Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Boaz Ultimatum

God is at work making everything turn out for His Glory. Believers see God at Work in the normalness of Life.

Text: Ruth Ch. 4

When we last left our two widows, Naomi was telling Ruth to wait because Boaz would act on what he said without delay. Ruth had heard almost the same thing from Boaz himself in 3:11 “And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.”

I grew up in the Hill country and often drove back roads around New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Wimberley, and out to Bulverde. Those roads are filled with twisting turns, ups and downs and blind curves. I remember once as a truck driver driving from far south west of San Antonio back to Austin, I was rounding a blind curve, on the side of the mountain, and even though I couldn’t see anyone coming I had to put my left front tire on the edge of the cliff to get my trailer around the turn without sideswiping the mountain. I prayed that no-one was coming towards me and made it.

But once when I was learning to drive my dad let me take the wheel on the interstate through Tennessee. I’ll never forget, I’m driving up mountain, surrounded by tall trees, then I round a curve, the trees seem to fall away and laid out before me is about 100 miles of downhill dry straight highway, with a blue sky overhead, good music on the radio, and little birdies singing in the trees. It was gorgeous.

Now which one of these is like life? The broad straight road laid out for miles with no surprises? Or the twisting, up and down blind curves of the hill country? I would suggest most of life is ups and downs, blind curves and switchbacks. Every now and then we are rewarded with a nice view, but it doesn’t last long.

And in that respect the book of Ruth is a lot like our lives.

Naomi and her husband go to Moab to find food. Her husband dies. Her sons find wives. Her sons die. She goes back to Bethlehem destitute, but Ruth comes to help her. Ruth begins to glean in the fields and God blesses them. A nice man takes care of them and he turns out to be a near relative. It looks like that maybe Ruth and Boaz are falling in love but then the bad news, there is a nearer relative to contend with.

UP AND DOWN, back and forth, highs and lows. Did you ever think, Man! When will it ever get easy?

You know, God never promised his people the road to heaven would be easy. But the road will in fact get there! HE will get you there. There will be blessings and heartaches along the way, but now and then he will give you a vista. A vision of the future. A long gaze into the distance, and in times like that we can remember our destination.

Now back to Boaz. Usually elders met at the end of the day, but this is morning and it seems that Boaz has arranged this meeting. He has invited ten men of the city and the nearest relative to a meeting. We’re going to call this man Mr X. That’s basically how the story refers to him, Boaz doesn’t call him friend, but they might have been. They were relatives.

Boaz asks Mr X if he wants Elimelech’s property which included care for Naomi. Mr. X would love to have more land!

So then Boaz says, well there’s another part to this. Not only should you redeem the property and Naomi, you need to be the redeemer of Elimelech’s daughter-in-law and have a son for her dead husband Mahlon. To which Mr. X replies, “WHOA NELLIE! Hold on a second there pardner!” Or something like that. You see its one thing to take on a parcel of land and an old lady to feed. It’s another to take a parcel of land, an old lady, and a young lady, and then raise up a son for your dead relative who will inherit that parcel of land someday anyway.

Notice that Boaz didn’t say, Hey Friend, would you like a young strong second wife and a parcel of land too? He started with the land and hinting at the financial gain, then brought up his Ultimatum. “Oh by the way!” That is one of the most dangerous phrases in life! “Oh by the way.”

When you’re reading this story and you get to the part where Mr. X says yes I’ll take it, you want to say “no, not him!” But why? This man is willing to do the right thing and take care of Naomi. But we don’t care! We say NO because we want Boaz to marry her. Have you ever read a story to a child and have them interrupt you and say, wait, that’s not right! The mean old cat isn’t suppose to EAT Mr. Mouse!

But Boaz had the right perspective. He told Ruth; 3:13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you.

You see Boaz cared for Ruth. He wanted her to be taken care of, so whatever happened, it was going to be OK. But when it came down to talking to Mr. X, he was quite persuasive!

Then, of all the crazy things, Mr. X takes off his sandal and hands it to Boaz and tells him, buy it yourself. And all the other men say “Witnesses!” You know where that comes from? That sandal thing? Deutero. 25:7 if a man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to carry on his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother….' 8 Then the elders… shall call and speak to him, and if he keeps saying, 'I do not wish to take her,' 9 then his brother's wife shall go in front of the elders, pull off his sandal and spit in his face.

You see it started as a demoralizing thing, to shame the man. But it became something else. Now Mr. X wasn’t a brother, he wasn’t being mean, and there was an alternative – Boaz. So he took the sandal off himself as a sign of his decision before the elders.

BUT, the elders aren’t done. There seems to have been a bit of celebration going on; because the elders and the people speak three blessings on Boaz. See v.11. 1) That Ruth would be like Rachel and Leah! WOW, they had 12 sons between them! Somebody tell Ruth! 2) That he would be respected and famous in Bethlehem. They had no idea the fame Bethlehem would someday have because of him. And 3) that His house would be like Perez. Now this is a little odd because of the story of Perez’s parents, Tamar and Judah. But basically Perez was the offspring of one of these Levirate marriages. Perez was the son of Judah but was born to carry on the name of Tamar’s first husband. But Perez became a great man and so they hope that Boaz’s son will too.

And they all lived happily ever after! But wait, there’s more, the story isn’t over. This whole story took about 2 months to happen. Then we fast forward a year or so and Lo and behold, RUTH, who HAD BEEN BARREN, has a son.

Look down at v 13 (read 13-15).

When they start talking about a redeemer you may think they are talking about Boaz; but no. They are talking about the baby. This is a foreshadowing because another baby would be born in Bethlehem someday that is also a redeemer. In fact, he will be a descendant of this baby!

And now at last, they get a rest from all the switchbacks and the ups and downs and blind curves. Now they get to sit on top of the mountain and see a 100 miles of good road stretched out ahead. THEY’ll have plenty of turns and valleys in the years to come, but right now the vista.

Why does God give us these moments?

Because they remind us that someday, in glory, there will be eternity laid out before us. He will get us there, even if the road is sometimes hard.

Think of the feelings that must have been going on in these people. At one point Naomi thought God was giving her more than she could handle. God was afflicting her. At some point Ruth probably thought it was vain to hope for anything better than being a homeless stranger in Israel. Boaz may have thought he was too old to experience the joy of a devoted wife.

We all have points in our lives like these. Life is too hard, you’re afraid to hope, you’re too old, or too poor, or too young. Remember, Psa 34:19 many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all.

Think back thru this story a second. Did God ever part the seas? Did He heal any blind people? Did he do anything that is out and out miraculous? No, he didn’t. But all thru this story you see the hand of God moving. What makes you think He’s not doing the same thing in your life? I know He is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to tell me and others what you think. You can use the tools of rhetoric but please, be clean and nice.