“Being Fit for the Kingdom”
God’s kingdom ethics demonstrate trust in God’s sovereignty.
Ruth 4:1-6, NKJV
Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’”
And he said, “I will redeem it.”
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”
And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
The Lord is gracious. He provided a way for every generation of His people to have a fresh start regardless of the folly and sin of their fathers. Every fifty years was to be a Year of Jubilee in which all property reverted back to the family who had originally received it as an inheritance from the Lord when they entered into the Promised Land (Leviticus 25:1-17). If someone from the family wanted to buy it back on behalf of their relative, they would be known as a kinsman redeemer (Leviticus 25:25-28). This law of the kinsman redeemer is being carried out here in Ruth 4 where Boaz is buying back what Naomi sold in order to survive.
Boaz unfortunately was not the nearest kinsman and would not be authorized to redeem the property unless the one closest to Naomi forfeited the right to be the kinsman redeemer. This would be quite the challenge for many to deal with regardless of the time period or culture. Emotionally, Boaz had won the affection of Ruth and cared for Naomi and her daughter-in-law since their return from Moab. He invested in their lives while the closest relative lived as though it was not his problem at all.
There was also the love Boaz and Ruth had for one another to contend with which the other closer relative did not enjoy with Ruth. Many people would desire to skirt the law and argue this was reason enough to “make an exception”. Boaz was a righteous man who did not recognize or deviate from the law of God (Ruth 2:1, 3:9-13). The fear of losing the love of this young Moabitess was great since he was an older and well established gentleman in the community. This opportunity was certainly not going to come around again for Boaz in his lifetime, but his willingness to trust the Lord’s will rather than his heart’s desire allowed him to put himself aside and do what was right before the Lord and before other men.
Trusting God always involves the possibility of loss. This could be as extreme as the loss of a life, to something as simple as the discomfort of being embarrassed before others. God promised to be with those who turn to and trust in Him (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 43:1-2; Matthew 28:19-20; Hebrews 13:5-6). There is no reason to fear all the what-ifs in life when the Lord is the One who is in control, and He desires the best for all who love Him. This is why Boaz was willing to make the closest relative who had the right to redeem Elimelech’s land and the wife of his deceased son Ruth for his own awareness of the opportunity that was before him.
Boaz was transparent with this man before the elders of the city as his witness. He explained to the closer relative that this was available to him, but also the responsibility that he had for Ruth, the Moabitess. According to the law of God that protected lineage, the first born son to Ruth would be the child of the deceased husband and carry his name instead of the name of the kinsman redeemer (Genesis 38:6-11; Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
There are many things that are written in extremely small print that are part of contracts which explain specific details. This has come to be known as the “fine print”. Boaz told the kinsman redeemer of the opportunity to purchase the property of Elimelech’s family which he agreed to do eagerly. Boaz also disclosed to him the “fine print” which caused the kinsman redeemer to change his mind as most things written in small print in contracts will do if people are aware of them. Revealing all the details is something God’s people must do whether they are dealing in business or sharing the plan of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Transparency is difficult since it places in the forefront the disadvantages as well as the advantages; it reveals the problems as well as the benefits. Those who are selling something will focus how great it is and that it is “practically brand new”. The question most people do not ask is, “If this is so great, why are you selling it and selling it cheap?” As God’s people, transparency in all things is important to their witness. Transparency means to be honest and trust worthy in little things and big things, physically and spiritually.
Jesus was always transparent in His dealings with people. Jesus gave the people who sought Him out truth regardless if they wanted to hear it or not. The rich young man found that to be perfect he needed to forfeit his great wealth to follow Jesus which caused him to walk away (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus informed those who desired to be His disciples there was a high cost to be paid personally (Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 14:25-27). Jesus informed rulers of their lack of power unless it comes for God the Father (John 19:10-11). Jesus also informed the wealthy they had not given anything to the treasury of the temple compared to a poor widow who gave all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44).
All of these things would have been difficult to hear from Jesus then and now. Yet, honesty in worldly things will help others to know the things proclaimed about Christ are trustworthy as well. The dishonest business person is neither trusted professionally or personally. Boaz had great standing in the community and among his workers because he allowed his faith in God to regulate how he dealt with others in business and in private. This is why in the model prayer Jesus used to teach His disciples how to pray He said, “...Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...” (Matthew 6:10, NKJV). The ethics of God’s kingdom must be the ethics by which God’s people live by regardless if they are in heaven or on earth.
Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over their life are citizens of God’s kingdom (John 18:36-39; Philippians 3:20). God’s people on earth have the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ to plead with those of the world to know the freedom of forgiveness of their sins (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Therefore, God’s people must be living in a manner that is acceptable in heaven rather than by what is acceptable to other people or the culture in which they live. This transparent living identifies those who belong to God and those who do not. It is best that the children of God submit to the ethics of God’s kingdom now if they truly long for God’s kingdom to come and will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Ruth 4:7-10, NKJV
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel.
Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “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. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”
The rightful kinsman redeemer was afraid of hurting his reputation by marrying and having children with a Moabite woman. The promise of property was not enough to persuade him. Boaz did not worry about his reputation in the community or his standing before the Lord since there was nothing that he was ashamed of in his private or public life. This is why Boaz chose to confront the kinsman redeemer at the gate of the city with elders from the city who could verify all that was said and done by both parties involved.
Transparency is important, but things need to be clear to all who had the authority to review and check on the matter as an objective observer. This can be understood by those in the finance world as auditing. An auditor is given authority to look into the financial dealings of a person, business, or corporation to confirm that no fraudulent activity has taken place. The auditor must be able to understand and effectively trace all transactions even though they were not specifically involved with the exchange.
This is the reason why there are health inspectors, surveyors, and inspectors who are common in first world countries, especially to make sure all the laws and regulations are followed. The elders of the city were there as inspectors and auditors of the interaction between Boaz and the kinsman redeemer in case there would have been accusations made later on after the agreement was settled.
According to Manners and Customs of the Bible by J. Freeman, this practice of taking off a person’s shoe and giving it to another was giving the person receiving the shoe authority to walk upon their property or take ownership of something they possessed. The kinsman redeemer was forfeiting his right to buy Elimelech’s estate and marry Ruth by taking off his sandal. This made it clear to Boaz and the elders that the closest relative was giving Boaz the right to do what he was legally bound to do. This might seem an insignificant piece of information that is unneeded to the account, but holds great significance in understanding what Jesus had done in the redemption of mankind.
There is no way Naomi and Ruth could get out of their situation they were in. They were hopeless to change their circumstances. Only someone else who had the ability to redeem them from their circumstances without going into debt themselves could do it for them. This is a beautiful picture of what mankind’s circumstance of sin is like.
People choose to sin against God at an early age (Psalm 51:5). When they know right from wrong they are helpless to choose the right and reject the wrong no matter how much they desire to do what is right. Therefore, God provided a way for people to be justified before Him by coming to the world Himself and satisfying His wrath on sin which had marred His perfect creation (Isaiah 52:13-53:12, 59:16-17; Romans 5:6-11). God has made His righteousness, mankind’s sinfulness, and the path of redemption clear to all who are willing to listen and choose to believe upon Christ (Romans 10:5-21). Therefore, the people of God must be just as clear to others when speaking about God, sin, forgiveness of sins, and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
There are some principles that we can see in the way Boaz handled this situation with the kinsman redeemer that many, including Christ Himself, used in being clear about all things to everyone. Trouble, unneeded suffering, and sin is always the result when a person chooses not to be clear.
Boaz made sure there were respected men in the community that could verify all that was said and done. Innocence means nothing if there is no one or nothing that can confirm it. Joseph was an honorable man in all his conduct, but it was his word against Potiphar’s wife when she accused him of raping her (Genesis 39:1-20). By doing things publicly or at least with the knowledge of trusted and respected individuals, it allows intentions and attitudes to be inspected and affirmed by others beyond self. Boaz made sure the interaction between him and the kinsman redeemer were witnessed. Jesus spoke to the twelve disciples who committed their lives to Him differently than those in the crowds (Matthew 13:10-17). Jesus did not refrain from doing controversial things like meeting with women privately, but made sure His actions were not in secret (John 4:1-42). Jesus spoke openly to all people about who He was and why He came regardless of what other people wanted to hear or whether they wanted to accept it (John 18:19-21).
Every Christian needs two things in their lives: the Holy Spirit which God gives them as teacher and guide and a few people who are trusted to review their attitudes, actions, and activity (John 16:7-15; Hebrews 10:23-25; James 5:16). The Lord has designed all people to be dependent upon Him and one another. Sin convinces people they are independent, self-sufficient, and always right in spite of what anyone else has to say. Being clear about these things must be revealed in the things God’s people say and do in their lives in order to proclaim it to others truthfully. If there is a difference that exists between the things a person says and the things they do, it causes things to be unclear and no one, including the person themselves, will know what the truth actually is to them.
Boaz also repeated with those who were witnessing of all that was part of the agreement. There was no vagueness but all about what was being agreed upon. Boaz made sure all was clear and there was no doubt as to what his responsibility was going to be now that the kinsman redeemer forfeited his right to anything in Elimelech’s estate. Jesus also made things clear about who He was to the Jewish leaders (John 4:25-26, 10:22-30, 17:5). The responsibility of what other people do with the truth rests on the one who is hearing it rather than the one who is delivering it.
Rejection of the truth will often be displayed in simple unbelief and can be as extreme as violence (Luke 4:16-30; John 6:60-66). God’s people must live in such a manner that their motives are clear which is what it means to live above reproach or blameless (Titus 2:6-8; 1 Peter 2:11-12). There is no way anyone can be perfect except for God Himself, so living a blameless life does not mean being perfect. It means that correcting is willingly accepted and having a desire to learn from God working through others and directly from His Spirit within. Therefore, truth must be revealed in its entirety with gentleness and respect of those who are being told about the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15).
