Last week we saw Boaz make a commitment to keep his promises and covenant vows, and he placed himself in a position of accountability. He was a man with a position of leadership and he made himself accountable to the people, the witnesses of his vows.
This week we’re going to see him fulfill those commitments with the same upright hesed loving-kindness, that he has in the past. Throughout this book we have this repeated theme of emptiness and fullness. It started out with a deep emptiness. A reminder of what that emptiness was can be gathered from the introduction of this book, so lets read the first 5 verses of chapter one together.
(Ruth 1:1–5 ESV) “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.”
So lets total that up. No food, no homeland, no husband, no sons, no grandkids, no help, no hope.
But over the past few weeks we’ve also seen God step in and provide. He started by removing the famine. Then he brought Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem, filling the void of no homeland. We watched Ruth work tirelessly, and God used Boaz to provide food in plenty for her and Naomi, filling the emptiness of no food. Then a couple of weeks ago, we looked at how God directed Naomi and Ruth to approach Boaz about marrying Ruth and redeeming the family, thus filling the husband, help, and hope emptiness. Their world was dictated by what man would protect and defend them and provide for them, but that didn’t stop God from providing just what they needed in his perfect timing. This is a story about Naomi, and its a story about Ruth, but it’s first a story about God. He provides fullness where emptiness is, and we’re going to be seeing that in three ways today. First, an empty womb is filled in verse 13, an empty house is filled in verses 14-15, and finally an empty future is filled in verses 16-17.
(Ruth 4:13–17 ESV) “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
Point 1. Empty womb to full womb.
It’s not uncommon to see something stated as matter of fact and to miss the depth that is behind it. Taking verse 13 for example, we read it and on the surface we see that Boaz has kept his promise yet again. He said he would redeem Naomi and Ruth and he did, we looked at that on Easter Sunday. Here, he’s following through with the commitment he made in the presence of the witnesses. The thing he wanted to be held accountable to do, he has done, perpetuating a name for the dead. Mahlon son of Elimelech will not be forgotten. He has a child now. This is a good first pass at the verse, but if we follow Ruth’s example of gleaning, we’re going to find more grain to be gathered from this little verse.
Do you remember when we talked last week about the second blessing that the witnesses made for Boaz and Ruth? Look back in verse 12 and lets re-read that. (Ruth 4:12 ESV) “and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.” Ruth is compared to Tamar, Boaz to Judah, and the future child was compared to Perez. Their prayer was that the new child that would come from this couple would be like Perez. Now this is a loaded statement and we looked at it briefly last week, but this week we’re going to peer a little deeper, because understanding the story of Genesis 38 helps us understand this verse better. Lets turn briefly to Genesis 38:6-11.
(Genesis 38:6–11 ESV) “And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.”
Judah’s first son Er died because he was wicked. Onan was supposed to perform the levirate duty, but since he refused to follow through with that commitment, God made him die as well. Now Judah, like Naomi has lost two sons who were connected to Tamar, and he’s scared, but instead of trusting God, he takes the law into his own hands, and since his youngest boy Shelah is too young, he tells Tamar to go back to her father’s house and wait till he is of age. Except when Shelah became of age, Judah didn’t give him to Tamar to do what he was supposed to do, but he hid him instead. This is why Tamar tricked Judah and became pregnant by him which produced Perez. Now when we compare the actions of Judah, the namesake and head of the tribe of Israel with Boaz who by nature is a lesser tribesman than Judah, we find Boaz to be more righteous, more obedient, and more caring than Judah was. The same is true when we compare Ruth with Tamar. Ruth didn’t slyly trick her way into getting pregnant, she did what was right. Unlike Onan, Boaz didn’t commit to do something and then wimp out on the followthrough. Boaz fulfilled his obligation. Unlike Judah, Boaz didn’t hide from his responsibility. Verse 13 tells us that Boaz did things right. He took Ruth to be his wife, he committed to fulfill the levirate law, and he did it faithfully.
The next thing we see is that emptiness that Ruth had at the beginning of the book. Married for perhaps as long as 10 years to Mahlon before he died, and never became pregnant. But now her womb which has been empty for all these years, suddenly has a child growing inside it. She was barren and God made her fertile, like the ground that was barren and caused famine in the land of Israel, God provided and it became fertile again. I want to highlight this picture of sovereignty briefly as well. God causes conception here. Yes, it took the action of Boaz and Ruth together, but the child came from the Lord. Boaz’s own great grandson even writes about this reality in Psalm 139. (Psalm 139:13–16 ESV) “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” In case there is any question what is growing in a woman’s womb, it is a human person and its life is sacred, no matter how young or how old. When he world says these lives are inconvenient or parasitic, we say no, they are precious and valued. We protect life because life is sacred. It’s God’s creation. Ruth carried the child inside her for 9 months, full term, and gave birth to a son.
