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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:Faithful Ruth
Text:Matthew 1:5b (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2002-12-08
Added:2004-03-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Psalm 111:1,3; Hymn 12:3; Psalm 111:5; Hymn 28; Psalm 77:5; Hymn 14:1,4

Reading: Ruth 1:1-6; 1:22-2:3; 4

Text: Matthew 1:5b -- "Boaz [was] the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth."
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The theme of "redemption" is a very important theme in the whole Bible. We know from the NT that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He has redeemed us from our sins. He has paid the redemption price. The wages for our sin, his death.

The theme of redemption-the very centre of the gospel of Christ as NT proclaims it.

However, this theme is found in the OT already. In fact it is the OT that gives us a good understanding of the theme of redemption. It is the OT that gives us a better and fuller understanding of our redemption in Christ.

In the OT we find the theme of redemption tied to two other very important institutions in the lives of the Israelites: One was the continuation of the family line. It was thought terrible if a certain family's name died out. If it was forgotten in the gates of its native place. And so the theme of redemption was woven into the idea of how important it was for the name of a family to be perpetuated in Israel. That is why they had the institution of a man taking his dead brother's widow to wife. It was enshrined in OT law. He had to do so in order to perpetuate his dead brother's name. The first son born would be considered the son of the dead brother. In this way the brother would serve as a redeemer.

The second thing into which the theme of redemption was woven was the theme of inheritance. Each Israelite was to receive from God an inheritance. This inheritance found expression in "land". Each tribe, clan and family received a piece of land. If a family lost it's land through poverty, that was a terrible thing. Then a relative could redeem it so that it would stay in the family or be returned to the family.

In the OT we see that a family name could be redeemed from the brink of extinction. As well a family's inheritance in the promised land could be redeemed.

This is what the book of Ruth is about-the redemption of the name of Ruth's family as well as the redemption of the family inheritance, the family estate.

That is also what our redemption by Christ is about. He redeems our names from extinction in hell. Of our own we deserve to have our names written down in the town hall of hell. But Christ marks them down with indelible ink in the registry of heaven. As well because of Christ's redeeming work we have an inheritance in the promised land-the eternal promised land.

I proclaim to the good news of redemption under this theme:

THE LORD SENDS REDEMPTION TO RUTH'S FAMILY AND TO ALL HIS PEOPLE

The LORD

1. Initiates the redemption of Ruth's family through Boaz; 2. Continues His redemption through Ruth's son Obed; 3. Completes His redemption through Ruth's great Son Jesus.

1. The events recorded in the book of Ruth took place in a very dark period in the history of Israel. The opening words tell us that these things happened in the days when the judges ruled in Israel. The time of the judges was not a great period in Israel's history. It was a time of apostasy, of unfaithfulness to God. The LORD God had given Israel their inheritance. Each family had their piece of land upon which they could work, raise families, and above all, serve their God in thankfulness for His great generosity in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt into their own land.

But Israel forgot their God. They began to serve the idols and the false gods of their neighbours. Time after time, God brought them back from idol worship to the faithful service of himself. God would bring them to repentance by allowing them to suffer some "natural" disaster. But even more often he would bring them to repentance by placing them under the heel of a foreign power. They would turn back to the LORD for a time. But then, before long, they would fall back into the trap of paganism and idolatry.

That's what the days of the judges were like. If you look at the last words of the book of Judges you will see what it was like in those days. "In those days Israel had no king in Israel; everyone did has he saw fit." Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

As we turn from the book of Judges to the book of Ruth, we see that that's the way it was. For we read in the opening verses about a man called Elimelech, a man of Israel from the tribe of Judah and the town of Bethlehem. This man did what was right in his own eyes.

There was a famine in the land of Israel. People were going hungry. The sun blazed hot month after month. The water dried up. The topsoil blew away. Nothing grew.

What conclusion should Israel have come to? They should have concluded that the LORD was calling upon them to enter into a time of self-examination. For in Dt. 28 God had said that if they turned their back on him, if they went and served other Gods, he would strike them with his curse. That would come in different forms, but one of the forms would be famine. The sky would turn to brass. The ground would be as hard as iron. They would go hungry. Until they had been driven to repentance. Then the LORD would cause the rain to fall and the crops to grow. In this way God would discipline his children.

When famine came to the land of Israel, to the city of Bethlehem ("the house of bread"), Elimelech should have gone to the elders of the city and said, "Brothers, perhaps the LORD is punishing us. Calling us to repentance for the way we are living before him."

