This morning, we conclude our series on the Christmas story and the book of Ruth, and we’re seeing how the book of Ruth, even though it is in the Old Testament, has many similarities to Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. In week one, we saw how this is the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world. Which is also a pretty good description of the Christmas story.
And then last week, we saw how this is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. Which is also a pretty good description of the Christmas story.
But, this morning, it gets even better. Because this week, we’re going to see that the book of Ruth is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeems his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself. Which is most definitely a description of the Christmas story.
In just a moment, we’ll pick up in chapter 3. At this point, we have met all three of the main characters in the book of Ruth. First, we met Naomi, who left Bethlehem and moved to Moab with her husband and two sons. And then we met Ruth, who was from Moab and married one of Naomi’s sons.
But then, after their husbands died, Ruth and Naomi traveled back to Bethlehem where we met the third main character in the story, Boaz. It was harvest time, and when Ruth went out to glean in the fields, she “just happened” to glean in the fields of Boaz. As I said last week, the book of Ruth is a love story, and God in his providence orchestrated events so that Boaz and Ruth would meet, and Boaz offered kindness, protection and provision to Ruth while she harvested in his fields.
And we saw last week how Boaz and Ruth shared a meal together, but, after that, there doesn’t seem to be any contact between them. Boaz doesn’t call and check on Ruth. He doesn’t even send Ruth a text. Nothing. And Ruth is left hanging.
It looked like things were going to get off to this romantic, sparks-flying relationship. But then Ruth is left to wonder, “Where are we in this relationship? Are we friends? Are we more than friends? We need to have the ‘defining the relationship’ conversation.”
And, so, for about seven weeks she goes out in the field into work, but it’s getting close to the end of the harvest, and after the harvest they’re going to go their separate ways. And we’re left wondering how is it going to end? Will there be love? Will there be romance?
The story of Ruth has everything that every good romantic movie has. You know the plot line – this man and this woman are friends, and they’re perfect for each other, they ought to fall in love, but for whatever reason they never quite get there. And it seems the story usually ends up with the two of them at an airport, and you’re sitting there thinking, “Don’t leave. Put your suitcase down. You two belong with each other!”
Well, there’s no airport in the story of Ruth (which I’m glad for because if there was, I would have a really hard time explaining that one). But Ruth and Boaz are about to go their separate ways, maybe never to see each other again, but we’re pulling for them. “Don’t leave each other. You two belong together!”
Now, if Ruth had a father, what probably would happen is that he would go meet with Boaz and say to him, “Boaz, it’s obvious that you love the Lord. My daughter really likes you. It seems like you like her. We need to figure out if you’re the one.” And Daddy would get involved. That’s the way it usually worked in those days.
But Ruth didn’t have a father like that. She left Moab – and if she had a father, that’s where he was. And he wasn’t a believer. He was a Moabite. He wasn’t there with Ruth to love her, to protect her, to provide for her. She was on her own.
I. A desperate situation (Ruth 3:1-9)
And what we find in chapter three is that Ruth and Naomi are in a desperate situation. God has provided food for them for which they are very grateful, but their bigger need is for Ruth to marry. Because unless Ruth marries, Ruth and Naomi will always find things difficult, year after year. Plus neither of them will ever have any children to carry on the family line.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and so Naomi comes up with a plan. We pick up with verse 1,
“Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.’” (Ruth 3:1-4)
So this is Naomi’s plan — she will send Ruth to Boaz, alone, in the middle of the night, to lie down at his feet, to pull his covers off and then see what happens. This is a plan that could easily backfire. In fact, it’s a bit scandalous.
I did not give this advice to my daughters when they were dating! Never once did I say, “Amber, what you need to do is to go into your boyfriend’s bedroom while he’s sleeping and pull the covers off. And then wait to see what he does.”
But the situation here is a little different. Boaz is at least sleeping out in the open, which is not unusual. Farmers would usually sleep near the grain after a harvest so that robbers and thieves wouldn’t come in and steal everything.
But Naomi’s advice is still a little bit scary. Keep in mind when this is happening. These are the days of the Judges, when there’s all kinds of sexual sin. And Ruth is being sent to lay at the feet of a guy who’s had a few drinks – he’s not drunk, but he’s had a drink or two.
But Naomi’s situation is so desperate, she is willing to risk everything so that Ruth and Boaz might finally come together as husband and wife.
