by I Gordon
This chapter from the book of Ruth is all about redemption, which, according to the New Bible Dictionary means ‘deliverance from some evil by payment of a price.’ For the Christian, our positional redemption is completely past tense – we have been redeemed. Done and dusted, nothing will ever change that. Jesus has purchased us from our place of slavery to sin, Satan and the world. But as we live our lives on earth, there is also an ongoing practical redemption in which, having been freed from the penalty of sin, we are still being delivered from the power of sin. Ruth in this chapter finds herself in the same predicament. There is a conflict over where her redemption will come from and in picture form I believe that this chapter answers questions about our deliverance as well. So this chapter and Bible study concerning Ruth’s life can help us learn:
- Where our ongoing redemption comes from
- What the purpose of the law is
- What part the law now plays in our Christian life
- How freedom leads to fruitfulness
4:1-2 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.
Chapter 4 starts then, with this mysterious close relative. Boaz is willing to redeem Ruth but the first option to do so is granted to this ‘other man’. Ruth loves Boaz and has pledged her life to him, yet there is still a struggle over where her redemption will come from. Ever felt like this? Have you felt the conflict over where your deliverance comes from? If so then you may know who the closer relative is a picture of. If the book of Ruth pictures our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, then who is it that has a chance to redeem us before the Lord does? I believe that the closer relative is a picture of the law and this should become clear through the verses to come.
The only options for redemption
4:3-4 Then he said to the closest relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. “So I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
There are only two ways Boaz says that Elimelech’s property (and that which comes with it – namely Ruth) can be redeemed. Either the closer relative or Boaz has to redeem Ruth and no other options are available! It’s the same with us. There are only two ways of being redeemed and bought back to God – either you believe in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in dying for you on the cross or you live in total obedience to the law of God, not breaking one commandment your whole life! Now which one shall I choose? But I believe the picture in the book of Ruth is speaking of more than just our initial salvation. There is also the ongoing process in our Christian lives where we must continually look at where our redemption comes from. Does our ongoing deliverance from the power of sin come from our best efforts to keep Gods law or is it also by trusting in the Lord Jesus as we did when we first met Him? We will look at this question but for now let’s just remind ourselves of the response of the closer relative. ‘I will redeem it’ he responds and he fully intends to do what he says! This is a great picture of the law of God. There is nothing wrong with the law of God. It is perfect and holy and if it could redeem us it would. There’s only one small tiny problem that prevents this from happening, and here she comes!
Why so indecisive? 2nd thoughts from the closer relative
4:5-6 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.” And the closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.”
Come on. Make up your mind! First it's ‘I will redeem it’, and now it’s ‘I cannot redeem it’. What’s the problem? Well, Ruth is, and of course, you are. The closer relative is happy to be the redeemer until Ruth comes on the scene! Does this not answer the question as to who our ongoing redeemer will be? The law in itself is perfect, portraying the character of God, but it cannot free us from the power or penalty of sin. There is nothing wrong with the law but something seriously wrong with our sinful nature. There was only one who would redeem Ruth and that is Boaz. Likewise there is only one who is our redeemer and that is the Lord Jesus. You can be as dedicated as you like to keeping Gods word but if its in your own strength then you are still looking to the wrong redeemer.
Off with that smelly sandal!
4:7-10 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz said to the ten elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. “Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.”
So the closer relative couldn’t redeem. The sandal came off and that was that! So too the law cannot redeem us. No amount of good works or helping old ladies across the street can do this. It doesn’t save us from the penalty of sin or from the power of sin. But we see here the willingness of Boaz to do this! This again pictures our Lord Jesus, ‘in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.’ (Col 1:14) But I want to note one other thing here. There were ten elders who were called to witness two things – firstly they witnessed that the closer relative couldn’t redeem, and secondly, they witnessed that Boaz could. Simple really. These ten elders are a picture I believe of the ten commandments that also tell us these two very things – they witness that the law itself cannot save but they also witness of the one who can. The New Testament tells us that ‘before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ (by witnessing that only he could save us) that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. Gal 3:23-24.
Free at last, free at last!
4:11-13 And all the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. “Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord shall give you by this young woman.” So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.