God took what was empty and provided fullness. An empty womb now has been filled with a child, and the son is born. A son is born for the line of Judah, for the line of Elimelech, Mahlon, and for Boaz. A future king is possible because this boy was born. Hope abounds and it is all because God provides.
Finally, look at the order that Boaz did things in. He made his commitments, he followed the proper procedure even though no one was looking. Then in this verse, he takes Ruth to be his wife, THEN he goes to her, Then she comes pregnant. Our society wants to minimize this significant thing, but God wants us to remember it. This shows Boaz’s respect for Ruth. This simple act says because you are an image bearer of Christ, because I love and respect you like the image bearer of God that you are, I’m not going to take advantage of you, rather I’m going to honor God but protecting your purity and wait until things are done in the right order.
(Ruth 4:14–15 ESV) “Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.””
Our second point is from an empty house, to a full house.
We shift focus briefly and our eyes go over to Naomi. The women in her presence begin to praise the Lord. The birth of this child causes praise. We praise God because he works on our behalf. We just finished doing this earlier. When we proclaim his goodness, we are praising his great name. Blessed be the name of the Lord. The women here say the same things, “Blessed be the Lord.” Then we find out why they are blessing him. “Who has not left you this day without a redeemer”. Translation: The Lord answers prayers. Now initially we might think that this redeemer that is being referred to is Boaz, at least I did in my initial study, but as we trace the argument we’re going to see that it is actually referring to the child that was born. Keep an eye on this. Look at the last half of verse 14, the continuation of the prayer of the women. It started out with praise to the Lord, to YHVH, but then they say may his name be renowned in Israel. Now there is a conundrum, because we’re unsure who the women are referring to. There are good arguments for them referring to YHVH, and there are good arguments for them referring to the redeemer. Experts aren’t sure which way it is pointing for sure, so when this is the case, we have to analyze it in both ways. First, if they are saying that the name of YHVH is to be renowned in Israel, they are making a bold proclamation in a dark time when people were’t calling not he name of the Lord. They are saying that YHVH is God over Israel. That is what the name of YHVH being renowned in Israel would mean. On the other hand, if they mean may the name the redeemer be renowned in Israel, they are saying, let his name not be forgotten in Israel. A name that is renowned is continued in popularity even after death. We could say that names that are renowned in America are names like Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, or Rosa Parks. Their names are renowned. Just mentioning their names make you think of the history of the United States, a past president, a popular music artist, and a civil rights heroine. Names that are renowned. May Naomi’s redeemer be like that.
Next in verse 15, the redeemer is continued to be references, which give a slight leaning of the name that is to be renowned being the redeemer and not YHVH in this case.
(Ruth 4:15 ESV) “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
Let’s first look at the reference to Ruth in this passage, then we’ll get back to the redeemer. Ruth is described here. Ruth your daughter-in-law who loves you. We have talked about the love of Ruth for Naomi before described in the way that God loves, that hesed love, the covenant keeping loving-kindness that he has for his people. Here again described as one who loves Naomi, but what shines as an even bigger complement is the next phrase, “who is more to you than seven sons”. Sons of course are critically important in this time, we’ve talked in the past as well about how since Naomi had no husband and no sons, that her and Ruth’s situation was particularly dire. This is a male dominant culture to the point that women had few rights at all. But here Ruth is described as more good to Naomi than seven sons. What a weighty thing to say. Ruth is better for Naomi than having seven sons. What a far cry from chapter one where Naomi is crying that she has nothing to offer Ruth and her other daughter-in-law Orpah. I have no sons to give you, I have no home, no kids, no hope, all that is left is to die. My what a difference a year can make, and a little faith in God.
Next look at the last phrase, your daughter-in-law who loves you has given birth to him. Him who? We trace it back and we’re talking about the redeemer for Naomi that the women have prayed for. Now wait a minute here. Boaz committed and followed through with his responsibility to be a redeemer for Ruth and Naomi, how is a baby boy a redeemer? Maybe confusing on the surface, but as we know, this child was born to carry on the name of Elimelech and Mahlon, and as such, when he is born, he is instantly a closer redeemer for them than Boaz, but of course, the infant has no way of providing for his grandmother and mother, so what the women are pointing to is that there will be a time in the future when perhaps Boaz is dead and Naomi will still need someone to provide for her in her old age, and that redeemer is now on the scene. This son will fulfill that responsibility. The son born to Ruth will be able to take care of grandma Naomi, and mama Ruth. He is called a restorer of life. Everything was death for Naomi at the beginning of the book. But now life is restored through the birth of a son. The empty house has become full.
The problems that this book opened with in chapter one are continuing to get solved. Naomi had an empty house, and now Naomi has a redeemer, Ruth has a husband, and a son and can finally know the rest that Naomi has been hoping she could have. The empty house is now a full house everywhere you look.
This leads us into our last point. From an empty future to a full future. Lets read the last section together.