You see, Boaz is a kinsman, a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. And so, there’s a chance that he might be willing to fulfill the role of the kinsman-redeemer. You may remember last week when Ruth first told Naomi about Boaz and Naomi said, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)
A kinsman-redeemer was a close relative who was responsible to help a family member out in their time of need. For example, if a family member became poor and had to sell off their land, the kinsman-redeemer was supposed to buy the land back for them (Lev. 25:25). The kinsman-redeemer was also responsible for buying back any family members that might have been sold into slavery to pay off their debt (Lev. 25:47-49).
And then there was the situation when, if a man died without having any children, his brother was supposed to marry his widow and have children in his name. If there was no brother, that responsibility fell to the closest relative. This kinsman-redeemer would marry the woman and have children with her, thus keeping the lineage going (Deut. 5:5-6).
Naomi was hoping that Boaz would fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer by marrying Ruth so that her family name could continue. So, she has Ruth prepare herself as a bride. Ruth washes and puts perfume on. She puts on her best clothes, and she goes out to the threshing floor. We pick up in verse 7:
“And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!” (Ruth 3:7-8)
That had to be a bit of a shock. You just wake up from the deepest part of your sleep, you’re a bit disoriented, and there’s this woman lying there. Hosea 9:1 tells us that prostitutes would often come out to the threshing floor because it was payday. Guys would have a few drinks, not all of them were godly. They had money in their pocket. So, Boaz may have been a little bit worried about who this was.
Verse 9, “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.’”(Ruth 3:9)
Remember back in chapter 2, verse 12, Boaz prayed that God would take Ruth under his wing. And here Ruth is saying, “Boaz, why don’t you answer that prayer and be God’s wing. Put your wing over me and love me, protect me, hold me close, look after me.”
Spreading the corner of your garment over a woman was a pledge of marriage. Ruth doesn’t waste any time beating around the bush. She says to Boaz, “I want you to be my kinsman-redeemer. I want you to spread the corner of your garment over me to show me that you intend to marry me.”
This was a risky move. Boaz could have responded in any number of ways. If he were an ungodly man, he could have raped her right then and there on the threshing floor. There were other harvesters sleeping nearby, so he could have cried out in a loud voice, exposing Ruth to public disgrace and severe punishment.
And so, Ruth is risking everything here. By visiting Boaz in the middle of the night and proposing marriage, she has thrown herself completely upon the mercy of Boaz and his good character.
II. A loving response (Ruth 3:10-18)
So how does Boaz respond? Well, Boaz is a good man, and this is a love story, so he responds with mercy, righteousness and love. Beginning in verse 10,
“And he said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” (Ruth 3:10-11)
We don’t know whether or not Boaz was attracted to Ruth prior to this conversation. My guess is that he was. But, up to this point, he may not have pursued Ruth because she was a widow, maybe just coming out of her time of mourning. She’s an employee; he doesn’t want to pressure her. But the ultimate issue is that Boaz thinks she is out of his league.
He looks at her and he says, “I can’t believe you’d want to be with me.” He’s very humble about this. He says, “You didn’t go after all the good-looking young guys? All the good-looking guys would love to marry you.” Boaz may not be young and he may not be good-looking, but here’s what he does have: He loves God. He’s faithful. He’s good to people and he’s going to be a faithful provider for his family. He’s going to be a good husband, a good father.
Boaz says that Ruth is a “worthy woman”. Some translations say she was a “virtuous woman.” Just a year before, this woman was an unbeliever. She was a Moabite, probably worshipping the heathen god Chemosh. But now she’s someone who loves the Lord. And we see this beautiful transformation, how she has become a woman who is worthy of respect, worthy of love. She’s a woman of extremely good character.
And that makes Ruth and Boaz a good match. There are a lot of ways that these two people are different from each other – he’s rich and she’s poor, he’s a Hebrew and she’s a Moabite, he’s the employer, she’s the employee. But they are the perfect match because they are both people who love God with all their heart, and they have outstanding character. Young people, keep that in mind when you’re looking for a mate.
But there’s just one hitch. There is another kinsman-redeemer who is a closer relative than Boaz. And so he says,
“And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.’” (Ruth 3:12-13)
What I want you to see at this point is that Boaz has absolutely no legal obligation to Ruth whatsoever. And what Boaz tells her is this. “I’m not legally obligated to do anything. Some other man is legally obligated. But I love you, and he doesn’t, so let’s get this thing worked out.”
And if you don’t believe that Boaz is marrying Ruth out of love, then you miss the whole story, because this is a story about love. And in this story, Boaz is like Jesus, and Ruth is like us, and Jesus loves us, not because he’s obligated to, but because he’s kind and he loves us.
When morning arrives, Boaz continues to shower Ruth with his love and protection. He makes sure she gets up and out before anyone recognizes her. And then he gives her six measures of barley to bring back to Naomi as a token of good faith.