Free! Ruth is finally free to marry Boaz and we read that not long after ‘the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.’ For years Ruth had been barren, but having come into this new relationship with Boaz, we see the blessing of God and the fruitfulness of Ruth! Psalm 127:3 says ‘Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.’ This is also true of us. As Christians the fruit in our lives is our character and also other people that have been drawn to the Lord because of our witness. Now what about you? Would you currently say that you are fruitful or barren? Are you living trusting in God to produce the life he requires or striving forth in a vain attempt to do what only He can do? Also look at this verse from Boaz’ point of view. He was not a young man so imagine how thrilled he would have been to now have someone to share his life with. Probably as thrilled as Jesus is in sharing his life with you! The union of marriage is the closest thing we have on earth to symbolize our relationship with the Lord and its challenging to think that as the bride of Christ, the Lord wants to be involved with the whole of our lives. Imagine Ruth getting married but avoiding Boaz or not really allowing him into her life. That wouldn’t do now would it? Wouldn’t fit the story! Neither should it fit ours.
Our redeemer is a restorer and sustainer
4:14-15 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. “May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
‘May his name become famous in Israel’. Now there’s an understatement! How famous did the Lord become? Well famous enough to be the most influential man to have ever lived. Famous enough to have our calendar split from before and after His birth. And if we still needed convincing of Boaz’ or Jesus’ intentions I believe we have got it in this verse. Not only is he pictured here as a redeemer but also as a restorer of life. Wasn’t that the two exact reasons why Jesus came? Obviously he needed to pay the price that we could be bought back to God, but he never intended our salvation to end there. Jesus said the following about why he came – ‘I have come that they may have life!’ The life of the creator back within His creation so that finally, through dependence upon God we may live a life pleasing to Him!
Normally rare…but not with God: A story with a happy ending!
Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. And the neighbour women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.
Everyone likes a story with a happy ending and that’s what we’ve got here!
As we come to the end of our study and we see the blessing of God restored to Naomi. Naomi has gone from a bitter back-slidden woman, to a blessed and famous mother in Israel. It started with bitterness, but it ends with a smiling and blessed Naomi. We have also seen the life of the humble and dedicated Ruth totally turned around. She has gone from a widowed gentile, far from God, to become a mother in a line that would not only produce King David, but would one day give to the world their redeemer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But this story (as hopefully you have by now gathered) is not only about Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. It is also about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is about our full redemption and what Jesus can do with us. You may be like Naomi once was, bitter at God, or Ruth, far from the knowledge of the true God. Even if you are as far away as these two were, this story shows us that God can turn things around and make something, out of nothing. And God loves to make a ‘somebody’, out of a ‘nobody.’
|Other Bible Studies in the Ruth Series|
 Here is a small clue if you’re really not sure. Col 2:6.
 Romans Chapter 7 is obviously the best place to look at. It clearly shows that it’s not the law that is wrong – but that we are. Paul wrote ‘Is the Law sin? May it never be… the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold into bondage to sin.’ So here he is, in bondage to sin. Who is going to redeem Paul? It’s the same picture as Ruth. Read Romans 7 and you will see that he wants to be delivered and has tried being good and obeying the law but its not good enough. There has got to be another redeemer around here somewhere…
 At the end of Romans 7 Paul makes the discovery that he doesn’t just have a problem – he is the problem! He finally says ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ At this point he knew that no amount of trying harder or resisting more was going to cut it. He was the problem so he can’t be the solution. He has to look elsewhere and having reached this point he immediately sees the answer ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
 It’s important to get the balance in all of this. Being free from the law doesn’t mean that there is no right and wrong anymore or that God doesn’t care how we live. Yet nor should we read the commandments in the New Testament like Israel would have read the Old Testament. Take John 15 for example. Verse 10 says ‘If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love’. Taken from a legal mindset this means that I have to do everything in the word else Jesus won’t love me. You could make that one verse just as bad as being under the Old Testament law if you took it on its own. But look at what Jesus also said a few verses before in the same chapter- ‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.’ Apart from him you can do nothing and that includes all of the commandments that are stated in the New Testament! So being free from the law is not lawlessness or independence but dependence upon the only one who could ever live the life that is shown in the New Testament.
