Inside: The final installment of our Ruth Bible Study, Chapter 4.
This is the 4th (and final!) post in a series. You can find the earlier parts of this study here:
Chapter 1: The Declaration
Chapter 2: Favor and Work
Chapter 3: Rest in the Redeemer
Just a reminder:
- Be prayerful before reading,
- Keep a notepad handy, and
- Take your time!
Okay, guys, let’s do this! Read Chapter 4.
Questions to Consider
- What significance is there in the city gate?
- What was the purpose of the law? Did it outline truths? Did it keep God’s people from making poor decisions? Did it redeem?
- Do I believe that my own actions redeem me? What did Christ accomplish?
- What blessings have been poured out into my life?
- Has my hope been deferred? Do I believe God can restore it?
At the Gate
We see this chapter open at the gate of the city. These were places of central activity in biblical times. Announcements were made at the gate. Court convened at the gate. Business matters were handled at the gate. Kind of like “downtown” in today’s cities.
So naturally, Boaz had to go to the gate to handle this matter.
Taking a step back from the story, I think its a good time to pause and reflect on the center of our own lives. Am I living with Christ as my center? Does everything in my life get filtered through God? Do I conduct every activity of my life in submission to His authority? When I need to handle some business or make tough decisions, do I go to Him?
What Could Never Redeem Us
Enter the closer relative. When Boaz first tells him about the property that needs redeeming, he’s willing to do it. But when Boaz mentions Ruth, the relative quickly changes his mind. We see that although this relative has first dibs, he declines to redeem Ruth (and the entirety of the inheritance with her).
His reason? It would ruin his own inheritance. You see, by marrying her and having children, any inheritance would be passed to those children. And the children are actually considered the children of her deceased husband. So the relative’s own family inheritance would then be non-existent.
But Boaz didn’t care about that.
Reading this section instantly brings a picture to my mind. What could never redeem us?
The law was sent first but wasn’t able to redeem us. Only the God man could do that!
The Law’s Function
If the law didn’t redeem, what was its purpose?
After the fall, we see God’s mercy and grace in full display. Over and over his people are rebellious, sinful, and ungrateful. Yet He is faithful to them, in spite of their wrong-doing. He makes covenants with His people, entering into relationship with broken and sinful man.
It was a long time before the law was given to God’s people.
For some reason, in my mind, after the fall, the law came quickly. Imagine my surprise when reading through ALL OF GENESIS and NINETEEN CHAPTERS in Exodus without the law around. (In Galatians 3:17, Paul says it was 430 years!) The only covenant responsibilities God’s people needed to follow pre-law were: 1) circumcision and 2) refraining from eating blood. That’s it.
His people didn’t always make good choices. They were regular people who messed up. Their distinction was that they trusted God (though often imperfectly) and had relationship with Him. So God was always there, showing them mercy, giving them favor, and guiding their steps.
Then came the desert.
His people complained. A lot. Yet, He fulfilled their need every time. They still weren’t happy. But He didn’t turn from them and choose a new people. And eventually, He gave them the law on Mount Sinai.
The law served several functions. It showed God’s ways to a people group who had been in the midst of pagan Egypt for generations. Following it reminded them that they were different from all the other nations because their God was Holy. The law was good, similar to the rules we parents give our children. If it was possible to keep the whole law, the result would have been glorious. His rules weren’t arbitrary but purposeful, showing His people how to navigate living in the world full of natural order. And in the New Testament, we also see that the law brought everyone to the end of themselves. Every mouth is stopped. There is no boasting in the law because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It serves all these functions (and probably more).
But it could never redeem.
While the law was good, it couldn’t lead to salvation or justification. In Adam, all fell. We’re all born with a sinful nature and could not keep God’s good law. Being right with Him can only come from Jesus Christ who redeemed us and sealed our adoption as children of God.
Since we are completely unable to fulfill the law on our own, God in the flesh came to do that for us. Now we can walk in newness of life, becoming more and more like Him by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in us! Reread Romans 8:3-4 above.
