Greater Kindness, Part Two

IMG_2638Ruth 3:10-18

In our previous article, we saw that Boaz’ kindness toward Ruth involved acceptance of her. His kindness did more, and he gave her assurance. Boaz told her not to be afraid. He wanted her to know that her bold request had not turned him off or turned him against her. He didn’t push her away as some Moabite “gold-digger” or as a trashy woman. This would do much to calm her heart. On one level, we all need to think about how others might be feeling, the nature of their concerns and fears, when they request our help. People can feel vulnerable and fearful of being taken advantage of in their weakness. Jesus assures people of his kindness when he invites us to draw near to him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28). Right now, you can call on the Lord to rescue you from sin, guilt and condemnation. “Come” is his great word of acceptance!

Boaz promised to marry her and to be her kinsman- redeemer. “I will do all you ask.” Can you see the joy on her face as he said these words? This was a big step for Boaz to take, and though he did not know it, it was a significant action in the true story of God’s glory in Christ. How often God has had his story work out through choices of people. Your life is important. If you ask Jesus to forgive your sins of refusing God’s love, rejecting who God is, and rebelling against God’s way, he will do all you ask—and more! You will become part of his people and his story that leads to glory in eternity.

Boaz commended her. She was a woman of noble character (cf. Proverbs 31:10-31) or more literally, “a woman of strength”. She had strong character traits. He said that she was a good match for him, since he was known as a “man of standing” (cf. 2:1). His generosity in being willing to marry a poor widow was matched by Ruth’s generosity to marry Boaz out of kindness. When two people marry, they should marry with a vision of what they want to accomplish through their partnership. “If we join together as husband and wife, by God’s grace we can glorify the Lord together in these ways.” You should marry to make a better contribution in the story of God’s glory than you could make single. If that wasn’t your vision when you married, it ought to be starting right now. Get together with your spouse and think through how God can work through your marriage partnership. What combination of gifts and skills do you have that can be used together to bring others to the Lord?

His kindness led Boaz to strengthen her with affirmation. He committed himself to her, as much as he lawfully could at that moment. But Boaz had to present a potential problem. There was another kinsman who was a closer relation, and he had the first right to redeem. Boaz could not act out of turn (cf. Leviticus 25:48-49; Numbers 27:8-11). This may have been why Boaz had not suggested anything previously. He could not interfere with another man’s rights. It might also be the reason for Naomi’s bold plan. She had simply waited long enough for the other guy to act as a redeemer, and so she forced the issue. Yet Boaz must do everything in a legal manner. He is willing to accept the Lord’s will (“good”), if the other man chooses to redeem her.

But Boaz wanted Ruth to know his deep concern for her, so he made a promise with an oath to marry and redeem her, if the other man would not. Since we live in the new covenant, Jesus directs us simply to tell the truth (Matthew 5:37) without making oaths. We all ought to be people of integrity. But in an age of falsehood, we need to grow in honesty and truthfulness. This can be part of our worship of our God.

Grace and peace, David

From Risqué to Righteous

DSCN0860Ruth 3:5-9

In our previous article we saw that Naomi took a risk to carry out her plan. Certainly, life is filled with risks, but we need to be wise in taking them. Naomi hopefully considered the character of both Ruth and Boaz before she set forth her idea. Whether she did or not, it led to a risqué scene (3:5-7).

The account is filled with euphemisms and suggestive sexual innuendo. Though there is no reason to suspect any immorality between Ruth and Boaz, the words used in the Hebrew text were used with sexual meaning. For “feet” compare Exodus 4:25; and for “uncover” compare Leviticus, chapters 18 and 20. And then there is the suggestive word “lie down” (Genesis 19:32-35; Exodus 22:16; etc.)  I think that these words were chosen by the Holy Spirit to set forth the sexually dangerous situation that Naomi put Ruth and Boaz in. Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions and lay down next to Boaz, as a wife would next to her husband. Obviously, this would place tremendous stress upon Boaz to restrain himself and to act honorably. In the family of God, we must maintain an atmosphere of absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2). We live in a culture that is increasingly sexually immoral and provocative, like the situation that existed in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Each of us is affected in some way by the immorality that surrounds us. Therefore, we need to act with godly wisdom toward others.

