Tag Archive: Ruth

Boaz, an Unsung Hero

This week in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series, we’re looking at Boaz from the Book of Ruth. Boaz is a man who lived out his faith and obedience to God. He stepped into responsibility as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer by marrying her and buying the land of her mother-in-law Naomi.

Together, Boaz and Ruth are listed in the lineage of Jesus—their son Obed, was Jesse’s father, and David’s grandfather. Boaz redeemed Ruth and Naomi….but we are redeemed by God’s own Son—Jesus Christ.

On this Father’s Day weekend, Vicar Dan Petrak shares his thoughts on Boaz…


The Faith of a Foreign Woman (Bible Study)

Chapter 9 recap

The story of Israel’s judges closes with a line that could just as well be the opening for the story of Ruth: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25) God’s chosen ones looked more like a reality show gone wrong than a holy beacon of hope. They had abandoned God’s plan (again) and had become moral misfits and spiritual adulterers. The light had gone out on God’s people. Then a foreigner stepped onto the stage and a candle of hope flickered once again.

The story of Ruth is a literary and redemptive gem that glimmers against a backdrop of blackness. In the opening scene, Naomi’s family caravanned away from the Promised Land where famine had left them hungry for food and for hope.  They settled in Moab where idol worship was the prevailing ritual and God seemed far away.  Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  The weddings were too quickly followed by funerals—three of them. Naomi’s husband died first.  Soon after, both of her sons died too.  And all that was left was three widows, no children and no prospects.  The prospects were indeed grim.

Naomi heard the famine had lifted and decided to return to Bethlehem.  She sent her daughters-in-law back to their homes where they might find new husbands.  Ruth expressed her strong will and even stronger faith by refusing to leave.  Her poetic declaration of loyalty and commitment offers the first sign of hope: “Where you go, I will go; your people will be my people and your God my God.” (p. 100)  The duo of widows made the journey back to the Land of Promise where the only hope was mere survival.

Once there, Ruth exercised a widow’s right to gather the extra grain from the fields.  Her field of choice just happened to be the farmstead of a godly man named Boaz.  He also happened to be a family guardian who could carry on the heritage of Naomi’s deceased husband and sons. He noticed Ruth from the start and admired the way she worked to provide for her aging mother-in-law. Boaz offered his help and protection; Ruth noticed him too.

Jewish law required a family guardian to redeem both a widow and her land to preserve the family line.  So, as was the custom, Naomi told Ruth to offer herself in marriage to Boaz.  He was delighted but also knew of a closer relative who had the right of first refusal.  That man chose to forfeit Naomi’s land since it also meant he would have to marry Ruth, which might threaten the inheritance he would pass along to his own children.  Neither Boaz nor Ruth was disappointed by his choice since his refusal paved the way for Boaz to fulfill his role as a family guardian or “kinsman redeemer.” Boaz gladly married Ruth and redeemed the family’s land. God cheerfully restored Naomi and planted a family tree: Ruth and Boaz -> Obed -> Jesse -> King David -> and 28 generations later…Jesus.

There’s no denying this story as a great romance. But even more, it brings us to a defining episode in the greatest love story ever told.  Boaz’ love for Ruth is a mirror image of the heart of God.  Boaz steps in as a willing kinsmen redeemer and foreshadows One who would step in as the Redeemer for all people.  So it turns out the even the “not so chosen” are chosen after all.  God’s plan will overwhelm every obstacle, overturn every injustice and overcome completely in the end.  Soon, we’ll see that God is writing a happily ever after for this story after all.

Kinsman Redeemer—Expression of God’s Loving-kindness

Have you ever watched a foreign film without subtitles?  Sure, you can follow the story by watching the characters.  But you know that you are not getting the full story that the author intends to tell.  Sometimes the Bible can seem like a foreign film, filled with unusual behaviors and even a language or jargon that isn’t always easy to understand.  Although the Bible is truly God’s word for all generations, no one can deny that sometimes the customs and the culture in which the people lived seem odd and foreign to us today.  By bridging the gap of both time and culture, these unfamiliar customs and cultures come to life and have beauty and meaning that can so easily be missed by our 21st century eyes.  The story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz is a beautiful story upon first reading.  However, when we bridge the gap to fully understand some of the unusual features of the story, we can more fully appreciate the depth, meaning and significance of the story that moved its original readers toward the heart of God.

Throughout the story of Ruth, we can see God working behind the scenes for the good of His faithful followers.  Unlike some of our episodes in the past, this Lower Story episode lacks spectacular miracles and gripping gore.  Instead, the story of Ruth reminds us that, more often than not, the gracious provision of God is to be found in the ordinary.  God used the ordinary Boaz to express His extraordinary love for the “least among us,” the poor and the widow.  Can you find God’s provision for you in His story?

