It's easy to talk about our freedom in Christ without stopping to consider its significance. In this sermon post we'll stop at three waypoints of our Christian freedom journey to fullytake in the view of liberty. Along the way we'll consider the loyalty, love and redemption of our heavenly Father.
Every week I publish my sermon notes so that you may read them for yourselves. For my parishioners, this could be a good review from the weekend before. And it gives you a chance to see what I intended to say! For other pastors and ministers, feel free to borrow and use any of this material. I'd love for God to be glorified by you incorporating these notes into your own worship.
Summer Singles Part 11: "Sealed With A Sandal" - 08.12.12
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Scrub forward to the 1 hour 4 minute mark to hear the sermon.
Intro: Today we consider the story of Ruth and Boaz - what may be the most romantic story in the Bible! A story of loyalty and love-and ultimately a beautiful illustration of the care God provides for us, His beloved!
This concept of redemption is crucial to our understanding of our relationship to God. Sadly, many misunderstand it. It is one of the cornerstones of our faith. The word “redeem” or “redemption” is mentioned 167 times in the (ESV) Bible. The Apostle Paul states:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7 ESV
Meaning of Redemption - “the purchase back of something that has been lost by the payment of a ransom.” - Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
As we read through the story of Ruth - a story of loyalty from Ruth to Naomi, we also see shades of God’s loyalty toward us. As we read about the romance of Ruth and Boaz, we see the foretelling of God’s love for us. And as we read of the redemption of the family land, we also see the transaction that Christ paid for our own freedom. Let’s look at each part of this love story together!
The beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz does not begin with the two of them meeting in Boaz’ fields. The story begins with Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was already married to Mahlon. Both Naomi’s and Ruth’s husbands died and Naomi decided to leave Moab and return to Bethlehem to relatives and to food. She encouraged Ruth to stay in Moab with family. Ruth replied:
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Ruth 1:16-17 ESV
This is one of the most famous pair of verses in the Bible. Brides love to quote it in their marriage vows to their husbands. We should remember, however, that this was not the loyalty from a wife to her husband, but rather the loyalty expressed from a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law! This is the kind of loyal love you would never expect!
Love begins with loyalty. There is no love that results from abandonment, betrayal or selfishness. Love springs from an honest, self-sacrificing love that puts the affection for another ahead of self-interest. Ruth had no advantage personally in saying, “I will go where you will go.” She would would have been better off staying put with her own relatives. She chose the uncertain future of Naomi.
There’s another kind of loyal love we’d never expect that also - like Ruth and Boaz - is really the story before the story:
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV
Think about this. God didn’t love you just when you were most lovable, but when you were the least. Not when you were at your best, but when you were at your worst. This is the loyal love that set the stage for your redemption. God is loyal to you, His children!
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5
We must hammer this into our consciousness as Christians. Because God’s love began when we were still sinners, it continues regardless of our performance. We never do enough to deserve God’s love. God redeems us - sets us free from sin - because He chooses to do so. Because of His choice, we now have a choice of how we live, either in our continued sin and disobedience OR in His love as our Father and Lord in obedience and holiness.
To see the parallels of God’s love for us and the story of Ruth and Boaz, let’s make sure we understand what happened. Ruth leaves her country and follows her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Judah. Ruth picks up grain in Boaz’s field to supply food for herself and Naomi. Boaz tells his workers to make sure to leave plenty of grain behind. Ruth doesn’t know the customs, but Naomi does and gives Ruth specific instructions. At the harvest time - a most festive time - Ruth is to find where Boaz sleeps, uncover his feet, and lay down at his feet. What a surprise for Boaz when he wakes up!
“In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet!” Ruth 3:8 MSG
We must be careful not to apply our 2012 sexual presumptions into this scene. Ruth was recognized as a woman of noble character (v.11). This was in the custom of the Near East 12 centuries before Christ - literally a proposal for marriage from Ruth to Boaz. He’s thrilled because she could have chosen a younger man. But he’s not totally surprised because he had already looked into the legalities!
“You’re right, I am a close relative to you, but there is one even closer than I am.” Ruth 3:12 MSG
We are also surprised by the timing and extent of God’s love for us. Some think God was surprised that man sinned. That somehow the legalities and consequences of our sin forced God into plan B - to send His son to Earth to pay the penalty. We learn, however, that God knew us and loved us even before creation!
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT
As is true of most real love stories - not the fairy tale kind of stories - the devil is in the details. Love doesn’t win over everything. There are complications that have to be worked out. In Ruth’s case, it wasn’t just about Ruth, but about her land. Because all the men in the family died - and women couldn’t pass on land themselves from one generation to another - the land had to be “redeemed.”
“Then the redeemer said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’ Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself,’ he drew off his sandal.” Ruth 4:6-8 ESV
Someone else had the first right of refusal to Ruth’s land. The land was literally LOST to the family and had to be redeemed. With the land came the hand of Ruth in marriage. The closer relative wanted the land but not Ruth. It was a package deal. They came together. The irony is that the closer kinsman wanted the land, but not the woman who came with it. That’s an understandable business attitude but not the attitude of loyal love. Boaz wanted the hand of Ruth first and foremost and was willing to pay for the land to redeem both the woman and the land.
This is also the attitude of God toward us. You may not realize it but you are also a package deal. You come complete with your sin. Your sin is part of who you are. You were born with it. You’ve added to it. And even with the best intentions, you continue to sin and need forgiveness. It is this “package deal” that God redeemed - set free!
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son ... to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5 ESV
This is the best freedom story possible. We who can do nothing about our sin receive God’s gift of redemption - “the purchase back of something that has been lost by the payment of a ransom.” When Eugene Peterson translated Galatians 4:4-5, he wrote it this way:
“... so that he [God] might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.” Galatians 4:4b-5 MSG
So the next time you think of your relationship to God - think of it not only as Father and adoptive child, but think of it also as Redeemer and forever freed from fetters of sin. When you think of God the Son, think not just LORD and SAVIOR, but also as the debt paid in full. Never lessen your worth to your LORD because it cost God His Son and His Son His life! As we have seen this was not a decision made as Plan B, but a decision made before the creation of the world!
Conclusion: What about that sandal? Have you ever thought about that ancient custom of sealing the deal by the taking off of a sandal? Did you know that God also sealed the deal for you too? But not with the taking off of a sandal. Do you know the forever sign that remains to this day of the ransom paid for your freedom? Watch this.
Play Video: “Scars” by Dan Stevers [3:04]
We are told by those who first saw the resurrected body of Jesus that he still bore the scars from the nails of his crucifixion. Why keep the scars in his brand new forever-perfect resurrected body? Because they are your forever evidence of the transaction that is forever paid. The forever evidence - the forever seal of the sandal - are the scars of Christ.
“God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13b-14 NLT