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The wedding made in heaven - Ruth 4

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 20th May 2007.

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Some of you might know that Kate and I met at St Peterís Church in Harold Wood down in Essex.  I was already living there when Kate moved into the area with her job.  But it was actually at someone elseís wedding that we first met properly.  We became friends and discovered that we had much in common.  And most important of all, we shared a common passion to serve the Lord Jesus.    But what wasnít clear to start with, well at least to me anyway, was where the friendship was heading.  Friends of ours had apparently spotted the chemistry between us.  And one of those friends was a mutual friend;  itís just that neither of us knew that this person was also good friends with the other one.  And this particular friend took it upon himself to play the matching making game.  Here were two eligible young people, they both loved Jesus;  they had lots in common and they were getting on like a house on fire.  Why not give them a helping hand?  And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Well last week in Ruth chapter 3, we saw Naomi playing a little match making game of her own.    If youíve been with us for the whole series, then youíll know that the book of Ruth is all about Naomi.  In chapter 1, the economy of Naomiís life crashed.  She suffered a triple bereavement.   Her husband and her 2 sons.   The Lord had emptied her. And yet, Naomi continued to trust the Lord.  

And as weíve seen through chapter s 1-3, the book of Ruth is about how the Lord refills Naomi.  How the Lord brings blessing back to her life.  About how he was going to provide her with a Redeemer.    By the end of chapter 1 the Lord had brought her back to Bethlehem.  Back literally to the house of Bread.  But the issue at the end of chapter 1 was this:  How would Ruth and Naomi share in the bumper harvest the Lord was giving to His people. 

And the answer was in chapter 2.  The Lord provided for Ruth and Naomi through a redeemer called Boaz.  A redeemer who went well beyond the strict demands of the OT poor laws.  Like the Lord God he served, Boaz was extravagantly generous.  And through Boaz, the Lord was continuing to refill Naomi.  To bless her again.   

But what about the family name?  Naomiís husband was dead remember  - and so were her 2 boys.  How would the family name be maintained?    The only hope was a husband.   

And so last week in chapter 3 we saw Naomi the match-maker in action.   She looked at Ruth;  she looked at Boaz.  And she saw that they both loved the Lord.  Theyíve been working together on the farm.  They respected each other and got on well.  And maybe sheíd spotted some chemistry.  So she hatched a plan.  And the plan was working.  Ruth agreed and popped the question. 

So what did Boaz say?    Iíll have to think about that young lady?  Give me some space for a while.    Well no.  In v10, Boaz said I do.  Or rather I will.  Or rather, if itís the Lordís will, I will.  Because, if you remember from last week, there was another problem.  You see this was no normal marriage.  This was a special form of marriage laid down in the OT.  A special form of marriage that applied to widows like Ruth and Naomi.  A special OT law that said that the widowís nearest male relative was to act as the Kinsman-redeemer.  And, if he agreed, the Kinsman-redeemer would take the widow as his wife and the first male child would be regarded as the son of the widowís dead husband.  As 4:5 puts it, to maintain the name of the dead with his property. 

Boaz was happy to take on the role of Kinsman-redeemer.  He was happy to marry Ruth and see his first son regarded as Mahlonís.  But thereís a problem.    Come back with me to 3:12:

12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.

Someone else was first in line.  And although Boaz and Ruth loved each other and wanted to get married, Boaz was a man of honour.  He wasnít going to bend the rules.  This other Kinsman-redeemer had first refusal on marrying Ruth.  And Boaz was going to let him say yea or neh. 

Can you imagine how Ruth felt?  You just got engaged to the love of your life.  And then you find out thereís some ancient law that says you might have to marry your-brother-in-law instead.  Your brother-in-law who didnít come to your first wedding;  your brother-in-law youíd never actually met;  your brother-in-law that may or may not have heard about you, but if he had, heíd certainly made no effort to contact you or see if youíre all right since youíd come back destitute from Moab.  Your brother-in-law whoíd been so remote that heís not even named in the passage.    Can you imagine how Ruth must have felt? 

