Thank you for joining me again today as we bring our series on Ruth to a close. I hope you have benefited from the series and from these resources.
Today we read Ruth, chapter 4.
Throughout this series God has been showing us through his word that he works powerfully in and through ordinary people in ordinary everyday life. We tend to think of God working through big, dramatic, epic things, but Ruth shows us that he works just as powerfully in the kindness, faithfulness, and love that we can experience in our ordinary daily lives.
If we only think of God operating on the big, epic scale, we can adopt the false belief that our lives don’t really matter that much to God. That’s dangerous for two reasons. One, we can slip into thinking that the sins we commit are no big deal. “Why should God be bothered if I do this? Hasn’t he got much bigger fish to fry? Isn’t there much worse going on in the world?” Two, we can think that the good that we can do in our ordinary daily lives doesn’t really matter that much either, so we get discouraged and lose our enthusiasm for doing good. We can end up thinking that participation in the mission of God, because it is such a big epic thing, is for other people who are somehow living extraordinary lives. And what’s that got to do with us?
What Ruth shows us is that it all matters. Every bit of human life. And that’s especially clear in this final chapter.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)
These were Christians like you and I, living in the real world, living real life with all its mundane tasks and opportunities. There’s no part of your life that God doesn’t care about.
Did you know your life is sacred? Did you know that God Almighty is present with you throughout your day? Did you know that the ordinary things you do, the ordinary life you live, can glorify God? Don’t wait for some great heroic opportunity. Live faithfully now, doing the good things that God has prepared for us to do in our day-to-day lives. They might not seem that amazing, but what this chapter shows us is that they matter more than we may know.
Last time we saw Boaz was in the previous chapter when he had loaded up Ruth with grain to take back to Naomi and was heading straight into town. Most of this chapter (from verse 1 to verse 12) is about what happened there. Boaz went straight to the town gate and sat down. The gate of a town in ancient Israel was where the town elders met to witness transactions, to adjudicate over disputes, to settle cases. Just as Boaz gets there the very man he needs to speak to comes along. Another one of the “just so happened” events of Ruth where those who are paying attention can see God at work even though it’s not explicitly stated.
This man, we’ll call him Mr. So-and-so, who we just found out about in the previous chapter, is a closer relative to Elimelek, Naomi’s late husband, and Elimelek’s son Mahlon, Ruth’s late husband, than Boaz is and therefore is first in line to be the kinsman redeemer. The kinsman redeemer is someone who can acquire the land and/or the widow of a deceased relative so that that deceased relative’s line and inheritance would continue. Boaz wants to be that man because he loves Ruth and he’s a godly man who wants to do right by Naomi, but Mr. So-and-so is first in line.
When Mr. So-and-so hears the proposal about the land he jumps at the chance to possess it. But then Boaz hits him with the catch. The family line of Elimelek and Mahlon must go on, so Mr. So-and-so, if he acquires the land must also marry Ruth so that their children will inherit the land just as if they were Mahlon’s children and not Mr. So-and-so’s. He balks at this. This would, as Mr. So-and-so put it, “endanger [his] own estate” (v. 6).
Boaz on the other hand, is not concerned about his own name or his own estate. He wants to do right by these two widows, and he knows what a worthy woman Ruth is. So, while Mr. So-and-so wastes no time in rejecting this offer, Boaz wastes no time in sealing the deal before witnesses.
Here’s the irony: this man who was so concerned about his own estate, who is he? What’s his legacy? What’s happened to his name? Something like “Mr. So-and-so” is about the best we can do. The Hebrew used when Boaz calls him over and says “my friend” is Ploni Almoni (פְּלֹנִ֣י אַלְמֹנִ֑י), and is like the Hebrew equivalent of “Mr. So-and so,” or “Mr. What’s-his-name,” or something like that. In modern Israel Ploni Almoni is the equivalent of “John Doe”, a placeholder name you use for when you don’t have someone’s name. This man who was so concerned with protecting his name, his inheritance, his legacy has been forgotten. Intentionally left anonymous in this story.
Boaz, on the other hand, we remember and celebrate. even though he was willing to endanger his own inheritance by redeeming Elimelek and Mahlon’s land and marrying Ruth so that offspring could be raised to continue the line of Elimelek. He is, as the elders said, “famous in Bethlehem”. Boaz is remembered for being a good and righteous man of God who lives out the teachings of God’s word. A man of faith, kindness, honour, and love. What better legacy can we hope for?
We hit fast-forward at the end of the story. Ruth and Boaz have a baby together. Verse 13
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.”
