I want you to turn with me, please, to Ruth - and this time chapter 2. We read a number of verses from chapter 2 last evening, but we'll begin reading at the beginning of the chapter once again, verse 1. Now we're getting to the sweet and the rich part of the book, and so we're going to have to read two chapters - but it's very, very special, what we're going to encounter tonight. So I want you to concentrate with me, we don't make apology for reading God's word even at length - it is the living, inspired, eternal word of God - and yet we want you to pick up everything as we go through, although we'll be highlighting it in our study. Remember our title: 'Redemption And Revival in the Book of Ruth'.
Verse 1: "And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed. And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law".
"Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do. And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning. And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day".
Could we bow in a brief word of prayer please: Father, we thank You for Your holy word. We thank You that, just like the Temple, every whit of it speaks forth Christ. Lord, that's our great desire this evening, that as we look into Your word we would see Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith - and that in seeing Him, it will help us to endure the contradictions of this life. We pray that You will minister to each heart. Lord, You know our individual needs and requirements. We thank You that the Lord is that Spirit who searches every heart, and can meet the needs of everyone gathered here, whatever they may be - but we believe, Lord, with all our being, that if each of us, whatever our circumstances might be, if each of us would get a glimpse of the Master, our Kinsman Redeemer, our lives would be changed forever. Hear us we pray, and help me Lord, for Christ's sake we ask it. Amen.
Now yesterday morning I gave you a number of the purposes that the Holy Spirit give us this little book of Ruth. First of all there was the historical purpose, that simply being that this is a book that explains to us the ancestry of King David, and effectively builds a bridge between the time of the Judges - the book of Judges being before the book of Ruth - and the time of the Kings, which comes after in 1 and 2 Samuel and so on. So it is of historical significance that we have it, and we'll see that maybe tomorrow night in a bit more detail as we look at chapter 4, and the lineage of King David that is given to us there.
A second purpose was prophetical. I hinted at this, and I might go into it in more detail, I'll tell you tomorrow night - but you remember, yesterday morning we saw that in chapter 1 Israel was out of favour with God, and there was a famine in the land. God was chastising His people, and God turns and begins to deal with a Gentile girl called Ruth. Now that's of prophetic significance when we have revealed to us New Testament prophetic truth, because a similar thing is going on today with the nation of Israel. Paul says, 'Blindness in part has happened unto Israel', and Israel is presently under the chastisement of God for rejecting their Messiah, and God has now turned to the Gentiles. It's the time of the Gentiles, and He is calling out a people for His name from the nations of the world - but, incidentally, this is what's going to happen: when Ruth eventually gets married to Boaz, it is after that that Naomi begins to get really blessed again. You know, that's God's prophetic plan in His calendar - Naomi's blessing comes after Ruth's wedding. Israel will be restored and start to be blessed, when Christ and His church are united in that great marriage of the Lamb.
But we'll not spend time on that, for there is a third purpose for this book, and that is typological. We saw that a 'type' simply means a picture, an illustration beforehand of New Testament truth. Here we have, in the picture of the kinsman redeemer - and we'll explain what that means in a few moments - we see a wonderful portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to the church, His bride. We'll be spending a considerable amount of time on that.
Then fourthly there is a practical purpose for the book, and we often miss this. You see, this book has something to say to all of us if we're children of God - even if we're not, but particularly if we name the name of Christ, because it's all about our relationship with the Lord Jesus, because this is a book about redemption and revival. If we read all about it and know all about it, and don't experience personal redemption and personal revival, well, we might as well have never read it in the first place. You see, it's got to hit us personally. I hope it has done that already, but I hope it goes deeper this evening.
Now, I'm not going to spend any time on the ground we've already covered - save to say, in short summary, that in chapter 1 we saw that Elimelech and his family sojourned in Moab. They left the house of bread in Bethlehem, and we saw the ramifications of that, and went to the world for help. They exchanged a famine for three funerals. Elimelech died, Mahlon died, Chilion died - Elimelech's two sons. We saw then, last night in our gospel meeting, that they returned eventually - that is, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah - they returned to Bethlehem. We saw how Naomi could be called the prodigal daughter of the Old Testament.
