Summary: God’s plan of redemption has been in process for centuries on end, but what it comes down to is this: Jesus is our greater Boaz. He is the faithful Redeemer, who has paid the price to deliver us and to recover us for an eternity of joy.
Over the last few weeks, we have turned our attention the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, and now, today, we come to our final study of this remarkable account. As we have said, the story of Ruth is told in four episodes with a chapter given to each one of them. The first chapter is the story of a journey – or, as I have suggested – two journeys: an outward journey and an inward journey.
The outward journey took place when a man named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons from their home in Bethlehem in Judah east to a foreign land called Moab. While they were in Moab, Elimelech died. The two boys grew up, married Moabite women, and then they died. So Naomi made the journey back to Bethlehem, and one of her daughter-in-law – not both of them but just one – went back with her.
It was this daughter-in-law, whose name was Ruth, that made the inward journey. Before returning with Naomi to the land of promise, Ruth confessed her faith in the God of Israel and announced her embrace of his people and his covenant. This was a journey not on earthen terrain but on the geography of the heart. She became one of God’s covenant people.
So, the first chapter is about these two journeys, right? I have called the second chapter A Day in the Field, because it is in that chapter that Ruth shows her loyalty to Naomi by going to work in the barley harvest. These two women are destitute because of circumstances beyond their control, and they are in urgent need of food.
Thankfully, God had made a provision in the law of Moses for the poor and the stranger so that, in his land, the land of promise, no one who would work would ever have to starve. God instructed the farmers of Judah, when they harvested their land, not to work their fields to the very edges, but to leave a little for the needy. And Ruth was needy, as was Naomi; so, Ruth went to the field to work.
The field in which she worked turned out to be on the land of a very godly man who sought to keep God’s laws with a pure heart. This, of course, was no coincidence. We can see God’s fingerprints all over this little detail. The man’s name was Boaz, and he immediately noticed Ruth.
Chapter 3 tells us that Boaz was actually a near kinsman of Ruth’s deceased husband. And in his law, God had made another provision – this time for women whose husbands had died and whose land was on the block to pay off debts. This was exactly the case with Naomi and Ruth. Naomi’s husband had run up significant debt, and not only could Naomi not afford to work the family farm, she was also now in the position of having to sell it to pay off her husband’s creditors. And Ruth’s husband, Naomi’s son, had died without an heir.
In his compassionate providence, God had provided for just such a situation as this. His covenant with his people contained what came to be called the law of the kinsman-redeemer. God said it was the responsibility of the next-of-kin to redeem the widow by buying the land for her and by marrying her, and all this was so that a child could be born as the rightful heir to the estate of the deceased husband.
In chapter 3, which I have called A Night to Remember, we see Ruth approaching Boaz – and it was; it was the middle of the night – and we see her going to him and asking him to fulfill his responsibility as her kinsman-redeemer.
Boaz, of course, was more than willing to do this, but he had to acknowledge that he was not actually the nearest next-of-kin. There was another man who was even more closely related. It would only be proper for him to have the right of redemption. If he waved that right, then, yes, Boaz would redeem the land for Naomi and the family name for Ruth.
That brings us to chapter 4, and I have called this episode The Morning that Changed Everything. As we read in our passage for today, Boaz arranged for a meeting with the true next-of-kin in the presence of the elders of the city. Boaz presented this man with the opportunity to buy Naomi’s land for her. And, as we saw, he was willing to do that. But when Boaz told him that Ruth was part of the deal – that he would have to marry her and, if God willed, provide her deceased husband with an heir – well, he didn’t waste a minute backing out. He didn’t want to buy the land, have a kid that would be considered Mahlon’s son, the son of Ruth’s dead husband, and then see his investment and all of his efforts go to the boy when he was of age. No. He would decline. He gave his sandal to Boaz, a way they had in those days of indicating that Boaz could now rightly tread the soil that this guy would otherwise have walked on as its owner. He wasn’t about to take any risks. Boaz could redeem the land and marry the girl if he wanted to.