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Preaching the Gospel from Ruth (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 14, 2021 4:00 am

Preaching the Gospel from Ruth (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 14, 2021 4:00 am

When the Old Testament was written, “kinsman redeemer” was a common term—but it isn’t a familiar expression today. So what does it mean? Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg gets to the heart of this concept and uncovers the Gospel in Ruth’s story.



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When the Old Testament was first written, the term Kinsman Redeemer would have made sense to those who were reading it, but what does that strange term mean for us? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains how the term Kinsman Redeemer ultimately points us to Jesus and the message of the Gospel. When we come to something like the book of Ruth, we have to immerse ourselves in, if you like, the sights and the sounds and the smells and the tastes.

Ruth invites us to feel deeply, and it will then be our understanding of the Gospel, which will prevent us from making any kind of wrong applications from the book so that we might be able to apply it properly. We're going to have three charcoal sketches. All right? Three charcoal sketches. My first sketch has a title, and the title is Three Women on the Road to Somewhere. Three Women on the Road to Somewhere. And now she stands in between Moab and Bethlehem, urging her two daughters-in-law to go back to the place where they would find security. And essentially what she is doing is urging these girls to count the cost—a cost which Sinclair Ferguson puts as, they had to choose between Yahweh plus nothing in Bethlehem, or everything minus Yahweh in Moab. And with that choice set before them, Orpah, as we know, goes back, but Ruth refuses to go back.

No. Don't urge me to leave you. I'm going to go where you go. Your God is my God. And one of the things that we have the opportunity to do in this section—and I want to take the opportunity just now—is to make sure that we recognize how clear is the call of God to respond to his unerring loving kindness and grace, and to urge upon people the necessity of their coming to do as Ruth has done and to trust in this God.

Some of us here have a hard time with this, pressing upon people the necessity of a decision, the necessity of a choice. God does not believe for us. We believe, and Ruth believed.

Do you? Are you a believer? Have you turned your back on the substitute gods of the world in which you live by nature? Have you been embraced by the loving kindness of God as it has been manifest to you in so many different ways? When I read this again this week, my mind went back to an occasion some years ago when with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, we had gone to Cambridge, Massachusetts to Harvard.

And it was while Jim Boyce was still alive, and some of you will have been there, David Wells was there, and many were there. And I had the responsibility of speaking, I think it was on a Saturday morning. I got up early on the Saturday morning, and I went out, and I found a coffee shop, and I was sitting in there with my notes and my Bible.

There was virtually nobody in the place at all. I was joined, first of all, by a sparrow that came in, and then by a little girl from China, a Chinese girl who was a student at Harvard. She saw my Bible, and she said to me, Are you a Christian? And I said, Yes, I am. And she said, I am a Christian too. And I said to her, How did you become a Christian in China? I was sort of asking this sort of sociological question, you know, the factors that led up to this, and I've never forgotten her response. I said, How did you become a Christian in China?

Do you know what she said? I enter through narrow gate. That's, you see, what happened here. Ruth entered through the narrow gate, through the turnstile.

A hundred thousand people at Wembley to watch the soccer, but every one of them going in through the turnstile as an individual. What is God doing here? He's reaching into the life across barriers of race, into the life of this Moabite girl, and her picture is painted into the great scene in Revelation, and in this tiny microcosm we have the indications of this growing, developing, huge company that no one can count from every nation and tribe and people and language, who will fall down before King Jesus, who will be from the lineage of this woman who is converted as she goes in through the turnstile. It's just a charcoal sketch. Secondly, charcoal sketch number two, the name of the man is Boaz. Not much of a title. Well, it might not be much of a sketch.

We'll have to see. Verse 19. This is chapter 2. Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one in whose place she had been working. The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz. Now, I grew up, a third of my class in Glasgow in elementary school were all Jewish, and so I know a lot of Jewish moms, and I love them.

I love their interest, and they all have a way about them, and you can see it here. Where were you working today? I was in a field. I bumped into a guy called Boaz. Oh, Boaz. Boaz is a nice boy, Naomi. Boaz is a kinsman redeemer. You should stay in his field, Naomi.

That is a good field. You see, because the music… You had changed the music at the end of chapter 1, hadn't you? You did it instinctively. Because we've gone from famine to the barley harvest, so we've put away the bagpipe player, which should routinely be done in any case. We've put away the bagpipe player, and we've brought out the minstrels, and so the music has changed. The mood has changed. It's no longer plaintive. There's just the inkling.

It's not full-blown yet, and they returned at the time that the barley harvest was beginning. Just this wonderful little glimpse of fullness that is about to emerge out of emptiness, of this discovery of that which will enrich and embellish and sustain. And as chapter 2 begins, we find that the storyteller introduces this new character.

