No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, ‘Come over, friend; sit down here.’ And he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here’; so they sat down. He then said to the next-of-kin, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ So he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ Then Boaz said, ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’ At this, the next-of-kin said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself’, he took off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.’ Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; 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 borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about an altar boy who went to confession one day. He said, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned.” The priest asked, “What is your sin, my child?” “I’ve had impure thoughts of a girl, Father.” “My son, it is good that you have confessed this to me but wasting your innocence on these base acts is a sin. In order to fully redeem yourself in the eyes of the Lord you must tell me which girl you committed these terrible acts with.” “Father, I cannot say her name.” “Oh come now, my son, you must! Was it that wanton creature Maggie Fitzgerald?” “No, Father.” “Was it Annie O’Grady? I hear she’s Delilah born again. Do you remember the tale of Samson?” “Yes, Father and no, it wasn’t her, Father.” “It must have been Nancy Keith! That girl could put the strumpets of Babylon to shame!” “No, Father. I cannot say the name of the girl. I made an oath before God not to tell.” “Well.. although it is a commendable thing to honor oaths sworn before God, this act cannot go unpunished. You must say fifteen Hail Marys and you are suspended from serving as an altar boy for two weeks. In the name of the Holy Trinity I do absolve you of all sin. Go with God.” “Thank you, Father.” The boy solemnly walked out the doors and sat on the steps of the church, next to the other altar boys. “What did you get?” they asked him. “Two weeks vacation and three good leads.”
Silly priest, fell right into that one! Wasn’t he a teenage boy once, filled with impure thoughts all the time?! The altar boy’s confession didn’t concern one girl in particular…it concerned all girls under the generic title, “a girl.” Don’t get any ideas, boys…I’m onto you! But the interaction does illustrate a complicated concept: the idea of redemption. The boy was seeking his redemption from whatever bad consequences that awaited him for having such impure thoughts. And the priest was eager to redeem him if he only had more specifics. It’s an interesting interaction that has been repeated since the early days of the church and continues to be repeated in some denominations today, particularly the Catholic and Lutheran ones. This whole idea of confession and redemption or absolution. I’ve always been intrigued by the mystery of confession. For those of us who are aware of our sin and want and need forgiveness, the ritual of confession is the perfect solution. Through a priest or pastor, we are redeemed from our sins but not always from the bad consequences of them. And it isn’t the priest or pastor that redeems us. It’s Christ and Christ’s love and mercy working through the priest or pastor that redeems us. How Christ is able to do this is a mystery to me but I am grateful for it. I am in need of Christ’s redemption just as much as anyone else and I am oh, so grateful to receive absolution like everyone else. Redemption is a complete mystery to me.
But apparently not to our friend, Boaz! And here we get a wonderful double meaning to the word “redemption.” In our reading, we heard Boaz cleverly maneuver the land rights so that he might “redeem” Ruth from her dire situation. He had approached the rightful owner of the land and told him he may “redeem” the land but with one catch–he had to “redeem” the land along with Ruth. Of course, by “redeem” we simply mean to take claim of the land. But Boaz’s “redemption” was much more than taking claim of the land. It was about saving the land and keeping it in Elimelech’s name. And it was about saving Ruth from her dismal situation, a situation with little hope and future prospects. Ruth hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve her situation. She had left the comforts of her home and family to follow Naomi into her familiar home and family. She certainly didn’t deserve any bad consequences, especially hopelessness and no future. No, Ruth deserved redemption from her situation and it’s only right and fair that she received it.
In a way, Boaz also redeemed Naomi. She had returned home hopeless and without security too. Remember, she wanted everyone to call her “Mara” because she was nothing but bitter towards God. Naomi returned home with an even more desperate situation than Ruth. She was old and likely beyond marrying and child-bearing age. Ruth could at least remarry and have more children. In redeeming the land and Ruth, Naomi was also redeemed from her despair and dismal situation. And again, it wasn’t a situation that Naomi deserved either! So Boaz’s redemption was much, much more than taking claim of land.
Now, can we think of any other redemptions in scripture? Of course, our Lord and his sacrifice on the cross! He, too, redeemed us from our sin and the bad consequences that await us. Unlike Ruth and Naomi, we do deserve what awaits us for our sins. But God, in his great mercy and compassion, chose to redeem us from our dire situation! And not just some of us but ALL of us, the deserving and undeserving alike. You know, even though Naomi and Ruth didn’t deserve bad consequences for the choices they made and the situations they were in, did they deserve such a magnificent redemption? I mean, talk about a real “rags-to-riches” story! These two ladies had nothing and then found themselves with everything! Ruth didn’t even know our God, let alone his love and mercy. And Naomi had turned away from God’s love and mercy and become bitter. Did they deserve Boaz’s redemption…of course they deserved it! Simply for having a little faith in God! We talked last week about the generosity of God and how that generosity was shared through the characters and situations of this book. First through Elimelech, then through Ruth, then through Naomi, and finally through Boaz. God’s generous mercy and grace were continually shared throughout this book and to unlikely characters and in unlikely situations. This only shows the extent of God’s generosity. Our God is a good and generous God! Our God is a redeeming God! Our God doesn’t let us suffer the consequences of our sin…er, wait…of course, He lets us suffer the consequences of our sin! But He also redeems us! How is that possible? He continues to love us and share his mercy and grace with us! He never leaves us and gladly welcomes us home at the end of our earthly journey. We are his and He is ours, we can place our trust in him! Is this redemption? Like I said earlier, redemption is a complete mystery to me…
Boaz and his redemption of Ruth and Naomi is a foreshadowing to the redemption of our Lord. It is a mysterious redemption, both deserved and undeserved. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (1:7) Christ’s sacrifice atoned once and for all for our sin. We received everlasting forgiveness. Does this keep us from bad consequences? No, it keeps us in relationship with God, yet another gift of redemption. In Psalm 130, we hear David cry out, “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” (vs. 7) Everlasting forgiveness, steadfast love…two wonderful gifts of redemption. And the prophet Isaiah said, “but now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (43:1-2) Everlasting forgiveness, steadfast love, and fearlessness…what more could we ask for in redemption?
God’s generous abundance of love and grace is boldly on display in this book of Ruth. Its characters and situations clearly foreshadow the powerful redemption of our Lord later in Scripture. Let us give thanks for such redemption. Let us give thanks for the gifts of such redemption: everlasting forgiveness, steadfast love, and fearlessness. Our God is indeed a good and gracious God. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.