(Ruth 4:16–17 ESV) “Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
The as of yet nameless child, is now placed on Naomi’s lap and she became his nurse. Let me just remove any confusion. This is not saying that Naomi became a wet nurse, but it is better understood as Naomi because his nanny. The literal word is a feminine form which can means something more like ‘guard’. What a special time for Grandma Naomi, her first grandchild is born and this little boy has a special place in the heart of Naomi. She loves this boy. Ask any grandma in this room, their grandkids are particularly special in a completely different way than their own kids.
Then we read something spectacular. This is the only place in the Old Testament where women other than the mother are part of the naming ceremony for a child. Secondly, we’ve sent he women of the town referenced before, they have been a kind of narrative chorus of the story, but now at the end of the story, they are brought very close. No longer are they the women of the town, they are now Naomi’s neighbors, brought near, and are involved in the naming of the child. They give him a name saying “A son has been born to Naomi” They are thrilled for her, Ruth has had her womb opened by God and has been given a child. Naomi has full arms now caring for her grandson. Naomi’s hopes have been fulfilled. One of the reasons that the women do the naming, is Boaz is again living up to his commitment here. The thing he wanted to be held accountable for is happening. Yes, he sired the child, but he did it for the name of Elimelech and Mahlon. And since the child is for them and not for himself, he backs out away from he situation and says you ladies have this. This child is for Elimelech and Mahlon, you knew them better than I did, you name him for their sake.
They named him Obed. The closest meaning of this name that we can come up with is “one who serves”. It is a shortened version of Obadiah which means servant of the Lord, you can see the connection. I love the depth of the meaning of names in the Bible. The way a name can point us to deeper truths about people and about God. Obed is the one who serves, and he will serve. He will serve his grandmother, he will surely serve his father Boaz in the fields of Bethlehem, he will serve his mother when she gets old, but he will be a servant of the Lord as well. And what an amazing example he has to guide him in this matter. Ruth and Naomi are going to be pointing to Boaz as the example to follow, and what a good example he is. And he is going to be pointing to Ruth as an example as well. She sacrificially gave of herself for the sake of Naomi.
Now this empty womb became full, the empty house became full and the empty future became even more full than Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth could have ever imagined.
A future that includes King David, the first of Israel according to God’s promise. Saul was the kind of king that the people wanted and that’s what God gave them. David was the king that God wanted for his people and he was gracious in giving him to them. Boaz fathered Obed, and (Ruth 4:17 ESV) “He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
The forward pointing of Obed to King David, is a forward pointer for us from David to Jesus.
Jesus is the son who crushed the head of the serpent.
When famine filled the land, at the right time God sent food to supply for his people who were hungry. God send Jesus after 400 years of prophetic famine. No word from the Lord had come, but God filled the emptiness, that darkness by sending the light of the world. Emptiness filled.
Jesus has not left you without a redeemer, he is your perfect redeemer.
Our sinfulness leaves us empty. We have nothing to fix our sinful situation. We have no way to fix our owns problems, our rebellion against God. (Romans 5:8 ESV) “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Obed was to be a restorer of life and nourisher for Naomi. Jesus is the restorer of life and nourisher for you. Because of Jesus’s sacrifice, we have life. We have hope in Christ. His death restores our life. His resurrection means that we have hope. He is the bread of life. There was nothing to eat in the house of bread, Bethlehem, but Christ came to be the bread of life for us. We are nourished by him, and through him and by him our life is restored.
Obed’s name means ‘to serve’. Jesus is the greater servant who served us.
Jesus became the servant of all.
Boaz and Ruth’s sacrifices are pointers to help us see the sacrifice of Christ. On this side of the cross we recognize his hesed love expressed beautifully. (Philippians 2:4–8 ESV) “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Boaz and Ruth put the interest of Naomi and Elimelech and Mahlon above their own interests. Christ is the perfect hope for every empty womb, empty home, and empty future because he is the perfect servant. Matt reminded me on Thursday when we were discussing this passage as elders that it was at the last supper when Christ lived out this word picture to his disciples. He took off his outer garment and got on his knees and served them, washing their feet. Our God and king with the heart of a servant. Here’s how he described himself in (Matthew 20:26–28 ESV) “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is with that remembrance that we come to the table today. God entered the world to intercept our emptiness, and fill us to overflowing. The overflowing returns to him as praise and glory and service to one another and the world around us. We have the chance every single day to serve those around us. How are we living that out? FOr some of us that means a season where life is consumed by caring for those closest to us. For others that means reaching out to those around us. But no matter who you are, God lived out the perfect example for care and love by his son Christ, and it is that example that we are to follow. Ruth and Boaz did it even before Christ was on the scene, and that’s.a beautiful grace. How much more are we able to serve one another and our neighbor. There are people living in emptiness all around us, and so many don’t know the love and hope we have in Christ. You have the best news in the world. Listen to the prompting of the holy spirit in your soul and reach out in love and serve one another by spreading that good news. Its why we do oureach, its why we do missions, and it is the good news of the gospel that renews us day by day. New mercies every morning to fill our emptiness, by the grace of God.