Kinsman Redeemer - Ruth

March 29, 2015  Ruth   I 

 

     When Benjamin Franklin was the Ambassador to France, he occasionally attended the Infidels Club -- a group that spent most of its time searching for and reading literary masterpieces. On one occasion Franklin read the book of Ruth to the club, but changed the names in it so it would not be recognized as a book of the Bible. When he finished, the listeners were unanimous in their praise. They said it was one of the most beautiful short stories that they had ever heard, and demanded that he tell them where he had run across such a remarkable work of art. He loved telling them that it came from the Bible!  There are only 2 books in the bible named after women Esther and Ruth.  Esther is the only book in the bible that does not mention the name of God.         

   Ruth is a story of change, love and struggle.   Naomi has a great deal of suffering in her life.  I think we can see a lack of faith and also the expression of real faith.   The story begins with some bad choices.    Life was not easy in those days.   Scriptures tell us that this happened when the judges ruled.   The Children of Israel would obey God for a season and then they would sin.   God would punish them and they would cry out to God and God would then respond to them.   Often they would be oppressed by some foreign enemy but in this story there is a famine.  Twice the book of Judges tells us that there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes.   Man that is trouble and trouble they got into often.   The book of Judges covers about 300 years and there are 13 judges mentioned.   One historian said that the average age of most world civilizations is duration of about 200 years.    Almost without exception each civilization passed through a similar sequence of events; from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from great courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to leisure, from leisure to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency to weakness, from weakness back to bondage.    

    There is a famine in the land and it happens in Bethlehem.   How tragic because it happens to God’s people and it happens in Bethlehem.  It is really sad that famine happens in Bethlehem because Bethlehem means house of bread.   It is not only sad because it is the house of bread but it happens to God’s people.   Jesus came to be broken bread.  Jesus came to feed our souls.  In those last days he gave the disciples bread and said this is my body which is broken for you.   Famine was often evidence of God’s judgment because God’s people sinned against him.   God disciplined His people and the just suffered with the unjust. 

    So if you have a family and there is no food around what do you do?   Got to feed the kids right?     What do you do when trouble comes?   We can endure it or try to escape it or embrace it.   If we just endure trouble the tendency is to become bitter.   Some try to avoid or escape trouble.   Trouble from God is hard to dodge.  It is hard to kick against the goads or to fight God.  Adam tried to hide from God and Jonah tried to flee from God and Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he was sinful.  But Jesus came for us anyway when we were sinful and when we hated him.  For the Christian if God is allowing the trouble for his purposes we can find our self in a worse situation if we take things into our own hands.    The best thing to do is embrace it and accept it.  We need to see trouble as our servant and welcome it.  I am not very good at welcoming trouble but you might be. 

     Elimelech’s name means my God is king is of course is concerned about feeding his family and paying the bills like most of us are.   So he packs up with Naomi and his 2 sons and heads to Moab.    Moab was the enemy of the Jews.  The Jews were forbidden to marry them.  Because of Moabite women seduced the Jewish men 24,000 people died in Numbers 25.   In Deuteronomy 23 they were forbidden to enter the Jewish congregation forever.  You may remember that Balak hired Balaam to curse the children of Israel.   The Moabites were idolatrous and wicked.  The Scripture tells us of different occasions when God’s wrath was kindled against them.     So he is fleeing to the enemy’s camp which is probably not the best thing to do and things do not go well for them there in Moab.       

    The family pays a high price for moving to Moab.  Naomi goes to Moab looking for food and returns without her husband and her sons.  In 10 years her husband and both sons die.   Before her sons die they marry.    It is interesting that they leave Israel to avoid death and 3 of them die in a foreign land.    Things were not going too well with them.      Abraham also packed his bags and went to Egypt when famine came to the land and there is no indication that God told him to do that.  .    It is best to seek God’s will and to pray when making decisions.  When the fires and difficulties come it is better to seek God and not make our own decisions and take things into our hands.      It is good to stay in the will of God especially when we make big decisions. 

       Naomi ended up bitter because of what took place in Moab.   Naomi, which means ‘pleasant or beautiful’, herself said, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.   I went out full, and the Lord hat brought me home again empty: why then call me Naomi, seeing the Lord hat testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?”   She goes with her husband and 2 sons and all 3 die.   A lot of people blame God for their problems.  It is all God’s fault.   God made me the way I am.   There is truth to that but God also said do not sin. 

      Naomi hears that God is blessing his people but she is missing out on it.   She decides to go back.  We see the depth of her depression and her lack of a close relationship to God in this passage.  If it is right for her to return to Bethlehem where the true God is being worshipped then it is right for her daughter in laws to go also.    She encourages her daughter in laws to go back to the land of Moab.   Why would a believing Jew send anyone back to a country where they served false gods and idols?  The people of Moab served the god of Chemosh and they sacrificed their children to this false god.    Maybe she was so depressed that she had no faith that God would bless her or them.    Maybe if they came back with her she would have to explain to her people that her sons married outside of the faith.   We know that at many times in the Old Testament the Jews inter married.  Whatever is going on with her she is not in a good place in her walk with God.

