Dec 8 2019 - Ruth 4 - From Despised Foreigner to Esteemed Leader
8th December 2019
Ruth 4 is all about Advent – a precursor to a Christmas story
Ruth 4:1 No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, "Come over, friend; sit down here."
This word, FRIEND – is not as kind of a word as it might sound. Like, hey, Mr. So-and-so – Hey you – come sit down here.
And he went over and sat down. 2 Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit down here"; so they sat down. 3 He then said to the next-of-kin, "Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech.
Chapter 3 and 4 have many parallels – in chapter 3, they came up with a plan to get Boaz to marry Ruth – and a key element of the plan is the element of surprise – go to the threshing floor – and after he has eaten and drank – go lie at his feet – and he wakes up – and she catches him off-guard – she is in effect asking him to marry her!
The next day, he goes to the gates of the city – think – city hall – and he knows he is not the closest relative. So Boaz approaches with the element of surprise.
Naomi – of whom you are the closest relative – has this piece of land – and she is putting it on the market, as she is destitute and in need of money – and if you read this – you can see this is part of the plan.
What is going on – Land was important to the Jewish people – it would stay in the family and they would do everything they could to keep it in the family – but every 50 years they had this Year of Jubilee – where are debts are forgiven and land goes back to the original family. You can see why this wouldn’t work in America!
But if you just had the year of Jubilee – you’d be out of luck for nearly half-a-century -and people would want to keep the land in the family. The closest relative – Mr. So-and-so – is only the closest relative physically, but not in heart. Boaz is the real kinsman redeemer. And this leads us to Advent – because the REAL kinsman redeemer is Jesus. This is a gospel story – and the gospel begins with the Incarnation – too often, we just jump to the cross – but without God becoming Man, our salvation could not be what it is!
4 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, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you." So he said, "I will redeem it."
It sounds like Boaz is doing this man a favor! But there are things that Mr. So-and-so does not know. Boaz is not showing his cards.
The man says – Oh yeah, I’ll buy it! But then comes the curveball:
Oh, by the way… there is this little point:
5 Then Boaz said, "The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite (you know – THOSE PEOPLE), the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance."
What does that mean? This is called Levirate Marriage Law – It may sound like Boaz is being deceptive – but he is really exposing the prejudice of the community – and the communities’ failure to do what God’s word says to do – to support the widows.
Deuteronomy 4: 5 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. 6 "It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
Now, we read that, and think – that is weird! Think of the Reality Show this would make! Not Sister-Wives, but Brother-something here. He has to take her on as a second wife. That is all really strange – but there is a problem in this story. This verse has nothing to do with Ruth and Boaz! This Law is not related to them! It is about a brother and another brother! They are not brothers! The second part – it is Naomi who should be married, not Ruth – nothing to do with Ruth! And we think – what are they doing here?!
Here is the Bible-Geek moment. There is something understood by the community. They all seem to get it – they are all in agreement – there is this thinking that they have come to agree with – here is my take: What this is showing us – it is giving us some insight into how they interpret and understand the Scripture. There will be some things to help us to interpret the Bible giving insight into how the Bible works. We always come upon situations where the Bible doesn’t have a verse! But some say, there is a verse for every situation – but there isn’t! But what we do know – whatever circumstance we find ourselves – the Bible INFORMS us!
Genetic Engineering – are there verses about it? No – but does the Bible inform us? Yes!
Cloning! That’s never mentioned anywhere in the Bible (or is it?!)
Weapons of Mass Destruction… moving on…
Here is what Ancient Jewish people understood – and what Jesus reiterated – they saw Scripture as narrative – or story – and that is really important. It tells a grand story of God and His dealings with creation. The Laws, commands, and promises of Scripture are set in the context of the story, and they can only be fully understood if we can understand them in light of the story – not outside of it.
The problem we have – we like to pull scripture out of its context – which means pulling it out of its story – we talked about this Wednesday at Men’s Group.
Here are some examples from Jesus:
The Ten Commandments –
We know them – and if anything – what do we do? We pull them out of the story and make plaques! Let me say this – the Ten Commandments represent God’s moral standard – no question about that – but to understand the heart of the Ten Commandments – we must read and interpret them in light of the story of the exodus of Israel – God redeeming Israel from Egypt – and then in light of the Passover – a picture of the atonement – and then we must understand the Ten commandments in light of the parting of the Red Sea – Our salvation
4 – Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.
If it is just a law code – what happens? We have New Testament people who did that – Pharisees – here is the command! And what did it become – you cannot do this, that, and a host of other things! Is the Sabbath about what you cannot do? No it is a gift to you! And Jesus and the Pharisees had a lot of fights about the Sabbath.
2 stories about the Sabbath – Genesis 1 and 2 – on the Sixth day, he finished all His work – so He rested and made it HOLY! It does not say – “I am not allowed to create anymore!” Don’t you dare create! It is the Sabbath!
Now, imagine, if one day a week – you were done with your work! What would your view be of the Sabbath?! What a celebration that would be! What a wonderful world that would be! If there were a day every seven where the work was done! Except to rest and enjoy Him – and to do good for others – works of compassion!
The other context – Israel and the exodus from Egypt – they were slaves and Pharaoh worked them to death – and God was saying – no more – your slavery is over! But we are all slaves of something, aren’t we – and the Sabbath is a picture of how Jesus has released us, and we can have rest.
We could go through multitudes of these.
Murder. All of us would agree – do not murder!
What did Jesus say – You have heard it said – do not murder! BUT – no buts there Jesus – BUT – I say to you – anyone who is angry with his brother has committed murder in his heart!
When we place the commands in the story – we get to the heart meaning of what is going on. We settle for the surface – God wants us to go deep into the heart.
So for us and our study and application of the Bible, we need to move to the heart of the passage and not settle for a surface understanding.
When we take verses and force them into things, we cut the heart out of them. That is difficult.
One last one – what is the great commandment in the Law? Jesus said – Love God, Love your neighbor! And the guy probably thought – we are on the same level! But who is my neighbor? AHA! Pulling the law out of its context, which typically narrows and restricts the Law. But Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan – and expands it! Everyone is your neighbor – anyone in need.
The people of Bethlehem have pulled a command – don’t let the Moab be part of your community – but it starts with Abraham – You shall be a blessing to all the nations – all the nations shall be part of my community – and it is not just about the Jews – it is about all the nations God wants to bless through the Jews! And we get to Revelation – and there will be people of every tribe, tongue and nation around the throne of God!
The care of the widows and orphans is continually emphasized. The way the community treats the least is the true reflection of the community.
Boaz is saying – the way we treat Ruth is a reflection of the type of people we are.
Jesus said it like this – whatsoever you do to the least – you’ve done for me – what you think of the least is what you think of mankind.
6 At this, the next-of-kin said, "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it." 7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, "Acquire it for yourself," he took off his sandal.
9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses."
Now, this is the – Ruth has become part of the community as the wife of an important person – and she is fully integrated into the community – going from the foreign widow – to an important member of the community.
11 Then all the people who were at the gate, along with 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 produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; 12 and, through the children that the LORD will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah."
This is the Cinderella moment! This is the Disney moment. All of a sudden – she is no longer a Moabite – but is compared to the founders of the nation –
This is a prophetic word – and we’ll pick up there next week – not only is this going to be great – Ruth becomes part of the family – and this household has a profound impact.
The folks in Bethlehem were part of the family of Perez – there were twelve tribes and they stuck together.
Tamar is mentioned here – and that is a bizarre story – but Tamar – who is the Matriarch of this city – was also a foreign woman – just like Ruth! And isn’t it amazing – it took them this long to have their eyes opened!