We’re checking out the last scene of the book of Ruth today. And we need to buckle in, because we are going to be panning back and seeing things that God has set in motion that are far beyond just the epic love story between Ruth and Boaz. It’s a bit like the final scene in the movie, Antz, where we find out that the entire movie takes place in a little patch of turf in Central Park in New York City and that the universe is much larger than that one story.
Ruth 4:9-11 - Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
After the great exchange struck last week between Boaz and Mr. So and So, the relative who had first dibs on Ruth, we hear Boaz confirm the sacrifice he is prepared to make to secure the redemption of Ruth. He’s not just interested in Ruth, but in preserving the family of Naomi and even Ruth’s dead husband, Mahlon.
Even more surprising, he’s sacrificing his wealth to preserve the name of Chilion, whose widow decided not to come back with her mother-in-law to Israel.
In those days, legal agreements weren’t necessarily written down. Most were oral agreements that were witnessed by the people and the elders at the city gate, where business transactions were done. What just took place reminded the great commentator Matthew Henry of another verse in scripture
2 Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
What Christ did for us, Boaz just did for Ruth. If you had asked Ruth what just happened, she would have said, “The grace of Boaz, who, though he was rich, just declared his willingness to become poor so that I, through his poverty, might have all that he has." Just like Boaz, Christ sacrificed for us, canceling out the debt of sin for us.
But be careful. God didn’t just cancel our debt as if it never existed. That’s not how God got rid of it. He transferred it to another, and He he caused that someone to be nailed to a tree to pay the price. And notice this. As soon as this occurs, Ruth is in! She doesn’t go through a bunch of steps to be accepted or to go from being a Moabite to a full-fledged member of Boaz’ family. It’s instantaneous. Why? Because of how wonderful Ruth is? Nope. Because everything hung on Boaz and his word and his resources and his commitment to fulfill that word. It’s what Boaz is and what he brings to the table. It’s the same with Jesus and us. Everything hangs on who Jesus is and what He brings to the table. And the exchange is declared legal and just.
Ruth 4:11a - 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."
It’s interesting that the blessing conferred on Ruth is about as good as it gets. They could have asked that she would be like Sarah, the wife of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. But, Sarah only had two kids, Isaac and Ishmael, and only one of them came to faith in God. No, they ask for her to be like Rachel and Leah, who essentially were responsible for the sons that grew to be the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. That’s a pretty good thing for a Moabite woman to be compared to, no? The blessings now flow to Boaz himself.
Ruth 4:11b - May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem. . .
This is essentially a prayer for Boaz to have a fruitful relationship with Ruth. Bethlehem, as you may remember from week one, means “house of bread.” And the Bethlehem region was renown for grain production, resulting in the nickname “Ephrathah,” meaning fruitful place.
We find out a bit later that these blessings prayed for Ruth and Boaz come to pass. That Ruth and Boaz have a son who has a lineage all the way to Jesus, the Messiah. And this might surprise us a bit, but we have to remember that, through time, God has absolutely delighted in taking fallen and hopeless people and turning them into great and marvelous things. To show you what I mean by that, let’s take an intriguing excursion, looking at some of the key people in the genealogy of Jesus.
Matthew 1:2-3 - Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of
Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
Judah was one of the 12 sons of Jacob whose family grew to be one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Judah, whose family line culminated in the Messiah. Now, we don’t get the full story here, but what a story it is. Genesis records that story. Judah goes off the reservation and marries a Canaanite woman and had children with her. One of those sons took another Canaanite wife named Tamar. Tamar’s husband dies, however, and Tamar, afraid she’s not going to find another husband, dresses up like a prostitute and seduces Judah, her father-in-law. That dalliance produced two boys, Perez and Zerah, and Perez ends up in the line of Jesus. So, you have incest and prostitution in the bloodline of Christ.
Matthew 1:4-5a - . . . and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab. . .
Uh-oh. Here we find out that the hero of our story, Boaz, had a mother named Rahab. Maybe this explains why he was so willing to reach out to a disenfranchised girl named Ruth. His mother didn’t just dress up like a prostitute. She was one in the city of Jericho. As such, she was condemned to die with the rest of the city, but she became a follower of God and was spared. So, now, we have two cases of prostitution in Jesus’ bloodline.