Ruth followed Naomi’s plan precisely. She waited till Boaz had enjoyed a good supper and had stretched out near his pile of threshed grain. He probably did this to protect it and to get an early start the next morning. She noticed the place where he was lying. This was important, since there might have been other men at the threshing floor. Over the years of being a pastor, I saw a few humorous situations about men who did not pay careful attention to where they were about to sit. One man who wasn’t alert even stretched out his arm as he sat down and put it around a woman that he assumed was his wife. You can imagine the scene when she left him know of his mistake in a nice sisterly way. Men, know where your place is!

Ruth took a place beside Boaz and waited for him to speak. Imagine the excitement in her heart! “Okay Naomi, what happens next? Just what am I waiting for him to say?” She had reached the end of Naomi’s plan and needed the Lord to do something. It was a good time to pray. There are times that you have done all that is humanly possible. Ruth, a stranger to Israelite customs and ways, had obeyed her mother-in-law and the outcome was in God’s hands. At times like that, we must wait on the Lord about the matter.

God graciously led them to a righteous outcome (3:8-9). Something awoke Boaz in the middle of the night. The Hebrew can mean “to tremble with fear”, but it simply might mean that he shivered. It seems that Boaz turned to reach for his cloak to cover himself and discovers Ruth lying beside him. You can imagine his surprise! Immediately, he is fully awake. Even in the darkness, he knew that it was a woman beside him (think perfume, etc.), and he naturally asked, “Who are you?” God alone now knows what went through his mind as he waited for her answer, but I can imagine it provided Boaz and Ruth with some humorous conversation years later. For example, “Dear, remember how we met that night at the threshing floor? What were you thinking?”

Ruth made a bold request. She answered his question, but used a different word for servant than at their first meeting. This one identified her as a servant who would be eligible to become his wife or concubine. She also didn’t mention being a foreigner, but simply gave her name. She proposed marriage to Boaz, which is the meaning of spreading the corner of his garment over her (cf. Ezekiel 16:8). I have read that phrase is still used by some Arab tribes today. In addition, it is related to the phrase in 2:12 about taking refuge under his wings. “In essence, Ruth asked Boaz to answer his own prayer!” [Hubbard]

The key idea is that Ruth asked Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer. She requested that he would pay the price to set her free, as well as to be her husband. This was very daring. She risked total rejection, but she needed a kinsman-redeemer!

In a previous article, we saw that Boaz is a type or shadow of the true kinsman-redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us by nature is in bondage to sin and death and our own evil choices. But the Lord Jesus died on the cross to pay the full penalty to set us free. So then, have you asked Jesus to be your kinsman-redeemer? Consider the room where you now are to be your threshing floor. Christ is near to you in his word by the Spirit. In the quietness of this day, boldly confess your need to be set free. Trust his shed blood to be your ransom, and confidently ask him to be your Redeemer. He will grant your request. Read his assuring words: All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37).

Grace and peace, David

Hope in a Redeemer

IMG_1063Ruth 3:1-2

Redemption is costly. We should not be surprised, since everything in life comes at some kind of price, whether of money, work, investing time in relationships, helping to carry someone else’s burdens, etc. Many champion “unconditional love”, but they fail to see that someone pays the price, someone suffers loss of some kind to help or to forgive or to set free. It is better to talk about “sacrificial love”, because that is God’s kind of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

Let’s think of the meaning of redemption: To redeem is to set free by the payment of a price. The redeemer must give something to secure the release of someone. As we have said, Ruth and Naomi were in a precarious financial position, since they were widows. Ruth’s hard work of gleaning had eased their crisis temporarily, but how could they be securely free? They needed a redeemer. To gain freedom, a price must be paid. God built this idea into the old covenant law. Consider two examples:

  • Since God delivered Israel through the means of the plague on Egypt’s firstborn, God required Israel to redeem all its firstborn males, whether sons or animals (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; cf. Numbers 3:40-51).
  • God required his people to protect human life. This included keeping dangerous animals, like bulls, from harming people. If a person’s bull gored a man or a woman to death (what we might call involuntary manslaughter), the bull had to be destroyed, but the owner could redeem his life by paying whatever was demanded (Exodus 21:28-32).

