Sunday, March 23, 2008
A STORY OF REDEMPTION
In Ruth chapters 1-4 we read about the story of:
Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 1:1-7)
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. (He had sold his property in Bethlehem and he went to live there in Moab.)
And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. (Now there are left three widows: Naomi, Ruth and Orpah.)
In time of famine it is not a sin to go where there is food. But the real issue is:
Where did they go?
They went to the land of the cursed Moabites and stayed there 10 years. That was wrong. They knew that God had pronounced a curse on the Ammonites and Moabites. God said:
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt, and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.
They harassed the people of God, instead of meeting them with bread and water. God did not write that just to give us some historical details about the Moabites. God's Word is for today. And today we are living in a world where there is a spiritual famine. But most Churches today have become like Moabite congregations. They do not meet the people of God with spiritual bread and water. Instead they are paying hirelings who harass the people of God and they are starving them.
What the family of Elimelech did was absolutely wrong. Moreover, they married Moabite women. But God was able to turn their sin around, so that His plans are accomplished in spite of their rebellion. God made Naomi see the error of her way, and God set His grace on Ruth the Moabitess.
Then she (Naomi) arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
Now you can see another land purchase approaching, because Naomi would want her land back.
The Third Land Purchase (Ruth 3:12, 4:1-2)
Here in the prophecy of Ruth a beautiful love story is developing between Ruth and a rich man named Boaz, and Boaz is going to buy the land from Ruth, which she inherited from Mahlon.
The three widows Naomi, Ruth and Orpah started on their way from Moab to the land of Judah.
To make a long story short, Orpah decided to return to her people the Moabites, but Ruth stayed with Naomi and they went back to Bethlehem in Judah. There in the fields of Bethlehem Ruth the Moabitess meets the rich man Boaz. In the providence of God, Boaz was attracted to Ruth the Moabitess. And to Ruth's surprise, she hears from Naomi that Boaz is a near kinsman to them.
Now it was written in the Law of Moses that if a man had a wife and the man died without leaving any child, then her husband's brother, or the next of kin shall marry her and raise up seed for his brother, in order that his name may not be put out of Israel. This was one of the Ceremonial Laws in Israel, and God established the Ceremonial Laws as signs and shadows of Christ and of Salvation.
At an opportune time at the end of the summer, in accordance with the Mosaic Law, Ruth proposed to Boaz to marry her and to buy the land that Naomi left behind 10 years earlier. Legally the land now belongs to Naomi and Ruth. Boaz was delighted, but Boaz said to Ruth in chapter 3:12,
And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.
Then Boaz promised to marry Ruth if the nearer kinsman would not marry her. Turn to Ruth 4:1-3,
Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down.
And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down.
Is this not a strange greeting: "Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here"?
Why did God write it that way?
Very often, when God leaves out the name of someone, spiritually God intends to apply that situation to each one of us. Keep that in mind for the spiritual application of this story.
Then Boaz asked ten of the Elders of the city to sit down with them. Boaz did not ask ten old men to sit there and be a witness to this transaction. That would make no sense. Soon these old men would die, and then there would be no witnesses. NO! Boaz asked ten of the ruling Elders of the city of Bethlehem to sit with them so that the ruling body of the city would witness this legal land purchase. The point that Boaz makes to the near kinsman is this:
Buy it before the elders of my people; buy it in the presence of these witnesses (Ruth 4:3-4)
And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth (lit: has sold) a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's:
During the famine of ten years ago Elimelech sold his land for food. Now Elimelech's family has
come back, and someone needs to help them to redeem the land, i.e. to buy back the land. Verse 4,
And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.
Do you notice that Boaz wants to make it a totally legal transaction?
He was not going to bypass this near kinsman. He was going to do everything absolutely legally and righteously.
What does it mean to redeem the land for one of the family?
When a piece of land, through economic distress was lost, the Law of Moses says that it could be bought back for the person who lost it, by a near kinsman, who would simply give the land back to his poor family member for free.
