Sermon: Our Great Redeemer (Ruth 3)

Our Great Redeemer

Ruth 3:1-18 (ESV)

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?  [2] Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.  [3] Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.  [4] But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”  [5] And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

[6] So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her.  [7] And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down.  [8] At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!  [9] He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”  [10] 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.  [11] And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.  [12] And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.  [13] Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

[14] So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”  [15] And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.  [16] And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her,  [17] saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”  [18] She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Many of you recognize this as the first line from Jane Austin’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice.  This had to be Naomi’s thinking concerning Boaz.  She had to be thinking that between God working to place Boaz and Ruth together and the fact that he was their kinsman redeemer that Boaz must be in want of a wife.

So Naomi begins to weave her plan.

1. Naomi’s Plan (Ruth 3:1-5)

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?  [2] Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.  [3] Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.  [4] But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”  [5] And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

As was mentioned last week, it seems that Naomi has been changed.  Her bitterness has lifted and she begins to care deeply for the welfare of someone else.  As we encounter difficult situations, our tendency is to become self-focused.  As a result, often we’ll become bitter and depressed.  The key in overcoming this is to see that the Lord’s hand is in it and to begin caring for someone else.  Naomi devises this plan for the good of her daughter-in-law.  It is true that she will reap a benefit as well, but it seems in this account that her concern is for Ruth more so than for herself.

Her plan is simple and somewhat risky at the same time.  She lays out the facts for Ruth.  Her pep-talk goes like this…Ruth, Boaz is our kinsman redeemer, right?  Ruth answers, right.  Boaz is working tonight threshing barley…right?  Ruth answers, right.  He and the others will be celebrating tonight…right?  Ruth answers, right.

Naomi tells Ruth to get cleaned up.  She says take a bath and put on some of that olive oil perfume she’s been saving.  She says to put on your cloak.  That is the interpretation but many scholars view this as simply something like a dress.  The bottom line with all this is that Ruth is going to the threshing floor with one thing in mind…to get Boaz to notice her and for him to see that she is interested in him.

In Jewish culture, a young widow had certain clothes she wore while she was grieving.  They were usually black or dark in color.  Boaz no doubt understood that Ruth was still missing her husband and still grieving, so he wasn’t going to push himself upon her.  Part of Ruth’s putting on this dress was to let Boaz know that she is now available.

2. Executing the Plan (Ruth 3:6-15)

[6] So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her.  [7] And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down.  [8] At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!  [9] He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”

The gamble for Naomi would be how Boaz would interpret all this.  A young lady bathed and smelling good all dressed up lying at your feet when you wake up could mean other things as well.  But I think Boaz knew the kind of woman Ruth was.  She was just the type of wife he had been looking for.

Do you remember in the old movie, It’s a Wonderful Life,  when George and Mary are walking home from the dance?  She was dressed in a bath robe and George was in a football uniform.  George steps on Mary’s rob and she jumps in the bushes.  George says, “This is a very interesting situation”  “Something like this doesn’t happen to a man every day”.  I’m sure when Boaz woke up in the middle of the night, he was thinking the same thing.

This scene doesn’t need too many comments except to say that some have interpreted this to mean Boaz was drunk.  However, most see Boaz as very happy and celebrating with the workers for a bumper crop.  After years of the harvests being extremely slim, this would be a time of celebrating, the famine was over!

Ruth does exactly as her mother-in-law had asked her to do.  She waits until Boaz is sleeping then quietly goes and uncovers his legs and lies down.  This is a strange thing for us today in the 21st Century.

What was she doing?

At midnight Boaz was startled, probably from the cool night air and being uncovered.  He wakes up to find a young woman at his feet.  He asks a very logical question that anyone would ask in the dark…who are you?

I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”

Ruth’s answer is extremely interesting.

Boaz had previously mentioned something similar about Ruth.

Ruth 2:12 (ESV)

The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Boaz had heard how Ruth had left everything to follow the One True God.  She had run to God and taken refuge in the storm.

Now she is running to Boaz because he is God’s representative.  He is their kinsman redeemer.

There is another interpretation that we should look at because I think it runs parallel with this one.  The others see the Hebrew phrase as meaning that Ruth is asking Boaz to cover her with his blanket.  This might actually be a part of this account.  To cover someone with a blanket in ancient Jewish culture showed intent to marry.  So it could be that Ruth uncovers Boaz and lies at his feet to be covered by him as a symbol of marriage.