So let's look at the portion, and this part of the story that we have read from this evening. Verse 2 of chapter 2 tells us that 'Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter'. There were no bread winners any more, Elimelech had died, and Mahlon and Chilion had died, and now they had to fend for themselves. But the law of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 24, and Leviticus 19, specified that whenever, at harvest time, farmers were gleaning and reaping the fields, they were not to strip them bare. There was a social reason for that. Instead they were to leave some grain lying, gleanings for needy people within the nation of Israel - needy people being strangers who might traverse past that way, even if they weren't Jews, fatherless, widows. So these sheaves, or little bundles of grain, would be left there - that was God's will.
Now Ruth was only a believer for a very short time, as we have already seen - but Ruth knew her Bible well enough to know that this is what God's Word says. So she took advantage of this, and she had come already to trust in this God of Israel - and isn't it beautiful to see that she knew Him as a God who was concerned about the widow and the orphan? It's interesting to note, and we saw last night how bitter Naomi had become - when she arrived back in Bethlehem she said, 'Call me not Naomi', which means 'pleasant one', 'but call me Mara', 'bitter'. But it was not Naomi's bitterness that turned the circumstances around for her family, it was Ruth's faithfulness, in the midst of very difficult circumstances, to believe in God's word against all the odds.
So she went out to glean in the field these bundles that ought to be left for her. Oh, there's a lesson in that, isn't there? Because there's many a time, as the saying goes, that we cannot trace the way that the Lord is leading us - but when we cannot trace the way, we can trust the heart that plans. It's a hard lesson to learn, isn't it? But it's vital, because so easily we can turn bitter, and bitterness will never change our circumstances - but faithfulness will. We see what happened: she believed in God's word, operated in it, and in verse 3 we see 'she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was', the margin says, 'it happened that she was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech'.
Now, it says it was 'hap', or 'it happened to be' - but this was far from chance. I think I mentioned yesterday morning those famous verses in Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the Lord', that's what Ruth was doing, 'with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths'. She had acknowledged Him, she had acknowledged His word, and in faith she was going into the fields to gather grain - and God led her, think of it, to the very field to come face-to-face with the very man, the one man God had chosen to redeem her and her family, and eventually to marry her. It was Proverbs 16:9 says: 'A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps'. When you trust in the Lord's word, and you venture your all upon it, God guides you.
I wonder do you believe in the providence of God? It's a wonderful thing to be able to say: 'I, being in the way that the Lord led me...'. The Lord led Ruth to Boaz - whose name, incidentally, means 'In him is strength'. He was the wealthy relative of her dead father-in-law, Elimelech - and she couldn't have known that, and yet God brought their paths together.
There are three pictures I want to bring to your attention tonight from our portion. The first is: Ruth, the gleaner in the field of Boaz. The second is: Boaz, the near-kinsman. The third is: Ruth, at the feet of Boaz. Let's look at the first: Ruth, a gleaner in the field of Boaz. In verse 5 of chapter 2 we read: 'Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?'. 'Who's this girl picking up all this barley?'. Now, you've got to understand that there was a big difference in these days between a reaper and a gleaner. A reaper was an employee, it was a proper occupation, and you got a wage from the farmer for doing it - but a gleaner was just one of the poor folk that had come along to gather up these pieces of barley and sheaves that were left for social welfare, effectively.
Now what Ruth was doing here was: she was a gleaner, not a reaper. She was taking the position of being poor, it was the low place. Do you know what she was saying? You remember Naomi had told her and her sister, Orpah, to go back to Moab, and to go back to her father's house - and maybe she would have a husband and well-being there. Ruth was saying: 'Look, it's better to be one of the poor, it's better to take the low place, it's better to be among such people who have a God like the God Jehovah, than be a well-paid reaper anywhere else'. What a statement!
