The Goel Establishes a Covenant
Scripture: Ruth 4
Text: Ruth 4:9-10
(Note: All Scripture citations from the New King James Version)
Sermon by Rev. Donald Van Dyken
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Sunnyside, Washington, 2002
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 18, No. 5
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
By recording the tragic history of Elimelech’s family, God exposes the condition of Israel during the time of the judges. Although He had redeemed them from Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and given them the promised land, they were faithless. As they transgressed the covenant, God had brought the penalties of the covenant upon them. Elimelech died, Mahlon and Chilion died, and Naomi was left an widow, without husband or child.
God, however, in his great mercy and grace, would restore the family of Elimelech, resurrect their name from the dust of death, and give them an enduring house in Israel.
To fulfill His faithfulness, God had brought Ruth the Moabitess back with Naomi to Israel and brought her into contact with Boaz, a close relative of Naomi. You will remember that the Hebrew word for a close relative is Goel—a word which is also used in the Bible for a redeemer.
Boaz then, is the Goel, the close relative, the redeemer. God now will accomplish the redemption of Elimelech’s family through the covenant that Boaz, the Goel, establishes with Ruth. God not only redeems Elimelech’s family, but also prefigured the glorious redemption by the great grandson of Boaz. Christ, the great Goel would redeem Israel by covenant.
The redemption would not be done in private—it would not just be a private ceremony between Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. It was not to be an event of which only the principals were aware. The community was not going to find out about it simply because Ruth or Naomi told them what happened. No, Boaz ensured that this transaction, this covenant, was established publicly.
The place he chose was the gate of the city—the public square—the place where all important business occurred. All the people of the city and the surrounding area could be present.
Boaz took ten elders of the city and asked them to take their official positions (verse 1), to sit in the elders’ seats. It was to be a civil ceremony–a covenant ratified according to the laws of Israel, and its legality was to be attested by the presence of the elders.
Boaz not only appealed to the elders, but to all the people (verse 9), “And Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, ‘you are witnesses this day…’”
What was the purpose and value of making this covenant a public occasion? There are at least two purposes we may see.
First of all, the reality of God’s great work of redemption would not be attested only by Ruth or Naomi or Boaz, but since it was openly seen by all the people and was witnessed by the elders as representatives of the law, it would be universally recognized as fact, as accomplished, as valid. Its reality could never be called into doubt.
Secondly, for the principals themselves, for Ruth and Naomi–the incredible had happened. Was it real? Did it really happen? The reality of death and despair had been their companions for so long a time. Had it all really changed? Were they no longer poor? Were they really rich now? Was their family really given a name now? Was the inheritance in Israel really theirs again? Was their place in the promised land really secured? Was there really hope now for a son who would carry on the name?
All this incredible reality now was not dependent merely on the personal conviction of Ruth and Naomi, for the covenant was not made privately but publicly. Everyone knew. It was official. It was recorded in the archives of city hall. It was witnessed by the law and by all the people. They need not depend on their feelings, for when feelings ran low, when their confidence was weak, the public record testified to the truth, the witnesses confirmed the reality of the covenant.
We hear on this occasion is what God says more plainly in Hebrews 6. God, willing to make certain to the heirs of the promise, the fullness of His redemption, confirmed it publicly with a covenant oath, that Ruth and Naomi might have an anchor for their hearts and souls, a strong consolation.
And now, consider for yourself, O Israelite, and you, O Moabite, that this event in the history of your people was but a picture of what was to come for you, for Naomi, for Ruth. Consider that it has come. The great grandson of Boaz and Ruth, the great Goel has come and publicly proclaimed an everlasting covenant for you.
Although He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, Christ’s birth was announced by angels and witnessed by shepherds. Consider that independent witnesses came from the east and announced in Jerusalem that the king of the Jews had been born. Consider that all Jerusalem heard this announcement. Remember that all, from King Herod to the chief priests and elders of Jerusalem, heard that the King of the Jews had been born.
Remember the public ministry of this great Goel. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He fed thousands and thousands. He publicly announced that He came to seek and to save the lost. He let all know that He came to heal, not the healthy, but the sick.
He called the burdened and sorrowing to come to Him and find rest for their souls. He publicly announced that He not only came to find the lost sheep, but that He would lay down His life for them. He publicly proclaimed that as He gave himself to them in covenant, they would have eternal life.
Remember that He was publicly arraigned before the Sanhedrin, and then before Pontius Pilate. Recall that in the public judgment hall He was openly pronounced innocent. Recall that the guilty Barabbas was publicly released from prison and the sentence of death in place of the innocent Jesus. Remember that this Israelite was freed because Jesus was condemned.
Remember, that although publicly proclaimed innocent, Christ was publicly condemned to die. Remember that He was crucified openly in the presence of both Jews and Gentiles. Remember that it was witnessed by the Romans, by all the people, and by the chief priests and elders. Remember that the official inscription on the cross, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin.
