Our God Loves a Happy Ending

(Please read Ruth 4:1-22.)

           I will explain this statement a little later on, but for now, let me observe about Ruth and the book’s place in the Old Testament, there seems to be a fascination with footwear in ancient Jewish culture (see verses 7-8).  When he preached on Ruth 4, Pastor Michael Dephillips of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church took this fascination and ran with it.  He identified five kinds of footwear and described how they symbolize five kinds of church folk.  Let me share the highlights with you today.

* “THE FIRST PAIR OF SHOES IS A SNEAKER!  The person who wears this shoe thinks that they can sneak their way around the true issues of sin in their life. The Word of God teaches that we must be faithful to confess our sins and then God will forgive us of the sins he already knew about.

* “THE SECOND PAIR OF SHOES ARE RUNNING SHOES! Jonah is the most famous person in the Bible for wearing running shoes! God told him what to do and where to go and immediately Jonah laced up his running shoes to head in the opposite direction of God’s will for his life.  I’ve seen people run from the CONVICTION OF GOD and reject the Lord Jesus Christ many times over the last few years as well as seen Christians run from the CALL OF GOD and refuse to follow Christ’s purpose for their life.

* “THIRD PAIR OF SHOES PEOPLE WEAR ARE FLIP FLOPS!  This type of Christian never makes up their heart or keeps their promises. You can always count on a flip flop Christian to cry at the altar and walk back to the pew no different than when they came in. You can’t put any confidence in what the flip flop Christian tells you because he’s got no follow-through.

* “THE FOURTH PAIR OF SHOES ARE BABY SHOES! Paul told the Corinthian believers that he couldn’t speak to them like spiritual brothers in Christ or as mature believers but instead as carnal because they

were still like babies in Christ, having never been fed anything but milk. Babies usually don’t like to eat food at first but play with it and make a mess out of the whole nutritional process. Did the person responsible for feeding them give up after they kept spitting out the food and just put the bottle back in their mouth because it was easier?

* “THE LAST PAIR OF SHOES IS COMBAT BOOTS. No army in the world will win the war if they send their soldiers out barefoot. The combat footwear at the time Paul wrote the need for this spiritual armor was what we would call hob-nobbed sole. Small spikes were driven through the soles to give the soldier the ability to be free from slipping down and falling.  Are you wearing your combat boots today?”

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/gospel-in-a-shoebox-michael-dephillips-sermon-on-call-of-the-disciples-54716.asp?

Message: God may work out a happy ending in the short term, long term, in eternity, or all the above, but all His people have happy endings.  (See Romans 8:28.)

1. Boaz made his pitch. (4:1-6)

          As Naomi predicted in 3:18, Boaz wasted no time; he resolved the legalities of the situation in a day.  The next morning he gathered the necessary parties at the usual meeting-place; the gates of the city, the most public place in the community. (1-2) (See Deuteronomy 22:15; 2 Samuel 15:2; Proverbs 22:22; Jeremiah 38:7; Amos 5:10.)

Boaz acted on behalf of Naomi without having obtained her permission first.  I don’t think it’s disrespecting the text to see a little conniving in both of them.  He is still following the laws and customs of the day, but he is also moving things along as quickly as he could.

I found this factoid amusing – the Hebrew referring to the first-in-line kinsman-redeemer is best translated as “Mr. So-and-So!”  He is so unimportant to the story that the writer didn’t bother to mention his name (see 1 Samuel 21:2; 2 Kings 6:8 for other examples of this).  It may be the author’s way of shaming him for not being charitable enough to take on t role of kinsman-redeemer when offered.

In this time, the word ELDER literally meant “to have a beard.”  When ten bearded men were organized to decide an issue, they acted as judge and jury.  Although – in this case- they are more like witnesses than judges.

Boaz presented the situation to his kinsman in an accurate but persuasive way. (3-4)  His instructions COME HERE and SIT DOWN are emphatic in the original language, showing how eager he is for the proceedings to get underway.

He did not elaborate on WHY Naomi was selling her husband’s property, but we might guess poverty and/or debt as the cause.  I read Boaz’s remarks as being very carefully chosen.  He can’t appear TOO EAGER, yet he wants to resolve this so HE can be the kinsman-redeemer.

Truth be told, there was no way for Naomi to sell the land as the Law did not provide any way for a man’s estate to be passed on to his wife.  (Our law, of course, assumes the opposite.)  I can find no good explanation for this part of the passage, so let’s just leave it lay there.

In Israel, all land belonged to the Lord (see Leviticus 25:23).  That’s why the matters of land and inheritance were so important – they were part of their obedience to God.  When the initial tribal lines were set, the land was further divided among families.  These ancestral lines were to be honored among succeeding generations.  For example; to move a boundary marker was a serious offense in that culture.

At first, Mr. So-and-So was eager to redeem it and wanted to own Elimelech’s property (4-5).  In the Hebrew, his immediate response is in an emphatic voice, perhaps betraying his eagerness; “I – I will redeem.”  Chances are he was interested in the property.  He saw a chance to enlarge his estate and add to his wealth.

BUT, when Boaz reminded him of all that was included with the purchase, (marrying Ruth and dedicating their first-born son to Elimelech), he quickly changed his mind.  “Mr. So-and-So” decided to release his rights and let Boaz be the buyer of the property and the bride (6).  He offers a lengthy but obtuse excuse for not accepting the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s lands and Ruth from widowhood.

