John A. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Of Boaz we read in Ruth 4:13 that he “took Ruth, and she was his wife.” And it is interesting to note the fact that the Hebrew word here translated as “take” is in our King James Version of the Bible translated as “take away” no less than 793 times. That is about four times as often as it is translated simply as take, receive, fetch, bring, or several other words which are used once or twice in a slightly different way.
It certainly cannot be denied that Boaz took Ruth away from this nameless and shoeless kinsman who refused to marry her. This kinsman, as we saw last time, lost his name and had to give Boaz one of his shoes. And all this was true because he did not take Ruth to be his wife. As far as taking away is concerned, he might only take away Ruth’s widowhood. When he refused to do so, he had to give Boaz the right to take her away from him. It had to be done in a legal, righteous way; and he, Boaz, as another kinsman, did have the right. The word “take away” here in Ruth 4:13 in no way means to steal, or to take away in the way of breaking God’s law.
Being more interested in his earthly possessions than in keeping God’s ordinances, this nearest of kin to Naomi and Elimelech took off his shoe and gave it to Boaz as a sign of granting Boaz the right to have her as his wife. It was all above board, and was even witnessed by the dwellers in Bethlehem and in that region to be a legal procedure.
There is, however, no denying of the fact that Boaz took Ruth away from this kinsman and unto himself. That word here translated as “take” is translated 62 times as receive; and Boaz certainly received Ruth. And when Boaz received Ruth as his wife, that nearest of kin had his name taken away. In Ruth 4:21the name of Boaz appears as the man in the line of Abraham to David out of which Christ was born. He is listed as one of the great, great grandfathers of Jesus. This nearest of kin lost his name in that list. He did not simply give a shoe away and the opportunity to marry Ruth. He lost an honorable name and position in the line of God’s covenant.
Now all this happened in the day of shadows; and the shadow we see here is that of a most blessed reality that we should never, never overlook. Boaz took Ruth to himself and they became one flesh. Wonderfully, this was a shadow of the reality that Christ would come and take His church to Himself as His bride, so that she can live with Him in His house of many mansions. He takes her away from Satan and the firm grip that he has upon us. This He did in the very legal way of buying us by His precious blood from the awful punishment which we deserve, and from the spiritual death, into which we fell with Adam.
What is more, He came through His Spirit to give Ruth, born in the heathendom of idolatrous Moab, faith in Jehovah, the one and only true God. He brought her to the promised land where she might meet Boaz. In, fact He led her steps exactly and directly to his land in her first search for food. And now He brings her where she may be used to bring forth the line of David’s generations that will bring Himself forth in His virgin birth realized in Mary. He took upon Himself our flesh and blood so that He could take us to be His royal bride that will live with Him forever in the coming Kingdom of Heaven that will be established on the new earth when He returns in glory. What is more, Christ takes from us the name sinner and gives us the beautiful name Bride of Christ. At the right time and in the proper way He takes our souls out of this Moab in which we now dwell, and brings them to be with Him, waiting for the day when our bodies shall be raised from the dead, be made glorious, even as His now is; and we will live with Him forever in the land God promises His church.
We now, on this side of His cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and able to see what God wrought in that line from Boaz, Obed, and David, and the virgin Mary, can say with absolute confidence that Christ “took us, and: we are His bride”. We should never look merely at the shadow. We should look up to Him Whose shadow falls upon the earth in this book of Ruth. It is well that we look at Ruth and Boaz. It is necessary that we look at Naomi and Elimelech and their sinful departure from the promised land, so that we ourselves are reminded of how unworthy we are of being taken as Christ’s bride. But never must we fail to see God’s grace and what He in that grace has wrought for us in His own Son, and our own absolute incapability even of desiring such a wonder of His grace.
In that light also we ought to note that here in this book of Ruth, right after we read that Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, the viewpoint changes, and we read very little about her after that moment. We read of what God did; He “gave her conception”, and that is why it can be added that “she bare a son.” It is the last time that in this book we read of any of Ruth’s words or actions. Yes, the women speak about her and call her Naomi’s, daughter-in-law, and state that she loved Naomi and was better to her than seven sons. In fact, we do read that a son was born to Naomi. And then in the genealogies listed, Boaz is mentioned and not Ruth. Of course, there is no room for her to boast. But then there also was no room for Naomi, Boaz, and David to boast. All comes from God; and although we do not always see that, nevertheless He is on the foreground and should be praised and thanked. All the strength to produce and bring forth that child came from God, Neither Ruth nor Boaz can boast of what they did. Neither can we claim to have done anything in our own strength. We are here because it pleased God to have us born and to exist to this very moment, and to have faith in Him.
Ruth does get her name mentioned much later inMatthew 1:5 where we read: “. . . and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse.” And so much later in the history of this world, our names will be called to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. But boasting and pride must always be set aside. The book of Ruth tells us what God did in His sovereign grace, not what man contributed to His kingdom. There is a beautiful story written in this book of Ruth; but we must look at it in the light of the whole of Scripture, and as that which God wrought. We should with David declare, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable,” Psalm 145:3. And early in life our children ought also to be taught to see God and His marvelous works of almighty power and of grace in Christ.
