(watch here: https://youtu.be/6JFzWyUeZD0)
1No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, ‘Come over, friend; sit down here.’ And he went over and sat down. 2Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here’; so they sat down. 3He then said to the next-of-kin, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. 4So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ So he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ 5Then Boaz said, ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’ 6At this, the next-of-kin said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’
7Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself’, he took off his sandal. 9Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.’ 11Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; 12and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
13So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ 16Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, 20Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, 21Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, 22Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
As we wrap up the book of Ruth, I’m reminded of the children’s story about a fairy and a shadow: A long, long time ago, before people and their cities filled the Earth, even before many things even had a name, there was a mysterious place that was guarded by the Fairy of the Lake. Fair and generous, each of her followers were ever willing to serve her. Now there was a time in which some evil beings threatened the lake and its surrounding forests, and the fairy’s followers joined her on a dangerous journey across rivers, swamps and deserts in search of the Crystal Stone, their only hope of being saved. The fairy warned them of the dangers and difficulties that lay ahead, of how hard it would be to endure the whole journey, but none of her followers were afraid. They all promised to accompany her to wherever it was needed, and that same day the fairy and her fifty most loyal followers set out on their journey.
As it turned out, the voyage was even harder and more terrible than the fairy had imagined and warned them about. They were met by terrifying beasts. They had to march day and night, were lost in deserts, often hungry and thirsty. Faced by such adversity, many followers lost heart and abandoned the quest. Finally, only one remained, and his name was Shadow. Shadow was by no means the bravest, he was not the best fighter, nor was he the most quick-witted or the most fun. However, what he did do was stay loyal to the fairy, right to the very end. Whenever the fairy asked Shadow why he had not done as the others had done and simply abandoned her, Shadow would always say, ‘I told you I would follow you in spite of all difficulties, and that is what I am doing. I am not going to turn my back on you just because the journey has been hard.’
Thanks to her loyal Shadow, the fairy finally managed to find the Crystal Stone. Unfortunately, there was a monster guarding the stone, and this monster was not about to give up the stone easily. At this, Shadow, in one final act of loyalty, offered himself in exchange for the stone. The monster accepted, and so Shadow spent the rest of his days in the monster’s service. The powerful magic of the Crystal Stone meant that the fairy could return to the lake and make the evil beings disappear. But every night she would cry at the absence of her loyal Shadow, because from Shadow’s act of self-sacrifice had arisen a love stronger than any other. And in memory of Shadow, and to show everyone the value of loyalty and commitment, the fairy presented every being on Earth with its own shadow during the day; but when nighttime comes all these shadows travel to the lake, to spend time with the sad fairy, and to try to console her for her loss.
A simple yet sad little story illustrating the unexpected consequences of loyalty. Shadow didn’t know his loyalty would condemn him to the monster’s service. Nor did Fairy expect Shadow to be the one, true follower who would remain with her in on her quest. Loyalty creates unexpecting situations and relationships which in turn create new and unexpected hopes and opportunities. Loyalty is born out of love, the greatest of all motivating and creative forces. For whatever reason, Shadow loved the fairy and his love inspired her to love him in return or at least share her love with the rest of the world. In grand mythological fashion, we are blessed with our own shadows because of the redirected love and loyalty of a fairy. Perhaps not the scientific origin of shadows but a cute story nevertheless.
And we need cute little stories like these to lift up the purpose and value of loyalty.
Indeed, we need stories like that of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz to lift up the purpose and value of loyalty. Believe it or not, there is a purpose and value to loyalty if only to create or reflect love. Loyalty reflects the love we have for someone or something. Loyalty also creates love where love is not found. And for these reasons God himself places a very high value on loyalty. God is love…God is revealed in love. God wants nothing more than our undivided love for him and to share his love with all those around us. This is his world, his creation, and He created out of love and for the purpose of creating more love. We are agents of his love, purveyors of his love, dwelling in his love only to be able to share it with others. We don’t deserve his love but are graciously given it so that we might share it with others.
As we heard in our reading for this morning, Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi is ultimately rewarded with being wedded to the wealthy landowner, Boaz. God rewards them even further with their son, Obed. Presumably Naomi also partook of the blessings as Ruth’s faithful mother-in-law. After all, she was already a part of Boaz’s family through her marriage with Elimelech so she had a degree of security. Ruth rewards Boaz’s loyalty and protection with a son. And not just any old son but a son who went on to be part of the lineage of Jesus as we heard in the closing verses. Over and over again, loyalty is rewarded in this story. Of course there is value to loyalty! God honors loyalty, God appreciates loyalty, God encourages loyalty! Why? Because He is loyal to us. God loves us! God has always loved us and will always loves us! God loves us even when we are unfaithful to him. Paul reminds us in his second letter to Timothy, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2:13) Faithfulness and loyalty are a reflection of love and because God is nothing but love He cannot act contrary to love.
The loyalty of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz is nothing but a reflection of God’s loyalty to us. It is representative of God’s steadfast faithfulness to us. God is our shadow, willing to follow us through all of life’s joys and challenges. Our God clings to us when all else have fallen away. David sang in his psalms, “for the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (33:4) and “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (91:4) Our God is a loyal God. Our God is a loving God! Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (8:28) Our God works faithfully and loyally to bring goodness to those who love him just as He brought goodness to Ruth and Naomi and Boaz. Remember, loyalty reflects love but it also creates love. If we but love him and stay loyal to him, then all our cares and worries will be taken up by him. God moves mountains for those who love him and are loyal to him. Just look at the possibilities He opened up for Naomi and Ruth and Boaz!
As we close out this series on this gem of a book, let us reflect on our loyalties. Are we loyal to our spouses? Are we loyal to our friends? Are we loyal to our parents or our children? Are we loyal to our bosses? Most importantly, are we loyal to our God? Let us use the loyalties of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz as standards for our own loyalties. Let us strengthen loyalties that are weak and build loyalties in relationships we struggle with. Be assured that God values and rewards loyalty. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.