A Child is Born

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Ruth 4:11-122

INTRODUCTION: Today we finish up our advent series on Ruth. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have, as we have looked deep into the Old Testament story of Ruth and found the reflection of the Christmas story staring back up at us.

By way of review, in week one we saw that Ruth is the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world. And of course that is also a description of Mary in the Christmas story. And then in week two we looked at Boaz, and we saw how Ruth is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. That is also a description of Joseph in the Christmas story. Then in week three we saw that Ruth is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself. That is also a description of Jesus in the Christmas story. And now today as we finish the book of Ruth we will see that it is also the story of a child in the line of Judah who was born as a redeemer in fulfillment of the prophecies leading up to Messiah. And that is most definitely a description of Jesus in the Christmas story as well.

Once again we will walk our way through a large section of Ruth this morning, but let’s begin by reading Ruth 4:13. (Read and pray: “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.”)

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In Ruth chapter one Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, left Bethlehem and moved to Moab with her husband and two sons. Her husband and both her sons died, and ten years later she returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. When the townspeople recognized her they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21)

And so the book of Ruth began with the emptying of Naomi, but through the remaining chapters we have seen the Lord slowly restoring Naomi. First, her daughter-in-law Ruth came back to Bethlehem with her. Next the Lord worked various circumstances to bring Ruth and Boaz together. Boaz was a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, which made him a kinsman-redeemer, one who could marry into the family and carry on the family line. Ruth and Boaz fell in love, and when we left the story last week Boaz had just cleared the final legal hurdle that stood in the way of him marrying Ruth and redeeming Naomi’s family.

But there is still one thing missing. The story will not be complete unless Ruth bears Boaz a son to carry on the family name. And so the big question remains. Will Ruth have a son? Can she even bear children? Remember, she was married before, for nearly ten years, and she never had any children then. What if she is barren?

There have been a number of surprises in the story along the way, but the writer has left the biggest surprise of all to the end. But we have to work through a few more things to get there.

I. Born in the line of Judah (Ruth 4:11-12; Genesis 49:10)

So let’s pick up the story in verse 11. Boaz has declared himself the legal redeemer of Naomi’s family, and now the elders and those at the town gate all respond as witnesses. And we see two things in their response: There is the prayer for a blessed future, and the reminder of a scandalous past.

   A. A blessed future (11)

First, let’s take a look at the blessed future they pray for Boaz and Ruth. Look at verse 11:

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.” (Ruth 4:11)

The people pray for two things here. First, they pray that the Lord would make Ruth like Rachel and Leah. This is a prayer for great fruitfulness in marriage. Rachel and Leah were Jacob’s wives who, along with their handmaidens, gave birth to the twelve tribes of Israel. Together they built up the house of Israel. Now the townspeople pray that Ruth would do the same all by herself. Secondly they pray that Boaz will have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Ephrathah is just another word for Bethlehem, and so they are praying that Boaz’s name will always be known in this town.

God answered these prayers in ways far beyond what the people could ever have imagined. Ruth would indeed give birth to a child, and one of that child’s descendents would form a new Israel, a new people of God drawing from every tribe, language nation and people in the world. And Boaz would not only be famous in Bethlehem. He would be famous the world over. He would even be talked about right here in Plantation, Florida during advent season at Plantation Community Church! Now who could have foreseen that? And so the people prayed for a blessed future for Boaz and Ruth.

   B. A scandalous past (12)

However, their words also brought back reminders of a scandalous past. Look at verse 12:

Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (Ruth 4:12)

This is also a prayer for fruitfulness, as Judah’s son Perez became a great and numerous people. But with the mention of Tamar there is also the reminder of scandal.

We read about Tamar’s story in Genesis 38. She married one of Judah’s sons but her husband died before she had any children. Hmm, that’s exactly what happened to Ruth, isn’t it? Judah had two other sons who could have acted as kinsman-redeemers for her, but the first refused, and Judah prevented the other son. So Tamar took matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant by Judah her father-in-law. She then gave birth to twin boys, the most famous of which became Perez. And so there is scandal in the line of Judah.

And yet there is also great promise in the line of Judah, because one of the early prophecies in Scripture predicted that the Messiah would come through the line of Judah. Genesis 49:10: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Genesis 49:10)

Boaz is in the line of Judah, descended from Tamar and Perez, and so his child will be a child of promise. He will be a child with a blessed future but also with a scandalous past. So that’s the first thing we learn about the son born to Ruth and Boaz. He was born in the line of Judah.