Boaz would have to pay to redeem Ruth and Naomi, when he functioned as their kinsman redeemer.

God redeemed his people by the payment of a ransom price. In the shadows of the old covenant, God gave Egypt and other nearby nations in exchange for Israel’s freedom (Isaiah 43:3-4). In the reality of the new covenant, God gave the precious blood of Christ to redeem us from an empty way of life (1 Peter 1:18-21). For this reason, don’t live for evil human desires; live for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-5).

Redemption provides hope for the future. At this point of the story of Ruth, we have reached the turning point. When Naomi saw how much Ruth had gleaned and learned in whose field she had gleaned, she regained hope (cf. 2:20). She returned to worship, because she thought about redemption and began to act according to it! This also set Naomi to thinking about remarriage for her daughter-in-law. Picture her making scones one day. (By the way, Sharon makes great scones!) Picture Naomi musing about her new career as a matchmaker. “Let’s see… Ruth is an eligible young woman, and Boaz is one of our kinsman redeemers. Now if I can get the two of them together in a more promising romantic situation than when Ruth is sweaty and dirty from gleaning, Mr. Boaz might notice Ruth. If we do this right, he might want to do more than give her some roasted grain. Hmm, what can I do to help this along?”

In a far greater way, God planned to give us hope and a future in Christ. We were hopelessly in debt because of sin (Romans 6:23), separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in God’s nation and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). We were destined for wrath (John 3:36). But God decided to send his Son as a kinsman-redeemer. To make him eligible as our kinsman, he put him in the human family (Hebrews 2:10-11), in order to redeem us through Christ’s blood, so that we might have our sins forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), and receive the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). This is the story of God’s glory; it is good news for us.

My friend, have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Redeemer? The Lord Jesus paid the very costly price necessary to set free all who believe in him from sin, guilt, condemnation, and wrath. Freedom from all these is offered to you through faith in Christ. Today is an excellent day to receive the free gift of eternal life.

Grace and peace, David

The Kinsman Redeemer

IMG_2417Ruth 3:1-2

The Bible is a book about the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is the theme of the Bible, the Book of books; it is the masterpiece of literature, and presents him in various ways. Many books tell the story-line of how God prepared for the coming of his Son through the line of Abraham and David the King. Some books provide prophesies of his coming, like Isaiah and Micah. The Four Gospels tell us what he did when he came. The New Testament letters explain what Christ accomplished in his death on the cross and resurrection and ascension. Many books in the Old Testament Scriptures present him through what the Bible calls “types and shadows” (cf. Hebrews 10:1). For example, the tabernacle and sacrificial system of the law covenant are pictures of Christ and what he would accomplish.

One of the types or shadows of Christ is that of the kinsman-redeemer. In the law or old covenant God gave the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel as their inheritance. But since people live in a world cursed because of human sin, sometimes people in Israel would lose their inheritance through debt, death or other troubles of life. However, God had set Israel free from bondage in Egypt and wanted them to live free from bondage. For this reason, he set up the plan of a kinsman-redeemer, who would set his relatives and their land free again. For the task of the kinsman-redeemer during the law covenant, refer to our previous article.

The story of Ruth now turns upon this concept of the kinsman redeemer: the one who could set Ruth and Naomi free and restore their family in Israel. Without a kinsman-redeemer, Ruth and Naomi would slide into debt and slavery, and they needed an heir who could possess the land that God had given to the family of Elimelech. Boaz is a close relative and so able to be the kinsman-redeemer. But will he do it? He had a number of legal loopholes to allow him to escape this function. To mention one, Ruth was a Moabite, not an Israelite, and the law said nothing about redeeming a Moabite. Yet we want to see more than this. Since the Bible is about the Lord Jesus Christ, we want to see how Boaz serves as a type or shadow of Christ. To do this, we need to know more about this idea of a kinsman redeemer. Naomi wants Ruth to “find rest” (3:1; cf. 1:9) in marriage, perhaps to Boaz. We all need to “find rest” in union to Christ the redeemer.