I.       The Kinsman Redeemer—God’s provision for the poor and the widow

A. As God’s holy people, Israelites were to reflect the heart of God by trusting Him enough to act as His hands and heart toward the less fortunate within their community.  Much of the Law was designed to provide opportunities for Israel to trust God, to be generous like God, to demonstrate the love and the justice of God.  God’s means of taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan was through His people.

B. The levirate marriage was one such custom.  The term levirate means “husband’s brother.”  It was employed when a man died without a son to inherit his land and carry on a family line.  When those circumstances arose, the husband’s brother was responsible to take the widow as his wife and produce a first-born son who would bear the dead brother’s name.  This son would be the rightful heir to his dead “father’s” estate and would carry on the deceased’s family name.  The following children born to the union of the widow and her new husband would belong to the new husband and bear his name.  (Deut. 25:5-10).

This custom was very important for the preservation of the land within the family, and for the protection and provision of the widow.  Widows had very little means of providing for themselves, except through the benevolence written into the Law by God.  A first-born son had the privilege of a double-portion of inheritance but also the responsibility of caring for his parents.  The son born of the widow and the deceased husband’s brother was then the heir and could take care of his mother.  He also kept the land in the family as he passed it on to his sons.

C. Redemption of property was another responsibility of the kinsman redeemer.  If someone became poor and was therefore compelled to sell off his or her land to survive, then a kinsman redeemer was obligated to buy it back, or redeem it, for the poor person.  This was prescribed by God in Lev. 25:25-27.

D. For someone to qualify as a kinsman redeemer, J. Vernon McGee suggests at least 5 criteria must be met:

1. The redeemer must be a near kinsman (relative) to the one redeemed;
2. The redeemer must be willing to perform the work of redemption;
3. The redeemer must possess the ability to redeem;
4. The redeemer must himself be free;
5. The redeemer must pay the value or price of redemption; 

E. Results of the redemption

1. Redemption costs the redeemer and is for the benefit of the redeemed.  The kinsman redeemer was called upon to give of his own resources to benefit others.  This point cannot be stressed enough.  He used his money to redeem property for someone else because he understood that all belonged to God anyway.  He took on the responsibility of providing for a wife and gave of himself and his resources to raise a son to carry his dead relative’s name.

2. Therefore, the redeemer is acting in gracious, loyal loving-kindness toward the redeemed.  The redeemer is acting like God!

3. The widow who is redeemed benefits from the protection and provision of her kinsman redeemer.  She had very little hope or means to survive before her redemption.

4. The land that is redeemed remains within the clan as the promised inheritance from God

II.    Boaz the Kinsman Redeemer—God’s provision for the poor and the widow

A. Boaz is the example of the kinsman redeemer.  He is clearly a faithful Israelite living in covenant obedience to God.  His heart for the LORD is evidenced by his words, his deeds, and the response of other characters in this story.

B. Boaz was a near kinsman to Naomi and Ruth.  However, there was another relative who was closer.  Boaz did not hesitate to accept Ruth’s request for marriage, but he also did not circumvent the appropriate way to do so.

C. Boaz was willing to perform the work of redemption, but the unnamed closer relative was not.  He approached the relative at the city gate before the city elders, as was the custom.  This unnamed relative had the right of first refusal.  Although the nearer relative had the means to redeem Naomi’s land, he apparently did not want Ruth as part of the deal.  His rejection of Ruth and the land cleared the way for Boaz.  That Boaz still wanted to serve as the kinsman redeemer without being obligated by law demonstrates even further his godliness.

D. Boaz had the ability–the financial means–to be a kinsman redeemer.  He was clearly a very successful businessman and farmer.  He had servants who respected him.

E. Boaz was free and therefore able to redeem.  In other words, his land and his person were not under obligation to another.  Israel had been through a very long drought period (at least the 10 years the Naomi was in Moab).  It was not uncommon to sell oneself as a slave due to poverty (Lev. 25:39) but such was not the case for Boaz.

F. Boaz did pay the full price of redemption for both Naomi’s land and for the responsibility of Ruth as a wife.

III. Boaz took seriously the responsibility to live obediently and faithfully to the covenant of the Law. 

A. His harvesters left grain to be gleaned by the poor, as prescribed in the Law.  But he went above the legal requirement and had them leave extra for Ruth, revealing his generous heart for the LORD.

B. He remained sexually pure and honored Ruth when she uncovered his feet in the night.  He preserved her reputation by sending her home before light.