II. Born as a redeemer (Ruth 4:13-17)

Secondly, we learn that he was born as a redeemer.

   A. A miraculous conception (13)

Look at verse 13:

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (Ruth 4:13)

We are not specifically told that Ruth was barren, but we do know she was unable to bear children before, and now we learn that the Lord was involved in a special way in the birth of this child. “The Lord enabled her to conceive,” and so just as in the Christmas story we have a miraculous conception in the book of Ruth.

Notice the difference in the Christmas story, though, when you put Ruth 4 and Matthew 1 side by side:

Ruth 4:13: So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

Matthew 1:24-25: When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.

The two passages are similar in wording, but there is one big difference. Boaz went to Ruth, and then the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. But Joseph had no union with Mary until after she gave birth to a son. The Lord enabled Ruth to conceive with Boaz. But the Lord enabled Mary to conceive as a virgin without any help from a husband. Now that is truly a miraculous conception!

   B. A child-redeemer (14-15)

Not only was there a miraculous conception, but this child born to Ruth and Boaz was born as a child-redeemer. Look at verses 14-15;

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

Even though Boaz had already fulfilled the role as kinsman-redeemer for the family, notice how this child is also considered a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi. It is this child who will renew her life and sustain her in her old age. Also notice their prayer for the child. The elders had prayed that Boaz would become famous in Bethlehem. Now the women pray that this newborn baby will become famous throughout all of Israel! And look at how Ruth is praised in the highest terms. She is described as the one who loves Naomi and is better to her than seven sons. The expectations are set sky high for this child born in the line of Judah, born as a child-redeemer.

   C. A son for Naomi (16-17)

And then in verses 16-17 we have what are probably the most touching verses in the whole book.

Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:16-17)

Naomi has a son. Naomi who returned to Bethlehem empty is now fulfilled as she cradles baby Obed on her lap and takes care of him. She is no longer Mara, which means “bitter.” God has made her Naomi again, which means “pleasant.”

Naomi has a son, born in the line of Judah, born as a child-redeemer. But did you notice the last sentence in verse 17? “Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” It slips out so quietly, so casually, you barely even notice it at first. But this is the big surprise. This is the big reveal. This is the reason why this story is told in the first place. Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth, is none other than the grandfather of King David.

III. The birth of a king (Ruth 4:18-22)

And so Ruth is not only a story about a child who was born as a redeemer in the line of Judah. It is also a story about the birth of a king.

   A. The genealogy of David (18-22)

And just in case you miss it in verse 17, the story ends with the extended genealogy of David in verses 18-22, starting with none other than Perez, son of Judah:

This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4:18-22)

Isn’t it interesting that the book of Ruth, which began “In the days of the judges when there was no king,” ends with the birth of David, the first true king of Israel. That’s ‘the rest of the story’ that Boaz and Ruth never knew in their lifetime, but the writer of Ruth knew and passed on to us.

   B. The genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17)

But it gets even better, because there’s an even bigger ‘rest of the story’ that not even the writer of Ruth knew at the time. And that’s because the genealogy of Boaz and David is also the genealogy of Christ. Even if you’ve never read the book of Ruth before, that genealogy might have looked familiar to you. That’s because it is part of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. Look at Matthew 1:3-6:

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:3-6)

And there you have it in the genealogy of Christ – the good, the bad and the ugly. Jesus is the child born in the line of Judah with a blessed future and a scandalous past. He came to die for our sins, and so he was not ashamed to identify with sinful humanity. He is the child with a miraculous conception who was born as a redeemer for all who would believe in him. He is the Son of David. He is the true King of Israel. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

   C. Jesus is born – our Messiah, Redeemer and King!

And so the book of Ruth really is a Christmas story. It is the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world. It is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. It is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself. And it is the story of a child in the line of Judah who was born as a redeemer in fulfillment of the prophecies leading up to Messiah.

Ruth and Boaz didn’t know it, but they were part of a story much bigger than themselves. God was working quietly behind the scenes preparing the way for Jesus to be born at Christmas. You and I are also part of a story much bigger than ourselves. We too are part of the Christmas story because Jesus came to be our Savior. So remember that: when you say a kind word to the person at the checkout counter, when you post a Scripture verse on Facebook, when you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, family and friends, you never know what God is doing in the background.

As the angel told the shepherds that first Christmas Eve: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11-12) That is the story of Ruth. And that is the story of Christmas. Jesus is born! He is our Messiah, Redeemer and King!

© Ray Fowler

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