A Redemption Plan
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, 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 his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
1. Boaz redeems by the book (vv. 1-2, 9-10).
Remember the refrain in the book of Judges: In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). Well, here we find a man—during the time of the judges—who breaks that mold. He is a man of integrity and a man who follows God’s ways.
In verses one and two, Boaz goes to the local courtroom—the city gate was where such legal proceedings took place. God himself established this location as the public court (e.g. Deuteronomy 21:19; Joshua 20:4). By going there, Boaz is taking the matter of kinsman redemption to the proper place. He is honoring God’s way of doing things.
Upon arriving there, he immediately finds the man for whom he’s looking. He invites him over to discuss matters and calls ten elders to join the two of them. Again, he’s doing things by the book. He’s gathering reliable witnesses to vouch for the legality of the proceedings. Various legal affairs were governed by the elders of Israel’s communities (murder, Deuteronomy 21:1-9; marriage disputes, Deuteronomy 25:5-10; questions of asylum, Deuteronomy 19:11-12). These men were both judges in Israel and legal counselors. They were the right men to assemble in order to once-and-for-all settle the matter of kinsman redemption. Boaz is acting according to God’s laws.
In verses nine and ten, again we see that Boaz does things by the book. These two verses make up a familiar legal declaration beginning and ending with the important formula—you are witnesses today. Between these reminders is sandwiched precisely what they are witnessing. Boaz is following in the footsteps of his faithful forefathers (see Joshua 24:22); he is making a faithful covenant agreement in view of all. Boaz does things by the book! But:
2. Redemption by the book is costly (vv. 3-8).
We learn this lesson as Boaz negotiates with this anonymous guardian-redeemer. I say anonymous because what is translated here as “my friend” (v. 1) is literally something like “Mr. So-and-so” in Hebrew.1 In a book chalked full of names, this guardian-redeemer is never given one. (Perhaps to subtly say, if you won’t redeem a name for Elimelech then your name is not worthy to remember.)
So we find that:
a. Mr. So-and-so will not redeem because he loves himself.
- At the prospect of purchasing Naomi’s land, Mr. So-and-so says, “Sure, no problem! I will redeem it.”
- But, when he finds that marrying Ruth comes along with the land, he says, “No way! Can’t do it! That will break my bank.”
You see, when Mr. So-and-so thinks it’s merely buying the land from Naomi it seems like a great deal. He’s thinking he just won the lottery. Why? Well it’s because if it’s simply Naomi he’s redeeming then there’s little to no chance that there will ever be an heir. So the land he buys will most likely remain in his possession. He simply must feed and take care of Naomi until she dies and then get the benefits of her land indefinitely. That’s a good deal!
However, with Ruth thrown into the mix, this deal becomes potentially very costly for him. Now he would have to buy the land and marry Ruth. If she conceives then there’s an heir and that child would be reckoned as part of Elimelech’s family—not Mr. So-and-so’s. The land wouldn’t forever be the guardian-redeemers but the child’s. So Mr. So-and-so would have to feed and care for Naomi, Ruth, and possibly a child who would eventually get the land that he purchased. Suddenly what seemed a great deal initially becomes a potentially very costly prospect!
*Mr. So-and-so cares too much about his own well-being to take that risk!
b. Boaz will redeem because God has first loved him.
Israel’s great and ultimate Redeemer was Yahweh, and the signature act of his redemption (up to this point in Israel’s history) was the Exodus from Egypt. So Moses sings praises to God after Pharaoh’s army has been defeated in the sea:
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; / you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode (Exodus 15:13).
God is the Great Redeemer! He is the model for all redeeming activities. His divine character is Israel’s guide.
- What should motivate such redeeming activities in Israel? God’s STEADFAST LOVE towards Israel! His redemption of Israel! His gracious loving kindness!
- How does Israel demonstrate their love of God for his unmerited STEADFAST LOVE towards them? They must reflect the very redeeming, steadfast loving character of God through their obedience to his loving covenant commands!
