What means more to us—people or possessions? Oh, I know what we’re supposed to say – “people”. Yes, we all do quite well in theory. We give the proper answer and congratulate ourselves on our knowledge. However, life isn’t about theory. Life concerns practice; it demands hard, costly choices that stretch us and our faith. When an unnamed law expert heard the story we call the parable of the Good Samaritan, he was able to give the right answer! But Christ did not commend him for having such keen theoretical knowledge. He pointed him to a new practical way of life that would demand faith and love. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). In the same way, the story of Ruth is about costly love, and in the start of the fourth chapter of Ruth, we see two men confronted with the need for costly, redeeming love. Let us listen, not to learn more facts, but to live by faith in Christ.
Boaz set up the process for redemption (4:1-2). As he did what he promised to do, God assisted Boaz by his providence. Boaz went to the right place to be able to function as the redeemer. The city gate was where legal matters were transacted. Boaz needed to be there to be able to redeem Ruth. God wants us to be in places to fulfill his will. For example, Christ has sent us “into the world” (John 17:18). We will not reach the world by keeping our distance from people that are part of it. We must always carry Christ’s missional perspective with us, wherever we may go. In our passage, the Hebrew text carries the idea of surprise. Boaz waited at the gate, “and just then” the other kinsman redeemer walked by. Yes, this was a small providence, but the Lord often helps his people in little ways as they do his will. Do what you’re supposed to do (the commands that Christ has given to his people in the New Testament Scriptures). Then wait on the Lord for his help in the details.
Boaz made sure all was done legally. He invited the other man to talk with him. “My friend” is too generous a translation. Better is “Mr. So and So.” The Holy Spirit does not name the man, though Boaz surely knew who he was. The significance of this will become clearer in the rest of the chapter. But the phrase used is not complimentary. Think of how you can refer to someone as “so and so” either not to reveal their identity or to imply that he or she is a “mean old so and so.” Boaz got ten of the elders of Bethlehem to function as legal witnesses for this discussion. Their job was to make sure that all was done in a legal manner and to testify to the result, if that would prove necessary. Jesus relied on witnesses about his saving work: the Father (John 8:12-18), John the Baptist (John 1:29-34), and the apostles (Acts 1:8). Our ongoing mission is to be a witness for Jesus.
Next, Boaz negotiated with the other kinsman-redeemer. From the manner in which he presented the matter, we find out that Boaz was a clever or shrewd businessman. Boaz presented the need to act as a kinsman redeemer (4:3-4). He told his relative about the land that Naomi wanted to sell. Clearly, she had the right to do this, since none of the elders objected (cf. Leviticus 25:8-28). She needed to sell the land to support both Ruth and her. This probably looked like an excellent real estate deal, since Elimelech and his sons had not left any heirs. If he purchased it, at the year of Jubilee, it would permanently become his, since he was the closest relative. The unnamed relative jumped at the deal. He could look good in town by helping out Naomi and keeping the property in the clan, which meant much to the people of Israel. And when Naomi was gone, the property would be his, since she was past childbearing. Do you catch the suspense of the story at this point? It seemed that Ruth would not be able to marry Boaz and that the family of Elimelech might disappear from Israel. Will the story end in this sad way?
The greater subject is the accomplishment of God’s plan, which involves Ruth and Boaz. All seems to hang on the choice of “Mr. So and So”. What did this unnamed man value more – people or possessions. Did he care enough about Naomi to do all that was necessary to redeem her? It would require costly love, sacrificial love.
You and I will not reach people with the good news of redemption in Jesus Christ unless God’s kind of love motivates us. It requires turning from the enjoyment of our possessions to the good of other people. It is too easy to disguise our love of possessions with the excuse of “I’m too tired” (or stressed or busy) to avoid getting involved with people who need the Lord. Examine yourself. Which do you actually love more: people or possessions?
Grace and peace, David