(Ruth 4:13. NIV)
Did you notice that? This is the only point in this whole story where the narrator tells us explicitly that God has done something. If you’re watching carefully you can see God is very active in this story, but here we’re told explicitly that God blessed Ruth and Boaz with a child. It functions almost like a signature or a stamp at the end of the story to affirm that, yes indeed, God was at work here all along.
Bit of a movie spoiler here maybe. But it’s about the iconic twist ending of the sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes” from 1968, and it’s a scene that has been referenced a lot in other media. The Simpson’s even did a musical parody of this scene! So, I don’t feel too bad about giving away the ending of the film.
At the end of “Planet of the Apes”, Charlton Heston’s character, the astronaut George Taylor, sees the Statue of Liberty laying in ruins on a beach. All this time he had thought that he had landed on some strange alien planet ruled by talking apes and here in this moment he realises that it was earth all along. This is home! He’s travelled forward in time but landed on the very same planet he left at time when human civilisation has collapsed, and apes now rule. He gets off his horse, falls to his knees, punches the sand and shouts in anger and despair, overacting in a way that only Charlton Heston can get away with.
Now, if we were back in 1968 and you were a sci-fi fan and I spoiled the ending of that film for you back then you would be quite understandably upset with me. I’d have ruined the film watching experience for you. Because that ending (although it’s foreshadowed throughout the film) changes the film. It changes how we understand it. It shifts our perspective on the story.
When we get to the end of the Book of Ruth, we have a similar situation. As this story ends, verse 17 of this chapter hits like a bombshell:
The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son!’ And they named him Obed. He was the
father of Jesse, the father of David.
(Ruth 4:17, NIV)
That line is like the Statue of Liberty laying in the sand at the end of “Planet of the Apes”, except it’s not bad news. It’s wonderful news! We can react, not by beating the sand and cursing, but rejoicing and marvelling at the sovereignty, grace, and faithfulness of God.
From verse 17 to the end of this book we are told that these two people, Boaz and Ruth, are the ancestors of King David. And that revelation changes our whole perspective on this story. It is a story of faithful love. Ruth is faithful to Naomi. Boaz is faithful to Ruth. And what this ending shows us is that all this time it’s also been a story of God’s faithfulness to his people.
Go back to the first words of this story: “In the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). Dark days of Israel repeatedly going astray, getting worse and worse. The Book of Judges repeatedly reminds the reader that there was no king in Israel in those days. The last verse of Judges sums up this dark period like so:
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
(Judges 21:25, NIV)
And then we have this story which shows us that even without a king people can live justly and faithfully by adhering to God’s word and relying on him. Boaz lived out the teachings of the Torah, not just according to the letter, but to the spirit. We get to the end of the story and we see forward to the time when God would raise up a man after his own heart to be king over his people: King David.
This story is ultimately about our faithful God. Christians can see even further down the line. This story, as small as it may seem, is part of God’s plan of redemption not only for Israel, but for all creation. From King David would come another King. A truly faithful King. A King like no other, whose kingdom would have no end. Ruth and Boaz are ancestors of Jesus Christ! This little love story is part of God’s great love story. This is part of the story of God’s love for his people, which is so merciful, so gracious, so faithful, that God himself descended into our darkness, took our sins – our debts – upon himself to redeem us. Jesus Christ, God the Son, Son of David suffered on the cross to atone for our sins and rescue us. The motivation for it was the faithful love of God and we can see that faithful love of God here all these years before as he sovereignly orders things to bring about a faithful king for his people. God uses these ordinary people and their acts of quiet faithfulness to bring that about.
Remember, you are part of God’s story too. Your ordinary life is not insignificant. There is no such thing as an insignificant life, an insignificant day, an insignificant moment. God is sovereign over it all and can use the smallest things to tip the balance towards his glory and our joy. God uses the everyday faithfulness of people like you to bring about great things. There are no unremarkable people. The little things you are doing can have big effects. These small acts of faith are used by God.
So, let me leave you with a question, before we pray: What are you going to do today?
Sovereign Lord, we praise you for your faithfulness. Help us to remember that you are Lord this day. You are Lord over the big things and the small things. You are Lord over the storms and the stillness.
We pray Lord that you would help us to be faithful in our day. Help us to do the good things that you have prepared for us to do.
We pray Lord for wisdom as our country relaxes some of the restrictions that we’ve been under because of Coronavirus. We pray for protection. We pray against this virus. Protect us all from it, help us to slow and even stop its spread. Strengthen those who work to heal and care. Bless the efforts of those who fight against this virus in labs. Grant wisdom, compassion and strength to our leaders.
In this time of great anxiety, we pray that people will turn to you, our faithful God, sovereign over all.
In our Saviour and Lord Jesus’ name we pray.
Here are some videos that I hope will help you to sing worship to God at home today.