Isn’t that precisely what Boaz is doing? Isn’t he demonstrating his love for God because of God’s prior love for him and for Israel? Isn’t he following God’s redemption legislation (reflecting God’s redeeming character) because that is precisely how God has treated him and his people?
Such redeeming activities always cost! And such redeeming work will most certainly cost Boaz. One commentator highlights three potential costs for him:
- “He would…buy Naomi’s property from assets eventually part of his estate—only to lose that investment when Ruth’s first child claimed it…”
- “That child’s care and feeding would further drain his wealth…besides the lost investment in land and child; he may…have faced additional expense in caring for Ruth, other children born to her, and Naomi, too.”
- “The cost would have been even greater if, besides inheriting Elimelech’s estate, Ruth’s firstborn were also to inherit a share of the kinsman’s own legacy.” 2
Imaging God’s redeeming character (his steadfast love) will cost Boaz:
Let me illustrate. In Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, Jean Valjean (a recently released prisoner) encounters Bishop Myriel (a benevolent man who graciously takes Valjean in when no one else will). Yet, despite the Bishop’s kindness, Valjean steals his silverware and attempts to quietly escape into the night. The police catch him with the silverware and bring him back to the Bishop’s home to return the silverware and to assure the Bishop that Valjean will go back to prison for life.
However, when the police tell Myriel that Valjean reported to them that the silverware was a gift, instead of testifying against Valjean, the Bishop says indeed it was a gift and chides Valjean for forgetting to take the silver candlesticks too! It is an incredible show of gracious kindness by the Bishop. He has redeemed (with the price of the silverware and the candlesticks) Valjean from life in prison. Then he says to Jean Valjean:
Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man…. Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!
Such redemption work costs Myriel, doesn’t it! He absorbs the cost of the silverware and the candlesticks. He absorbs the cost of Valjean’s betrayal. He absorbs the cost of the indignation of the police and the community in which he lives when he protects this criminal. Redemption costs Myriel! And such redeeming work will cost us too!
- When we befriend the unlovable, it will cost us.
- When we’re transparent and honest about our sin, it will cost us.
- When we Partner With A Purpose in our neighborhood, it will cost us.
Such is the case when we image God in the work of redemption. It costs us. It cost Bishop Myriel. It cost Boaz. Yet, ultimately, these costs are all only a small reflection of what redemption work cost Christ Jesus, our Lord and our God: who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness (Titus 2:14).
3. God works in unexpected ways (vv. 11-12).
This passage in Ruth reminds us of how divinely unusual are the redeeming purposes of our God! In his economy:
a. Human foreigners become his family.
In verse eleven, we find that, through Boaz’s redemption of her, Ruth becomes a full-fledged member of Israel. The crowd explains in blessing these redemption proceedings:
May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel (v. 11).
Ruth has arrived. “She was no longer a Moabite, foreigner, or girl, but [an Israelite] wife….[Thus] the people wished Yahweh to give Ruth fertility comparable to that of Rachel and Leah” the founding mothers of God’s people. 3
This motif—foreigners being spiritually adopted into the family of God—is central to the Bible’s storyline. Abraham is adopted by God (Genesis 12:1-3). Israel is adopted by God (Deuteronomy 27:9). Rahab is adopted by God (Joshua 6:25). And we—who have placed our faith in Christ—are adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5). Furthermore:
b. Human folly becomes God’s faithfulness.
When the crowd says, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah (v. 12). They remind us that God can take our fallen, sinful actions and bring about his good purposes.
Boaz and most of the people in this scene would have been descendants of Perez. Yet, Perez was born out of scandalous and sinful circumstances. In Genesis 38, Judah refuses to give his daughter-in-law, Tamar, his youngest son as a redeemer when his older two sons die without leaving Tamar an heir! An unsuspecting Judah later visits a prostitute (Tamar in disguise) and she conceives. Twins are born of whom Perez is the older. Thus, out of Judah’s sin, comes Boaz’s line. A line from which God ultimately raised up a king and the King of kings!