Living in this manner will prepare God’s people for life in His kingdom when Christ calls His Church home to be with Him where He is presently. It is crucial that this is something that the disciples of Christ choose to do willingly, regardless of the cost to them physically or emotionally. The world is hostile to all who will proclaim truth because sin suppresses the truth and denies it at all costs. Those who proclaim it will be persecuted for it (John 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12-19).
Ruth 4:11-12, NKJV
And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman.”
The controversial part of this interaction between the kinsman redeemer and Boaz was not the purchase of the land but the Moabitess woman Ruth. The kinsman redeemer had no issue gaining the property, but the woman had potential to ruin his reputation and inheritance. This is why the people who served as witnesses focused their blessing upon Boaz’s marriage to Ruth. The blessing that was given named three specific women who were important in the history of the Jews and one would eventually be part of the lineage God used to bring the Messiah into the world (Matthew 1:3).
The first woman named by the people and elders was Rachel. She was the wife Jacob had worked fourteen years for his uncle Laban to acquire. She was loved and cherished by Jacob even though she had only given him two sons named Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 46:19).
Leah is the second woman that is mentioned and Jacob's first wife who his Uncle Laban tricked him into marrying before marrying Rachel. She was unloved by Jacob but provided many sons and one daughter (Genesis 29:31-35, 30:17-24). These two ladies are accredited to being used by God to, “build the house of Israel”. There children were the seed of the nation God promised Abraham that He was going to make from him and his wife Sarah (Genesis 12:1-3).
The third lady to be mentioned is Tamar. She was a daughter-in-law to Jacob’s son Judah. She deceived her father-in-law Judah into sleeping with her and becoming pregnant with twin boys she named Perez and Zerah (Genesis 38:1-30). This may seem odd that such an incestuous interaction could be seen as admirable in any way, but Tamar had had this one encounter with her father-in-law in order to protect and continue on her husband’s family name. She had gone to extreme lengths to do what she was called to do in having male children for her husband through him while he was alive or through his brothers if her husband died before she could have children to him. This does not make sense in the western world in the twenty-first century way of thinking, but it was a reality in that day and culture.
In all three of these ladies lives there was an acknowledgment that they fulfilled the will of God in their lives by being obedient to Him in all things, including having children to preserve the people of God as a nation. Perez is listed in Matthew 1:3 as being part of the lineage of Christ. Perez is seen as someone who was forceful in breaking through and being successful in spite of the challenges that are present. Tamar’s risky way of doing what was righteous regardless of how it made her look publicly was something Boaz was doing by taking Ruth as his wife.
The blessing of the elders and people was more truthful than they could ever realize since many centuries would pass before the Messiah would arrive through their lineage. Boaz too was providing for the coming of the Christ by being willing to do what was right at any cost to himself or his reputation and inheritance. Those who choose to follow the Lord regardless of the time or culture are instrumental in revealing the kingdom of God to the world as Boaz was in his role of being used of God to bring the Messiah. The son of Boaz and Ruth would turn out to be the grandfather of King David whose throne the Lord established for Christ to sit upon for all eternity.
The Messiah has since come down to earth to secure forgiveness of sins through His death and resurrection, ascended into heaven, and all those who place their faith in Him for salvation from the wrath of God await His return. This means God is still employing all who trust in His Son to be both preparing themselves for life in His kingdom and encouraging others to be part of His kingdom through faith in Christ as well. All of God’s people are to be taking part in the spreading the Gospel and ministry of reconciliation (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:16-19).
There must be a willingness to follow the leading of God’s Spirit no matter what He calls His people to do. Boaz was called to marry a Moabitess woman. Hosea was called to marry a prostitute and bring her back to himself after she was unfaithful to him (Hosea 1:1-3, 3:1-3). God informed Ezekiel he was going to bring about his wife’s death and could not publicly mourn for her (Ezekiel 24:15-18). God called Joseph to suffer ridicule, harassment for His brothers, false accusations and imprisonment to move him into the position the Lord was calling him to be in to save his family.
Jesus, God Incarnate, was called to suffer more than any other person who had ever or will ever live in order to be the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Jesus has also called all who would follow Him to pick up their cross, die to themselves, and love Him over all other things and people. Is this asking too much of people?
There needs to be a willingness to set all things aside in order to be obedient to God in all things. Boaz did not give any thought to how his marriage to Ruth was going to affect his inheritance, reputation, or future. He concerned himself with doing what was right in the eyes of God more than what those around him thought was right. Being willing to follow God in the world is certainly more than any person can do on their strength alone. God knows this and has given each of His children His Spirit to live within them and provide the strength that is needed to accomplish in their lives only what He can do.
Practicing obedience to God in every moment of life here upon this earth is how a person is fitted for the kingdom of heaven. God has called His people to please Him, not those who are of this world. God has called His people to obey His commandments and to do His will, not the will and commandments of those who hate the One true living God. God has called His people to love Him and other people as He does without condoning or making light of sin, not to embrace sin. Therefore, those who call themselves Christians or people of God must, “...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV).