know what you are wiling to exchange for that thing. And if you and he can agree on the price, the exchange is made, and you get that thing you deemed worthy of having. In doing so, you just redeemed that item.
The point is that our salvation in Christ is a redemption, an exchange. We’re told in scripture that it’s a free gift, and it is, sort of. It’s free to us, but it was purchased for us. Someone had to exchange something for it for us. There was a cost—the wages of sin is death, scripture tells us—and someone had to pay that cost. And that makes salvation precious. It’s like if your husband has been saving up for a big fishing trip to Canada with the guys for several years, and he now has the $10,000 for it. But instead of doing that, he sacrifices the trip and guys you a $10,000 diamond necklace. You’re blown away, right? Not just because it’s a free gift, but because that free gift to you cost him something precious, something he sacrificed to make it happen. This is what Jesus did for us, sacrificing his own life to purchase this free gift for us, and it should make us awestruck.
So, today we look at the redemption of Ruth, and it’s one of the clearest pictures in our bibles of that reality.
We found out last week that Boaz and Ruth have a problem. They want to be together, but there is a relative who is closer to Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, than Boaz is, and he has first dibs. So, Boaz determines to go meet with this relative to see if he can exchange something and win the right to redeem Ruth. For you and me, the thing standing in between God and us having this wonderful relationship is sin, and it’s got to be dealt with before we can live happily ever after with God.
I want you to notice something in this part of the story. It’s all about Ruth’s redemption, but she’s nowhere to be found in it today. She’s completely off stage, like Macavity in Cats. There are only two actors—Boaz and this other fellow. And this is a lot like our redemption—we had nothing to do with it, either. We don’t contribute to it. And this flies in the face of a bunch of people sitting in church pews who do believe that, while God is good and great and all, we really do contribute to our redemption from all the good works we do. But our redemption is not Dutch treat. When Jesus went to the cross, He went alone, and the discussion about our redemption involved only two individuals—God the Father and God the Son.
So, now, we pick up the action in Ruth, chapter 4, as Boaz goes to meet this other fellow.
Ruth 4:1-2 - Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, "Turn aside, friend; sit down here." And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, "Sit down here." So they sat down.
Notice that scripture seems to go out of its way to avoid giving this other fellow a name. He’s called “friend” in the English Standard Version. In the original Hebrew, “friend” is actually a two-word play on words that the New Jewish Publication Society translates as “Mr. So and So.” Boaz heads to the city gate, kinda lurking and looking for this guy to show up. When he does, he calls him over, and he also gets 10 notables to sit with them. The 10 notables are called a quorum, and it’s what’s necessary to establish a legal and binding exchange. So, the stage is set.
Bear in mind, then, that our redemption by Jesus also requires a legal and binding exchange. And the receipt for that exchange is Jesus Himself, with the proof of purchase being nail prints in his hands and feet, skin torn off his back, scars on his head and side, and ultimately, a death. And that’s why we get to go to heaven—because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Ruth 4:3-4 - Then he said to the redeemer, "Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, 'Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.' If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you." And he said, "I will redeem it.”
Oh-oh. This is a huge monkey wrench. This can’t be happening. Mr.. So and So hasn’t surfaced at all in this story. He can’t possibly be the right guy for Ruth. But, hey, he’s wooed by this great opportunity. Naomi is old. She’s not having any more kids. I’ll just buy the land, take care of her until she dies, and the land reverts to me. What’s not to like? It seems that Mr. So and So is completely out of the loop in knowing anything about Ruth. This is like every romantic movie, where there’s some crisis that looks like it’s going to keep our lovebirds apart.
Ruth 4:5 - Then Boaz said, "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.”
And just like those romantic movies, resolution comes. It turns out that Boaz, after roping in Mr. So and So, now comes in with the fine print. Not only do you have to buy the land and take care of Naomi, but Ruth comes with the package. And you’ve got to give her children so that the land ultimately will stay in that other family. Oh, and by the way, Ruth is a Moabite, not some sweet little Jewish girl. Yeah, you might have some social ostracism for taking on a Moabite wife. Good luck to ya, buddy!! All of a sudden, the cost to Mr. So and So has just gone up exponentially, and at the end of the day, he gets nothing for himself.
Ruth 4:6 - Then the redeemer said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
Mr. So and So quickly recalculates and backs out of this deal. It turns out he was interested in ministry only if there was a payoff for himself. And here’s the interesting thing—by seeking to protect his legacy this way, he ends up staying nameless, missing out of having a share of the greatest legacy of all—a place in God’s plan of salvation for all mankind.
We think, “What a knucklehead! If only he knew what he was passing up!” Well, before we’re too hard on him, let’s ponder who this Mr. So and So might be in our lives. Commentators have debated this endlessly over the years. Here’s what I think. It’s mankind. It’s us, thinking we’ve got the goods to redeem ourselves, that we can be good enough to earn our way to heaven. Or, it’s our faith in some close relative. I know a lot of husbands who think they’re headed to heaven because they had Christian wives. I know kids who think they’re in because they had moms and dads who dragged them to church. But then Jesus shows up and asks, “Ok, what do you think? Can you redeem yourself?” And we go, like Mr. So and So, “Yeah, I think I can. I think I will.” But then we find out the fine print, that redemption requires us to be as good as God, to have never sinned, to be holy. And if we’re aware, we’ll say the same thing Mr. So and So said, “I’d sure like to, but I don’t have the goods. Based on what’s required, there’s no human on earth who can pull this off. I need a redeemer that’s better than any man, woman, or child. Who could that be?” And all of a sudden, Jesus comes into focus. He’s the only one who’s ever had what it takes for our redemption. And it’s why scripture says that Jesus is the only name through which one might be saved, the only one who has the goods to make the great exchange for our redemption.
Ruth 4:7-8 - Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself," he drew off his sandal.
All this sandal stuff is simply the legal transaction whereby Mr. So and So grants Boaz the right to redeem Ruth, and Boaz commits to following through. Happily ever after is now possible.
We’re going to see the conclusion of this story next week, but before we go there, let’s ponder for a second. Do you think Ruth is going to be faithful to this man, Boaz? After all he’s done for her, do you think she’s going to be sneaking off to have affairs, emotional or otherwise? If you knew she was going to do that, you’d be upset, right? You’d want to grab Boaz and tell him that maybe he should rethink this whole thing. Because that would be a betrayal of monumental proportions.
Well, just so you know, that doesn’t happen. But here’s the thought for us. Given what our Boaz, Jesus, has done for us, isn’t if fair to say that we often have strayed as Christians? Haven’t we gone after things that aren’t Jesus? Haven’t our eyes and hearts pursued things He has told us are bad for us and bad for our relationship with Him? If we were honest, shouldn’t we have told Jesus before He paid the price that, while He is far more than we thought, we certainly are not?
But here’s where it gets amazing. Jesus already knew that about you and me, and He paid the price anyway. His love is so deep and unending that He’s willing to endure our betrayals, and forgive us over and over, counting on His ongoing love to lead us to trust Him more and more over time and to draw us closer and closer over time, leading to the happily ever after kind of relationship with Him for real.
It really is amazing grace, and how sweet is the sound of it. It might be good to spend some time rejoicing about that.