Ruth 4: What will your legacy be?

Ruth 1 HERE. Ruth 2 HERE. Ruth 3 HERE.

I have greatly enjoyed preaching through the book of Ruth over the past few weeks. We have discussed HESED love, kinsman-redeemers, romance, marriage, dealing with unmet expectations in life, characteristics of a godly man, the gospel, etc.

In the first 3 chapters we find that life does not go the way that Ruth and Naomi had hoped. They have dealt with the death of loved ones and now they are struggling to just to make ends meet. In chapter 3 Boaz graciously agrees to marry Ruth and to become their kinsman-redeemer. Things are beginning to look much more hopeful! There is one catch. There is another relative that must be asked if he is willing to function as the kinsman-redeemer.

In chapter 4 we find Boaz meeting with this relative to ask him if he is willing to take on this responsibility. As Boaz meets with this other relative I believe that what we are meant to see, and take note of, is the difference between Boaz and this relative.

Boaz at first tells the nameless relative that he has the opportunity to buy back the land that Naomi has sold and that he will also be responsible for taking care of Naomi. The relative quickly agrees to this deal. But I believe I know why the relative so quickly agrees. This deal, for the most part, benefits him. Plain and simple. He would be getting some land. He would probably not have to support Naomi for too long because she is not a young woman at this point in life. This is a profitable move for the relative to make.

But the negotiations are not over yet. Then Boaz tells the relative that there is also a Moabite woman that he will need to marry and take care of. This is the deal breaker for the relative. He turns down the offer. The question is why? Why does the addition of Ruth make it so that he refuses the offer? There are a number of factors that we need to consider. First of all, Ruth is a foreigner from the land of Moab. Jews did not think very highly of people from Moab. Second, Ruth was younger and this meant that the relative would need to take care of her and support her financially for a much longer period of time. Instead of this deal being a profit making venture as he hoped it now looks like he will have to spend his precious money.

I believe that there is a strong contrast being made between Boaz and this relative. Boaz is making a decision based on HESED love. Hesed love is a loyal love that is seeking to put the other person first.  The relative is not making a decision based on HESED love. He is thinking about what is best for himself. In fact, refusing to be the kinsman-redeemer in a situation like this was considered shameful. We read this in Deuteronomy 25:

7 And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’

Deuteronomy 25 makes it clear that it was disgraceful to refuse Naomi and Ruth in this particular situation. The woman who is being refused has the biblical right to spit in the man’s face. This is God’s way of communicating to his people that they should be seeking to care for and love those who are struggling and in great need.

The contrast between Boaz and the relative force us to ask some tough questions of ourselves. Which man are we more like? Boaz or the relative?

Are we getting out of our comfort zone and loving people that are different than us?

Are we so preoccupied with our own selfish desires that we are failing to love and serve other people in need all around us?

Are we actively loving people in our everyday life that others tend to overlook or stay away from?

Unfortunately I think that many Christians, and churches, have made being comfortable and safe more important than loving and serving other people. The result of this way of living is that Christianity becomes a boring, adventureless, dead religion.

The end of Ruth shows that God delights to bring hope to those who are hopeless. Joy to those who are in despair. Resurrection life to those who are dead. What will our legacy be? Will we follow in the ways of Jesus? Will we be characterized by HESED love or by playing it safe and seeking our own comfort?

 

 

Ruth 3: Divine Romance

Ruth 1 HERE and Ruth 2 HERE

This Sunday I will continue my sermon series in the book of Ruth. Here is what I have discovered so far in Ruth 3.

HUMAN LOVE

Naomi and Ruth have returned to Bethlehem nearly destitute and with little hope. Family members have died, their money is gone, and the expectations for a good life have been shattered into pieces.

Naomi and Ruth discover that there is a relative in Bethlehem by the name of Boaz. Boaz is the kinsman-redeemer which means that he has the responsibility as the nearest kin to rescue Naomi and get her out of debt. Of course Naomi would love for Boaz to step up as her kinsman-redeemer, but Naomi is also concerned about the well being of Ruth. Naomi wants to see Ruth get married so that she is loved and taken care of.  Naomi hatches an ingenious, albeit risky, plan.  She tells Ruth to get dressed up and put on some perfume. Ruth is then told to go to the threshing floor around midnight, lay down at the feet of a sleeping Boaz, and wait for him to wake up. What could possibly go wrong with a plan like this? Right. Everything!

Even at this point in the story you can see glimpses of the gospel shining through. Ruth is a complete and total outsider. Not only is she an outsider, but she is from the hated land of Moab. Moab was a city that was started by Lot having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Did that thought just make you gag? Jews did not look favorably upon the people of Moab. So we wonder, will Ruth be accepted and loved by this successful Jewish business man?

Boaz wakes up, and as you can imagine, seems startled. It’s not every day you wake up with a young woman wrapped around your feet. Will Boaz be furious? Will he make a scene and embarrass Ruth? Will he take advantage of her vulnerability for his own selfish purposes?

Boaz reveals what a godly man he truly is. Boaz praises Ruth, tells her that he will be happy to marry her, and takes on the responsibility of becoming Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer. There is an important clue in Ruth 3:10 as to what is motivating both Boaz and Ruth.

And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last KINDNESS greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

The word kindness is one of many ways that the Hebrew word HESED can be translated. As I have mentioned in some of my earlier posts, HESED is a loyal love. It is not based on fleeting romantic feelings. This is a love that lasts through good and bad times.

Ruth and Boaz are not merely following their emotions. They are making decisions based on HESED love for one another. They both understand that HESED love requires sacrifice, putting the other person first, and making a commitment that lasts forever.

DIVINE LOVE

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. -Ephesians 5:31-32

The love story between Ruth and Boaz is powerful. But we need to know that it is pointing us towards a much greater love story. It points us towards a divine romance. How does it do this?

Boaz is a foreshadowing of the One true Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who would come to earth and buy back his people from their debt of sin. Jesus would sacrifice his life on the cross and die for the sins of his people. The compassion and grace of Jesus is something that we, like Ruth, did not deserve. We were all outsiders. We were in bondage to the debt of our sins. Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer, stepped in when we did not deserve it and rescued us.

As a preacher, I wonder what to make of this story. How do I apply it to everyday life?

First of all, one of the things this story should do is give us a greater appreciation of the love that Jesus, our Bridegroom, has for us. We did not deserve to be brought into this covenant relationship with him. We brought nothing into this relationship but our sin and shame, yet Jesus still loved us enough to die for us on a cross.

“You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” -Jonathan Edwards

Secondly, it is a wonderful privilege and responsibility to know that our marriages are to reflect the beauty and grace of the gospel. The weight of this truth forces us to rethink what marriage is all about in the first place. Ruth and Boaz point the way once again. They were making decisions about their relationship based on the rock solid foundation of HESED love. They were not basing a lifetime on how buzzed their feelings made them. I will confess that I wrestle with this because I’m fairly certain that I have made romance an idol in my life. I want the feelings in my marriage to be like they were when we were dating. The problem with this is that after living for all of these years I have not found one living soul who claims that marriage is non-stop romance. I want that, I really do. Thus, the struggle. With the ebb and flow of feelings in marriage, I need to be reminded that HESED love is what will make my marriage stand the test of time.

Modern people make the painfulness of marriage even greater than it has to be, because they crush it under the weight of their almost comically impossible expectations. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Becker believed that modern culture has produced a desire for what he called “apocalyptic romance.” At one time we expected marriage and family to provide love, support, and security. But for meaning in life, hope for the future, moral compass, and self-identity we looked to God and the afterlife. Today, however, our culture has taught us to believe that no one can be sure of those things, not even whether they exist. Therefore, Becker argued, something has to fill the gap, and often that something is romantic love. We look to sex and romance to give us what we use to get from faith in God. -The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Finally, I believe this story gives us tremendous hope for the future. Many times the New Testament talks about how we, the church, are the bride for Christ. We read this in Revelation 19:6-8:

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure

Can you see and feel the hope? We, the church, are Jesus’ bride and one day we will get to be with him in heaven. The white garments that we will wear remind us that all of our sins have been washed clean by the blood of the the Lamb. Our Savior, our Bridegroom, loved us so much that he was willing to die for us.