Is that not a fabulous way of showing brotherly love. Just think of it. Suppose you are a farmer, but through bad circumstances you had to sell your farm for $50,000 to pay your debts. But you have a brother who has pity on you, and he redeems the farm for you and buys it back, perhaps for $55,000 and donates the farm back to you.
Would you not be eternally grateful to that brother?
This was written in the Law of Moses, but it would be a splendid example of brotherly love at any time in history. Where do you find this kind of brotherly love? You find it in the Bible.
In the Bible we find two types of redeeming. The first one is that of redeeming a person or a group of persons. When a Hebrew has become a slave, either by his own fault, or through circumstances beyond his control, then someone next of kin could buy him out, and set him free. If there was no one to redeem him, them he would remain a slave until the year of Jubilee, and then he was free.
The second one is that of redeeming land, and here almost the same rules apply. If a piece of land was lost, for example through economic hardship, then someone next of kin could buy the land back, or redeem the land, and give it to his relative who lost the land. If there was no one to redeem it, then the property would automatically return to its original owner in the year of Jubilee.
This land had to be redeemed for Naomi and Ruth. It had to be bought back from the present owner and given to Naomi and Ruth. This was not a year of Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years. If it was a year of Jubilee, then the land would automatically have been returned to Naomi and Ruth.
But now Boaz puts the other kinsman to the test. He says, "You must also:
Buy it off Naomi and buy it off Ruth the Moabitess" (Ruth 4:5-8, Romans 15:4)
Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.
Paraphrased, Boaz put it to the kinsman this way:
Elimelech owned the land; his eldest son Mahlon inherited two thirds of it, therefore both Naomi and Ruth the Moabitess have inherited the rights to the land from their respective husbands. Moreover, Mahlon needs a continual heir to his name and to his property, and therefore you need to marry Ruth the Moabitess to raise up a successor to Mahlon, and this child will become the legal owner of this property.
Now this has put a new twist to this land purchase.
Was this kinsman willing to take on another wife, who moreover is a Moabitess?
And he knew what the Law of Moses says about the Moabites.
So what was his answer?
We read it in verse 6,
And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.
Whatever the reason was, this nearest kinsman would not take Ruth the Moabitess to be his wife. This means that Boaz was the next in line to redeem the land and perform the duty of the kinsman. Then we read in verses 7 and 8,
Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.
Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
It is written in verses 7 and 8 as if this was a custom of the culture in those days, as if this action of drawing off one's shoe would be the ratification of a contract.
But is this really so?
Was this only a tradition in that culture?
If we compare Scripture with Scripture we find that this so called "custom" originated from the Ceremonial Law. And since the Ceremonial Law represents signs and shadows of Christ and Salvation we are now being drawn into the spiritual meanings of all these historical events.
And is that not really the purpose of the Old Testament?
Don't we read in Romans 15:4,
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Does this not mean that we must find the Gospel on every page of the Old Testament?
So what is the meaning of: Redeeming His Brother's House? (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)
Here in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 God is stating a Ceremonial Law that has a direct bearing to the story that we read in Ruth chapter 4. We know this for sure, because after Moses had penned down this Law that he received directly from God, the only place in the Old Testament where this Ceremonial Law was applied was in Ruth chapter 4. We read in Deuteronomy 25:5-6,
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.
And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Here is the key principle: "that his name be not put out of Israel".
What does it mean if his name is put out of Israel?
It is a picture that his name is blotted out of the Book of Life. That is terrible. That is a picture of dying unsaved and going to Hell.
Therefore, what does it mean "that his name be not put out of Israel"?
It is a picture of salvation. It signifies that his name remains forever in the Book of Life. You know that the only Person who really determines whether our name will be blotted out of the Book of Life, or whether it will remain there, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Can we answer the question:
Who is the Brother who will perform the act of the Kinsman for us, and who will guarantee that our name will not be put out of Israel?
It is the Lord Jesus Christ. What we have here and in the 4th chapter of Ruth is a dramatic picture of how Christ has provided for our salvation.
Thus far I have used the word "kinsman" many times, but did you know that the word "kinsman" and the word "Redeemer" are the same Hebrew word. In fact it is the word that has the Strong's Concordance number <1350>, and it is actually a verb, which depending on the Hebrew tenses is translated as a verb: to redeem, or it is translated as a noun: Kinsman, or Redeemer, or Avenger.