Naomi had a relative on her husband's side from the clan of Elimelech, interestingly, a man of standing whose name was Boaz. And we're forced to say, I wonder who he is. I wonder what he's like. I wonder if he has a big part in this story. Don't you often wish you didn't know the Bible? I wish I could go back and not know it, so that I could read it again, so I didn't know the end of the story of Joseph.

It would be so fantastic. Maybe if I live long enough, I'll have forgotten the end of the story of most of them. As it is, I can't find my car keys, so there's a great prospect that is before me. But into chapter 2, Ruth has been learning the ways of God. In the law of God, he has made provision for the poor.

They can go to the fields and get the leftover grain. And Ruth is not about to sit on her hands. She's not about to lie in her bed and say, well, goodness, here I am now, stuck with the old lady.

I could have gone back and got a husband. I came here with this old lady. Now what am I going to do?

No, she's up in the morning, washes her face. Let me go, she says, into the fields and collect some grain. Behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor, favor, favor. Praise him for his grace and favor to our fathers in distress.

Praise him, still the same forever, slow to chide and swift to bless. You see, the word favor is beginning just to send us in a direction, and it comes all the way through. Let me go and find favor is verse 2. I am totally amazed, verse 10, at the favor I have found. Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me, a foreigner?

Well, we could say that before we went to sleep tonight, couldn't we, Lord Jesus Christ? Why have I found such favor that you would notice me, an alien and a stranger? And once she's got this favor going, she wants to keep it going. Look at verse 13. May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my Lord? She said, you have given me comfort. You have spoken kindly to your servant. And this hesed, loving kindness of God is running all the way through. I'm not pointing it out all the time.

It would be tedious and is part of you painting when you follow this up later on. And you've shown kindness to your servant, though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls. I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how he could love me, a sinner condemned unclean, that you would show such favor to me, a foreigner. There's a sense in which, you know, if we knew Boaz personally, we could nudge him and say, she ain't seen nothing yet, you know, because they said, this is about to hot up. And, you know… And first of all, it's pure chance, isn't it? I mean, that's what it says, that the whole way it happened, it just so happened that she picked that field. In the authorized version, it says something like, as hap would have it, as it fell on her hap, or her hap fell to… There's some strange thing. We need a new translation, there's no question. But as it turned out, it so happened that she found herself working in a field behind belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. Now, just again, parenthetically, we have to decide when we're teaching this whether we're going to interact with people's view of the world, whether we're going to stop and deal with the issues of fatalism and determinism, whether we're going to say to people that the Christian view does not have you held in the grip of blind, deterministic forces, nor is your life just bobbing around like a cork on the ocean of chance, but know that God is providentially at work in all of our free human choices, all of our decisions, all of our responsibilities, that over it all, without in any sense coming and trampling over us like a juggernaut, God is at work in all these things. And at the end of chapter 2 and into chapter 3, of course, the drama intensifies. Once again, Naomi is up to her tricks, and one day Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to her, My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you where you will be well provided for?

What do you have in mind? Isn't that Boaz? A kinsman of ours? A kind kinsman? Now, when Naomi informed Ruth of this, that Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer, it may have meant as much to her as that phrase will mean to the average member of our congregation when we're preaching, if we're not careful. And the danger is that once we've plowed around for three and a half days in levirate law and the kinsman-redeemer stuff, we've confused ourselves to the point that there's no possibility of us making it clear for our congregation. And so, we just like… And the people said, Did he say something there, or was he just clearing his throat?

No, I think he was trying to get to chapter 4. So what is the law here? Well, the law is that we mustn't say more than we should, but we mustn't say less than we must. And the great challenge is of getting it clear in our own minds so that we can make, in a few sentences, the position clear, the unfolding story beginning to find a resting place in our listeners' minds, letting them know that the Hebrew word for next of kin most often is the word goel, that that word is used of Yahweh with frequency throughout the Old Testament, reminding the people of God that Yahweh is their divine next of kin, that he is the one who comes alongside them as the one who has both revealed himself and will redeem his people. And so, from there, we make the point that as kinsman-redeemer in the immediacy of this familial setting, Boaz has the right—the responsibility, but mainly the right—to intervene in the circumstances of Naomi and Ruth.

He has the right, the prerogative, to take on all their needs and to take on all their troubles and to take them to himself and to bear them as if they were his very own. Now, Ruth would have come to an understanding of this. And the marriage of Boaz and Ruth gets to the very heart of this concept. That's why eventually we have Paul speaking of this great mystery—and I'm speaking, he says, about Christ and the church. I'm speaking here about an amazing marriage where God has taken the divine initiative. And it is in this that we would then have the best opportunity to allow our listeners to see the glory of the gospel, to let them know that this is something of a foreshadowing of Christ, who in himself is the only one who has the right to take and bear as his own all that spoils and ruins, all the loss, all the hurt, all the disaster, all the alienation, all the brokenness, all the sinful, messed-upness of things.