The idea of a redeemer develops from God’s plan to set a people free from bondage for him. God desires freedom for his people!

God decided to make himself known to Israel as the Lord who redeems (Exodus 6:6-8).

  • God saw their terrible condition—cruel bondage in Egypt.
  • God determined to do everything necessary to secure their release—outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.
  • God chose to make them his people—the basic promises of the covenant.
  • God promised them an inheritance—the land as their possession.

Christ did all this for us in a better way. He saw us in bondage to sin, died on the cross to secure our forgiveness, made a new covenant with us, and will give us a new heaven and earth.

God continued to reveal himself as Redeemer throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.

  • The teaching of the psalmists: Who is the God we worship? Psalm 19:14; 69:18; 72:12-14; 77:14-15; 103:1-4; 106:10; 107:2-3
  • The teaching of Isaiah: What great purpose is God pursuing? Isaiah 41:11-14; 43:14; 44:6-8, 24-26; 47:4; 48:17; 49:25-26; 54:5-8; 59:20; 60:16; 63:16
  • The teaching of Jeremiah: Where can we find hope when everything around us is crumbling? Jeremiah 50:33-34

The story of Ruth reveals how the Lord God wove the idea of redemption into the line of David. The kinsman-redeemer of all the people groups of the world would be the King, Jesus Christ.

When you know God as Redeemer, you can think of God this way:

  • As the God who stands by the oppressed
  • As the God who calls captives to freedom in his covenant family
  • As the God who actually sets people free and gives hope

Grace and peace, David

God Proclaims His Majesty


Isaiah 42:8

The name of God is God’s declaration of who and what he is. Here, God’s name asserts his solitariness and supremacy. He is Yahweh, the I AM. No one is like him (Isaiah 40:25); he does whatever he wants to (Psalm 115:3; 135:1-6; Ephesians 1:11), which is always what is wise and right. God’s name should transform our questions in the perplexities of life. For example, “the I AM has placed me in this circumstance to learn the surpassing resources of who he is. I feel utter weakness, but he is strength. I feel despair, but he is refreshing hope. I have no answers, but he is wisdom. Lord, in my instability, I will rely on the certainty of who you are.”

While it is true that the patriarchs knew God by the name Yahweh (Genesis 18:32; 28:13), it was not until the time of the Exodus that God revealed or demonstrated the meaning of the name Yahweh to his people (Exodus 6:2-8). The Lord reveals himself more fully in the events of salvation, whether in the old covenant shadows or the fulfillment of the Messiah and his new covenant. By this name (I AM) God reveals himself as the Covenant Lord and Redeemer of his chosen people. He makes himself known as our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1; cf. Exodus 15:2).

The Lord does not share his glory with anyone. God is independent of everything else. He is Creator, while everything outside of him is created and dependent. God’s great question to Job is enough to silence everyone (Job 38:4). God lets us know his absolute independence in a number of ways; for example, he is independent in his thoughts (Isaiah 55:8; Romans 11:33-34), in his will (Romans 9:19; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 4:11), and in his counsel (Psalm 33:11). Listen to the words of A. W. Pink. “Such a One is to be revered, worshipped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none. Such a God cannot be found out by searching; He can only be known, only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word” (The Attributes of God, p. 4).

God clearly states that he will not share his glory as God with anyone else. He is far above all that people wrongly imagine to be gods (Jeremiah 10:2-10). In this Servant Song, Yahweh exalts his Son with equal glory to himself. What the Father does, the Son does (John 5:19b). In this way, this reinforces a high evaluation of Christ, the Servant of the Lord. The “bread”, to use our illustration again, enhances the flavor and value of the “rest of the sandwich”. Today, let the glory of the Messiah flavor your way of life.

Grace and peace, David