Who else is a next of kin to us?
Well, it is our own brother, our fellow human being.
And is he willing to take up the role of being our Redeemer?
NO! That is why we read in Deuteronomy 25:7,
And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.
Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.
And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
Who is the Redeemer?
His brother's wife shall spit in his face. From other places in the Bible we know that to be spit in his face means to be under the curse of God. The Lord Jesus was spit in His face because He was under the curse of God when He was laden with our sins, and was suffering the wrath of God for our sins.
This brother in Deuteronomy 25:7,8,9 who does not want to perform the function of Redeemer is a picture of all mankind who are under the curse of God. Adam should have taken up this task of being the Redeemer of Eve. But instead he ate of the forbidden fruit, and then he passed the blame to Eve. God expects us to love our fellow man and to provide spiritual seed for them. Of course mankind does not want to do it, because mankind is not able to do it. This is one way we disobey God and that is why we are all under the curse of God. All that we can provide is more rebellious seed against God, because we are like Adam. Therefore, Christ came from Heaven and took our place, and provided redemption, and provided the Godly seed.
It involved the brother's wife; she is the Woman of Genesis 3:15. But it also involved the land that was owned. If the land was sold, then someone had to come and redeem that, so that it would remain in the family. In the Garden of Eden, when we were in Adam, we owned the land. God took Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Adam and Eve were commanded by God to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. They were to rule over this world. But then they obeyed Satan rather than God, and that implied that they sold their land to Satan. The inheritance was lost, and when we die we leave everything behind.
Is that such a tragedy?
Not any more!
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to save us, He also came to redeem the land.
Now we can begin to see the spiritual picture in the story of Ruth. God did not put that story in the Bible just as a nice love story. It is a historical parable. It truly happened historically, but from all the words that could have been written down God chose those words that would make the Gospel of salvation shine through all these events.
It is a historical parable (Ruth 4:7-8)
Boaz was the rich kinsman, which means Boaz is a picture of Christ, the Redeemer. Ruth is the one who is being redeemed. Therefore Ruth is a picture of the Remnant chosen by grace, especially those on the New Testament side. Ruth was adopted into the family of Naomi, but was not a blood relative of Naomi. Naomi was instrumental in bringing Ruth with her. Therefore Naomi is a picture of that part of Old Testament Israel which became saved, like the Apostle Paul preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Boaz purchased the land for Naomi and for Ruth only, but for nobody else. The parcel of land that Boaz bought was just a token of the world that the Lord Jesus Christ bought for US, to provide an inheritance for His spiritual Ruth and Naomi. And on the Last Day He is going to remake it into a New Heaven and a New Earth where only righteousness dwells.
Now we can understand the actions of the nearest kinsman at the gate of Bethlehem.
We now return to Ruth, chapter 4, verses 7 and 8,
Now this (was the manner) in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.
Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
Now we know why the three words in the beginning of verse 7 are in italics. These are the suggestions of the translators. But now we know that this episode was not a custom of the culture of those days. It was the application of the Law given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
The nearest kinsman represents any human being whatsoever. We are all kinsmen, and we do not want to be our fellow man's Redeemer. We do not want it, and we are not qualified, because we are not sinless. We cannot do it. The price is too great!
The nearest kinsman took off his shoe. He knew that if Ruth were there she would have spit in his face. He was accursed.
Boaz took ten of the ruling elders of the city to be witnesses. The number 10 indicates completeness. They represented the completeness of all who witnessed the purchase by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross: The purchase of His Bride, and the purchase of the land. God displayed before the whole world that Christ came to redeem us and to redeem the world.
Then Boaz said: I Have Purchased Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:9-10, Hebrews 10:5)
And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi.
Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
Boaz needed to marry Ruth the Moabitess to raise up seed which was able to inherit the land.
Is this not a wonderful picture of how the Lord Jesus Christ provided for our salvation?