 The sandal coming off and given to another is quite symbolic. To walk over a property in a shoe meant that one had the right to possess it. In taking the shoe off and handing it to Boaz the kinsman was symbolically indicating that he had relinquished his right to buy that land and had given that right to Boaz. So for people who have placed their trust in Jesus and allowed Him to redeem them, the law has no more right to walk over (condemn) that person. There is a huge difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation that Satan loves to place on us through the law. If we slip up, the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to draw us back to Jesus, while reminding us of God’s grace and finished work on the cross. Satan uses the law to condemn us, planting thoughts in our mind that God is angry and far from us. Don’t allow Satan to do this, remembering as Paul did when he was at his lowest ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ Rom 8:1
 This is obviously the reason the law was given by God. To show man that he couldn’t be holy apart from God’s life. That stinking tree of the knowledge of good and evil had us thinking that we could live independent of God. Not so! God gave his law to correct this – so that ‘every mouth may be closed and all the world may be accountable to God.’ (Rom 3:19). If you understand this then it makes other verses make more sense like ‘the law came in so that transgression would INCREASE.’ At this point the Ten Commandments (witnesses) are yelling loud and clear that you had better find another way to be saved! Enter Jesus!
 Isn’t the word of God awesome in that the types used by the Holy Spirit are consistent throughout scripture. Ruth had to be free from the closer relative so that she could marry Boaz. This is the same picture that is given in Romans 7 where it states ‘you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.’ Being married to Christ is seen as the answer to our deliverance in Romans 7 just as it is here in Ruth!
 Is this right? Does freedom from the law lead to fruitfulness? Or does freedom lead to license and sin? Well, it can be both but one thing’s for sure and that’s keeping people under the law will NEVER lead to true holiness because the power of sin comes from the law! See 1 Cor 15:56. Rom 7:4 tells us that ‘you also were made to die to the law… so that you may be joined to another (Jesus)… in order that you might bear fruit for God!’ According to the word of God true freedom from the law is the VERY THING that allows fruit to be produced in our lives! But notice that it says that you are free from the law so that you may be joined to another. Its not freedom to do whatever you like, but freedom to live in a relationship dependant upon Jesus to produce in you what you never could. And that’s why when it lists the fruit of Spirit in Galatians 5:22 it ends with ‘against such things there is no law.’ The fruit which a free yet dependant Christian produces is from the Spirit in him and could never be produced by some just trying to be good.
 I was speaking to a friend recently who spoke of her ‘Christian’
upbringing. All types of laws were piled on her to ‘be a good Christian’.
Little was mentioned of grace or the importance of her dependence upon Jesus.
To her, while growing up, God was simply looking upon her efforts to see how
well she did. So she tried. And she failed! She ended up giving ‘Christianity’
away for a few years. Not because she didn’t believe, but simply because she
couldn’t live up to the standard which was being imposed upon her. Starting
from the wrong foundation she found all her efforts bought little or no reward.
She was building on sand! C.S Lewis once said, ‘If, at the start of a
mathematical equation, we get something wrong, no amount of just ‘carrying on’
will ever put it right.’ So true! Get the foundation right and growth and fruit
 Although his fame is like what Larry Norman sings in his song Readers Digest – ‘they look at Jesus from afar, they call him a superstar!’ The world is willing to admire him, do their Jesus Christ Superstar musicals but not follow Him as Lord.
 I used to read verses like this and just think that by ‘life’ it meant fulfilment and blessings or something. But that is way below what Jesus was saying. There are different forms of life within creation – plant, animal, human, angelic but this one is talking about the highest life, Gods life. That’s what mankind needed right from the garden where the other tree, the one which they forgot to eat from, was the Tree of Life. I encourage you to do a study on the word ‘life’ from this perspective. It is the central truth to the New Testament that is usually forgotten. Summed up in Gal 2:20 and Col 1:26-29
 John wrote ‘In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men.’ (John 1:4) The light we have depends upon His life living through us. Since the beginning of creation God has given us a daily picture of this. The sun he created to govern the day, and the moon he created to rule the night. The moon (a picture of the church) has no light of it’s own. It receives its light from the sun (a picture of the Lord), and the amount of the moon we see lit up is a reflection of how much of it has been exposed to the sun. Two things get in the way. The earth can get between the sun and the moon so that no light shines on the moon. This is the effect of worldliness that gets between the believer and Jesus Christ. Or the moon can get between the sun and the earth blocking out the light of the sun. This is when the church preaches herself and not Jesus as the answer.