June 26th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
06/26/60 8:15 a.m.
To you who listen on the radio, you are sharing with us the early morning services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the Book of Ruth, from the middle chapters of the Book of Ruth. And if you would turn in your Bible to that beautiful short story, you can easily follow the message of the hour.
Last Sunday morning we left off at the eighth verse of the second chapter. Ruth is by the providence of God in the field of Boaz gleaning, picking up little bits that have been overlooked by the harvesters. And as she gleans in the field of Boaz, that kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, notices her and speaks graciously to her. And says to her: "Glean not in another field but here in my field abide" [Ruth 2:8]. And he instructed his workers to be gracious to her [Ruth 2:9].
Then in the conversation Boaz says to her in the twelfth verse of the second chapter of Ruth: "The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust" [Ruth 2:12].
That is one of the most beautiful figures to be found in the Word of God. "The Lord bless thee under whose wings thou art come to trust" [Ruth 2:12]. Of course the imagery that lies back of the figure is to be found in the wings of the cherubim whose wings covered the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies [Exodus 25:16-22].
All through this Book, you will find that figure. At the east gate of the garden of Eden, the cherubim were there guarding the way of the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]. In the holy of all holy places in the tabernacle and in the temple, the cherubim were made of one beaten piece [Exodus 25:18], with the mercy seat that covered over the ark that held the Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:21]. And the wings of the cherubim covered the mercy seat and their faces looked full upon the blood of propitiation and expiation [Exodus 25:18-20]. And the cherubim were woven into the curtains of the gate and of the door [Exodus 26:1, 36:8], and of the veil [Exodus 26:31; 2 Chronicles 3:14]. And they were emblems of mercy and of grace and all who entered in found shelter under their gracious merciful wings.
And Ruth the Moabitess, cursed to the tenth generation [Deuteronomy 23:3-4], approaches the Lord God of Israel. And Boaz pronounces a blessing upon her. "The Lord recompense thee, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust" [Ruth 2:12].
And that symbolism you will find in the Word of God so frequently. For example in Psalm 17:8; "Keep me as the apple of Thine eye; hide me under the shadow of Thy wings." And again, in Psalm 61:4: "I will abide in Thy tabernacle forever; I will trust in the covert of Thy wings"; in the protective hiding place of Thy wings. And again in Psalm 63:7: "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings, will I rejoice." And again, in this ninety-first Psalm:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide unto the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in Him will I trust.
Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shall thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
All of that from the imagery of the wings of the cherubim.
So here in the Book of Ruth: "The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust" [Ruth 2:12]. And if we had time this morning, we would have had someone sing for us one of the most beautiful of Christian songs: "Under His Wings, Safely Abiding."
Now as the story continues in the seventeenth verse of the second chapter: "So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned; and it was about an ephah of barley" [Ruth 2:17]. Now how much is that?
Back there in the wilderness when the people of the Lord went out to gather manna, it says they gathered each man an omer, a day’s provision [Exodus 16:15-16]. Then it says an omer is a tenth of an ephah [Exodus 16:36]. So when she gleaned in the field, she gleaned not only enough for the day but ten times as much. So much so that when she took it up and went into the city and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned, she was astonished that she had been able to glean so much [Ruth 2:17].
All of which reminds us, following the sermon of last Sunday morning, that when we glean in the right field, God’s blessings and favor are always upon us. When we glean in the wrong field, however it comes out, it is no blessing. It has in it a black drop. It has in it a worm and a canker. But when we glean in the right field, when our work is in the will of God, when we’re doing what the Lord wants us to do, His blessings always are abundantly upon us.
So when Naomi sees it she says, "Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off His kindness to the living and to the dead" [Ruth 2:20]. And how different that is, for Naomi in the first chapter had said, "The hand of the Lord is gone out against me" [Ruth 1:13]. But here in the second chapter she sees that, in the providences of God, that the hand of the Lord is not against her but all of these circumstances are conspiring to bless her; just like the providences of life are conspiring together to bless you.
"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" [Romans 8:28]. So Naomi comes to see that these sorrows, and tragedies, and disappointments that overwhelmed her life are not the evidences of the hand of God against her [Ruth 1:13], but they are the providences of the Lord to bless her [Ruth 2:20].