And when Naomi hears what happened, she says, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” (Ruth 3:18)
Naomi may be a bitter woman, but she is a wise woman. She says, “Ruth, this guy’s in love with you. Don’t worry, he’s gonna get busy and work this thing out quickly.” And he does.
III. A costly redemption (Ruth 4:1-10)
And so, we come now to chapter four and the redemption of Ruth and Naomi. And this is where we learn about the cost that’s involved in all of this. This was a costly redemption that would involve great sacrifice on Boaz’s part. We see this by the reaction of the kinsman-redeemer who was nearer than Boaz. We pick up in Ruth chapter 4, verse 1,
“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. 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.’” (Ruth 4:1-4)
So, Boaz meets up with the other kinsman-redeemer at the town gate along with ten of the town’s elders. This was where all the legal transactions took place, sort of like city hall today, and the elders would serve as legal witnesses. Boaz tells the kinsman-redeemer that Naomi is selling some land and suggests to him, “Why don’t you buy it, right here and now, but if you’re not interested, then I will because I am next in line.”
Notice Boaz hasn’t said anything about Ruth yet. He just mentions the land first, and the kinsman-redeemer says, “Sure, I’d love to have the land. I’ll be glad to redeem it.” But then, Boaz says, “Not so fast.” Verse 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.’” (Ruth 4:5)
Boaz drops a bomb on the proceedings. When Naomi’s husband died, the property passed on to her two sons. And so, if this man wants to fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer, he will also have to marry Ruth the Moabitess. And notice how Boaz stresses that Ruth is from the hated country of Moab.
Well, that changes things. This man doesn’t want to marry a Moabitess. Not only that, he would also be endangering his whole estate. If Ruth has a son, that son will be a part of Naomi’s family. And then, if something happened to his own sons, his entire estate could be transferred over to Naomi’s family, and he’d lose it all.
“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.’” (Ruth 4:6)
There’s too much at stake. He would redeem the land if it meant getting more land, but if it means possibly losing something he already has, he’s not interested. So, he says to Boaz, “You can have it.” He refused to take on the responsibility of a kinsman-redeemer, so that responsibility is passed on to Boaz, and he was happy to do it. Verse 9,
“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.’” (Ruth 4:9-10)
I want you to see that in order to marry Ruth, Boaz had to be willing to give up everything he owned. That’s why the other kinsman-redeemer backed out of the deal. But Boaz loved Ruth. He didn’t mind marrying a Moabitess, and he was willing to pay the price. Remember, the book of Ruth is a love story. It is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself.
Which should remind you of the Christmas story. Because the Christmas story is also a love story. And wouldn’t you know? It’s also the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself.
Like Naomi and Ruth, we all find ourselves in a desperate situation. Galatians 3:22-23 says, “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin” and “Before faith came, we were held captive under the law.”
Because of our sins, we were prisoners of sin, held captive. We were lost in our sins, cut off from God, deserving only eternal punishment. We were desperate, and in desperate need of someone who could set us free, someone who could redeem us. And how did God respond to our desperate situation?
Galatians 4:4-5 tells us, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
God’s loving response was what we celebrate at Christmas. God sent forth his Son. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was born into our world as a human being. He became like us in our flesh. He became kin with us. Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer! He was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
But, like with Boaz, that redemption came at great cost. We read in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Just as Boaz did not serve himself, but served Ruth and Naomi, so Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. And it cost him dearly, far more than it ever cost Boaz.
Remember that other kinsman-redeemer who was worried about losing his estate? Jesus left his estate for us. Jesus left the glories of heaven. He entered this world as a human being. And while on the cross, he was forsaken by the Father as he gave his own life as a ransom for many. It was a costly redemption.
Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer, but that redemption is not automatic. In order to receive it, you need to come to Christ for salvation. Just as Ruth recognized her own desperate situation and cast herself completely on Boaz’s mercy, righteousness and love, so you need to recognize your sin and cast yourself completely on God’s mercy, righteousness and love.
The story of Boaz and Ruth is a beautiful love story and it resembles an even more beautiful love story, the story of how much Jesus loves us. Because like Ruth, we come to Jesus asking, “Will you be my redeemer?” And it seems to be a presumptuous question, because, like Boaz, Jesus has it all. He may not be the best-looking person (according to Isaiah), but he’s rich, he’s powerful, and there seems to be no reason on the face of this earth why he would want a relationship with us.
But, like Boaz, Jesus is willing to pay the price to redeem, willing to take us as his bride. Not because he’s obligated, but because of his grace, because of his love. And ultimately, he redeems us not with money, but with his own blood.