In order to become our Savior, Christ had to become our kinsman in the flesh. Only then could He be our Redeemer. The Lord Jesus had to take on a human body. The Lord Jesus said in Hebrews 10:5,
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
Jesus received a body that was like ours in all aspects, except sin. His body was not inclined to sin.
We cannot imagine what that is, because our bodies are constantly drawn to sin. God said: "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth". We are born like that, in body and soul. And when God makes us Born Again and gives us a new soul, we still continue to live in that body that is inclined to evil. That is why God typified us with Ruth the Moabitess. That is where we started. We were born like the Moabites who were a cursed people, a wicked nation, and enemies of God by nature. There was nothing good in the Moabites.
But God had mercy on one of these Moabite women, Ruth, and God sent an Israelite family her way. They were not good witnesses at all, but they understood that they were to fear Jehovah, and they communicated some of their beliefs to Ruth the Moabitess. But God was at work in the heart of Ruth the Moabitess, and when the day of decision came, she chose to go with Naomi to the land where she could hear more about Jehovah, because that was what was drawing her. And now, the day had come that Boaz was going to marry her. This was not only an important day for Ruth. This was also an important day for Boaz, because Boaz said: "I have purchased Ruth the Moabitess to be my wife". This means that a price had to be paid.
What was that price?
To whom was it paid?
The story of Ruth does not provide answers to these questions. But God has set up Boaz in the role of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of sinful Ruth the Moabitess. What must the Lord Jesus do in order to purchase Ruth, and what must the Lord Jesus do to purchase all those on whom God will have mercy, like He had mercy on Ruth the Moabitess. What is to be done with their sin problem? Each one of Ruth's sins was sufficient to bring down the wrath of God on her for an eternity.
To be our Redeemer, the Bible says, the Lord Jesus must first identify Himself with us so intensely that He is able to take our sins upon Himself, and pay for those sins the price that had to be paid if we would have to pay for them. That price is the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. The Lord Jesus paid that price when He hung on the cross, even though we did not exist yet, and even though our sins were not committed yet. At the same time He purchased the land on which we stand. Because Christ was God He could pay that price in less than 20 hours for my sins, and for the sins of all those whom God chose to become saved, including Ruth the Moabitess.
That is why Boaz could say: "I have purchased Ruth the Moabitess to be my wife".
Boaz had mercy on Ruth and Naomi and he wanted to be their Redeemer. This was the picture of God in His great mercy who chose to save a much larger group of individuals by providing a Redeemer for them.
Boaz was demonstrating the purchase of the household of God. And all the people in the gate Said: "Let your household be like that of Rachel and like that of Leah" (Ruth 4:11-12)
And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem:
Rachel is mentioned before Leah, because Rachel was buried near Bethlehem-Ephratah.
But why are Rachel and Leah mentioned here?
Is it not because they were in the same category as Ruth the Moabitess?
Rachel and Leah also came out of an idolatrous household and both Rachel and Leah were drawn into the family of God by God's providence through marriage, just like Ruth the Moabitess
If it were not for God's irresistible grace through her marriage with Mahlon and then with Boaz, Ruth the Moabitess would still be on the dunghill of the Moabites. But when God saves us His grace knows no bounds. God says of Himself:
1 Samuel 2:8
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
What a merciful God we have, that He would stoop down to pay attention to us, His creatures, who are spiritually poor and spiritually beggars. But thanks be to God that He is willing to hear these beggars who are pleading for mercy for themselves and for their next of kin.
"And she bare a son" (Ruth 4:13-14)
So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son.
What an incredible grace of God that He would give Ruth the Moabitess the honor of becoming the great grandmother of David the King, and that she would be in the line of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
And Judas begat Phares and Zera of Tamar; and Phares begat HEsrom; and HEsrom begat Aram;
And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
And Salmon begat Booz of Rahab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
Four women of ill repute: Tamar who played the harlot, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Moabitess and Bathsheba the adulteress.
But what about the men?
They too did not lead such a clean life after all.
None of us can claim a clean life.
When God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, God does not choose the cleanest of us.
But He makes us clean, and makes us repent.
By Alfred Chompff