In this brief book we do read God’s name 21 times—both as The Almighty One, Master, and Jehovah, as far as the Hebrew words are concerned—to say nothing of the pronouns which refer to Him and His works. His works are on every page of Holy Writ; and we ought to see, even when sins are exposed, that all things come out of God’s eternal, unchangeable counsel. We should also keep constantly before our minds that this counsel of God, this eternal plan, causes everything to happen that will realize the day when Christ shall take us to be His bride, and we will live with Him in the new Jerusalem. With both hands we ought to take hold of the truth which Paul writes inRomans 8:28. ALL things DO work together for GOOD to those that love God. Nothing ever works against God’s return and the wedding feast of the Lamb. In all things we are more than conquerors, and have been served by the wicked world, whether we see it or not and whether they see it or not. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us and take us out of the line of the elect who, in God’s eternal counsel, have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The wife of Mahlon, Ruth, could not bring forth a son and heir. If, humanly speaking, she was physically fit for this work, then God took Mahlon away from her before such a gift from God was looked for by Naomi. Chilion likewise was either incapable of making Orpah fruitful, and she was not capable of bearing a son, or he too was taken away by God before she could conceive and produce an heir for Elimelech. And now, God does not perform some repair work by getting Boaz to take Ruth, and by enabling her to bring forth Obed. With God there are no mistakes and absolutely no repair work. Eternally He had Christ and His bride in mind as coming in exactly the way He came, and in the line of the patriarchs mentioned here in the last few verses of the book of Ruth, and of those which we who read inMatthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38.
And not only did Boaz take Ruth as his wife, but at once he served the purpose for which he took this woman who was so much younger than he was, and who came from wicked Moab as a widow. One cannot anywhere in Scripture read of the approval of birth control. We do read of how in His holy wrath God killed Onan who “spilled it on the ground,” Genesis 38:9. And surely abortion is strongly condemned in Holy Writ. Do we not read in Ruth 4:13 that God gave Ruth conception? Does that not mean that He gave her the beginning of a child, the beginning of a human being, and not merely of that human being’s body but also of the moment when that which was conceived obtained a soul? It was not merely the beginning of a piece of Ruth’s flesh. It was the moment when a body and soul, a human being came into being. When John the Baptist had been conceived only six months before Mary came to greet Elizabeth, he, not merely a piece of flesh, leaped in his mother’s womb. The moment of the beginning of that person is the moment when conception begins. And all killing of that which has been conceived is murder, and fills the Holy God with the indignation He showed when Onan refused to perform his duty. When one tries to end what is one’s duty in that way, one sins as surely as when one reaches out and ends a conception.
Then, too, that we are living in the end of time, and that the judgment day is not too far away is also evident—although men will deny it—and the fury of God’s wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah for its homosexuality is speaking loudly today. We have no objection for medical research to heal and to cure those who by a blood transfusion are afflicted with AIDS. But who is so foolish as to believe that when the world comes up with a cure, so that the sin of homosexuality and of lesbianism can be practiced without what Scripture calls the punishment upon a sin that we are not rushing to the judgment day, even as Sodom and Gomorrah did? God is not fooled. No one escapes His punishment. And man today is simply trying to escape punishment, while actually he is making a sin more publicly and widely practiced, with a greater torment for it in hell, than men in days gone by brought down upon themselves. The flood came in Noah’s day. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone in Abraham’s day. The whole world will be destroyed soon when Christ returns and crushes the head of the serpent and all his seed.
But to return to what we are taught in the book of Ruth, although we are not told, and need not be told, Boaz and Ruth rejoiced in the gift of a son. Naomi revealed her joy, and it is recorded here when we read that she took the child and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. She, whose sons died before they could bring forth grandchildren, and had lost all hope of being blessed with a grandson who believed in God and could keep the name of her dead husband upon the land which he inherited, receives one who will be in the line that brings forth the Christ. How true it is in her life that all things work together for good to those that love God, as Boaz did, but also Naomi and Ruth. Death, over which man has absolutely no power, took away Naomi’s husband and sons. And yet God, Who not only has death completely in His hand, but also has spiritual life in His hand to give to whomsoever He will, reached down into idolatrous Moab and brought Boaz a god-fearing wife and Naomi a covenant grandchild who would serve such an important work of bringing forth descendants from whom God’s Son would be born in our flesh. What a gift of God unto us! What an evidence as well that He will father His people out of other nations and hold before our eyes the fact that one is a Jew only when one is such inwardly, and becomes such inwardly by His grace.
The book of Ruth begins with a sad picture of famine and sin, of death and a door closed on begetting covenant seed. But what a bright and beautiful picture it is wherewith the book of Ruth comes to a close. Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife, and she bares a son. But look beyond this and see the salvation which God gives us in Christ, Who was born in that line of Boaz, Obed, and David.
We take blessings to ourselves because God gives us the strength to do so. But we take blessing to ourselves also because God is so very faithful to His promises. Having promised us through Jacob that the sceptre would not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come, God brought Ruth to the promised land and moved Boaz to take he as his wife, so that Christ could and would be born in Bethlehem, and salvation with all its blessings might be given us. Think highly of Boaz and Ruth. But think far more highly of God, Who gave them the strength to do what He brought them into being to perform, and used them so that our salvation was earned, and will be a blessed reality for us when He sends His Son to bring us into that of which Canaan was only a type and shadow.