Bible Reading： Ruth 3:1-18
Message： A new beginning 「新しい始まり」
Preacher： Mr. Bob Drews 説教者： ボブ・ドウルース宣教師
Ruth Three: A New Beginning
Thesis: God’s provision of a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, gives us hope in His provision of our kinsman-redeemer, Jesus.
One of our warmest memories of Japan was being invited to a family おせちmeal. I was fascinated to learn that every color and shape has meaning. I was especially amused by the えび (shrimp), as I am entering that time of life myself. Similarly to osechi, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with symbols and subtle meanings that give hints of God’s great plan of redemption in Jesus Christ. Last time I was here, we were introduced to the term “redeemer”, or “kinsman redeemer”, the senior family member who had the responsibility for buying back a lost person or family heritage. What this means for us, as we continue to look into Ruth, is that this beautiful little story is much more than a love story between a man and a woman, not just a story of rescue from hunger and danger, but a story that teaches of how much our creator God loves us and to what extent He will go to redeem us. (Pray)
It has been a couple of months since I’ve been here. I left you hanging! Promising there was more to the story of Ruth, so this week and two weeks from today, I’ll keep that promise. Just to remind you of where we are and how we got here, the story of Ruth serves to connect the book of Judges to the time of Samuel, David, and the Kings of Israel. Judges teaches us that Israel needs a king, and so do we. As Ruth opens, we see the family of an Israelite woman, Naomi, fleeing from famine in the promised land to Moab, a land the Bible teaches was filled with idolatry and immorality. Her family settled down there, her two sons married Moabite women, then her husband and both sons died. She was left hopeless and far from home. She heard the famine had ended, and returned to her home town, but with the embarrassing presence of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth. Despite Naomi’s coldness toward her, Ruth takes on the humiliating task of gleaning to provide food for them. And surprisingly, she finds herself gleaning in the field of a faithful father of Israel, Boaz, a man who, we learn at the close of Chapter 2, is a kinsman redeemer. It seems that God has brought surprising blessing to this unlikely pair of women. But what will come of the relationship between Boaz and Ruth?
Plan (3: 1-5)
Whereas earlier in Ruth, Naomi had been cold and or indifferent to Ruth, now we see her considering Ruth, perhaps, more compassionately and helpfully. Naomi, recognizing that Boaz is a kinsman redeemer, gives Ruth instruction as to how to approach Boaz. Now, I don’t know how many of you watch Korean daytime drama, but you may get a hint of a bedroom scene from her instructions. Certainly in English, we are left wondering what, exactly Naomi expects to happen. From the commentary I’m using, the Hebrew is even more open to interpretation. I know that when using the Japanese language much communication is unspoken, and it seems something like that is happening here. Naomi is placing Ruth at the mercy of Boaz. But the important thing to understand is that this human drama is being directed by God Himself to provide a glorious future for His people. We are now several weeks after the barley harvest when Ruth first went to glean, and it is time to move forward. I want us to see two important Bible themes being played out here:
• First, “rest”. Remember, Chapter 1 saw Naomi pray that Ruth & Orpah would find “rest” in the house of her husband, and now Naomi renews this prayer, not just a nice wish as we may express at New Years, but taking action now, creating not just a prayer, but a prayer with a plan. “Should I not seek rest for you”… Now, we live in a time and a culture where rest seems almost sinful. We seldom experience rest. What does the Bible mean when it talks about rest? The first time we learn of this is in Genesis, when God Himself rested from creation on the seventh day. This tells us that rest as a goal, as a destination, is woven into the fabric of the universe. God does not grow weary, but he rests! What does it mean for Ruth to rest? For us to rest? For Ruth, it means no longer being in danger. Having a husband. Having a family. Having a people. No longer being hungry or afraid. No longer to be alone or without purpose and meaning. No longer wandering. To us? To know you are loved, cared for, and have a future. Not to worry about what people think of you. Not to worry about how your children do in school or on their tests. Doesn’t that sound like what you are longing for as well? I think Biblical rest does not mean just sitting in a chair watching TV, it means being secure, eternally safe, not having to prove yourself to anyone. It means knowing your performance, however weak and inadequate, is received and accepted and treasured. I hope you get a taste of this rest on the Lord’s Day. That’s why God commanded the Israelites to rest on the seventh day. Do you know why we worship on Sunday, the first day? Because we believe, with the resurrection of our Savior, that God’s rest has begun. With Christ’s finished work, rest has begun for God’s people. It is not yet what it will be, but on the Lord’s Day, we are encouraged to put down our daily tasks and rest in the company of God’s people. To rest in the presence of the Lord. To rest in what Christ has done for us.