How it would ENDAGER his current holdings is not immediately clear.  My first guess is that he knew that his current wife would take a dim view toward his coming home with a SECOND WIFE!  More to the point, if he wed Ruth and they did produce a son, he would owe some of his current holdings to Elimelech’s grandson.  Thus, he’d be taking from what would have normally gone to his children.  This makes his motive for refusal financial.

He must have been an excitable character, for in the Hebrew, his second statement is as emphatic as the first; “Redeem for you, you, my right of redemption.”

2. Boaz became Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. (4:7-13)

          Here’s where we come to the fascination with footwear in this culture (7-8).  In a previous message in this series we learned that the Law provided some satisfaction to a widow who was refused by a kinsman-redeemer.  Deuteronomy 25 allowed the rejected widow to remove the offender’s sandal, strike him with it, and spit on him!

This sandal has, however, a symbolic value.  According to Deuteronomy 1:36; 11:24 and Joshua 1:3; 14:9, walking onto the property was the way one demonstrated taking ownership of the land.  Removing a sandal and handing it over replaced walking.  The ELDERS were there to witness the exchange.  By the time of Jeremiah (32:9-12), written and attested documents replaced sandals and elders.

Boaz completed the transaction by announced it to the elders and everyone at the city gate (9-10).  In a time without written records, it was shared memory and oral tradition that verified things like transfer of property.  It may be offensive to think about Ruth being part of a property deal, but remember this is God’s Law and it was a way of preventing widows from being made homeless.  It also doesn’t feel as much like a romantic story with all these legal proceedings, but all of this indicates to us that Boaz was a godly man.

The witnesses sealed the deal and pronounced a blessing on the new family (11-12). On the one hand, “WE ARE WITNESSES” is surely the legal, formal response.  The blessing, on the other hand, is unique to this situation.  The blessing included…

– Ruth’s fertility.  She’d had no children with her first husband, Mahlon.  Rachel and Leah were Jacob’s two wives, mothers of the 12 sons of Jacob who became the 12 tribes of Israel.

– Boaz’s success and fame as a man of faith.

– The success of their children.  They are likened to Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar.  I still don’t know why Perez was such a big deal.

3. God blessed their family. (4:14-22)

          The short-term blessing was realized in the birth of a son (14-17).  The fact that Ruth conceived and better still, gave birth to a son, would have been understood by the original readers as a clear sign of God’s blessing.

It also implies that Mahlon, her deceased husband, was the reason for the couple’s ten-year inability to have children.  Barren wombs were assumed to be an outcome of God’s wrath.

In verses 14-15 the same women who greeted Naomi and heard her complaints 1:19-21 are back again.  This time they offer praise for the way God blessed Naomi with a kinsman-redeemer and vowed his story wouldn’t be forgotten.  They gratefully acknowledged that God saved Naomi, providing a home for her into OLD AGE.

Note the endearing praise for Ruth, where they state she was better for Naomi than SEVEN SONS.  In the Bible, seven is a number that signifies completion.  So seven sons is pretty much a slice of heaven in this culture.  This is high praise, given the way this culture valued sons over daughters.

To make the scene even sweeter, verse 16 depicts Naomi taking care of the child.  She fully accepted him and loved him.  In fact, Naomi loved and cared for the little fellow so thoroughly that the women of Bethlehem would tease her, saying “NAOMI HAS A SON.”  (We all know from experience what “baby hogs” grandmothers can be!) Boaz and Ruth must have been delighted with Naomi’s affection for the child, for they allowed her to name him.  This is the only time in the Old Testament that anyone other than the parents named a child!

Naomi chose to name him OBED which meant “servant.”  Usually this was paired with another word that designated whom the person served.  The absence of a second word may indicate that Naomi hoped the boy would, like his Father, be a servant to all people.

The long-term blessing was realized in succeeding generations of this family, including King David (18-22) and Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-17).  Ruth is one of four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.  What all of them have in common is that something made life difficult for them.

– We learned earlier this year about Tamar.  That may be the oddest Bible story.

– Rahab was the prostitute who protected the Israelite spies in Jericho.

– Bathsheba was King David’s mistress; that was another sordid tale.

– Ruth, a foreigner, has the most ethical story of this bunch!

One commentator wrote that it was difficult to know why this genealogy was placed at the end of Ruth.  It may be impossible to prove any theory, but I believe the genealogy is here for at least three reasons:

– One, to reinforce our appreciation of the grace of God.  He doesn’t seek out perfect people, but perfects the people who are willing to obey Him.  Grace makes it possible to overcome our circumstances and mistakes.  Grace makes it clear that all this is about God, not us.

– Two, to draw a connection between this wonderfully sweet story of love and salvation and the birth of Israel’s greatest king and ultimately, the birth of the King of Kings.

– Third, it brings a sweet story to a full conclusion.  Like movies that show you how the characters ended up after the events of the movie were over, this is a happy ending.  If we haven’t learned anything else from the book of Ruth, let us learn that our God loves a happy ending.

Let me conclude with an excerpt from John Piper’s sermon on Ruth 4:

“Here’s what I would suggest as the main lesson: The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska, but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rock slides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead there are frequent signs that say, “The best is yet to come.” And at the bottom right corner written with an unmistakable hand are the words, ‘As I live, says the Lord!’”

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/ruth-the-best-is-yet-to-come

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