It must have been an emotional rollercoaster.  Plucking up the courage to pop the question to Boaz.  Boaz saying yes.  But now this.  Instead of marrying the kind and generous love of her life, she could end up with a Harold Shipman!

So what about the Lordís plan to bless?   What about the Lordís promise never to abandon His people?    Well look back to the second half of 3:16: 

Then [Ruth] told [Naomi] everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, "He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, 'Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.' "

Remember the book of Ruthís about how the Lord refills Naomi.  How he brings blessing back to her life.    And in the OT, the Lord has promised to bring blessing to all his people.  Ultimate blessing that is.  Ultimate rest.  God doesnít promise us and easy life in this world.  Naomi and Ruth knew that all too well.  Yes as His people they could look forward to his eternal blessings.  But there as no guarantee of a happy marriage or any other comforts in this life. 

And perhaps thatís a point for us to reflect on.  We live in an instant, pleasure-seeking world.  If weíre one of His people, then the Lord has promised us many things.  Supremely, like Ruth and Naomi, heís promised us the eternal blessing of heaven.  But like them, and like Jesus who went to glory through the pain of the cross, it might be the Lordís will for us to go though the valley of the shadow of death on the way to heaven.  

But coming back to Ruth, as always, in v18 she submits to the Lordís will and waits patiently to see what that will be.   You can almost feel the tension canít you?    Youíre going to get married.  Iím getting married in the morning and all that.  The only issue was she didnít know who her husband was going to be.  Would it be Boaz or Harold Shipman?

A Plan is Hatched   (4:1-12)

And so in 4:1-12, we see Boaz has a plan of his own.  He trusted God, but he didnít let go and let God.  No, he acted in accordance with Godís Word and devised a plan that was soaked in prayer.    And thatís another challenge to us isnít it?  As weíve seen, a key theme in the book of Ruth is Godís sovereignty.  How the infinite creator God works out His purposes through the lives of His people;  people like Ruth, Boaz and Naomi;   people like you and me. 

Often when people come to understand about God's sovereignty, they often say:  ďwhy botherĒ;  Ďif Godís already decided everything, then why botherí;  and especially Ďwhy bother prayingí.  But thatís not how Godís people think in the book of Ruth. In its four short chapter s, weíve got 7 prayers:  in times of emptiness and blessing, they pray.  When they receive good news and bad news, they pray.    When Godís people truly understand the amazing character of the Lord, it leads to more prayer not less. 

And thatís deeply challenging for us as individuals and as a church.  If our prayer life isnít this vibrant, then perhaps itís because weíre not properly grasped how amazing God is.  How sovereign he is over everything and everyone heís made. 

So Boaz has a plan. A plan soaked in prayer.   A plan to marry Ruth and yet a plan that wonít cut corners in obeying Godís word.  But a plan that could lead to the other Kinsman-redeemer marrying Ruth. 

Up til now, we might be thinking that chances of this other Kinsman-redeemer taking up the offer were slim.  After all, being a Kinsman-redeemer was a costly business.  What would happen if the Kinsman-redeemer married Ruth and had a son on behalf of Mahlon, but then had no other sons?   Well as he puts it himself in v6, the Kinsman-redeemerís own property would then be in danger.    

But then the plot thickens.  Because we discover in v3 that the special OT law on marrying heirless widows was linked to inheritance laws.  The 2 laws came as a package so to speak.  Marry your brotherís dead widow and get first refusal of buying or redeeming his property. 

If your brotherís widow produces a son, then that son is regarded as your brotherís son and all that redeemed property goes to him when you die.  But if she doesnít produce an heir, then your side of the family gets to keep the property.  Get it?    So in strictly commercial terms, whatís the probability of your brotherís wife producing a son.  As Noel Edmunds would say:  deal or no deal? 