Then in the third chapter: "Naomi her mother-in-law said to Ruth, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" [Ruth 3:1]. Now what it is that Naomi has in her mind, in her plan, in her heart when she says to Ruth, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee?"
Now she is referring to a part of the law. And I read it in Deuteronomy 25:5 and following, "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger"; the widow shall not go seeking a home with a stranger.
Her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.
Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that would, will not build up his brother’s house.
And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
Now isn’t that an unusual, unusual provision? That is what you call "the levirate marriage." Lest a family’s name be blotted out in Israel, the brother of the one who had died was to take his brother’s widow and raise up children to his brother lest his name die out in Israel.
It is that to which Naomi is referring when she says, "Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" [Ruth 3:1]. Naomi’s husband had died, Naomi’s two sons had died, Mahlon, the husband of Ruth had died [Ruth 1:3-5]. And the name was about to perish in Israel and the family.
So Naomi has in her mind to seek a husband for Ruth according to this ancient law. Now the order of that ancient law was this. First, the kinsman is to be a brother [Deuteronomy 25:5]. Then next, if there is no brother or he would be unwilling then it is to be an uncle. Then next it is to be an uncle’s son. Then if there is neither brother, nor uncle, nor uncle’s son that is willing then any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family.
Now that’s the law as you find it spelled out in Leviticus 25:48-. So Naomi has it in her mind to get a husband for Ruth and to raise up children unto him that is dead according to this law of the levirate marriage [Deuteronomy 25:5], and according to the law of redemption [Leviticus 25:48-].
Now this brings us to, and I could not begin to encompass it in this sermon this morning so I divided it into two parts, into the sermon this morning and the sermon that is coming Lord’s Day morning. And may I say I have never got into anything in my life as interesting to me as I fell into when I came into this subject. It is an astonishing thing to me!
So let’s look at it. The Hebrew word for "kinsman," and the Hebrew word for "redeemer" is the same word; goel. Goel means "to redeem, to buy back, to re-purchase." And the participial form of that verb, goel, is your word for "redeemer" or "kinsman."
Now, this word "redeem" – and we’re going to talk about now the redemption of the family of Naomi; the redemption of her inheritance and the redemption of her family name that has been lost in death. And Boaz is going to be a symbol of resurrection and our hope in God. Now, that word goel, goel is translated sometimes "redeem," sometimes "kinsman." It’s the same word. And in the Book of Ruth you find it used again, and again, and again: kinsman, kinsman, redeemer, to redeem.
I have it marked in my Bible here; the use of that word kinsman and redeemer and redeeming and redeemed. And it’s almost red where I have marked the use of that word. That is the word that you will find over here in Job 19:25:
For I know that my Goel liveth – I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin or through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God;
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold.
That is one of the great passages in all of the Book. And of course it is a prophecy of our own personal resurrection. "I know that my Redeemer, my Goel, I know that my Kinsman, I know that my Near Kinsman, I know that my Elder Brother, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter days upon the earth" [Job 19:25]. Our Lord Jesus, our Kinsman, our Near of Kin, our Redeemer in whom we have hope of resurrection, I know that He lives.
And though my name be blotted out from the earth and though I die, "and worms destroy this body" – and don’t you sometimes wonder when this body’s been buried in the depths of the sea and the fish have eaten it, or when it’s buried in the ground and a great oak sends its roots down and the substance of your body turns into leaves and flowers and wood, don’t you wonder?
"But I know though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet, in my flesh" – now, that doesn’t mean spirit or soul – "yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold" [Job 19:26-27] – these eyes. I tell you when you get into that doctrine of redemption, the Goel, the Redeemer what we’re coming into now in this Book of Ruth, you just opened the whole vista of the whole revelation, and mercy, and grace, and power of God.
So we have here our introduction to this unusual law of redemption here in the Book of God. Now, before we go further with it, I want us to read about that law of redemption. First of all, all Israel was taught from the beginning that they were a redeemed people. And especially was that inculcated upon them and impressed upon them the night of the Passover when they were delivered out of Egypt [Exodus 12].
Now here is an instance of it in the third chapter of the Book of Numbers beginning at the forty-fourth verse:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be Mine; I am the Lord.
And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;
Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them;
And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and unto his sons.