I am looking forward to sharing more gospel truth with you next week as I study the fourth chapter of Ruth!

Ruth 2: A Better Man

Part 1 of Ruth started HERE.

Eddie Vedder wrote the incredibly sad song “Better Man” in 1984 about an abusive relationship his mother was in with his step-father. The song communicates the idea that Vedder’s mom is in despair because she does not think that a better man is out there.

She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man…
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man…
Can’t find a better man
Can’t find a better man

Fast forward to the year 2017. We seem to be in crisis mode when it comes to what godly manhood looks like. Politicians, celebrities, and pastors are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Abuse. Sexual misconduct. You wonder, is there a better man out there?

This Sunday I will be preaching from Ruth 2. As I was studying this particular passage it struck me how timely it was for what is going on in our culture today. If there is one thing we desperately need it is some men who we can look to as godly role models.  In Ruth 2 we are introduced to a man by the name of Boaz. There are a number of characteristics that stood out to me regarding Boaz. Allow me to share a few with you.

  • Godly men live out their faith in the workplace
    • Boaz did not buy into the lie that we need to keep our faith and our work separate. Boaz was open (not pushy) about his faith with his employees. In Ruth 2:4 here is how Boaz greets his staff, And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”  Boaz is the kind of boss any one would want to have BECAUSE his faith had such an impact on how he treated people in the workplace. What difference is our faith making in the workplace?
  • Godly men show compassion to those who are poor, marginalized and thought to be unimportant by society
    • Boaz ends up showing tremendous grace and kindness to Ruth. She is in his fields trying to scrape together enough grain to feed herself and Naomi. I’m thinking that many successful men in Boaz’s day would not have given Ruth a second thought. Woman. Gentile. From the hated land of Moab. Boaz goes out of his way to show grace, HESED love, and compassion to this woman. He provides her with an abundance of food and gives her hope when she needs it the most. Do we notice those who are hurting or struggling right around us in everyday life?
  • Godly men make women feel safe
    • Boaz commands his young men to stay away from Ruth so that she is not sexually or physically abused by them. Ruth is incredibly vulnerable working out in the fields by herself and Boaz steps in and protects her. But Boaz’s compassion does not stop there. In verse 8 Boaz refers to Ruth as his “daughter”.  Boaz’s motives are pure and Ruth is blown away by the fact that she is in the presence of a very powerful man and he is treating her like a family member.
    • I must confess this makes me think about how safe women must have felt with Jesus. Jesus did not run away from female friendships. Instead, some of his closest friends and disciples were women. Jesus never used his position of influence or power selfishly. Jesus was always looking to serve, bless and show compassion. Do we make woman feel safe in our presence?
  • Godly men use their money, time and resources to be a blessing to others
    • Boaz was very generous with all that he had so that he could be a blessing to others. Not only was Boaz generous but he encouraged his employees to be generous as well. In verse 15 we read this, When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.” Boaz knew that life was not just about making as much money as possible. Boaz had his eyes open for people that God was strategically bringing into his life so that he could show them HESED love. Are we using our money, resources and talents for the good of others?

Of course, this story is not primarily about Ruth or Boaz. Boaz is merely a dim reflection of the better Man that was to come about 1000 years later. Boaz was a godly man but he too was a sinner. Boaz was the GOEL (kinsman-redeemer) for Ruth. But Jesus would be the ultimate GOEL (Kinsman-Redeemer) for all humanity. I want to be a better man. I want to be less like me and more like Boaz. I have to remember that it is not enough just to say that I need to be more like Boaz. Moral exhortations to be better won’t change my sinful heart. Every single day I need to die to self so that the life of Jesus Christ is set ablaze in me.