The Embrace of Covenant Redemption - I
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. 6
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
What is the heart of covenant? What is the essence of God’s covenant with His people? Many times when people think of covenant, and when they speak and write of covenant, they focus only on the promises and conditions of the covenant.
God made covenant with Abraham. He gave him the promise of the land of Canaan. God also stated a condition when He said to Abraham, “Walk before Me and be perfect.” He gave similar promises and conditions to Israel.
But when we’ve mentioned promises and conditions, we still haven’t reached the heart of the matter. Promises and conditions are features, elements of the covenant, but not the core of the covenant.
The essence of God’s covenant with Abraham and with all His children is found in these words, “I am your God and you are My people.”
We will find those words illustrated for us in our text. Our text records the wedding of Boaz and Ruth. In their marriage and in our marriages today a new relationship is begun. Two people become one, and they become one by giving themselves to one another. The man no longer belongs to himself, but his wife may truly say, “He is my husband. He is mine.” The woman no longer is her own, for the man says, “I take you to be my wife.” She is his.
I bring to you this text then, under the theme: “The Embrace of Covenant Redemption.” We will look at this marriage ceremony and try to see its implications, what it meant for Boaz and Ruth. From that we hope to understand more clearly some aspects of God’s covenant with us in Jesus Christ.
Today we want to see that this covenant redemption embraces possessions and place. Boaz redeemed Naomi’s and Ruth’s lost property and lost place in Israel.
Later we shall see that this redemption, this marriage, redeemed the person of Ruth and changed the relationship of both Boaz and Ruth. All that Ruth was in her person became Boaz’s and all that Boaz was in hi s person became Ruth’s. This has tremendous implications for our understanding of covenant.
Further, we shall see that this redemption, this marriage had vast implications for the future—it embraced the posterity, the children, the descendants of Boaz and Ruth.
Our text says, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi.” And then, “Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife.” Today then, we will concentrate on the first point—this covenant redemption embraced possessions and place.
The words of an old gospel hymn go, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.”
In the sense that this world is in rebellion against God, it is very true that it is not and must not be our home. But in the sense of world as earth, it is very much our home. God created the world and all that is in it for man, to be man’s home. God created the world for us and He created us to live in it. We lost it through sin and death. It is the wonderful work of God’s redemption through Jesus Christ to restore us to the earth and the earth to us again.
As a preview of the conclusion of God’s great redemptive work, He gave Israel the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. This was her wedding home, and each family was to enjoy a permanent inheritance in it.
We already know that Naomi lost her inheritance. Through her unfaithfulness and that of her husband, she lost her land and her home. She was, as Ruth was, a stranger in the land of promise. Her possessions were sold. She was landless and homeless. She lived by gleaning, getting the leftovers from land that belonged to others.
Now as Boaz, the Goel, the close relative, the redeemer, fulfills his obligation under God’s law, he says to the elders and to all the people in verse 5 of our text: “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s from the hand of Naomi.”
Naomi would not lose it but gain it. Her land, the inheritance of Elimelech and Mahlon and Chilion was now hers again. Her land and her home was hers. She had a place again. Her family would continue. We see that in Ruth 4:17, “There is a son born to Naomi.” She now has a name, a place, a position, and her inheritance has been restored to her again.
There is more, is there not. Let’s look at this poor, homeless, foreign girl, Ruth. She was now the wife of Boaz. All that Boaz had was hers. All his wealth, all his lands, the riches of his harvests belonged to her, for he was her husband. All that he had was hers. He was hers. His name was hers. His place was hers. His possessions were hers.
She didn’t earn it. Ruth didn’t have to work first and then get it as salary. She didn’t have to get her relatives from Moab and conquer it. She didn’t have to do anything except say, “I do.” Everything was hers. The grand mansion of Boaz, the fields, the oxen and camels, the cattle and donkeys, the men servants and the maid servants, in the house and in the field, all was hers.
My friend, aren’t you like Naomi, like Ruth. Haven’t you either been born in Israel or came to Israel as a stranger? Aren’t you like Naomi and Ruth, landless and hopeless?
Hasn’t the God of Israel taken you into covenant and said He was your God. Hasn’t this God given Himself to you, to Israel, to His church, in marriage. Hasn’t He given His only begotten Son to be your husband? Isn’t all that this husband has and earned yours by covenant oath? Is He not your Redeemer? Does not His redemption mean that all His possessions and His place are yours?
Let’s go back to Ruth for a minute. There she stands. She doesn’t look any different—same clothes, same hair, same person. But what a difference in her status. A minute ago she was a homeless, landless, begging foreigner; a widow, with no hope, with nothing. Now she is the wife of a man of great wealth. She belongs and she is loved. She has possessions and she has a place, the honored place as the wife of a great man of great wealth.
All that Boaz is and has is hers. It is at this point where the conditions of the covenant come in.