So, here she is in this field, and in verse 8 we read: 'Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens'. Ruth esteemed it better to be one of the poor gleaners in this man's field, because of who his God was, than to go home to Moab and be a reaper, earn a living. Proverbs 15:16 says: 'Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith'. Do we believe that? The Psalmist said in Psalm 84: 'I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness'. It seems strange in today's day and age, but you see that's the way the child of God is meant to be:
'I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand'
Do we believe that? Oh, maybe we believe it, do we live like it? Or do we envy the world? Well, Ruth here had gone so far in her young faith, and she had took the lowly place. Now, we believe that grace is unmerited favour, don't we? We believe, and it's often said, that God sees nothing in us to be gracious toward us. Now that's true in one sense - there are no merits in our lives as sinners, that we can in any way qualify for God's grace - but there is one thing that needs to be in each of our hearts: we need to see our need. We need to see our need! If there's a qualification for a sinner to be saved, and to experience the grace of God, it is to put themselves in the lowly place as a sinner. It was only when Ruth took that place that she got grace.
That's what God said: He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. You see, grace is undeserved, but grace does not allow humility to go unnoticed. Ruth took the lowly place, and we're going to see tonight the gracious riches that were lavished upon her - unexpected blessings that she knew she didn't deserve, all because Boaz took notice of her and gave her so many unusual favours!
Now in these days, as I've said, reapers and gleaners were different. Gleaners were only really tolerated by farmers, they certainly were not welcomed - they put up with them because God's law said they had to! But here we see Boaz welcoming her, this is unusual. Verse 9: 'Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them'. 'Follow them', he's telling Ruth, 'I've already told the young men not to harass you. You go to the vessels that the reapers drink of, and you drink of their drink'. In verse 14 we see that he invited her to the table where the rest of them were dining to dip her bread into vinegar, and she sat with them, and he reached over parched corn to her, and he gave her so much at that meal time that she was able to go home with enough for Naomi! Now why was it?
Well, she asked that question in verse 10: 'Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?'. In verse 11 it says: 'And Boaz answered', and I'm led to believe that the sense there is 'Boaz shouted', he was not ashamed to say these words, 'It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore'. Boaz knew all about Ruth before Ruth knew anything about him.
You see the parallel, don't you? But come further with me, before we tease it out in more detail. We've got to realise that in every circumstance, and this is no exception, with every privilege comes responsibility. In verse 8 Boaz said, 'Now look, I'm going to allow you to glean here' - and oh, how much more in superabundance Boaz allowed her, but he says 'Don't go to any other field, stay in my field'. Then when, eventually, Ruth gets home, Naomi gives her the same counsel. In verse 22, 'Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field'. The sentiment was, 'How inappropriate it would be, Ruth, if - after Boaz's kindness to you - having received such abundance in Boaz's field, that these other maidens or some other people should find you in another field hoping for anything more'.
You see, it would be tantamount to saying Boaz had not done enough for her. Now, you know what worldliness is. It's when, perhaps, it's not the attractiveness of the world that draws the child of God away - we saw this, I think, yesterday morning - but the lack of satisfaction that we don't find in Bethlehem, the house of bread. The word of God becomes dry to us, prayer life is empty, our service becomes a chore. In the barrenness of Bethlehem we become dissatisfied with the things of God and the Christ of God, and we feel we need more. So we go into the world - that's how it happens. Not because the world has it all, but because we have ceased to be satisfied with the all-in-all.
With every privilege there is responsibility, and if you're saved today you've got to realise that there is a responsibility. The blessings that Christ has given to you, you've got to respond to them. In Romans 2 and verse 4 Paul said: 'Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?'. Romans 12:1, 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service'. Now listen: whenever the Christian wanders into the world, or covets the ways of the world, or makes friendship with the world, it is not a deficiency in Christ that is the problem, but a deficiency in the Christian's knowledge of who Christ is, who your Kinsman Redeemer really is, what He truly has done that you might be redeemed, to be your nearest Kinsman, and the lavish gifts that He wants to give to you in grace. It's a deficiency in your understanding of it that is the problem, we've got to get that message across! When we get to grips with who He is, and His goodness toward us, and what He wants to give us and do for us in a day that is yet to come - it will drive us again and again to the foot of the cross in repentance!
I wonder are you deficient in the knowledge of Christ? Are you deficient in the experience of Christ? Now here's a question that all of us have to answer, and Naomi asked it of Ruth in verse 19: 'Where hast thou gleaned to day?'. Where are you gleaning? In the fields of the world? Are you trying to satisfy yourself with worldly things? They mightn't be inherently sinful things, but are you feeding on them at the expense of the things of God and Christ? As the hymn says: 'None but Christ can satisfy'! Ruth became a gleaner in Boaz's field, and she was told: 'Don't glean anywhere else'.
Here's the second picture I want you to see: Boaz, the near-kinsman. Now again you've got to understand some of the Old Testament background to this story of redemption. In Leviticus 25 we read about the near-kinsman. We read there, read it when you get home, that the near-kinsman had the right to redeem, for his brother or for a member of this family - a relative - his estate which had been lost. It could have been lost for several reasons. Now when we come to Deuteronomy 25, we see there that that near-kinsman also had a responsibility if his brother died - he was responsible to take the widow of his brother, in order to raise up seed in his brother's name, and that seed would eventually inherit his brother's lands. It was called 'the law of the levirate marriage', and 'levir' in Latin means 'a husband's brother' - so you can see the connection.
But this teaching on the levirate marriage, it is the heart of the doctrine of redemption in the whole of the Bible! It's not in the New Testament now, the heart of it is found in the book of Ruth and in the Old Testament law, Leviticus 25 in Deuteronomy 25. It's the law of the go'el, that's the Hebrew word for 'kinsman'. This law of the go'el said that the next of kin had the right to redeem. Now to be qualified as a go'el, kinsman redeemer, you had to possess three qualities. Now here they are: the first quality was, you had to have a right to redeem. What I mean by that is, you had to be a near-kinsman. That might sound like a truism, but you've got to understand that there's two different Hebrew words here that are often translated in English 'kinsman'. One of them simply means 'relative', and the other means 'go'el'. To be a kinsman redeemer, a go'el, you had to be a relative - and it was only the relative who had a right to redeem.
Let me show you what I mean, chapter 2 verse 20: 'Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen'. Now if you have an Authorised Version, in the margin you will see there's a marginal rendering here of that last statement: 'The man is near of kin unto us, or one that hath right to redeem'. There are different words used there: because he's next of kin, he's a relative, he has a right to redeem - because he's a relative, he is qualified to be a go'el, a kinsman redeemer.
Now if the Lord Jesus Christ is to redeem on the behalf of sinners, you and me, and indeed to help failing and struggling saints, He has to acquire the right to do so. The only way He can do that is to become a Kinsman with us - that means, become our Brother. Now the incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas time, when God the Son clothed Himself in human flesh and became man in every sense, that is when the Lord Jesus Christ became our Kinsman. Now with that Old Testament knowledge from Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Ruth, if we turn to Hebrews for a moment - chapter 2 - it takes a new light. I believe it's given deeper meaning to us, true meaning, when we read in Hebrews 2 verse 14: 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he', the Lord Jesus, 'also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil'. In other words, we were enslaved to the wages of sin that is death - that was the penalty and the judgement - and verse 15: 'He will deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage'. Enslaved to death, spiritual death, physical death - how did He do it? 'For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren', His brothers, 'that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted'.
You see the Lord Jesus taking upon Himself human flesh made us His brethren in humanity, and He had to partake of human flesh if He was to become our near-Kinsman . Now this is a sweet truth, and I don't have time to expound it all - but it was Michael Bruce in the 18th century who did it very well in the words of his hymn:
'Though now ascended up on high,
He', the Lord Jesus, 'bends on earth a brother's eye,
Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame.
Our Fellow Sufferer now retains
A fellow feeling of our pains,
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, His agonies, and cries.
In every pang that rends the heart
The Man of Sorrows has a part.
He sympathizes with our grief
And to the sufferer sends relief'.
That's why He can be a High Priest who understands what we're going through, because in His incarnation - becoming flesh - He was made our near-Kinsman. But can I tell you something? That was not enough to redeem us, because the Redeemer had to be more than a near-Kinsman, he had to be the nearest Kinsman. Though, when our Lord was incarnated, He was made in the likeness of men - Romans says He was made in the likeness of sinful men. He lived in a fallen world, and yet all of that was not enough to redeem us, to become our nearest Kinsman He had to be made sin! Imagine it! 'For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him'. Oh, it's wonderful, this is deep truth.
H. C. Trumbull, a minister, was preaching to inmates in a prison on one occasion, and he said in his discourse to them that the only difference between he, a minister, and the inmates in front of him was the grace of God. After that one of the inmates found that a bit hard to swallow, and he sent him a letter, and he said: 'Sir, did you mean what you said about sympathising with us, that only the help of God made you any different from the rest of us?'. The prisoner received a reply from Trumbull, and it went like this: 'Yes, I meant everything that I said' - and here was the prisoner's explanation, he said: 'I am here for life in this prison, but I can stay here more contentedly now that I know I've a brother out in the world'. Now grasp that, the import of it: because that minister identified with that prisoner, he felt he could stay there for the rest of his life because he had a brother out in the world. We have a near-Kinsman, we have a nearest Kinsman in the Lord Jesus, who took our human flesh upon Him apart from sin, and died for our sin - was made our sin - and that's meant to make a difference to us down here on Earth! I say it reverently: to endure down here, knowing that up there we have a Brother in human flesh:
'We have a priest who suffered, knowing weakness, tears, and pain;
Who, like us, was tried and tempted; unlike us, without stain'.
The near-kinsman had to have the right to redeem, our Lord Jesus has that now - but a second qualification was: the near-kinsman had to have power to redeem. Now, I think I touched on it yesterday, that the near-kinsman had to have the financial means to take on another family. If he already had his own, maybe he was struggling, and therefore he couldn't afford it. We know obviously, don't we, that our Living God - His hand is not short that it cannot save, and indeed in Isaiah 50 the Lord said: 'Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?' - He has! In Jeremiah 50 it says of Israel: 'Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause'. Jehovah would be their Go'el, their Kinsman Redeemer.
The go'el had to have the right to redeem, the power to redeem, and thirdly: the willingness to redeem. This is the most important of all, because a man could be eligible to do the job - he might have the right, he might be a relative, and he might have the ability to do it, he might be wealthy enough and have the power - but he may not be willing! Now we're not going to spend time on this tonight, but we've already read in chapter 3 that there was another man who was nearer to Elimelech's family than Boaz was. Whilst - we'll spend a bit of time maybe on it tomorrow night - he was willing to redeem the land that was Elimelech's, he wasn't willing to take on another wife. He didn't want to raise a seed to Mahlon, Ruth's deceased husband.
Here Boaz is the one who is eligible, able, and most importantly: willing! Now why was that? Why was he willing and the other boy wasn't? Well, ultimately, I believe it was because Boaz, that mature man, had lost his heart to young Ruth. Our Lord is eligible to redeem, He has the power to redeem, but isn't it wonderful that He is willing to redeem for the same reason that Boaz was - now you grasp this: because He's lost His heart to you. Is that not precious?
'Fairest of all the earth beside,
Chiefest of all unto Thy bride,
Fullness divine in Thee I see,
Wonderful Man of Calvary!
That Man of Calvary' - this is our response, as it ought to be -
'Has won my heart from me,
And died to set me free,
Blest Man of Calvary!'
Ruth, a gleaner in the field of Boaz - and God guided her to the right field, and to the right face, a kinsman redeemer. Now come with me to the third picture that I want to leave with you in closing tonight. In chapter 3 Ruth moves from being in the field, to being at the feet of Boaz. Now in verse 3 of chapter 3, look down at it with me, Naomi gives Ruth this instruction - she knows now that she has met this man, and she has rejoiced because God has guided Ruth to the kinsman redeemer. She is now forgoing any rights that she has, Naomi, she's maybe too old anyway; and she is giving all this privilege to Ruth, and she's getting her prepared. 'Wash thyself', verse 3, chapter 3, 'anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor', the threshing floor, 'but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie'.
Ruth is instructed by Naomi: 'Now you watch out, go down to the threshing floor, and watch out where Boaz makes his bed to sleep tonight'. Now in these days they would lay down at night with the winnowed barley, in order to prevent it being stolen - they were guarding it. So Ruth was watching to see where he would make his bed that night. Naomi told her to go down to his feet and draw his garment over herself. Now that seems a bit odd - and in verse 4, let me just read this, we see that these are the words Naomi spoke: 'uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do'.
Now Ruth's response is remarkable because, just the way you don't understand what's going on here, she didn't, she was a Gentile. Naomi had to explain this to her, this was Jewish custom, it wasn't her way. Yet, even though she doesn't know the full import of it all, look at her response in verses 5 and 6, she said: 'All that thou sayest unto me I will do. And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her'. She listened, and she was obedient - and listen, there's a lesson: that's why she was blessed.
In verse 7 Boaz ate and drank, his heart was merry, and he lay down at the end of the heap of corn, 'and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down'. When he was asleep, she crept in and - as Naomi had instructed - she uncovered the clothes that covered his feet, and lay down there. Now why did she do that? Well, probably the reason was to ensure that Boaz eventually awakened. By uncovering his feet, he would do it slowly, but he would do it naturally - he wouldn't be startled. He would waken up in the middle of the night, his feet being cold - as often happens some of us - and he would be asking himself what was going on.
We find here that at midnight, verse 8, he awoke 'and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet'. Look what he says to her: 'Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman'. Now please, when we read this in the 21st-century, when everything has been sexualised beyond recognition - don't think that there's anything improper in this whole escapade here. You see, there was a custom to spread a skirt over another - a man would do this as a symbolic act of claiming a woman to be his wife. There was nothing sordid in it at all. What we see here is not strange in this custom, but I'll tell you what is strange: the man wasn't taking the initiative here, it was the woman. Ruth is asking Boaz to put his skirt over her, to claim her as his bride - we would say that's like the woman proposing to the man! Now it's not impossible, but it's not usually the done thing!
Now we might think, 'Well, Ruth must be being a bit forward here' - if it was not for the fact that Ruth gives her reason for her request, at the end of verse 9: 'for thou art a near kinsman'. Now that changed everything, because she had a claim on this man, and the claim was according to the word of God. If there was blame to be put on anyone, it was with Boaz, because he hadn't wakened up to his responsibilities toward Ruth and her family. The response of Boaz in verse 10: 'Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich'. What's he doing? He's thanking her! Isn't that remarkable? He's thanking her for her request. In effect, what he is saying is: 'Thank you, Ruth, for allowing me the privilege of exercising my responsibilities as a near-kinsman redeemer to you'.
What a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ - because He, in grace, loves to be trusted, loves to dispense strength and grace for all our needs. He has provided for us a throne of grace - He is more willing to give than we are to receive from Him! Sometimes we think of prayer as trying to prise open the iron clad fist of almighty God, eking blessings out of His cold hard heart - it's not like that at all! The old puritan said: 'In prayer we are not conquering God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness'. That's what we see here: Boaz thanked her for her claim upon him.
Didn't our Lord Jesus say in John 16: 'Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full'. He's asking to ask, He's asking you to ask! He thanked her and commended her - look at the end of verse 10 - that she didn't follow the young men. Now, what did that mean? Well, Boaz was more mature, and Ruth would have had every right to go after younger men if she had wanted to. What Boaz was commending her for was that she wasn't forsaking her old family, and her old life for a selfish new start, turning over a new leaf - but she had a desire to revive the old!
Now listen, things were hard. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes. This was a dark day in the history of Israel. It would be forgiven if a young girl decided to cut her losses and start a new chapter of her life - and sometimes we can feel like that. Forget about the old, it doesn't work any more. There's times in our lives when our back is against the wall, and we're having difficulties, and we're finding the Christian profession hard going. Maybe it's in a church context, and we want to cut our losses and leave. Maybe it's a marriage that is on the rocks, and the easiest thing to do is go to the divorce courts, not go to the Lord. Maybe it's your work, or your service for the Lord - and I'm not saying that God always says, 'Stick at a thing', but as one man put it like this: 'God wants to mend things when we choose to end things'. He is a Redeemer, a Redeemer of that which is lost.
What we need to do is just what Ruth did - every single one of us - with all our problems, and all our trials, and all our difficulties, all our struggles, all our questions: come and lie at the feet of our Kinsman Redeemer. Our Christian failures, whatever those might be, He has the right, He has the power, He is willing to redeem whatever is broken. We should come and pray what Ruth prayed: 'Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman'. Do you know what that really means in contemporary language? 'Lord, take over. Take over!' - when was the last time you came to the Lord and said that? 'Lord, take me'. What she was doing here, without realising it, was what the child of God does when they come to the cross, and they say 'Lord, take me, spread therefore Thy skirt over Thine handmaiden', or Thy servant, 'for Thou art a near Kinsman to me. Lord, take charge and change!'.
He might change your circumstances, but even if He doesn't you will find direction only at the cross, only at the Master's feet. In verse 13 he tells her: 'Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he', that's the nearest kinsman, 'if he won't perform his duty, well then I'll do it', in effect is what he says. Now you don't need to be waiting to get saved, you can get saved here and now. You don't need to wait to get revived, you can get revived at the cross here and now. But what we have here is Boaz saying: 'Look Ruth, it's time for you now to rest. You rest, and I'll do the rest'.
Now this is beautiful, because up until this point Ruth did all the work for Boaz, isn't that right? But now Boaz was changing, turning the tables, and the emphasis - he is now doing all the work for Ruth. It's now time for Ruth to tarry, now time for Ruth to wait and trust and rest in him. It's beautiful, isn't it? Boaz said to her in chapter 2 verse 12, did he not, 'The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust'.
Dear friends tonight, do you believe in the providence of God? As the Psalmist said in 138: 'The LORD will perfect that which concerneth thee'. Tarry, if you've committed it to Him - it's the hardest thing in the world to do, I'm doing it over a number of things just at the minute, and I tell you it's hard! Just wait, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Jeremiah 29:11, one translation: 'I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'. Do you know what Ruth did? She's great! She believed the word of her redeemer, and she received his gifts. It was like a deposit, a guarantee, a token - we have got the Holy Spirit - that God is going to do it right in the end one day. She was willing to wait patiently for him to do the rest.
Look at the words of Naomi in the last verse of chapter 3, this is beautiful, she said: 'Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day'. The Lord's not going to rest, you know, until He gets us all to glory. Too many of God's people are content to live in chapter 2, in the field where Ruth was eking out a living, living off the picked leftovers of the children of God, doing the best of a difficult situation. Some of us are like that: we want God's gifts, but we don't want a deeper communion with our Heavenly Boaz, our Lord.
Can I ask you tonight as we close: what is it that hinders you? What is it that binds you from this place of abundant blessing? You know the ancient Hebrews had the year of Jubilee every 50 years. The slaves would be set free, and the land that had been taken from tribes would be restored unto them - but do you know something? If you had a near-kinsman, you didn't have to wait until the year of Jubilee! If he was able, if he was eligible, if he was willing, you could have your lands back, you could have your life back right away!
Now there's a great Jubilee celebration happening one day very soon in glory, where God is going to put everything right. But do you know something, believer? You don't have to wait until then. You can enjoy the fullness of Christ's redemption and revival now through your nearest Kinsman, and you don't have to settle for anything less than the word of God promises you. What are you struggling with tonight? The romance of redemption and revival in Ruth - in her years of prosperity in her past in Moab, her early years of marriage, Boaz meant nothing to her. We don't even read of him in chapter 1, and in chapter 2 by divine design she is found in his field, in chapter 3 she is prostrate at his feet, and in chapter 4 she becomes - as we will see tomorrow night - a member of his family. Sure, it's wonderful, isn't it?
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Monkstown Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Romance of Redemption and Revival in Ruth' series, entitled "At His Feet" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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