     She has intense pain and sadness in her life.   Things are dark for her but God did not abandon her.  When she goes back home things turn around for Naomi.  There is blessing for her.  God blessed her at the end of her life.  God blessed Job at the end of his life.  God will bless all those who suffer for his name at the end of their life.  God exalted and Jesus is blessed because of His sacrifice for us.  Isaiah tells us Jesus will be satisfied from the fruit of his life.  What blessing or what things do those have who give their life to the world to drugs or alcohol? 

    When I read this over a month ago I was thinking about Naomi’s pain and then I thought about Jesus pain in his triumphal entry and the days following.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.   Jesus said if you only knew who would bring you peace.  They rejected Jesus and in a short time Rome would destroy Jerusalem and kill many.   He could certainly feel the suffering that was going to come upon them and he weeps.  Jesus plainly tells them your babies will be dashed to the rocks.   Jesus was going to face Satan.  Jesus was going to take the sin of the world upon him.   Jesus was going to die and he was going to leave his disciples.  Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly but not blindly. 

     Naomi tells her daughter in laws to go back to Moab – back to their own people.  But Ruth does not go.  She stays with Naomi.   In verse 15 “look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”  But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”   When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.   Thousands have said Ruth’s words at their weddings.   How beautiful and what a blessing her commitment. 

     Now that her husband was dead, her obligations to Naomi were minimal.  Something possessed her to cling to Naomi.  I do not know what Ruth’s parents were like or if they were alive.   Her mother in law tells her to go back to them.  Go back to the life that you knew.  Why would she cling to Naomi’s God when she saw the suffering that Naomi endured?     She could have said if that is how your “God is then I want no part of him.  But she had something different in her heart.  She saw the shock, suffering, and struggles of Naomi and tended to her in a tender way.    She clung to Naomi, stating her point loud and clear, “   The Hebrew words for clung is similar to the vows of marriage in Genesis 2.  Her commitment to Naomi is like what the commitment to marriage should be.    Ruth set her face like a flint to Naomi and the Lord.   Jesus set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem.  Jesus made such a statement of commitment to us by his triumphal entry.    Ruth said I am committed to you until I die and Jesus said I am going to die for you. 
      Ruth’s declaration of embracing Yahweh was perhaps her first solo break from idolatrous worship, and the declaration of choosing her mother-in-law over parents.     Leaving Moab for Israel would be the final break from idolatry. It was a big step for her.  Ruth, as a single, Gentile woman, would rather suffer whatever happens to her in a foreign land then return to Moabite religion and worship.   God blessed her choices.   In Matthew there are 5 women in the genealogy of Jesus including Ruth.  Four of them have questionable character at one point.   This Gentile woman is in the linage of Jesus.  

     It is barley harvest time and Ruth goes out in the fields to pick up grain that the reapers lose.  Naomi has a relative Boaz and Ruth goes to his fields.  Boaz enquires about her and tells his workers to be good to her.  God cares about the widows and Ruth and Naomi are both widows.  Boaz becomes a redeemer to them.  The kinsman redeemer could buy back land that had been sold or a person who had been sold or carry on the family name by marriage.  Not everyone could be a kinsman redeemer.    To redeem in those days you had to be a near relative so the land would stay in the tribe and family.  The kinsman redeemer had to be able to pay the price.  A 3rd qualification was that he had to be willing to pay the price.  Boaz buys the land and takes Ruth as his wife.  Ruth was willing to marry this older man.  Think about Jesus.  Jesus is a kinsman redeemer.  Boaz is a picture of Jesus.  When man sinned he became a slave to sin, had lost earthly possessions/privileges in the fall and was alienated from man’s father God.   Jesus became a brother to us and he is not ashamed to call us brothers.  Jesus was willing to pay the price.  Jesus could pay the price for our redemption.  There is no redemption without paying a price.  Redemption was very costly for God. 
    It’s been said, “Tough times never last, tough people do.” The Bible says, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5) Tragedy strikes when we least expect it.    Some trip over suffering while others triumph over tragedy.    Those that triumph become better, not bitter; they live triumphant and not troubled lives; and they recover faster than others, while others do not fare as well. 

      This story is an example that tragedy does not last forever.  Ruth opens with 3 funerals but it ends with a wedding.  Ruth and Naomi go from poverty to wealth from fear to hope and from toil to rest.    This story is a picture of God’s love for you.   "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."     Who is this friend - Jesus.    He’ll stick with you through tough times.    He’ll accept you just as you are.   Moabites were never to be involved in the Jewish temple and Ruth a Moabite widow becomes part of the linage of Jesus.  Jesus dies on the cross and breaks all those hostilities and separation of Jews and gentiles.  We are all welcome and we are all invited.   Jesus reached beyond His comfort zone for you.    He’ll offer you words of comfort, hope and eternal life.   He has put your needs ahead of himself by dying for you on the cross.