C. Boaz was a man of prayer, who spoke blessings over his workers and Ruth.

D. He was also an answer to his own prayer!  He said, “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”  (P. 101)  Later, Ruth asked of Boaz, “Spread the corner of your garment over me,” (p. 102).  The “corner” is the same word as “wing.”  She used the same poetic image as Boaz had used in his blessing over her.

IV. Jesus Our Kinsman Redeemer—God’s provision for the poor in spirit

A. Boaz and Ruth became the great-grandparents of King David, the servant of the Lord.  They are noted by gospel writer Matthew, then, as being in the line of the Messiah (1:5).

B. Jesus is our ultimate Kinsman Redeemer and meets all the criteria listed above.  All mankind are helplessly enslaved to sin, under the dominion of the evil one, unless and until we are redeemed by the One and Only Redeemer.  Christ alone is God’s provision!

  1. Jesus is a near kinsman to mankind because he is fully human.  He is described as our brother who redeems us from the power of sin (Heb. 2:14-17).
  2. Jesus was willing to perform the work of redemption.  Jesus was willing to lay down His life (Jn. 10:18). He redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13) so that we might receive the adoption as sons of God (Gal. 4:5).  He redeemed us from sin and unrighteousness (Rom. 5; Titus 2:12).
  3. Jesus alone possessed the ability to redeem because He was sinless, being fully God and fully man.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).”  “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:17-18).
  4. Jesus was free because He fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17-18).
  5. Jesus offered Himself as the price of redemption. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).

C. The ultimate redemption of man cost God dearly.  He gave up His Son for the world (Jn. 3:16).  Jesus paid the price for the benefit for the redeemed who had nothing whatsoever to offer.

D. Like Boaz, Jesus took the Church as His bride. (Eph. 5:25, Rev. 19:7)  The Church is betrothed to Christ and is to be a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2).

E. The redeemed receive eternal life!

V.    Applications and Implications

A. If Jesus is my Redeemer, then I can know that I am protected and provided for.  I should live differently in light of this truth—as a pure virgin bride.

B. “Poor” outsiders can go boldly yet humbly to the Kinsman Redeemer asking for redemption from spiritual poverty.

C. Genuine faith, like that of Boaz, is expressed in devotion, grace, and kindness toward others.  Do I express my faith in tangible and practical ways?  Does my faith have “shoes on?”

D. Genuine faith, like that of Ruth, trusts God to always be working even when one does not see His hand.

E. God’s grace knows no limitations. He is available as the Kinsman Redeemer of all.  Even a despised outsider is enveloped into God’s community of faith.  I should never dismiss someone as beyond the reach of God’s grace.

F. God is at work in the lives of the faithful even in the darkest of times.  I should trust Him even in life’s darkest times when I do not “see” or “feel” God.

G. God still seeks people of faith and kindness through whom He will work His plans.  My life should be marked by these traits toward others.

H. God cares for the poor and the widow—the least in our society.  I should align my heart to care about the less fortunate.

I. I should look for God’s provision as He works in the ordinary details of my life.

J. God still provides a Kinsman Redeemer to all who will come under His wings.

Coincidences or God-incidences

The Kinsman Redeemer is just one example of God’s provision to care for His people.  People’s lives are peppered with experiences of God’s provision in the ordinary “coincidences” of daily life. After reading through the list of God-incidences, think about your own experiences and share them in the comments.

  • God’s hand is present in the natural event (famine) that led Naomi and Elimelek to Moab.
  • God’s hand is present over life and death, and the womb of Ruth (and Orpah).
  • God’s hand is present in chance events such as Ruth happening upon Boaz’ field.
  • God’s hand is present in preparing Boaz’ heart to care for Ruth and Naomi.
  • God’s hand is present in the legal process when the nearer relative first accepted and then declined the role of redeemer.

A closer look at the story (You will have to open your Bible for this one)

Naomi lived during the period of the Judges, probably in the time of Gideon.  Her story is told in the Book of Ruth.  Here in the middle of the history of God’s chosen people, we find a narrative that spotlights the real life struggles of a family in the tribe of Judah.  The bitter trials Naomi and Ruth endured were tempered by God’s kindnesses. But Naomi had to get past the bitterness to see them.

I.  Naomi’s hard life. Ruth 1

1. Copy these verse on paper and draw a line to separate. On the left side, list the trials and sorrows that Naomi experienced from Ruth 1. On the right side, list any blessings that might have been overlooked during the ordeal.

v. 1

v. 3

v. 5

v. 7

v. 8-12

v. 13-16

v. 19-20

v. 21

2.  What overwhelming emotion does Naomi express from v. 13 and v. 20-21?

3. Naomi and her family lived in Moab “about 10 years”.  From what you know of the living conditions during the time of the judges, how would the losses that Naomi experienced compare to the losses her peers might well have been suffering?

