Boundless Love (Ruth 4)

Love is never truly blind.  In recent years, marriage has become the latest boundary between social classes—the privileged elite more likely to marry than those living in poverty.  In 2012, the New York Times reported that in addition to this, Americans tend not to marry outside of their social class, only reinforcing the growing socioeconomic rift:

College-educated Americans…are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women…who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes. (Jason DeParle, “Two Classes, Divided By ‘I Do,’ in The New York Times, July 14, 2012)

Opposites—including sociological opposites—never really attract, do they?  This is why it’s a common trope in love stories and fairy tales for a rich man or a king to stoop to marrying a mere peasant.  Think Cinderella.  We love tales of overlooked women moving from rags to riches.  If we stop and think about it, it’s actually quite condescending—not to mention a little sexist.   So why would this cultural trope persist?  I’d like to think it’s because we recognize a kindness inherent to the gentlemen of these stories, men who set aside cultural limitations and bias to heroically choose the maiden.  We love thinking that love—like beauty—can’t be limited by economics and social class.

So in the story of Ruth and Boaz, we can’t help but love the way Boaz sets aside any cultural barriers that might otherwise be in place, and do whatever it takes to “redeem” Ruth—that is, to marry her by securing Elimelech’s land.  It’s a business transaction, really.  But as we observed yesterday, there’s something radically subversive about the way we see true love flourish beneath the unpolished cultural surface.   In Ruth 4, we see this transaction take place at the city gates—actually a small architectural enclave where business was regularly conducted.  Think of it as sort of an ancient version of City Hall:

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.” 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.” 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.”

Do you hear what’s going on here?  The “redeemer” had the right to purchase the land—but wait, Boaz notes: Ruth comes with it.  Reluctant to take on this wife, the redeemer politely passes.  Boaz is now free to purchase the land—and in “redeeming” the land, he acquires Ruth as his wife.

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. 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. 10 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.”11 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. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 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 text notes the cultural custom.  In a pre-modern world there were no contracts to sign.  So they would often seal the deal with some visual demonstration in the eyes of witnesses.  Commentators note that the practice would vary, but in this case the removal of Boaz’ shoe was intended to be a pledge to make good on his plans to purchase the land and marry Ruth.

13 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. 14 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! 15 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.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 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.

The story now culminates in the ultimate purpose: to show how God—working seemingly “behind the scenes”—used these unusual circumstances to continue His mission to bring all men back to Himself.  And, ultimately, the original readers would recognize the way these events secured the lineage of King David:

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

If these last verses sound familiar, it’s because you might remember the way they repeat in the opening verses of Matthew:

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, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,] 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, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. (Matthew 1:2-6)

But there’s something even deeper—even more spectacular than all of that.  It’s that Jesus is the true and better Boaz, who pays the price to redeem His bride, the Church.  As Paul writes, “He has purchased us with His blood” (Colossians 1:14-24).  Jesus is the ultimate redeemer—paying the price on the cross so that we could be brought into fellowship and glorious relationship.  And here’s the most amazing part: this union was brought about through love, through mercy.  None of us are in God’s social or economic “class” in any sense of the word.  No; we are unworthy of the redemption freely offered through God’s grace alone.  But instead He came to us, He died for us, so that we might be enabled to live for Him.

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The Sap in Every Family Tree (Ruth 4)

Today’s passage is one that Chris and/or I will go into with greater detail in the coming sermon series for the Christmas season. It will be on the genealogy and family ancestry of Jesus Christ, and we will call it “The Roots of Redemption.” So we will only deal with it briefly here today.

The end of the story of Ruth in the final of the four chapters of the book of that name leads into a genealogy of David. Of course, Jesus is of the family of David, of the tribe of Judah – the importance being the right to kingship in accordance with God’s covenants.

So you would expect the family tree to be especially pristine, right? Well, there aren’t really any pristine family trees. Every family tree has some “sap” running through it!

I have messed around a lot with family trees over the past handful of years, and it is a mess. Being adopted adds some complication, because there is the legal part of it. But then there is another whole biological side as well. Working with Ancestry.com in developing this, the only way I could make it work was to have two separate trees. Messy.

David’s tree was not particularly pure either. As we look at this story we see that his great grandmother was from Moab – a Gentile. So there was that side of it, yet the greater legal side of the heritage that went back to Perez in the tribe of Judah.

And for this story to make sense, one needs to remember the events of the first chapter of Ruth – the death of all the men in the family, which leaves the family line without inheritance. Additionally, one needs to understand the times – where in this situation a kinsman-redeemer would step in to marry a childless widow in order that children may rise up in the name of family that might otherwise have died out … along with the associated property.

Boaz steps in to be that redeemer, marries Ruth, and ultimately Obed is born, who is the father of Jesse, and in turn of David.

The sap in our family tree dating back to Adam is the issue of sin. Jesus is the ultimate kinsman-redeemer, who has the right to the family line, but who is also (through the virgin birth) not afflicted with the disease that spreads from father to son throughout the entire lineage.

As I said, more on that in December!

Boaz Marries Ruth

4:1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.

2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.

9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Naomi Gains a Son

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The Genealogy of David

18 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron,

19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab,

20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,

21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed,

22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

What is that in the Family Tree? (Ruth 4:1-12)

There is a saying that “every family tree has some sap running through it!” Or another: that old so-and-so “is the nut that fell from the family tree.” If you’ve ever done genealogical research, let me tell you from experience that you may not like what you find out! The adopted/biological half of my background goes honorably back through Revolutionary War soldiers to certain founders of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. The biological half that I’ve only recently worked to uncover was more problematic – only got as far as a great-grandfather who appears to have been an orphan and then later a state prisoner … for what, I don’t know … maybe he assaulted a New York Yankees fan!

Today’s devotional reading involves a number of family tree types of considerations. Our selection is near the end of the story which encompasses the whole book of Ruth; and you almost need to read the preceding three chapters to fully appreciate this section. Briefly, it is the story of a Jewish husband and wife – Elimelek and Naomi, and their two sons Kilion and Mahlon – who during a time of famine leave Israel and go to the land of Moab. The sons both marry Moabite women, but before long all three men die and leave three widows. After a decade or so, Naomi determines to return to Israel, and her devoted daughter-in-law Ruth travels with her. Poor and destitute, Ruth (in the custom of care for the poor) gleans grain at the edge of the barley fields to eek out a living. This is done in the fields of Boaz – a relative of Elimelek. Through a series of Naomi-guided actions, Ruth is positioned to seek refuge from Boaz who would act as a “kinsman-redeemer.” This is in keeping with Old Testament law provision such as written in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.”

Boaz was a just man and was willing to fulfill the role, but there was a closer relative. This fellow was at first willing, that is, until he heard that a Moabite woman was a part of the deal! You can almost see him slamming gears into reverse when he realizes this! As we read later in the Scriptures, Boaz and Ruth are the great-grandparents of David, and are therefore in the family tree of Jesus.ruth-to-jesus-family-tree

The theological significance of this is that Christ can be regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer, since he identified himself with us and redeemed us because of our need. As we have seen in passages in Hebrews that we have covered already in this series (2:11) – “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Jesus is not only our redeemer from sin, but as Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 display, he is a kinsman to us and understands our human weakness and struggles. Thus he is able to help us in our times of need.

Ruth 4:1-12 – Boaz Marries Ruth

4:1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.

2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the[c] dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.

9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Cross Words:

Payment – the necessary deed to make redemption and all the cross words a reality.

Aloes – It says in John 19 about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea – Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

puzzle day 12