Ruth 1:5 - . . . and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth. . .
Ruth by now is no surprise, right? She was a Moabite, a worshiper of false gods. A member of a nation that resulted from the incest between Lot and his daughters after the destruction of Sodom. Moab was one of the children that came out of that relationship. So, now in the direct bloodline of Jesus, we have more more incest, along with prostitution, and a bevy of non-Jewish women. It’s kind of amazing that any Messiah could show up with this ancestry.
Matthew 1:5-6 - . . . and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of Davie the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.
Did you catch the disaster marked by that passage? Shouldn’t it have said that David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba, his wife? Yeah, that would have been accurate. But scripture reminds us that the whole relationship between David and Bathsheba started with adultery, because Bathsheba was married at the time to Uriah. And it went from bad to worse, because David then had Uriah murdered to cover up the fact that he had gotten Bathsheba pregnant. So, to Jesus’ bloodline, you now add adultery and murder to the incest, prostitution, and a bunch of foreign women.
Here are three reasons I think God does this and draws our attention to it. In a Jewish culture that totally looked down on everyone who wasn’t a Jew, God is signaling that He considers non-Jews as very much worthy of his love and his total willingness to adopt them into his family. Wasn’t that what God had promised Abraham back in the day—that he would be a blessing to ALL nations? Second, God’s also informing us that all this rottenness is forgivable, that God can still love us through all our mess. And third, all these people showing up in Jesus’ bloodline totally destroys any theory that Jesus inherited his nobility from his fantastic ancestry. No way! Because it’s a pretty disgusting ancestry, when you get right down to it. Yeah, the holiness of Jesus had nothing to do with inheriting it from his human family tree.
God’s just that kind of God. He can not only find a place in heaven for the most messed up people, but He’ll stick them right in the very lineage of Jesus Christ. We might ask, “How could God use such wicked men and women?” Answer? That’s all He uses. If we think otherwise, we are forgetting how great He is, and we’re forgetting who we really are without Him. We tend to think we’re better than we are. So be encouraged. No one is outside God’s ability to save them!
Ok, back to Ruth.
Ruth 4:12 - 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.
The book of Number tells us that Perez had so many descendants that they had to divide them into two families just to keep track of them. And it was from those two groups that the city of Bethlehem was formed. And we’re going to see pretty soon here that there is a spiritual offspring through this union between Ruth and Boaz that fulfills that prayer.
Ruth 4:13-15 - 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.”
It’s interesting that Ruth had been married to Mahlon for a decade and never had children. But God fixes that right away. And do you remember when Naomi returned to Israel and told everyone to call her Mara—Bitter—rather than Naomi—Pleasant? She returned with no sons, no children at all, no husband, and she expected to die impoverished. All that has changed. They put this boy in her arms who holds the promise for a future and the continuation of her family. The women with her also proclaim this amazing, almost prophetic, tribute to Ruth. In Israel, seven sons was considered the perfect family. But here they suggest that Ruth might turn out to be better for Naomi than the perfect family of seven sons. Little did they know.
Ruth 4:16-17 - 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.
Obed is a strange name. It means servant. And no one else in scripture is named Obed. Perhaps it was a way of honoring Ruth, who just committed herself to serve Naomi, or honoring Boaz, who committed his life to serving Ruth. Regardless, you track this family line down through the generations, and you get to King David. Keep tracking and you end up with Jesus, the servant of all mankind. And the book of Ruth ends with this.
Ruth 4:18-22 - 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.
Man, doesn’t this seem a little anticlimactic? But what this text is highlighting is that this child is not just any child. He is the child that continues through to establish the Davidic line and continues that all the way to Jesus, which we see in the genealogy in Matthew. And thanks for scripture, we see that this family line originated all the way back in Genesis, with Seth, the son of Adam and Eve. And Seth tracks all the way to Noah, and then all the way to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Perez and on through to Boaz and David, and ultimately to Christ.
Israel was meant to read this and conclude, “God is great. He can save anybody, and He can use anybody. He can not only save them, but He can use them in amazing ways. And everything points ultimately to Jesus, just as it should.