Summary: Concluding my series on the book of Ruth, focusing on how Ruth’s faith in God saw her through her tragedy and into God’s blessing.
Ruth 4 – Faith in God works
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
July 8, 2007
We have been following the lives of two widows, Naomi and Ruth.
Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law, and she is past the age of remarriage and child bearing. Without assistance she would have been reduced to begging for her survival.
Ruth is the widow of Naomi’s son, and she is also a foreigner to the land of Israel. She accompanied Naomi back to Israel after losing her husband.
She believes in the God that she learned about through her husband and in-laws, and has tried to serve him through caring for Naomi.
Her hard work and devotion to Naomi’s care have earned her respect from the small town of Bethlehem that the two women live in.
God has blessed her richly, mostly by bringing her into the life of Boaz.
Boaz is a wealthy, God fearing man who has fallen in love with Ruth, and is willing to marry her. There is one issue standing in the way of their union.
There is a legal custom called the levirate law that is designed to help widows without children. It allows a man’s close relatives to marry his widow should he pass away.
This seem odd to us, but in those days it gave the widow hope that someone would care for her.
Boaz is a relative of Ruth’s deceased husband, so he can marry Ruth.
But there is another man who is a closer relative, and thus has first rights to marry her and then receive the property of the deceased.
Boaz, in order to marry Ruth legally, has to first convince this other man to turn down his opportunity. It is this encounter that gets played out before us today.
And just as a word of warning, we are dealing today with ancient, before Christ laws and customs that did not accord a woman the rights and freedoms we do today.
I want to share them and tell the story accurately, but that doesn’t mean that I in anyway support the restrictions placed on women in this story.
Vss. 1-2 – Setting up Court, Israel style
There’s a TV show my wife enjoys watching. It deals with real life problems between people that they feel inadequate to settle on their own.
It’s the Judge Judy show - a half-hour of honest to goodness courtroom drama. “Real people, real cases, Judge Judy justice” - the by-line goes, and sure enough, each show has some battle over property or money brought to the attention of the judge, the audience and who knows how many viewers.
(Funny thing here – my first time around with the book of Ruth was 8 years ago, and this illustration still fits :))
This public settling of affairs enjoys a ripe, long history, reaching back to the writing of the Bible and even before. The passage before us today is a great example of how legal proceedings were carried out ages ago.
Boaz first finds the other man who could put a claim on Ruth.
He bears this man no ill will, indeed, he has probably done business with him and enjoyed his company.
Moreover, they are family, since they are both related to the man that Ruth was married too.
This man is not referred to by name, he is simply called the kinsman-redeemer, since he is a kin to the deceased who can redeem his wife and property.
Boaz then sets out to gather up enough men (sorry, but in those days only men could validate legal proceedings) to bear witness to what he is going to do.
The group of ten respected elders of the community that he gathers
would be more than enough to bear witness to what is about to happen.
Since they were in a public setting, they would also attract the attention of passers-by - a good thing for Boaz, who wants his actions to be public record.
So by the end of verse two we have a public court set up and ready to go.
We now get treated to some Ancient Israeli public justice,
and it can be a little confusing to follow,
since it is based on the laws they lived by, and not the laws we live by.
Boaz gets things underway by bringing up what seems to be an unrelated issue. The death of Naomi’s husband has left some land in limbo - there is no child to inherit it and Naomi can do nothing with it.
In the laws they lived by women could not inherit, own or work with the property, so it was up to a man to take over the property and work it.
If a man died and left property without a male heir,