What God was saying is this, that the children of Israel were just like all of the people of Egypt. And that night when the death angel passed over [Exodus 12:23], the firstborn of cattle, of beasts, of human family, the firstborn was to be taken away. It belonged to God [Exodus 13:2; Leviticus 27:26]. They had sinned. They were unto the judgment and wrath of God and this was to be in payment; death, the wages of sin, the payment of sin [Romans 6:23].
The debt of sin is death [Ezekiel 18:4]. When a man sins he owes a debt: death. And it’s in death that sin is paid for. The man that sins owes the penalty of death [Ezekiel 18:20].
So that night the angel of death is collecting his debt [Exodus 12:23]. But there was a way of escape. That lamb that was slain was a substitute, and when the blood was sprinkled on the lintels and the doorposts, it was a sign that a life had been forfeited in this home. The debt had been paid. Blood had been shed. And so Israel escaped by the forfeiture of a life in substitution in the lamb [Exodus 12:3, 6-7, 12-13, 22-23].
Then thereafter the firstborn of all Israel belonged to God and was to be forfeited to the Lord [Exodus 13:1]. And the way God provided for that forfeiture was God said, "Instead of your firstborn son, I will take a Levite and he can be substituted for your firstborn, and your firstborn can be kept for yourself at home" [Exodus 13:13; Numbers 3:45]
So when they numbered all of the firstborn of Israel, there were 273 more firstborn in Israel than there were Levites. Then what should they do because there were 273 more firstborn in the congregation of Israel than there were Levites? So God said, for the 273 that number beyond the number of the Levites, you are to take silver shekels, five apiece, and redeem them with the silver shekels [Numbers 3:46-48]. And that money is called redemption money [Numbers 3:]. And that redemptive silver was used to make the sockets in which the bases of the tabernacle boards were placed. The foundation of our house of faith is built upon redemption [Exodus 38:25-27].
Now that thing of redemption was applied in three areas: first, the redemption of an inheritance; second, the redemption of a man’s life; and third, the redemption of a man’s family. Now this is the law of redemption regarding a man’s inheritance.
The land shall not be sold forever . . .
ye are strangers and sojourners with Me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption of the land.
If thy brother be waxen poor, and have sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
If a man was poor and he sold his inheritance, the next of kin was to redeem it for the land could never be sold. They were strangers and pilgrims in the earth and the land belongs to God [Leviticus 25:23].
Isn’t that an unusual thing? The land of Israel, the land of Palestine, doesn’t belong to anybody but God. And God allotted it, parceled it out, divided it up between the families of Israel [Joshua 21:43]. And God said, "And they cannot sell it." And if because of poverty, there is an Israelite that sells his inheritance, the next of kin – the brother, the uncle, the uncle’s son – or the next of kin shall buy it back. It shall never be sold [Leviticus 25:23].
Now over here in the Book of Jeremiah, the thirty-second chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah said:
The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth; for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it, . Then I knew this was the word of the Lord.
And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
That is the redemption of the inheritance.
All right now the second, in this same twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus is the law of the redemption of a man’s body if he sold himself:
And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him be poor, wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:
After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him; or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him . . .
All right now that’s the second part, the redemption of a man’s life. Here is a poor fellow that doesn’t have any money and out of the misery of his life, he sells himself to work for as a slave, to work for a well-to-do man. And his brother sees that or his next of kin sees that, and he can redeem the man. He can pay the purchase price and liberate the man, and he’s no longer in the slavery of the one to whom he sold himself. Now that’s the second one.
Now the third one is the redemption of a man’s family. If a man dies and he doesn’t leave a child and that means his family name will die out in Israel then his brother is to take the widow and raise up children to his brother.
Now it was that law of Israel that gave rise to one of the most unusual things in the Bible that is used by a certain group of people to say that God is against birth control; one of the strangest turns of fortune I ever ran onto in my life. Now this thing is in the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him
[Genesis 38:6, 7]
Then, he didn’t have any child. "And Judah said unto Onan" now, that’s the brother. "And Judah said unto Onan," the second son,
Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
And the thing which Onan did displeased the Lord; wherefore he slew him also.
Now all that is this, according to that law when that first son died and he left no heir, the second son was to take his wife and raise up seed lest his brother’s name perish in the earth.