4. Would the fact that Naomi still had Orpha and Ruth in her life make up for her losses?

Any person who has lost a spouse and children knows that nothing can make up for such a loss.  However, a wise person will allow God to minister to her during the time of intense grief and mourning. We aren’t given an exact time frame to know the duration of Naomi’s mourning.  But going home to the land of Judah soon changed her circumstances.

II. Naomi heads for home. Ruth 1:6-19

The Moabite gods were Chemosh, to whom they offered human sacrifices; and Baal-Peor, for whom they practiced sexual rites of worship. In her despondence, Naomi was willing to send Orpha and Ruth back to their own people to find husbands, even though those people worshipped idols.

1. What reveals the kind of relationship that Naomi had with Orpha and Ruth? (1:8-9)

2. What words made Naomi realize that Ruth was determined to accompany her? (1:16-18)

3.  Why would Ruth prefer to stay with Naomi rather than return to her own people?

III. Naomi discovers a new life. Ruth 1:19—4.

Wearing bitterness on her sleeve, Naomi arrived at Bethlehem and with Ruth, started to find a way to live.  She must have had a dwelling she could return to, or she was given shelter.  But here at least, she was among family, and God soon brought new blessings to the women. Ruth, determined to help her mother-in-law, went to glean in the fields of Boaz.  Boaz was impressed with Ruth and in a just a few days life dramatically changed for the two women.

1.  What was Naomi’s response when Ruth reported Boaz’s kindness to them, 2:17-20; 3:1-4?

Naomi used the Hebrew word hesed, translated as kindness in the NIV.  Hesed is much more than kindness.  It is a rich and full term describing “God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, goodness, benevolence, loyalty and covenant faithfulness.”

2.  What did Boaz do to accept his responsibility for Naomi, 4:9-13?

3.  According to the women, how was Naomi blessed, 4:14-16?

Naomi’s old life, with her husband and sons, was gone.  But she discovered that God simply made her a new life—complete with family, rich in love.  Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, was proclaimed to be better than seven sons—not better than her own two beloved sons—but better than seven more sons.  God had provided for Naomi through Ruth, better than she could have imagined, at such a time and place in her life.

IV. Nuggets of gold from Naomi’s experiences.

  • A kind and loving Father, understands human expressions of grief and sorrow.

We’ve looked at Naomi’s complaints to her daughters-in-law and to her friends in Bethlehem. Job and the Psalmist said it this way:

“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the

bitterness of my soul.” Job 10:1

“Listen, O God, to my prayer!  Do not ignore my appeal for mercy!  Pay attention to me and

answer me!  I am so upset and distressed, I am beside myself,…”  Psalm 55:1,2 (NET Bible)

Naomi came to some false conclusions during her time of mourning.

1.  What was Naomi’s false conclusion about God, 1:13, 21?

2.  What was her false conclusion about herself, 1:20?

There are times when God was reviled by the complaints of his followers.

“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” Numbers 11:1

3.  What is the difference between an acceptable complaint and one that angers God?

  • Treasures from God are often hidden in the depths of sorrow.  In His time, God will reveal a new life and unimagined kindness.

4.  Ruth was a treasure that Naomi didn’t recognize.  What treasure have you discovered through suffering?

5. Naomi had no knowledge of it, but what was the treasure from Naomi’s life that blessed all mankind? Ruth 4:22; Luke 3

6.  What treasure do we carry that can bless others, even while we are in the midst of our own suffering?

Grieving is natural and repairable but bitterness is not.  Larry Crabb writes: “The demand to walk a path with a predictable outcome is an urge of the flesh.  It needs to die.”  A root of bitterness threatened to take over Naomi’s life. But God changed her circumstances in a most unpredictable way.   In our grief we need to turn to God not bitterness.

Key Question:  How will you walk toward blessing instead of bitterness when great tragedy or sorrow comes into your life?

Unlikely Hero: Ruth

Chapter 9 of “The Story” is about outsiders. Have you ever been an outsider, someone who didn’t quite fit in with the crowd? I think Ruth is the story for you.