And itís this sense of complete commercial self-interest that Boaz appeals to in v1-12.    The town gate in v1 was the place where legal business was done.  What weíve got is a simple legal scene.  A commercial court and a registry office all rolled into one if you like.  When you get married, you need witness donít you.  People who witness the happy couple signing the registers.  And itís the same with other important legal contracts like wills.  When you sign a contract, your signature needs to be witnessed.  Why?  So that if thereís ever a dispute, the witness can be brought in to say:  yes I saw him sign that.  the signatureís genuine.  And thatís whatís going on in v1-12.

So in v1, Boaz waits at the town gate for the unnamed Kinsman-redeemer to pass by and then he makes his move.  Heís a man on a mission, but he acts with complete cool. 

"Come over here, my friend, and sit down."

And at the same time in v2, he grabs 10 elders whoíll do as legal witnesses. 

The Negotiation  (v3-6)

And so in v3-6 we have the negotiation.    And he starts with the land.  Elimelechís property;  Naomiís late husband.  Naomi would come as part of the package, sheíd need providing for; but sheís beyond child-rearing age.   For a small outlay, this Kinsman-redeemer could end up with a nice little earner in the long run.  So at the end of v4, he says Ďdealí.   

And itís only then that Boaz brings Ruth into the equation.  Oh, by the way, if you redeem Naomiís land, you donít get Naomi as your wife.  You get Ruth.  Because thatís how Elimelechís family line going to be maintained.  Notice the unnamed Kinsman-redeemer doesnít question Boazís interpretation of the law.  Thereís no question that Boaz is playing a dodgy hand.  But it does change the deal on the table.   And so, in v6, the Kinsman-redeemer changes his mind and says: Ď no dealí.   And you can almost hear Boaz silently saying ĎYesí under his breath! 

The signing of the contract (v7-8)

And so Boaz wastes no time in signing the contract.  Because thatís exactly whatís going on in v7-8.    Like when you buy a house today, contracts are signed with witnesses present and then exchanged.  And thatís what the funny thing with the sandals is all about.  Itís just a very old fashioned way of signing contracts.  And as they confirm in v9 & 11, the elders have witnessed the signature, so thereís no going back. 

The wedding celebration  (v9-12)

And Boaz wastes no more time moving from the court room to the registry office.   Look with me at v9:

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!"

And then in v11&12, the leaders of Godís people pray for Godís blessing on the happy couple;  and no doubt the celebrations continued for the rest of the day.  The wedding made in heaven.  And, knowing Boazís generosity, the wedding breakfast made in heaven too. 

Naomiís match-making plan had worked.  Boazís plan to get round the other Kinsman-redeemerhad worked.  Ruth and Boaz were married.    The Lord was continuing to bless His people.     

But being married doesnít automatically mean children as lots of people can painfully testify.  And so the issue now is:  will Boaz and Ruth have a baby?  Will Elimelech and Mahlon have an heir after all?  Or will their name fizzle out and be forgotten anyway?

2.      Naomiís blessing is complete (v13-22)

And that bring us to verses 13-22 where we see that Naomiís blessing is complete.   Naomiís blessing is complete.  

After theyíre married in v13, Boaz and Ruth begin a sexual relationship.  And the Lord enabled Ruth to conceive.  Notice again the Lordís providential hand in all the details of our lives.  So Ruth gave birth to the son whoíd been prayed for back in v11.  But notice what the women say in v14:

The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.

The son is regarded as Naomiís.  Itís her son and heir.    And thatís picked up again in v16:

Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed.

Back in chapter 1, the Lord had empted Naomi.  But now Heíd refilled her.  Sheíd been blessed with the Lordís provision.  And like Job, she was more blessed at the end than sheíd been in the beginning, before the Lord had afflicted her. 

 

BT Link to Main Application

And the Lord refilling Naomi and bring blessing back to her life is a parable for Godís people.  Remember back in 1:1, that Ruth and Naomi lived in the time of the Judges.  A time when, as the last verse of the book of Judges put it: 

V25: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

And of course, everyone doing at they saw fit was a recipe for anarchy;  a blueprint for missing out on Godís blessing.    Which is why in v11 of chapter 4, the elders are praying not simply for Boaz and Ruth to have a son.  Theyíre praying for multiple offspring, like those of Rachel and Leah;  the wives of Jacob that is; who in fulfilment of the promises to Abraham, went on to have 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.  The nation or the house of Israel that is which God led into the promised Land under Joshua;  again in fulfilment of those promised to Abraham. 

Do you remember from our FSs Godís 3 main promises to Abraham:  descendents, land and blessing;  blessing for Godís people, and that through them, through the nation of Godís people that is, all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.  Not just Jews, but non-Jews like Ruth the Moabites as well. 

But after Joshua, during the time of the Judges, things went pear-shaped.   Godís people disobeyed the Lord, and so the Lord withdrew his blessing.  Like Naomi, the Lord had emptied His people and they were suffering under his hand of judgement. 

Look with me again at v16:

Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  18 This, then, is the family line of Perez:  Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, [c] 21 Salmon the father of Boaz,
Boaz the father of Obed,  22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

The book of Ruth was about a period in time when the Judges ruled.  But it was written later during the reign of a Messiah;  during the reign of a Davidic King that is.    So listen to these words of Davidís Son Solomon from 1 Ki 5:4: 

But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster.

As we saw last week, that word Ďrestí is a key word in the book of Ruth.  It first appears in 1:9 where Naomi prays that Ruth and Orpah might find rest in the home of new husbands;  And the word crops up again in 3:1, where Naomi plans under the Lordís guidance to find rest for Ruth.  To find redemption that is from the slavery of her widowhood and childlessness. 

And redemption is another key word.  The word redemption or redeemer is used 26 times in the original.   The original readers of the book lived under a Davidic king.  And from their perspective, the book of Ruth showed how the Lord had refilled Israel.  From the dark ages of the Judges to the Golden years of David and Solomon.  Like us after our FSs on David and Solomon, they would have known that the promises to Abraham had been supplement by another promise to David.  A promise that there would always be a king in Davidís line on the throne. 

Look back to v14:

14 The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth."

Notice that the KR redeemer theyíre talking about isnít Boaz;  itís Boazís son:  Obed.  Boaz the Kinsman-redeemer simply foreshadows a future Kinsman-redeemer.  His son Obed.  And in the context of the whole book, King David and Davidís son. 

But as we saw in that reading from Mt 1, Boaz and Obed werenít simply the ancestors of David and son Solomon.  Ultimately, the son of Boaz, the son of David, the Kinsman-redeemer was Jesus. And itís through his death on the cross, that the Davidic King Jesus redeems His people from a much bigger mess than Ruth and Naomi were in.  Kinsman-redeemer Jesus redeems His people from a fate much worse than bereavement, widowhood and economic poverty.  Kinsman-redeemer Jesus redeems us from the slavery of sin in this life and eternal punishment in the next.  Ultimate blessing, ultimate rest is being redeemed by King Jesus and having a seat at the best wedding of all:  the wedding of King Jesus to his people in the heavenly new creation. The wedding made in heaven. 

                                                                                                                

And of youíre already one of Jesus's people, if youíve already bowed the knee to Jesus in submission and confession;  then be assured that your faith rests on solid ground.  The Christian faith rest on promises made over thousands of years;  promises that God has kept again and again.  Because God always keeps His promises.  And heís promised His people a blessed eternal future in the new creation.  No doubt about it.  So as we wait for that blessed hope, let learn some lessons from Boaz, Ruth and Naomi:  to trust in Godís sovereignty; in his plan and control of every aspect of our lives;  but to work hard at obeying His law and soaking our plans in prayer.

But if youíre not a Christian here this morning then, like a sign warning you about speed cameras ahead, the book of Ruth is a warning sign on the journey of your life;  down the road, you wonít be able to escape judgement;  God is sovereign remember.  But there is a Kinsman-redeemer and his name is Jesus.  There is no other name by which you may be saved from the coming judgment.  And so the message of the book of Ruth to you is this:  repent and trust in Kinsman-redeemer Jesus before you get flashed in judgement;  before itís too late.  Letís pray. 

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