• Of course, the second theme is redemption. The Bible knows we get into trouble. We owe money we can’t pay. We feel indebted to family, friends or institutions. We are always in debt. We feel it. Once, my parents’ financial situation was so bad they asked me if they could borrow money from me. Can you imagine how hard that must have been for them? But the Bible considers us all to be in debt. We don’t owe money, we owe our lives and duty to our creator, and we can never pay Him back. Boaz appears to Naomi and Ruth as a Redeemer. But for us Christ is our Redeemer. The one who can restore us and free us from what we owe.
Naomi’s plan is for Ruth to come to the threshing floor and lay at Boaz’s feet. But her hope is that this man will have compassion and bring rest.
Proposal (3: 6-11)
While Naomi’s instructions are ambiguous, Ruth’s actions are not. She says to Naomi, “all that you say I will do”. And so she does, but she takes Naomi’s instructions a step further. When Ruth lays at Boaz’s feet, he doesn’t ask “whose are you?”, but “who are you?”. And, instead of waiting for Boaz to “tell you what to do”, Ruth says: “spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer”. This brief request carries enormous implications:
• Ruth is an outsider, yet she is claiming the rights of an Israelite. By faith, she is claiming an inheritance that is promised to the children of Abraham: God’s covenant family. By faith, Ruth, the outside person, knows that these promises are for her as well.
• Her phrase “spread your wings” has multiple meanings, including, simply, spread the corner of the blanket over her. But here the meaning is clearly more: Boaz himself used this term in Ruth 2: 12, when he says that Ruth has taken shelter under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel. (Ezekiel 16: 8) We understand that Ruth is proposing marriage to Boaz. The kinsman redeemer had the responsibility to rescue the family line, provide heirs for the deceased relative, and restore the family’s future. We should not miss Ruth’s forwardness in this situation. As an older male here in Japan, I enjoy cultural respect I don’t necessarily receive in America. Similarly, in ancient Israel, Boaz, as an older male, would have been due honor and respect. A younger, Moabite woman would not normally propose to this respected man. Yet, through faith, Ruth trusted him, and made this bold proposal. And in response, she heard Boaz begin “my daughter”. With those words, her heart must have taken wing (begun to fly for joy).
Promise (3: 12-18)
As quickly as Ruth’s heart was encouraged, she soon learned that there was more suspense. While Boaz was encouraging to her, he also gave her troubling news: There was another redeemer—one closer than himself. Even though Ruth had his warm response, and his promise to redeem her if the other doesn’t, she must wait. He gives her his promise in two ways: First, he tells her “as the Lord lives, I will redeem you”, and second, he sends her off with six measures of barley. Now in the Bible numbers often have special meaning, and the number seven is a number of completeness, so the six measures of barley indicate there is more to come. And so, as we close this portion of the story, gomenasai! I must leave you in suspense for one more week. What will happen? She has the promise, but not the fulfillment. In a way Ruth is experiencing life as we do in our time: Already and not yet. She has the promise but not the fulfillment. The hope, but also the tension of not seeing that hope fulfilled. Isn’t that like our life as Christians? We have the promise and the great blessing of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, yet we still struggle in life and his rule, the consummation of His work, is not yet ours. We still wait for the great marriage feast of the lamb. Today’s chapter ends with us living in promise, not yet fulfillment. The redeemer’s work is not yet complete.
Remember I said at the beginning that there are signs and indicator of God’s plan of redemption all through scriptures. Today we saw three of those: Redemption, rest, and finally, marriage. We learn in Ephesians that one great purpose of marriage is to teach us about Christ and the church. You see, God’s people, assembled together as the church is the bride of Christ. And just as Ruth needs someone to purchase her entry into God’s community, so do we. Naomi plans for Ruth to pursue rest in the home of her redeemer, and so we, too, are invited into rest in the home of our redeemer, Jesus. So the questions I’d like to leave with you for this new year are: Do you seek rest? Where are you seeking rest??? For Christians and non-Christians both, I urge you to seek rest in the arms of the great Redeemer, Jesus Christ.