Ruth is one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman, and the only book in the Old Testament named after a non-Israelite.  Clearly the book is named for this woman of stellar character and strong faith.  However, she is really not the main character.  Naomi is the main character and her family crisis drives the plot.  Ironically, Bethlehem means “house of bread,” and there was a famine there that drove this family to Moab.  Once again, the future of God’s chosen people was in danger and therefore His agenda to bless the whole world through this family seems threatened. Elimelek, whose name ironically means “my king is God,” should know that this was a judgment from God for covenant disobedience; and you’d think Moab would be the last place any self-respecting Israelite would go.  Moabites were the descendents of an incestuous relationship between Abraham’s nephew Lot and his daughters.  Just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moabite King Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel.  Then Israelite men cavorted with Moabite women and their idolatrous practices which led to a devastating divine judgment.  Because of these events, Moabites were expressly forbidden to ever enter the assembly of God.  Israel should have repented and returned to covenant relationship with the LORD, which would have alleviated the famine conditions.

It is easy to read this story as a stand-alone episode.  However, its message will never be fully appreciated without remembering that it is set during the times of the judges.  Since Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who began his rule in 1010 BC, the events in the story probably took place during the time of Gideon.  Those years were gruesome and dark.  Although “The Story” did not include the two epilogues of the book of Judges, there are two episodes that illustrate the depth of depravity in Israel during that time.  They include a story of a Levite who should have served as a faithful priest but instead worshiped idols, and a second story of a Levite who gave his concubine to be raped and murdered by fellow Israelites in order to protect himself from sodomy. That triggered a very bloody civil war.

Both of these stories are out of Bethlehem, along with the book of Ruth.  Together they have sometimes been referred to as the “Bethlehem trilogy.”  The violence of the first two stories from Boaz’ hometown might explain why he told Ruth to glean close to his women and in his field only, because “in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”  It also sheds light on why he had Ruth stay with him at the threshing floor instead of returning home in the darkness of night.  By stark contrast to the times, these characters testify to the presence of a genuine faith during this period of widespread apostasy.  What a great reminder to readers today that we do not have to yield to the sin of our culture, but we can shine as people of faith in the darkness!

As a descendant of non-Israelite women, Boaz may have had a particularly tender heart for Ruth the Moabite—an outsider.  The text explicitly notes that Boaz came from the line of Perez, one of the twins born to Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.  He was also a descendent of Rahab the harlot as noted by gospel writer Matthew.  Any number of births—or lack thereof—could have threatened the line of Messiah.  But with each miraculous birth, I am astonished by combination of both divine providence and human choices.  And those outsiders keep showing up!

Has your faith ever been the thing that made you an outsider? How did you feel? What did you do? What does the presence of the outsiders mean to you?

Perspective 1- Kelsey Rath

When I was reading Ch.9 of the story I put myself in Ruth’s shoes. She lost her husband, and went with her mother in law back to her country. If I went through all that I start to wonder would I start doubting God. If you were in her position how would you feel? Would you start to doubt God? Maybe you’re one of those people who have faith even if you’re going through the hardest of times. Maybe you’re not. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Perspective 2- Barb Miles

I focused on the two women in this chapter.  Naomi for her strength after she lost her husband and both sons.  And Ruth for her selflessness.

After Ruth’s husband died, Naomi’s son, her mother-in-law gave her the freedom to leave her, to go back to her homeland and start a new life.  But Ruth was a woman who chose not to leave her mother-in-law, but journey with her back to Naomi’s homeland.  Ruth was a Moabite and Naomi was an Israelite.  Ruth had no idea what was ahead of her, but she desired most to share Naomi’s faith in God.  Ruth followed her guidance without question which ultimately gave her a son to carry on the family heritage.

The title of guardian-redeemer, one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty, was used throughout the book of Ruth.  The kindness and generosity shown by Boaz to both Naomi and Ruth when they returned to Bethlehem was admirable, both for their safety and future life.  Who is each of ours guardian-redeemer?

Perspective 3- Dan Petrak

Perspective 4- Pastor Phil

What a joy to have some reprieve from the battles, war and sin of the last couple of chapters. Chapter 9 gives us a glimpse of the work that God is doing in the lives of not only the Israelites but in the nations throughout the world. God loves all people, but the Israelites were chosen to be the ones who would carry the message to the rest of the world.

Ruth, a Moabite woman considered to be an enemy of the Israelites, goes back with her mother-in-law to a foreign territory. What did she expect would happen? Why did her loyalty continue to stick with Naomi when she was released from that duty? Even when things don’t make sense God still pulls it all together. Ruth will be mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus as a woman and as a foreigner. A beautiful web of people, used by God for his glory.

The land owners allowed for the poor to glean from their fields, but Boaz goes beyond that generosity because Ruth of what she has done for Naomi. Boaz becomes Ruth’s guardian-redeemer and saves her, as widows were often overlooked in that day. We have a redeemer who saved us when we rightfully should have been forgotten. The Upper Story looks great from here.

Great chapter this week! What did you find to be significant?

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