Ruth, Chapter 4

The book of Ruth opens with three funerals but closes with a strategic wedding.  There is a great deal of weeping in the first chapter, but the last chapter records that which is overwhelming joy in the little town of Bethlehem.  The Bible says that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psa . 30:5).  Not all of life’s stories have a happy ending, but this little book reminds us that for the Christian, God still writes the last chapter, so we don’t have to be afraid of the future.

Chapter 4 focuses on three persons: a bridegroom, a bride, and a baby.  The bridegroom is found in Ruth 4:1-10. These verses begin with two strategic laws of the Jewish nation.  The first is the law of the kinsman redeemer (see Lev. 25:23-24).   Initially, it looks like some technical data, but when you study it more closely, it will transform your understanding.  The second law is the law governing the levirate.  This is a law that governs marriage (see Deut. 25:5-10).  The purpose of these laws was to preserve the name, and protect the properties of families in Israel.  God’s word is very focused on the family; but you would never know this in America today, because the family is in the process of being destroyed.   God covered the land of Israel, and didn’t want it to be exploited by rich people who would take advantage of poor people and widows.  When obeyed, these laws made sure that a dead man’s family did not die with him, nor his property sold outside to a tribe or to a clan.  The tragedy is that Jewish rulers did not always obey their own laws; and later the prophets had to rebuke them for stealing land from the helpless.  The nation’s abuse of the land was one cause for their subsequent captivity to Assyria and Babylon.

The concept of redemption is very prominent in the book of Ruth.  The word means “to set free by paying a price.”  Anything of value of this caliber is never superficial and it is never achieved at a cheap price.  In the case of Ruth and Naomi, Elimelech’s property had either been stolen or under some kind of mortgage; and the rights to the land had passed to Ruth’s husband, Mahlon when Elimelech died.  This explains why Ruth was also involved in the transaction, but she was too poor, however, to redeem the land.  When it comes to spiritual redemption, all people are in bondage to sin and Satan (Eph. 2:1-3; John 8:33-34).  We are unable to set ourselves free, and that is why Jesus Christ gave his life to ransom sinners (Mk. 10:45).  Faith in him is the only way to be set free.

In a nation of abundant freedoms, there are millions of people still in bondage to such things as food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, work, and many other things.  People are suffering internally by these things which ultimately will not satisfy the realities of life.  While we can thank God for counselors, doctors, and therapists, it is Jesus Christ alone who can give true freedom to those who are enslaved.  It is only the Son who can set one free (Jn. 8:36)!  Are you enjoying freedom?  Without spiritual freedom, all that God has provided for us would be under tremendous pressure and often severe loss.

Now, we need to consider the marks of the redeemer, of which there are three. Leviticus 25 gives the biblical basis for this individual.   Not everyone could perform the duties of a kinsman redeemer, and there was no direct redeemer in our story.  One had to be a kinsman to be a redeemer.  That was the major obstacle that Boaz had to overcome, because there was another man in Bethlehem that was a nearer relative to Ruth than he was.  When we see this as a type of Jesus Christ, it reminds us that Jesus had to become related to us before he could redeem us.  So, he became flesh and blood in order that he could die for us on the cross (Heb. 2:14-15).  When Jesus was born into the world in human flesh, he became our near kinsman, and will remain our kinsman for all eternity.  Oh, what matchless and substantive love!

Another essential was that in order to qualify, the kinsman redeemer had to be able to pay the price of redemption.  Ruth and Naomi were too poor to pay the price to redeem anything, but Boaz had all of the resources necessary to free their life; and that is why he becomes so essential to this book.   When it comes to the redemption of sinners, no one but Jesus Christ is rich enough to pay the price.  But the payment of money can never be enough to set sinners free.  Wealth cannot purchase eternal life.  The rich young ruler found this out (Matt. 19:16-22).  It is only the shedding of the precious blood of Jesus Christ that can accomplish redemption (1 Pet. 1:18-19).  We have redemption through Christ’s blood because he gave himself for us and purchased eternal redemption for us.

The third qualification was that the kinsman had to be willing to redeem.  He might have the ability, but if he did not have the willingness, all was loss .  In our story, the nearer relative was not willing to redeem Ruth.  That was the problem.  So Boaz moved in because he was free to purchase both the property and the wife, and he was more than willing to do so.  The nearer kinsman had money but he had no motivation.  He was afraid he would jeopardize his own family and inheritance.