The Elders as His Witness
We see the whole transaction in Ruth taking place before 10 elders at the gate. Do they even have a significance?
Let’s look at the number 10. It’s one of the “perfect” numbers in Scripture, the others being 3, 7, and 12. While all of these signify perfection or completion, they each do it in different ways.
- Three is divine perfection (as in Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
- Seven is spiritual perfection (like God’s number in Revelation).
- Twelve is governmental perfection (like the named disciples, prophets, and tribes of Israel).
But 10 signifies divine order, especially where man also has a part to contribute. That’s why we immediately think of the 10 commandments. We can also think of tithing–10%. Or that the number 10 is literally built into who we are with 10 fingers and 10 toes.
So since 10 represents completion and perfection of divine order, we begin to see the significance of the 10 elders. It’s a number that is complete and orderly.
I want to tie this in with our extended metaphor. Our redemption was made sure by Jesus’ perfect completion of the divine order. He followed the entire law flawlessly. And He did it by coming to Earth as a man! We couldn’t fulfill the law on our own, but it HAD to be done by man. So He did it in our place. He earned right standing with God, and He traded it for our punishment.
Perpetuating the Name of the Dead
We see this phrase used twice in this chapter to explain what would be done through the inheritance of the dead.
That word perpetuating actually means to “raise up.”
By marrying Ruth and having children with her, Boaz was actually continuing Mahlon’s family line (like we talked about). This meant that Mahlon’s name would carry on through the children of Ruth and Boaz.
Notice all those genealogies throughout the Bible? Our God is generational. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Blotting out a father’s name from the history of his unborn children would be “cutting his name off from his brethren,” as mentioned in this chapter.
So in this act of redemption, Boaz is allowing his OWN name to be removed from the lineage while the name of the dead lives on.
In the same way, Jesus allowed himself to be brought low so that he could raise all of us who were dead in spirit. So that we could live on and partake in the inheritance.
He took our place so we could be raised up with Him.
Another Blessing for Ruth
From the beginning, we see blessing after blessing spoken into Ruth’s life. Yet again, the elders speak a blessing over her.
And while I may run the risk of turning some people off by saying so, all of those blessings count for something! The Lord hears them, and His plan is already established. She’s not only redeemed but now she’s wealthy, she sees hope restored to her mother-in-law, AND (the best part) she’s part of the lineage of Jesus. She was a Gentile. And the SON OF GOD came as a man through her family.
It reminds me of the interplay in a verse later on in Scripture:
The verb tense here is strange and different than how it’s actually translated. Many bibles have footnotes that will tell you that the verb here is actually “shall have been bound” and “shall have been loosed.” That means even though it’s in the future, it’s established because it’s already been done. Essentially, it’s as if we’re agreeing with something that has already been decreed in Heaven.
In Ruth’s case, I see the same principle. Over and over again, she’s being blessed by people who come into her path. But it’s clear that that’s God’s plan all along.
One of the most beautiful elements in this story is the restoration of Naomi’s hope. After all of her bitterness and hurt, God didn’t leave her. He didn’t forget her. She was the remnant from chapter 1.
Naomi cared for her little grandson Obed as if he were her own. The picture that we see of this woman who claimed the name “Mara” is one of complete joy and restoration.
We start this book with Naomi and end with Naomi. Her life looks completely different now, and yet it’s full. Life happens. Our choices bringing hardships. But God is always God.
This new life is the perfect picture of what happens as a result of our intimacy with Jesus:
♥ Jesus is Lord and as such should be like our gate–our center and the hub around which we spin.
♥ The law was never given to redeem us or make us holy. And we can only be transformed to become more and more like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
♥ Jesus perfectly completed what we could not, securing our place in the kingdom!
♥ There’s something to be said about blessing one another.
♥ Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but God is a redeemer.
♥ Restoration and new life is the name of the game when we are united with Jesus.
We can now see that scarlet thread pointing to Christ woven through the pages of Ruth. From beginning to end, we see the path to redemption and restored hope. From being an outsider hoping for favor, to being the bride of the redeemer, Ruth’s story is our own.
Until next time,