Saturday, March 31, 2012
THE ROMANCE OF REDEMPTION
"Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he was intimate with her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, 'Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel.' " (Ruth 4:13, 14 HCSB)
I stood before a sea of faces. They were only a blur. I was transfixed by a vision of beauty that suddenly appeared when the wooden doors were opened. Everyone stood, as the Wedding March began to play--and my heart began to pound. It was August 24, 1974, and Marilyn Crayton walked down the center aisle, holding her father's arm, then would walk out Marilyn Thurman, holding mine!
We were meant for each other. The circumstances that brought us together were engineered by the providence of God. The conviction that we should be together was evident as we developed and deepened our relationship. The commitment to stay together was sealed with our vows, the exchanging of rings and sharing of kiss. Now, after nearly 38 years, the love has matured and the romance remains.
Marriage is used throughout Scripture to symbolize God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel was His love. In the New Testament, the church is the Bride of Christ. This is the romance of redemption.
This truth is vividly illustrated in the book of Ruth. In this story, we see a young girl who is taught through providence by the woe experienced and the word she expressed. Ruth is sought by providence as she "just happens" to come to the right place and meets Mr. Right! Then, she is bought by him and they are wed--the romance of redemption!
As we read this love story, we first observe THE WRETCHEDNESS THAT DROVE HER.
"Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about 10 years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband....
'Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara,' she answered, 'for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has pronounced [judgment] on me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?'
So Naomi came back from the land of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest." (Ruth 1:4, 5, 20-22 HCSB)
The drama is set in the dark days of the Judges. A famine was in the little town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem means, "house of bread" yet, there wasn't a crust, nor crumb! Often God brought discipline on his wayward people to bring them back to Him. Famine was such a pressure He used. But, a man named Elimelech decided, rather than submit to God, he would squirt out of the squeeze from God's hand like a bar of wet soap. Even worse, he drags his wife and two sons into a place where they ought not be--Moab. Moab was a place where demon gods were worshipped. They were a people whose origin was the incestuous relationship of the drunken Lot and his daughter. This is where he took his family.
It did not go well. He discovered that you can run but you can't hide. Disaster meets the family--Elimelech dies, his two sons, who had married Moabites die also, leaving three grieving widows. Brushing away her bitter tears, Naomi looks toward home and purposes to return to Bethlehem--now once more the "house of bread." She sees no future for her daughters-in-law there and bids them stay in Moab. But, Ruth will not! In her brief time with the covenant people of Israel--though they were backsliders--she has heard whispering hope in the midst of heartache. There is the God of Naomi that she wants to be her God. Listen to the commitment:
"Naomi said, 'Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. Follow your sister-in-law.'
But Ruth replied: "Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Yahweh punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." (Ruth 1:15-17 HCSB)
The providence of God is a remarkable thing. The decision of Elimelech was an act of defiance that ended in destruction. "But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more" (Romans 5:20 HCSB). Ruth would be redeemed from ruin. God's grace reaches us in our Moab--the demonism of the world. He orchestrates circumstances to drive us where He wants us to go. God sends a witness to bring light into our darkness. Ruth learned of Yahweh, the true and living God, from being in the presence of Naomi. That word was enough to bring conviction.
As I look back at the events leading to my conversion, I see how God brought me to desperation. In the soil of my soul, the seed of the Gospel, sown years before, germinated. Like the Prodigal Son, I would arise from the pigpen and head for home! "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." The wretchedness was a good thing for Ruth. It was good for me. It drives us to God.
Then we see in Ruth's story THE WINSOMENESS THAT DREW HER.
"Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side named Boaz. He was a prominent man of noble character from Elimelech's family.
Ruth the Moabitess asked Naomi, 'Will you let me go into the fields and gather fallen grain behind someone who allows me to?'
Naomi answered her, 'Go ahead, my daughter.' So Ruth left and entered the field to gather [grain] behind the harvesters. She happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech's family.
'My lord,' she said, 'you have been so kind to me, for you have comforted and encouraged your slave, although I am not like one of your female servants.'
Then her mother-in-law said to her, 'Where did you gather [barley] today, and where did you work? May [the Lord] bless the man who noticed you.' Ruth told her mother-in-law about the men she had worked [with] and said, 'The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz.' Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'May he be blessed by the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living or the dead.' Naomi continued, 'The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers.' " (Ruth 2:1-3, 13, 19, 20 HCSB)
The welfare system in Israel was, that when the harvest was gathered, the reapers were to only go over the fields once and not extend into the corners, so the poor could come and gather grain that was left over. This is what the destitute Naomi sent Ruth to do.
I love the simple words, "She happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz..." as though a sheer coincidence, when it was really Divine providence! She went to gather barley, but more importantly would get Boaz! Her intent was to find the harvest, but better yet, will find a husband!
What a winsome man he was! I am sure Boaz was the most eligible bachelor in Bethlehem. The girls doubtless swooned and dreamed of marrying him. He had it all! Surely Ruth took notice when she saw him from a distance. Yet, she quickly turned back to her task, and abandoned any thoughts she might have of this nobleman. She was a peasant from a pagan land. That was that--so much for romance.
But, Boaz had other plans. He saw her--and desired her! He took the initiative and would woo her and win her. It was his grace that would draw her. Before she sought him, he sought her. God does that in the romance of our redemption. He seeks us. He reveals Himself to us. Christ is seen as altogether lovely! We come to love Him for He first loves us.
Act III brings the conclusion in THE WORTHINESS THAT DELIVERED HER.
"Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses today that I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. I will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased man's name on his property, so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his home. You are witnesses today.'
Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he was intimate with her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son." (Ruth 4:9, 10, 13 HCSB)
There was nothing about Ruth to commend her to Boaz, save he chose to love her. She was ragged and he was rich. Ruth was a slave and Boaz had status. Neither was he compelled to redeem her. The law stated that it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman to marry the widow and perpetuate the family line (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Boaz did not do this because of a commandment, but because of compassion. When he sought her, he bought her. He paid the price for all the debt incurred. Love is costly. That is the romance of redemption!
Boaz and Ruth would have a son. One day, their great-grandson, David, would take the throne in Israel. Out of this line, the Son of David, Jesus Christ would be born--our family Redeemer!
Our redemption is all of grace. Ours is the poverty, His is the plenty. Ours is the wretchedness, His is the worthiness. Jesus did not have to do what He did. He chose to love us. What a price He paid to redeem us. The law demanded every debt be discharged--and what we owe for our sin is so great an eternity in hell could not fully pay it, and indeed, we are bankrupt of righteousness that would fit is for heaven anyway. What did Jesus do? He loved us--suffered as the Eternal One all our separation from God--paid the debt in full! Then, bestowing on us, the riches of His grace, He clothes us in righteousness and takes us as His bride!
How can we help but love Him who lavished such love on us!
Tomorrow at Pole Creek, we will celebrate the romance of redemption. We will observe the Lord's Supper. We will look at the elements in our hands, reminders of the price He paid--His body, His blood. Blessed Redeemer!