What? That this physician heals by taking to himself our diseases? That he bears them in himself? We would be able to explore those things, and explore them.

We would have to. But finally, the last charcoal sketch is in verse 16 of chapter 4, and the heading of this charcoal sketch is, Look at that little bundle. Look at that little bundle.

And I'm going to leave you to work this out. But one of the themes that we have to tackle is this whole developing thought of moving from emptiness to fullness. Actually, in the case of the family of Elimelech, finding that their fullness is really an emptiness, so that in the discovery of genuine emptiness, they might find fullness. We would want to work out in greater detail, if we had the opportunity and the time, the wonderful juxtaposition not only of the place of Bethlehem itself, that it was in this precinct here that David would tend his sheep, the king who was to come, but that it was out in these same hillsides that the shepherds would sing of the birth of the Messiah, and so on. But also that we would want to work out this whole notion of provision. There's so much about grain. There's so much about bread and everything else. And somehow, in a way that would be legitimate, I think we would want to punch right through into Luke 15, and see that fellow in all of his alienated mess, saying to himself, In my father's house there is bread enough and to spare, but I perish with hunger. I will arise, and I will go to him.

And these elements, these glimpses, these nudges in that direction are there to help us, help us to be able to speak about the fact of alienation, which is apropos our time. I just listened this afternoon to an interview on NPR with Paul Simon, and they were pressing him, and how is it that he has written so many songs that are religious? No, no, he says, these are not religious songs.

These are spiritual songs. The man pressed him. He said, Well, are you thinking more about spiritual things now? And Simon said, Well, I suppose I am. And here he is, and we're still singing, you know, they've all gone to look for America. Kathy, I am lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping.

I'm empty and aching, and I don't know why. Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they've all come to look for America, laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces. She said, The man in the gabardine suit was a spy.

I said, Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera. And what this reminds us of is when we look at Ruth, we find Amoebates, and that's one of the reasons it comes again and again. She was Amoebates, she was Amoebates, because the writer is making it clear that by nature she was naturally excluded from the fellowship of God and from the blessings of the covenant. And God, because of his loving kindness, reached down and made her his own. It's interesting, I mentioned all things shining, that one of the observations made by Dreyfus and Kelly is that when you go in search of all these shining moments, you need to be very clear about the fact that none of them cohere, and none of them combine to make really any sense at all.

It is really nothing other than existentialism. But when we tell this story to our congregations, we can tell them that this is a different story, that Jesus, as the mediator of a new covenant, extends his blessing, the blessing of Abraham, to sinners by bringing them into a covenantal relationship with himself. And that if they will turn to him, that he will welcome them with open arms. Let me just quote Calvin to finish, if in doubt you should quote Calvin. So I'll just quote Calvin to finish.

This is Calvin, and this is purposeful. Calvin says, when we have preached in such a way as for somebody to be brought under conviction of sin, what then do we do? He says, then we show that the only safe haven, the only safe haven, she had come to take refuge under the wings.

The only safe haven is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since by his obedience he has wiped off our transgressions. By his sacrifice appeased the divine anger. By his blood washed away our stains. By his cross borne our curse. And by his death made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way, man is reconciled to God the Father, but by no merit of his own, and by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy.

There is a peace and a comfort that comes to us when we realize we can rest safely in God's mercy. That's from today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. If you have found yourself strengthened by this study, we want to encourage you to pass Alistair's teaching along to others. One way to do that is for you to join our faithful team of truth partners. When you become a truth partner, you choose a set amount that you give each month and your regular monthly giving directly benefits others by bringing this daily program to listeners in thousands of locations all around the world. Your giving also helps offset the expense of our online teaching library, making it free to access, removing cost as a barrier to anyone who wants to hear more about Jesus. You can sign up today to become a truth partner by visiting truthforlife.org slash truth partner. When you do, be sure to request the book we've been recommending.

It's called Our Ancient Foe. You'll find this is an excellent resource for every believer's library. It teaches us about who Satan is and why we struggle against him in this world. The book Our Ancient Foe is available for a couple more days. It's our way of saying thanks when you support Truth for Life.

You can donate and request the book online at truthforlife.org slash donate or when you call 888-588-7884. Now there are eternal questions that all of us will find ourselves asking at one point or another. Questions like where do we come from? Where are we going? For most of us, leaving these questions unanswered is unsettling. Tomorrow we move to Ecclesiastes chapter 12 to help us find answers to these questions. Be sure to listen then. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-22 16:05:29 / 2023-09-22 16:13:53 / 8

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