"And I Will Betroth You to Me Forever" (Hosea 2:19)

Tom Nettles
| Ruth 2–4 | February 20, 2017

Introduction: In the first lesson on Ruth, the following proposal for Ruth’s purpose in the canon was made: “I would  look at Ruth as a scriptural narrative, serving the overall Christological and covenantal perspective of the canon, specially designed to show how a multitude of particular events is integrated by God into the single event for which the world exists, the redemptive glory of the Son of God (1 Corinthians 15:25-28; 53-58; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 5:6, 7, 9, 13).” The lesson for today gives types within the historical narrative that explode with the redemptive themes of Scripture. As in all types based on real historical narrative, the parallels are suggestive to various degrees. They only partially (not entirely) reflect the consummative truth to which they point. They contain aspects of obvious dissimilarity as well as pleasing points of similarity. While the types do not contain the fullness of the anti-type yet to appear, a meditation on them can suggest depths of truth to which we might not have given attention otherwise.

 

I. A Chance Meeting with the kindness of a Redeemer – Chapter 2

A. Verse 1 informs the reader that Naomi had a relative who was a redeemer for the ongoing and well-being of the family. As we learn later (4:20), Naomi was aware of this. The word used of him can describe both material and moral properties, a worthy man of great wealth.

B. Ruth demonstrated her commitment to her vow to Naomi by taking some very difficult labor on herself for the support of her mother-in-law. Though she had come from a country in which she was secure, she betrayed no temptation to return, but to make these people her people, and to rely on the God who in the first instance had made them his people. She was neither too proud to do menial labor as an anonymous, poor, and dependent immigrant, nor was she possessed of a sense of entitlement but looked to find grace and favor (2). She would simply go where she saw gleaners and merge with them in a field where it was obvious that the owner of the field was fully supportive of this practice. This was a provision of the levitical code recorded in Leviticus 19:9, 10.

C. Boaz came to the field and extended his desire for the Lord’s blessing on them and on their labors. According to Psalm 129:7,8 this type of sincere recognition of grace as fundamental to the most basic necessities of life was a sign of divine favor. Also, recognizing the presence of a foreigner in the field, he inquires as to who she is. His servant, having found out all the necessary information informs Boaz of her humble approach and her hard labor. (5-7)

D. Their interaction reveals the kindness of Boaz and his willingness to go beyond what the law required in order to meet all the needs of his relative Naomi (15, 16). He recognized Ruth’s diligence, her unfeigned loyalty to Naomi, and her sincere reception of the covenant mercies of the God of Israel (11, 12). He let her eat the prepared food along with his servants and personally gave her the roasted grain along with something that would make it tasty as well as strengthening (14).

E. Ruth received every grace from the hand of Boaz with a spirit of humility, a sense of the pure grace of his attention to her, and with a determination of energetic pursuit of all that Boaz had placed before her. Her industry was not diminished by his generosity. In fact, she did not leave until she had beat out the grain so that Naomi would not feel any necessity for that difficult task (17:9). For the complete season of harvest, Ruth continued the hard labor of gleaning and cleaning. She would not go to another field, for in this field there was present sustenance and promise of safety (2:22, 23).

F. When Naomi learned that Boaz was the person of generosity, she immediately knew that this was indeed a special providence, saying with quite a different tone from earlier as she spoke of the Lord, “whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (20). Naomi saw divine blessing in the protection of Ruth (22) and in the fact that the field upon which she landed for gleaning was that of a redeemer (21).

G. Boaz serves as a type of Christ who was infinitely more worthy and infinitely more rich, yet, for our sake in his grace he became poor that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Though he dwelt with the status of equality with God, and indeed as God the Son, of this splendor and exhibition of power he emptied himself to embrace the nature and status of a man, a servant void of personal prestige or wealth, to shoulder our burdens (Philippians 2:6-8). To do Ruth and Naomi the good he did them, Boaz needed to retain his wealth, for in emptying himself he would lose his ability to save. Nevertheless, he humbled himself to meet their need. The Lord Jesus must do that which is impossible for man, retain the riches and intrinsic honor of his eternal existence while really sharing the poverty, servanthood, and tests of obedience of our humanity. He redeemed us by his blood and lifts us by his Lordship.

 

II. The Needy one pursues and finds the kindness of the Redeemer – Chapter 3

A. The scene that follows is exceptional and not to be seen as a model of courtship. Many of Boaz’s skilled servants would have been involved in the winnowing under the supervision of Boaz. Evidently the harvest was abundant and the waste was minimal. The harvest party ended some time before midnight, the servants went home, and Boaz, having no family, simply went to sleep near the massive pile of grain, the product of his labors and the evidence of the grace of God in his prosperity. In another situation certain elements would, as Matthew Henry wrote, put “spark to the tinder.” Several factors, however, give this unusual scheme of Naomi the substance of both prudence and crafty wisdom.

B. For the entire season of harvest, Boaz had provided for and protected Ruth in her labors. He kept the young men respectful and made no improper overtures toward her himself. His sense of the presence of the God of Israel and his attention to the laws revealed would be deeply enmeshed in his conscience. Naomi did not think she was sending Ruth in harm’s way or presenting an enticement that would break down the pure character of the relationship to this point.

C. At least three important issues would be addressed in this strategy devised by Naomi.

  1. Ruth would indicate that she was not giddy and seeking a resolution to her womanhood in the company of someone young, with the appearance of physical vibrancy and muscularity (3:10).
  2. She would show her contentment and sense of secure satisfaction in being near Boaz and would awaken in him a sense of pleasure in her company, not merely an admiration for her industry and loyalty to Naomi. He would know of her willingness to be his wife; probably something he had contemplated but was hesitant to pursue in light of the difference in their ages.
  3. She reminded him that their future relation was completely within the provisions of the Mosaic legislation (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (3:9). Her own initiative in this was recognized as a right to be exercised. When Naomi told her how to approach this and said “He will tell you what to do,” she knew that Boaz would know what procedure he must follow to have Ruth as his wife. He would finish the matter with haste (3:18).

D. Boaz lets her know immediately of his response to this unusual, but honest, plain, unvarnished overture to come under his protection and to be his wife.

  1. He recognized that this indication for preference for him over the young men showed maturity, deference to the needs of Naomi, and a sense of the long term integrity of her family.
  2. He assured her that he had only the most noble intentions for her and respected her character and her virtue (3:11). He also would protect her reputation (3:14).
  3. He would take care of the process of redemption with haste and in accordance with the provisions of the law of Israel (3:13). He had no hesitance about this but was eager both from the standpoint of law and from the standpoint of admiration and affection.
  4. He gave her a portion of the newly winnowed grain as a pledge that his possessions, his wealth, and his life would be hers (3:15).
  5. With much richer promise and more absolute certainty, our Redeemer grants us an earnest, a true portion of the inheritance that he has won for us by his labors (2 Corinthians 1:20-22; 5:4, 5; Ephesians 1:13, 14).

 

III. The Price for full possession is paid. Chapter 4:1-11

A. We find another manifestation of God’s arrangement of things in the fact that, when Boaz went to sit in the gate, “the redeemer of whom Boaz had spoken came by” (4:1).

B. Boaz set forth the entire case before this man as to the necessity and the right of redemption in the case of the widow of Elimelech. As first redeemer, he had the prerogative, and Boaz was next in line. The first redeemer agreed to the purchase (4:4).

C. When Boaz informed him of the expanded responsibilities this involved with Ruth the Moabitess, to raise up offspring for the dead, the redeemer first-in-line could not, or would not, impair his own inheritance.

D. The transaction that followed, before the approved witnesses of the town of Bethlehem, was done according to the biblical text in Deuteronomy. Boaz took full responsibility for the full redemption, honoring the law, the memory of Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion, the present well-being or Naomi and Ruth, and the future progeny of the family. All of it was established in the sight of credible witnesses (4:7-12). These witnesses testified to the promise that this redemption would provide to build up the house of Israel, like Rachel, Leah, and Tamar, through “the offspring the Lord will give you by this young woman.” The daughters of Moab at one time had brought judgment on Israel (Numbers 25:1), but now one those daughters would be a key in fulfilling Israel’s promise.

E. Likewise, the Father could not redeem us by mere manifestation of his will to do so without betrayal of his own character as a just and truthful God. He, therefore, set forth another one who would work a just redemption: “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 13:7). God [the Father] set forth his beloved Son, “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4, 5”), as the one who could redeem. At the same time and in the same event, he maintained the divine justice and all the immutable properties of his perfect holiness and truthfulness and justified those who have faith in Jesus, the Redeemer (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-21).

IV. The perfectly transacted purchase, and resultant possession, consummated the redemptive purpose – Chapter 4:13-22. For sure, God has not left us without a Redeemer and a Restorer of life (4:14, 15).

A. Ruth, now as the wife of Boaz, conceived the child that would be the grandfather of David.

B. From the royal line of David would come the Messiah, the true Redeemer of God’s Israel.

C. None of the purposes and resultant promises of God shall fail. Every event fits the place and helps established the pattern of God’s purposes in manifesting all his attributes while saving a number that no man can number. Those saved are indebted to the ransom price paid by the Redeemer. His redemptive work made them become his bride (Revelation 5:9, 10; 19:7, 8).