But Elimelech didn't do anything of the sort. Instead he packed up his belongings and moved out of the country. Along with his wife Naomi and their two young sons, Mahlon and Chilion, he emigrated to Moab. They left behind their inheritance. Elimelech (whose name means "My God is King") left the kingdom of God. They left behind the wonderful gift God had given them-their inheritance in the Promised Land. Rather than submit to the discipline of God, they tried to escape it. They were convinced that things would be better in Moab, a foreign land. The land of Chemosh-Chemosh, the fanatical god who insisted upon devouring by fire every firstborn child.

But things didn't go well for this family. Soon Elimelech died. This left Naomi a widow with two children in a foreign land. When the boys became men they married Moabite girls-Orpah and Ruth.

Naomi, her sons and daughters-in-law, lived there in Moab about 10 years. But, sadness upon sadness, both Mahlon and Chilion died too. They both died childless.

There they were. There was Naomi, in a foreign land away from the family inheritance, a widow, mother-in-law to two widows, with no children or grandchildren to carry on the family name.

Then, one day, Naomi heard that the LORD had given food again to his people. And so she, together with one daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned to the land. But they returned destitute. No money. No men to protect them and to bring in a good income. Nothing. They returned empty.

We must be brief. You know the story. It was the beginning of the barley harvest. Ruth went to glean in the fields of the farmers. In Lev. 19:9-10 the LORD had stipulated that they were to leave some of the harvest in their fields for the poor. They were not to pick the fields clean. The poor were allowed on to the fields, to walk behind the harvesters, and collect the gleanings for themselves.

Ruth went out to glean. As it happened, in the providence of God, she ended up on the field of a wealthy man called Boaz. Boaz noticed her and was very kind to her. He made sure that she went home with much more than just the gleanings.

When Ruth went home to Naomi and told her about this generous man called Boaz, Naomi broke out into a song of praise to God. For Boaz was a relative. He was a kinsman, a relative of Elimelech. Naomi told Ruth to spend the rest of the harvest season gleaning in the fields of Boaz, their kinsman.

But, soon harvest time would be over. And then what? The gleanings of the fields were good for now, but what about the winter? How would they survive through the winter? Naomi saw the way things must go. She knew that Boaz would be sleeping at his threshing floor now that it was almost the end of the harvest time. He would be busy those days threshing the grain. He would be sleeping there guarding his harvest.

Naomi told Ruth to wash and perfume herself. To go to the threshing floor. When Boaz was asleep under his blanket, to lift the corner of his blanket at his feet, and to lie underneath it.

That's what Ruth did. She waited until he was asleep, and as quiet as could be, she lifted the blanket off his feet and lay down under it. At midnight Boaz woke up with a start. He knew something out of the ordinary was going on. He sat up, looked straight ahead, and there was a woman lying at his feet.

"Who are you?", he asked. Ruth answered, "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." She was asking for his protection. She was proposing to him. Asking him to marry her. She was asking him to do the part of the next of kin. Ruth had no brother-in-law to take her in to perpetuate the family name and to hold on to the family estate. And so she asked Boaz, a kinsman, to do so.

Boaz, a very righteous and God-fearing man, saw that as an obligation he would perform with joy. And he did so. We read that in ch. 4. He bought the land from Naomi. Naomi would have had to sell it. She and Ruth could not have survived through the winter. They could not have afforded to hire men to work the land for them. They would have had to sell the land.

Boaz bought it. He did more than buy it. He redeemed it. He saved it from becoming lost to the family of Elimelech. The family inheritance was kept in the family.

He married Ruth. In 4:10 he said that he will marry her 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 the town records."

The LORD was gracious to Ruth and her family. The LORD redeemed this family from extinction, from being forgotten in the city of Bethlehem. The LORD opened up the possibility for the name of this family to continue. The LORD redeemed their inheritance. It had almost been lost. But by the grace of God it was saved. God used the faithful actions of Ruth and Boaz, but it was his grace.

We also see God's grace in how he gathered Ruth, a Moabitess, into the church. This was an amazing act of grace on God's part. For earlier God had said (Deu 23:3,4): "No ... Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor ... to pronounce a curse on you." Do you remember how Balak king of Moab hired Balaam the magician to curse Israel (Num 22-24)? Because of that God placed a curse on Moab.

Ruth is a Moabite. But she turns in faith to the LORD God of Israel. God gathers her into the covenant community. Even gives her an honoured place in the genealogy of Christ! She is one of the mothers of the Messiah. One of the five mentioned in the genealogy.