What do I mean? I mean that Ruth must now live in the reality of her new status. She must live as the wife of a man who has everything and a man whose everything, whose name, strength, love, protection, possessions, and wealth is all his wife’s as well, is all to maintain her status, her place in the world.
What do I mean that she must live in reality? I’ll sketch an imaginary scene for you to help you understand. Let’s go to the morning after the wedding. Early in the morning the reapers are out in the field gathering the sheaves for harvest. Following them, stooped over picking up heads of grain, you see a woman. She looks familiar. You go closer, and you can’t believe your eyes. It’s Ruth! You run up to her and shout, “Ruth, Ruth, what’s wrong with you? What in the world are you doing? You’re gleaning in your own field. All those reapers are yours. The entire harvest is yours. Don’t you believe you’re married? What will your husband say?”
What does your husband say, my dear friend? I mean your husband Jesus Christ. How are you living? Are you living in the reality of covenant? Do you believe that all that God is and has is yours? Do you believe that you need not make a place, a position, gain honor for yourself in this world? Do you believe you have a position, a place, of high honor, as the bride, the beloved of Christ, the creator of all things? Do you believe the words of the covenant, “I am your God.” Do you believe Christ your Redeemer when He said, “I give myself for you. I give my life for you. I am yours, and you are mine?”
Do you live trying to pick up every leftover head of grain from the rich of the world, effectively denying the redemption of Christ? Do you live striving to make a name for yourself, working to gain, at least before you are 40 or 50, a position of honor and prestige?
Children and young people, are your minds and hearts filled with desires and ways to accumulate more of this world’s goods? And as you grow older, are all your energies directed to glean as much of this world’s goods as you can, so that when you are Naomi’s age you can relax and know that you can take it easy?
Do you act as though, that if you don’t enjoy life to the full before you die, you never will? Do you live as though once you die, that’s the end of it? Do you live as though once you die the only things left are the so-called spiritual things? Do you act as though you’ll never again enjoy a healthy body, good dinners, swimming in Hawaii or sightseeing through the Swiss Alps? Do you believe in the resurrection of the body? Do you believe in a new earth?
Are you living in reality? For this is the condition of the covenant. What is the reality of the new covenant in Jesus Christ?
The reality is this: the eternal Son of God made this physical world, the land and the trees, the birds and the seas; all things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.
The reality is this: this Son of God loved us and came down to earth to take us for His bride. The reality is this; that He emptied Himself and became our flesh and blood to redeem us, to redeem our bodies. The reality is this, that He became poor that we might become rich. The foxes and birds, created by Him had holes and nests, but He, for our sake, had no place to lay His head. But it doesn’t stop there.
He through His death and resurrection gained all, possessions and place for Himself, and for Himself as our husband, that we, as His wife, might have all, place and possessions.
He gained the promise of God in Psalm 2, “Ask of me and I shall give you the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”
Was not the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14 fulfilled when Jesus ascended to the throne? Listen: “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
Does not this Jesus say He is our husband, bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh? Did not this Jesus commission His prophet to say in Psalm 37:9-11, “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
He goes on to say in verse 22, “For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off.”
Again, in verses 28 and 29, “For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever.”
Did He not repeat this in Matthew 5:5 when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth?” What earth is He talking about in all these verses? The one He created, owns and is redeeming.
But doesn’t Hebrews 10:34 say that the Hebrew Christians joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven?
What possession? Doesn’t this text mean that this earth has nothing to do with our possession, but that it is only in heaven? Does this mean that when Christ said that the meek shall inherit the earth, He didn’t really mean it? Not at all. Those Hebrew Christians well understood what so many do not understand today. If someone took their land away from them they didn’t worry. They had Jesus Christ. He was their enduring possession. He gave Himself to them in covenant. He was theirs. Although the wicked might possess the land temporarily, they would soon be cut off and the righteous would inherit all things. When? When Jesus comes back.
Our possession is our husband, Jesus Christ. He is in heaven and when we possess Him, we possess all that He is and has. Beloved, you are the bride of Christ. He has given Himself and all that He has in covenant to you. He has created this world, He has entered it to redeem it. The earth belongs to Christ and He belongs to us. The day shall dawn when He shall return and shall rid this old world of all evil doers and wickedness and then, as He promised in Daniel 7:27: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
Let us live by faith in the reality of covenant redemption, not as a Ruth, stooped over and gleaning what we can find in the fields of this world, but as a married Ruth who possessed a husband who redeemed all for her.
We are not finished, for next we will continue to get closer to the heart of covenant redemption—that just as Boaz gave himself to Ruth in covenant, so Christ has given Himself to us in covenant. We need to know what that reality is and how then we live in that reality.
In the meantime, remember who you are and what you have, your place and possessions. You are the bride of the Maker and Redeemer of the world. All that He has is yours.
Enjoy what He has given you. Eat the fat and drink the wine. Feast and frolic. Don’t fret for what you don’t have, or for what the wicked have taken from you. Never fear, for yet a little while, you will look and the wicked shall be no more, and the meek shall inherit the earth. Amen.