The second person of Chapter 4 is the bride. (Read 4:11-12).  It’s a wonderful thing when the Christian community sincerely rejoices with the bride and groom, because what they are doing is the will of God.  They are asking God to unite them as a couple for they will never be the same again.  It is very distinctive!  The popular notion among many today is that marriage is, at best, a mistake that every man should make; but nothing could be further from the truth.  The last place one should make a mistake is in marriage!  Contrary to what some believe, marriage is not a private affair.  It is a sacred union which includes God, and God’s people – and certainly the bride and groom should want their blessing.  This was true in our story of Ruth.  The people prayed that Ruth would be faithful in bearing children in Israel, because children were considered a blessing – not a burden.  My, have we ever lost that today!  In the United States alone, one and a half million babies are literally (and legally) destroyed in the womb every year.  This is one of the greatest sins our nation has ever committed.  On the other hand, how rewarding it is to visit churches and see young people, happily and intelligently married, who know that they both have responsibilities in the relationship God has given them.

It was important for Jewish wives to bear children, not only to penetrate the nation, but also because it would be through Israel that God would send the Messiah to earth.  That is what made their marriages so important to the Jewish nation.  The townspeople wanted Ruth to be fruitful, and famous, and bring honor to their little town – the place where Rachael (mother of two of the twelve tribes of Israel) was buried.  But even more importantly, they hoped that Bethlehem would be the place where the Messiah would be born. The prophet Micah had not yet prophesied that would literally happen (Micah 5:2).

The neighbors wanted the house of Boaz to be like that of the house of Perez (4:12).  Boaz was a descendant of Perez.  Tamar, the mother of Perez, was not a godly woman, but her name is found in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.  What wonderful changes came into Ruth’s life because she trusted Boaz to let Him work on her behalf.  The result was that she went from loneliness to love, from toil to rest, from poverty to wealth, from worry to assurance, and from despair to hope.  She was no longer Ruth the Moabite; she was now Ruth, the wife of Boaz, a name she was proud to bear.  One of the many images of the church in the Bible is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-23).  The emphasis is upon Christ’s love for his church by his ministry.  He died for her. He cleanses and nourishes her, and He will one day present her in glory.   There is a great application for us from this scripture.  Do you love your church?  Do you support your church?  Do you pray for your church?  In many areas of our country our churches are going down because we have lost the vision of why Christ called and equipped the church to accomplish His will in our generation.   It is so refreshing to be in a church that is alive.  Christ is preparing a beautiful home for his bride, and one day we are going to celebrate His wedding.

The third person in this section is the baby. (Read 4:13-17).  God had been gracious to Ruth even in Moab by giving her the faith to trust Him and be saved.  His grace continued when she moved to Bethlehem, for He guided her to the field of Boaz.  That was no accident!  God’s grace continued at the town gate where the nearer kinsman rejected Ruth and Boaz purchased her.  After the marriage God poured out his grace on Ruth and Boaz by giving her conception (see Gen. 29:31).  The son born to them was named Obed (meaning servant).  He must have been a blessing to his parents.  He was no ordinary baby because he was God’s special gift to Boaz and Ruth.  But in a sense, every baby is a special gift from God, and should be treated that way.  Every baby deserves a loving home and caring parents (Eph. 6:4)

Obed was also a blessing to Naomi, his grandmother.  The Bible says that she was very instrumental in his upbringing (4:16-17).  For a variety of reasons many children are raised by a grandparent(s).  For many, serving as a parent for one’s grandchildren is a special gift of God to influence them in the spiritual paths of righteousness.  The women of Bethlehem shared in Naomi’s joy and praised God for giving her a kinsman redeemer (4:14).  This reference is in regard to Obed, not Boaz, because he would one day care for the family that brought him into the world.  And unknown to anyone at the time, Obed would bring fame, not only to the family name, and the name of the town, but especially through the ministry of King David (4:21).  Of course, David’s greater contribution was none other than the birth of Jesus Christ.  That genealogy is traced in Matthew 1 and in Luke 3.  The Moabites were not to enter the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3).  But the book of Ruth closes with a ten generation genealogy that climaxes with the name of David.

C. S. Lewis wrote the following words in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Hope means a continuous looking forward to the eternal world.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the cause of the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they are in the present world so ineffective.  Aim at heaven and you will get earth.  Aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Where are your eyes?  They should be focused, not just on the present world, but on the one that is to come, because Jesus is coming soon.  The more you spend your time thinking about that world, the greater will be your impact in this world.

O the mystery of God’s grace!  How He works through the good and bad within each of us!  How He takes the commonplace and makes it uncommon!  How He took a bereft widow named Ruth and made her the foremother of Christ!  How He took a hole-in-the-wall village named Bethlehem and made it a place of grace!  How He took that same village 1000 years later and made it the center of the universe as a star stood in homage to a child nestled there in the straw, a child who would become our Kinsman-Redeemer and take upon himself for all time the responsibility for us all!

-Dr. Mark Yarbrough lives in Forney, TX and is  Vice President for Academic Affairs, Academic Dean and  Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary