An Heir Is Born
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
1. When God redeems, he redeems up.
What do I mean when I say God redeems up? I mean that God does not merely restore those he redeems to their former position, but he elevates them to a place far more glorious than before. I mean that such upward redemption is part of God’s very character.
Take Job for example. He epitomizes this. When his story opens, we find him an incredibly wealthy man. He has financial wealth; he has family wealth (i.e. a wife and many children); he has social wealth (i.e. many people who respect him and honor his advice); he has physical wealth (i.e. he’s healthy and capable). He simply has great wealth!
Then he loses it all! He loses his money and possessions; he loses his children and his wife turns against him; he loses his social standing as people begin to question his righteousness; he loses his health. He needs redemption. He needs salvation and exoneration. And, in the final chapter of Job, we find that he gets just this kind of redemption. We see how God chooses to redeem him:
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning (vv. 10, 12).
This is also what we see here in the book of Ruth. God doesn’t merely restore Naomi to her former place. He doesn’t simply put her in a similar situation. He elevates her over and above her former place.
a. Naomi is redeemed up.
Recall that when she left for Moab, I argued that she and Elimelech were likely heads of one of the leading families of Bethlehem—direct descendants of Caleb, an iconic hero of Israel’s past. If so, then the famine and the death of her husband and sons represent an incredible and tragic fall from power. The Rockefellers have lost everything! The Vanderbilts are out on the street! It represents a riches-to-rags story.
So, for the remainder of the book, the question of Naomi’s redemption takes center stage. Will she survive? Will God allow this elite Israelite family to perish? Will he save the family name from extinction? These are the kinds of questions that receive answers here in this final passage.
Yet the answers are more than the audience would have anticipated. The answers far surpass what would have been reasonable expectations. Naomi does not merely survive. This Israelite family does not merely continue on. God does not merely save the family line from extinction. He elevates it!!! In redeeming this family, he showers unimaginable blessings upon it!!!
Well, God saves this once elite Bethlehemite family from the brink of total extinction, but he doesn’t simply give them what they had before their fall; instead (as with Job), God gives them far more. This extraordinary elevation is communicated subtly by our expert narrator:
They named [the baby boy] Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David (v. 17).
What a picture of God’s upward redemption! What an elevation for Naomi!
- Before, she had sons who had wives, yet neither of them had any children.
- Now, she has a daughter-in-law worth more than “seven sons” and a grandson too!
- Before, she was a matriarch of one of the elite families of Bethlehem.
- Now, she is to be one of the renowned matriarchs of the most iconic royal family of Israel!
- Before, she was part of the family-line that descended from one of Israel’s greatest heroes, Caleb.
- Now, she is part of the family-line that ascends to Israel’s and the world’s greatest hero, Jesus the Christ!
This story isn’t a story of restoration! Rather, it is a story of elevation! It is a story of upward redemption! It is a story that highlights the very gracious redeeming purposes of God, his very character! And we must not miss it!
b. We too are redeemed up.
The Bible reiterates this theme over and over again! Our redemption is not a mere restoration of what once was but an elevation to far greater glory than we ever had before!
In the Garden of Eden, you and I and all humanity were in Adam. Let me stress that this was a good thing since Adam and Eve were created good and very good! Adam and Eve—and you and I in Adam—bear the image of God! In the Garden, Adam and Eve were able to walk and talk with God. They were able to image God in their rule over creation. It was good to be reckoned in Adam in the Garden with God!
But in the New Heaven and New Earth—in our redeemed, glorified state—we are in Christ. Let me stress that it is far better to be in Christ than it is to be in Adam! It is far better to be in the Man of Heaven than to be in the man of dust. Paul explains something of this mysterious upward redemption when he writes of our resurrection bodies:
“The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).
It is far better—far more glorious, far more divine—to be in Christ Jesus than to be in Adam. God has redeemed those in Christ upward! Augustine of Hippo saw something of this when he explained the differences in human nature in the four stages of God’s redemptive history—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. He argued:
- In the Garden, we (in Adam) were “able to sin” and “able not to sin”
- After the Fall but before Christ, we were “not able not to sin”
- After God’s redemption in Christ, we (in Christ) are “able not to sin”
- In the New Heaven and New Earth, we (in Christ) will be “unable to sin”
This is all to say that the benefits in Christ Jesus—the benefits of God’s redeeming work—are upward. He elevates us! He does not simply restore what once was to its original form but betters, elevates, glorifies it in his redemption purposes! That’s what he does with Naomi and Ruth! That’s what he is doing with all those who are in Christ Jesus! Praise God for his upward redemption!
2. When God redeems, he freely redeems.
What I mean is that God is not compelled by anything other than his gracious and generous will when he redeems! One of my favorite statements of praise to God in the Bible expresses this well. Paul writes:
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? / Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid(Romans 11:34-35)?
The understood answer is most certainly: No one has! We can demand nothing from God! We have not given God a thing! He owes us nothing! What we get from him is a free gift; it is grace! This is one of the most important lessons we must learn about our relationship to God! It is foundational to the gospel!
a. Naomi does not merit redemption.
In the book of Ruth, we are given no indication that Naomi is an especially righteous individual. We are given no indication that she experiences the blessing of kinsman redemption or the blessing of receiving an heir because of some work on her part or some special quality in her person.
In fact, throughout the book we see rather the opposite concerning Naomi. She and her family abandon the Promised Land. She and her family intermingle with a pagan people. She all but accuses God of perpetrating evil against her. She, in contrast with Ruth her Moabite daughter-in-law, is not particularly marked by Godly faithfulness—or steadfast love.
Yet, the book ends with a focus on Naomi and, especially, God’s faithfulness to Naomi. This story ends—to put it in cinematic terms—with a close up of this aged, Israelite woman holding her grandchild. God’s steadfast love experienced in Naomi’s life and in her redemption is the scene’s emphasis.
If it were Ruth being zoomed in on, you might think she deserved her redemption. If Boaz were the focus here, you might think he deserved his redemption. But Naomi is the least admirable of these figures, and it is precisely for this reason that I think the story ends with a focus on her redemption!
It teaches us that when God redeems he redeems freely!
Yet, this isn’t merely so in Naomi’s case:
b. Israel does not merit redemption.
Again, let me remind you that this story takes place in the time of the judges. If you were to survey all of Israel’s history this period would be high on the list of its most idolatrous and faithless epochs. This was a time when everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes! They weren’t (for the most part) living in faithful accordance with God’s covenant laws. In short, Israel wasn’t living righteously!
The story of this sinful time in Israel’s history climaxes with a brutal rape and murder and an ensuing civil war because of it! Israel has hit rock bottom! By the end of all this chaotic, sinful strife—the Israelites are essentially indistinguishable from the pagan nations that surround them!
What have they done to earn God’s favor? What have they done to separate themselves from any other nation? The answer is a rather depressing: Nothing! Israel has proved itself to be as sinful as the other nations. Israel has proved itself to be as faithless as the other nations. They have done nothing to win God’s redemptive favor! Yet, the author of Ruth nonetheless records:
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David (4:18-22).
He teaches us—in the midst of this most sinful and idolatrous time in Israel’s history—that when God redeems he redeems freely! He provides a king!
Yet, this is not merely the case with Naomi or with Israel. This is the case with us too:
c. We do not merit redemption.
Our redemption is a free gift from God! Our salvation is not dependent upon us doing something for God or living an especially worthy life! The Bible is extremely clear on this point:
Ephesians 2:1-5–And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
Romans 5:6-8–For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God redeems freely and graciously! There is nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation! How is this foundational to the gospel? It is foundational because unless we first recognize our depravity (our inability to save ourselves), we will never turn to God for his righteousness (his salvation)! Unless we depend completely on God for salvation, we cannot depend on God for salvation at all!