Now that gave rise to this story of the Sadducees, when they came to Jesus and said, "There was a family and the eldest brother married a wife and did not have any heir, so the second son took her and he did not have any, then the third son, and then the seventh; all seven of them. Now in the resurrection," said the Sadducees with a sneer and ridicule, "now in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be because all seven of the brothers had her?" [Luke 20:28-33]. Now that’s what this is.
Now Onan, here in the thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis; Onan for some reason despised his eldest brother; despised him and wanted his name to die out in the earth. So according to this law when he should have raised up a child unto his eldest brother, he would not do it [Genesis 38:8-10].
Why? Because he had any scruples about this thing of birth control? It’s a million miles folly wide the mark. It never enters into it one way or another. It is ridiculous. It is absolute inane silliness to refer to any such thing as this.
And isn’t it strange that the denomination that does it is so much against looking at the Bible as their ultimate authority. But what these hierarchical leaders say is the word of God, not what’s in the Book. Yet when it comes to carrying through a political movement like this, why, then they refer to the Word of God. It doesn’t have anything to do with it at all. It’s a strange far-fetched imagination that even could make it begin to apply.
What this boy Onan did was that child was not going to be his. It was going to belong to his brother. His brother’s dead and the child was to bear his brother’s name. And he was to receive his brother’s inheritance and Onan would have nothing of it. "I am not going to do it." And the thing displeased God for God didn’t want his brother’s name to die out in the earth. And the Lord slew Onan also [Genesis 38:10]. All of this is a part of that ancient law of redemption and inheritance.
So Ruth is a widow now and her husband is dead. And there is no other male in the family [Ruth 1:3]. And the name is about to perish in the earth. So according to that ancient law of redemption, Naomi said, "Shall I not find rest for thee that it may be well with thee?" [Ruth 3:1].
So she says to Ruth, "You go to Boaz. And when he is asleep, uncover his feet and lay yourself at his feet" [Ruth 3:4]. And when Boaz awakened in the night behold a woman lay at his feet. And he said, "Who are you?" [Ruth 3:8-9].
And she answered, "I am Ruth, thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman" [Ruth 3:9]; for thou art a redeemer, for thou art a goel. She laid herself upon the mercies of Boaz and in this action, directed by Naomi, asked Boaz to do for her the office of a redeemer, a near kinsman, to raise up seed to her dead husband’s name, and to take her to be his wife, and to redeem the inheritance of the family of Elimelech.
Now it took a whole lot of faith to do that. It took a whole lot of commitment to do that. It took a whole lot of courage to do that.
I think the reason that Boaz had not said anything already to Ruth for one thing was on account of the great difference of age apparently between Boaz and Ruth. I think Boaz loved Ruth in his heart and did when he first saw her and when he first looked upon her. And in confidence and in faith, Ruth lays herself at his feet and asked him to do for her the office of a kinsman redeemer, a goel [Ruth 3:9].
And Boaz responds nobly,
Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch that thou followest not young men.
That is the reason I think Boaz was an older man: "Inasmuch as thou followest not young men," panting after the ephemeral pleasures of a moment, but giving herself to the faith and trust of the Lord. And he said, "Bring the veil that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley"; and she took it into the city [Ruth 3:15].
Why six? Six is the number of incompletion. Why didn’t he measure seven? Why didn’t he give her seven measures of barley, the number of fullness, the number of completion? Why didn’t he do it?
I’ll tell you why he didn’t do it. I’ll tell you next Sunday morning. There is a beautiful and wonderful reason why he gave her six measures instead of seven. You be back Sunday morning.
Now while we sing our hymn of invitation, somebody this morning coming down this aisle to give his heart openly and publicly to the Lord; somebody to put his life with us in the church; a family to join us in this marvelous ministry, in the heart of this great city, as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door and lead the way, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. "Under whose wings" – Comes Ruth, poor Gentile, cursed for ten generations.
II. "Gleaning in Boaz’s field"
A. Gleaning in the right field
B. Ruth gleans a ten day supply
C. Naomi astonished
III. "Shall I not seek rest for thee?"
A. Deuteronomy 25:5-10
B. Near kinsman, redeemer
C. Israel is a redeemed people
IV. Goel means redeemer, to buy back
A. Restore forfeited property
B. Restore forfeited person, slave
C. Ruth trusts Boaz to fulfill the obligation of a goel