Boaz seems to be the perfect man.  He is honest and upright.  He is well thought of and respected.  He does what’s right in a world that does what’s right in their own eyes.  But as perfect as Boaz seems here, we must remember that our Redeemer Jesus Christ is infinitely perfect.  He is the One we must run to in order to take refuge under God’s wings.  While Boaz stands ready to come to the aid of Ruth and Naomi, our redeemer came to our aid when He gave up His life on the cross.  When Jesus cried out from the cross at His death, “It is finished”, He was saying that I have redeemed all My people.  If you have run to Christ for redemption you will be kept for eternity.  He will spread his wings over you and you will find yourself secure.

Boaz doesn’t try and shoo Ruth off as if she’s some type of prostitute but uses a very tender word showing his affection for her and then blesses her.

[10] 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.  [11] And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.  [12] And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.  [13] Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

Boaz gives Ruth assurance that one way or another she would be cared for.  He wants to handle matters in the right way.  He reminds her that there is another kinsman redeemer that holds a claim over him.  Boaz will check into the matter himself.

He tells her, You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

What Boaz is saying is that this act of coming in secrecy to the threshing floor to ask him to redeem or marry her is a greater act of Hesed courage and kindness that the first act, which was leaving her people to come with Naomi back to Bethlehem.  Another part of this act of kindness is that Boaz commends Ruth for not going after or literally devoting herself to younger men.  He says, just as you didn’t devote yourself to the foreign gods of your homeland, which would have been more natural to you, you didn’t devote yourself to younger men, which would have been more natural for you.

Ruth was about doing the right thing even when it wasn’t natural.  It was not natural for a pagan to leave her gods to take refuge in the true and living God, but it was the right thing to do.  Ruth probably could have married about any young man she wanted.  However, she did the right thing in caring for her mother-in-law.  By marrying Boaz, she was also seeing to it that Naomi would be cared for as well.

3. The Results (Ruth 3:14-18)

[14] So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”  [15] And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.  [16] And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her,  [17] saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”  [18] She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Boaz was concerned about the appearance of evil.  Given his situation, he didn’t have the ability to avoid the appearance of evil.  To wake up with woman practically in bed with you would be a serious situation to be in.  So it was important that Ruth quietly get up and leave before anyone could see what was going on.

Before Ruth left, Boaz couldn’t resist showing her and Naomi kindness again.  Through Boaz’s kindness, he was telling these two widows that they will never have to worry about having enough food again.  He would see to it one way or another that they were cared for.

Ruth goes back home to Naomi and tells her all that happened.  Her plan had worked.  Naomi is convinced that this matter will be settled quickly.

Our Redeemer

As we look at Boaz as the kinsman redeemer for the family we can’t help but think of how he pictures the redeemer who was to come…our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

For Boaz to redeem these two widows would come to him at a cost.  He would now be responsible for their livelihood.

In order to be a redeemer in ancient Jewish culture, three things had to be true…

A. The redeemer had to be related to the one being redeemed.  We know that Boaz was related to Elimelch.

Jesus is related to us.  When He took on flesh He became like us.  He is associated with in every way.

Hebrews 2:14-17 (ESV)

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  [15] and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  [16] For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.  [17] Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

B. A redeemer had to be able to redeem.  Boaz had to have the means to redeem Ruth and Naomi.  Jesus had to qualify and be able to redeem His people.

1 Peter 1:18-20 (ESV)

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,  [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  [20] He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,

C. A redeemer had to be willing to redeem.

John 10:17-18 (ESV)

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Our redemption came at an unimaginable cost to our Lord.  Not only was He related to us in the incarnation but He was also qualified as a spotless lamb.  Not only was He qualified but He was also willing to redeem.

Luke 1:68 (ESV)

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

Galatians 3:13 (ESV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-

Hebrews 9:12 (ESV)

he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Rev. 5:9 (ESV)

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Where we must end up in all this is not with the question are we good enough.  But the question that must be asked is was Jesus good enough.  Did He qualify as our Redeemer?  The Scriptures are extremely clear and answer this question with a resounding yes and amen. In every way He was the perfect Redeemer for His people.

I will glory in My Redeemer…

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