The LORD initiated the redemption of Ruth's family through Boaz and Ruth. But that marriage did not bring it to completion. If Boaz and Ruth were not to have a son, the redeeming work of Boaz would fizzle out. The family name of Elimelech would not be perpetuated. And there would be no one of Elimelech's family to whom the estate could be passed.

And so the LORD continued his work of redemption.

2. He continued His redemption through Ruth's son Obed.

Ruth bore a son. At the end of ch. 4 we read about something curious happening. The women of the city didn't congratulate Ruth. They congratulated Naomi. They said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD.... Naomi has a son! ... He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age." And Naomi took the child onto her lap and cared for him.

The child had great significance for Naomi. It was through this child that the name of her dead husband would be perpetuated. It was because of this child that the family estate would stay in the family. If Ruth had remained childless, Elimelech's estate would have been lost to Elimelech's family. It would become part of Boaz's estate and left to his heirs through another wife.

But now that a son had been born, the LORD made everything fall into place. There was now someone who, according to the law, was the son of Mahlon-someone who was the grandson of Elimelech. Someone who would care for Naomi in her old age.

The women of the neighbourhood gave the boy a name. They called him "Obed". Obed means "servant". We might think, "What a bunch of meddlesome neighbours". But we must understand that according to local custom it was quite normal for the neighbours to name a new baby. They understood very well what was going on. A redeemer had been born. The LORD was continuing with his work of redemption in the lives of Ruth and Naomi.

This child was born to be a servant. He was born to serve Naomi, to care for her and to protect her in her old age. On top of that he was born to be a servant of God. God was using him to bring about his gracious act of redemption of the family name of Elimelech and the inheritance of Elimelech. He was a tool in God's hands. He was God's servant.

The women of the city realized that. They gave him a very appropriate name: Obed. Servant.

But we can see even better than the women of Bethlehem, even better than Naomi, Boaz and Ruth, how Obed was a servant of God. God used him to establish a new clan in Bethlehem. The clan of Obed out of which came the family of Jesse. Obed had a son called Jesse. And Jesse had a son called David.

This David of Bethlehem would be a great king. God would use this man after his own heart, this faithful king, to bring his people out of the dark age of the judges into a much better time. A time not of perfection, but certainly of increased faithfulness to God. The last word of the book of Ruth is the name of king David. David is the ray of sunshine that breaks through the bleak period of the judges when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. David broke the cycle of disobedience to God and oppression by foreign powers. God used David to redeem his people from that futility. David was a son of Ruth.

However, we can see even more. For Ruth is also the mother of an even greater son than David-an even greater king. A king who redeems his people from all oppression. A king who helps and serves his people like no other king ever has or ever will. A king who was also born in Bethlehem.

That son of Ruth is Jesus.

3. The LORD completed His redemption through Ruth's great Son Jesus.

Boaz brought an incomplete redemption. Obed continued it, but it was not perfect either. Jesus brought the final, complete, and perfect redemption.

He redeemed our names. In the book of Revelation we read that our names are written in the book of life. The Lord Jesus Christ, through his perfect work, perpetuates our names. Our names will not be cut off. They will not disappear into oblivion. Because the greatest kinsman-redeemer ever, someone who is not ashamed to call himself our brother, has done the duty of the next of kin. He has rescued our names from extinction in the registry of hell.

He also redeemed for us our inheritance. In our sinfulness, we walked away from our inheritance. We walked away from the inheritance God promised to us. But the Redeemer Jesus redeemed it for us. He rescued it from becoming lost. And he keeps it safe for us. As the apostle Peter wrote in his first letter, 1:4, through Jesus Christ we have an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.

Let that be precious to you, beloved. Don't take lightly the fact that Christ has redeemed your name. Don't take lightly the fact that Christ has rescued it from the book of death and entered it into the book of life.

Is that your joy-that your name stands written in the book of life?

Value the fact that he has redeemed your inheritance. We are like Elimelech who walked away from his inheritance. We are like the prodigal son who squandered it. Christ has redeemed it. He keeps it safe in heaven for us ready to reveal it at the last day.

Don't walk away from it. Value it. Cherish it.

Then on the last day you will see it. Your inheritance in the eternal promised land will be given to you. Your name will be called out. You will hear your name read from the book of life. And you will enter into the joy of your inheritance / of Jesus, the great kinsman-redeemer, the great Son of a faithful woman called Ruth.

Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/dec0802.html

(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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