Remember that this all was done that it might be fulfilled which was publicly written by the prophets so many years earlier.
Remember that He rose from the dead. Remember that twelve official witnesses attested to the reality of His resurrection. Remember that Christ officially appointed them to make public announcement of His resurrection. Remember that His resurrection sealed the justification of all His people. Remember that His resurrection was not only witnessed and publicly attested by twelve apostles but that over five hundred witnesses from the people verified the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
Remember that this glorious Goel, this Redeemer, officially appointed His apostles to present Himself in the Gospel to those Israelites whose faithlessness had lost their inheritance, who had dismissed the very God of the covenant, and had crucified the Lord of glory. Now the apostles were to publicly announce that this same Jesus, this Son of God, this resurrected Redeemer, came to bless these Israelites, to give Himself to them in covenant, to be their God, their Savior, their Redeemer, their payment, their righteousness, their inheritance.
Remember that these official ambassadors from the court of this great Goel were not only to make public proclamation throughout Jerusalem and Judea, but throughout the entire world. The covenant was to extend to the Gentiles. This Goel would publicly, from the governor’s palace in Cyprus to the public square of Athens, from the streets of Ephesus to the Praetorian Guard in Rome, enter into covenant with the Ruth’s of the world, the Moabitesses, the lost, the Gentiles, the unwashed multitudes, the landless slaves, the dead.
Remember that this great Goel, this Redeemer King from the house of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth, appointed His ambassadors to make official records of all the covenant redemption proceedings of His life, death, and resurrection. Remember and rejoice, that He appointed not just one, but four separate men to record the reality of this covenant—and so the four gospels. Remember the words of one of them—Luke—who said he wrote them that you may know the certainty of this covenant.
Remember that the Spirit of Christ through Paul reminds us in Romans 3 that the law and the prophets, the entire Old Testament, all witness to this great Redeemer, to this great transaction, to this public ratification of covenant.
Remember that in these official records of the new covenant, this great Goel, this Redeemer, this close relative who publicly proclaims Himself to be your flesh and blood, bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh, has preserved your title to this covenant these 2000 years.
Remember, that for 2000 years from China to Argentina, from Norway to Australia, this great Goel has caused this covenant gospel to be publicly proclaimed in streets and markets, in palaces and huts, in cathedrals and chapels. Remember that for 2000 years Arabs and Jews, Zulus and Saxons, barbarians and Vikings, ditch diggers and stockbrokers, kings and slaves, have been brought from darkness into light, from condemnation to justification, from death to life, from hopelessness to glory.
And now my friend, I am talking to you. You may be an Israelite, a member of this church. You may be a Moabite, an outsider, not a member of this church.
You may be an Israelite like Naomi, hopeless and helpless, frustrated with life, with nothing to live for, burdened down with your own failures, fretting under God’s covenant chastisement and thinking, “What’s the use of it all?”
Or you may be a Moabite, like Ruth, thinking, “I’m outsider. All this is nice, all this is wonderful, but what hope is there for me?”
Now, I want to call you to see that this is a public scene. I don’t mean our text. I mean here and now. I mean today, in this church building. You are sitting there and I have been appointed by this great Goel, this Redeemer, to publicly proclaim and present this Christ to you. I call before you all the grand public events I’ve recounted earlier. I call before your eyes this public scene from our text—Boaz covenanting with Naomi and Ruth to be their Redeemer. I call before you the law and the prophets.
I call before you the public incarnation, the becoming your flesh, the birth of Jesus. I call before you His public ministry. I call before you His public trial and execution for sinners—Naomi’s and Ruth’s like you.
I hold in my hand before you publicly, before your very eyes, the apostles’ official witness of Christ’s resurrection. I call for the 500 brothers who testify of His rising from the grave. I hold before your eyes, I lay down before you as a public record, four official accounts of this covenant sealed in blood and offered to you.
I call before your mind twenty centuries of the public announcement and offer of this covenant, of this Goel, of this Redeemer. I raise up before your mind the millions of Naomi’s and Ruth’s who were presented with this Redeemer. I call upon the voices of the innumerable company of Naomi’s and Ruth’s to bear testimony before you today, that He raised them from death to life, from rejection to acceptance, from poverty to wealth, from despair to joy.
And now this great Goel, not Boaz, but Jesus Christ himself, stands before you publicly, here, today, now, in this place. He says, “I call for the elders and all the people to witness this day that I offer to take you to Myself and give Myself to you, to redeem you and to give to you an everlasting inheritance among the saints.”
What is your answer? What do you say?
He gives you these words to say, “I take you, Jesus Christ, to be my lawful, wedded husband, to be my king and my God, to be my Redeemer and my life, to be my joy and my crown, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in life and in death, from this day forward and forever more.”
Have you said that? Are you saying that now in your soul? Amen.