Boaz Acts on His Promise

IMG_1021Ruth 4:1-12

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

Workers Together

IMG_1920Judges 1:1-7

We serve a very generous God. He richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17; cf. Acts 14:17). We ought to enjoy and give thanks for every good gift that comes from our Father in heaven. However, the possession of wealth and what it can acquire is not an invitation to self-indulgence. God made us to work and to do his will. And he made us to work with one another to reach people with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Christians may say they want to do this, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them by having to work with other believers. Far too many are on a lonesome quest to satisfy their own needs. What we have in our text is an example of the people of God working together for his purposes.

The Lord caused Israel to prosper when they cooperated with one another (1:3). The tribe of Judah made a godly request for their brother’s help. Since God in his providence had placed the two tribes together in their inheritances (Joshua 19:1-9), the tribe of Judah rightly saw this as a task on which they could join together. God’s people are to seek to help one another (1 Corinthians 12:7, 21-26). Paul also teaches this to the church at Rome (Romans 1:11-12; 15:24, 30-32).

We see a godly response in helping their brothers. The tribe of Simeon did not shrink back from its brotherly duty. They went to war with Judah! The New Testament Scriptures show Christians helping each other (Philippians 4:14-19). God honored Simeon’s assistance to Judah, for they were preserved with Judah many years after the other tribes fell into apostasy and then into captivity. This was beyond anyone’s knowledge at that time, but there were future benefits. God’s blessing comes as his people give and receive help one to another. Don’t allow pride to keep you from either activity. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian couldn’t get up when he fell until his brother Faithful helped him. (By the way, if you haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress, I encourage you to do so.) The life of faith is not meant to be walked alone; in fact, it cannot be.

The Lord caused Israel to prosper when they obeyed his will (1:4-7). In this event, God gives an example of the defeat of the world. This is actual history, and all events had meaning in the history of redemption. God was acting for the future prosperity of Judah and providing for the line of the Messiah. We must not fail to recognize the historic importance of this event. God was acting in history to prepare for the sending of his Son in human flesh through the tribe of Judah. But the Lord also has lessons for us from it. When God is in our warfare, the armies of the world go down to defeat. “The Lord gave….” Though the leaders of people style themselves as “lords”, they have no power against the all-power of the Lord. A king with his army around him has a high opinion of himself and acts accordingly (Proverbs 30:29-31). But no person has power against the Lord (Proverbs 21:30-31).

God gave an example of divine vengeance. Some question the destruction of the Canaanites, but they were justly condemned for their wickedness (cf. Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 7:10; 18:9-12; 20:16-20). Some question the treatment of Adoni-Bezek, but he received what the Law required—justice (Exodus 21:23-24; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:16-21). He acknowledged God’s justice against him. The church is not a physical nation charged with carrying out physical justice. We live in the new covenant age. The mission of the church is to extend grace to the undeserving (Matthew 5:38-42). However, the real problem that people have with this topic is that they hate God’s holiness, and they don’t want God’s judgment to fall upon them for their sin (rejection of God as God, refusal to love God, and rebellion against God and his ways. But how are we living? Do we want to work with other followers of Christ for the glory of God and the good of people? Let us learn from the good example of these two tribes of Israel.

Grace and peace, David