He will tell thee what thou shall do.
All Israel were to preserve their family heritage from the days of Joshua to the coming of Christ, hence the return of alienated property in the year of Jubilee. And because continuity of possession required that the original owner have heirs, hence too the law that if a man died leaving a widow and no sons, a near relative must take her and preserve the line. Naomi’s case was even worse than that. Widowed, she was now also too old to bear children. How could her late husband’s inheritance be restored? Her daughter-in-law was willing, but an alien. Only the aged Boaz was near enough of kin to help. Would he redeem a foreigner? For Ruth’s need was not to be met merely by the purchase of her lands. She must be wed. She must offer herself to Boaz.
Without the offering up of ourselves to God, redemption is a sterile, empty thing. Boaz commended Ruth, and rightly for turning aside from the attractions of younger men so as to fulfill God’s law, and a glance at her posterity shows how greatly she was in fact rewarded. Consecration to God pays rich dividends.
The apostle Paul continues the message of Christ that we aren’t connected to God through the law or acts of ritual but rather through relationship. In Romans he describes the transaction this way:
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.
Jesus Himself said this:
“I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you [My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed placed purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.”
John 15: 15-16
John in his first letter writes these words:
“See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory].”
1 John 3:1-2
Each of these passages speak specifically to the fact that our connection with God goes far beyond redemption of possessions or outpouring of blessing. As in the case of Ruth, we are foreigners and therefore have no legal rights of the inheritance of children. Therefore we cannot just enter into a covenant with God whereby we fulfill certain requirements in order to gain access to the benefits and blessings of God. Nothing we could do could merit us lasting inheritance. Ruth would have been permitted to continue gleaning in the fields of Boaz as long as she had strength to do so but to gain her inheritance, she needed something more than her willingness to work. To gain inheritance would require her to not just give service but self. Here is the condition for every believer. We must come to the place where we become aware that even were we to offer great service, good works, and dedicated effort, we would still not qualify for the inheritance.
Enter Christ who opened access for those who come to the Father through Him. The 15th chapter of John describes how we may become heirs. It is not that we choose Jesus but that He chooses us. In Ruth’s case, while she could lay herself at the feet of Boaz, she had no power to choose. Even though she willingly offered herself, Boaz was the one empowered to choose. He must not only make the choice but he must also redeem her and the inheritance and satisfy any liens placed upon her and her possessions. In the same manner we may offer ourself to Christ but we have no power to consummate the covenant. We, too, must be chosen by Christ and He must redeem us and satisfy the debts of sin we have incurred. And praise God He has!
Paul carried this thought forward by saying that we have not only been chosen but adopted. Adoption speaks of binding. Adopted children aren’t given just the supply of their need but they are also given the family name and become the legal heirs. Adoption is no temporary arrangement but a permanent relationship. The adoptee isn’t just one who lives in the house, eats the food, wears the clothes provided but has full family rights and relationships. For this reason Jesus told Nicodemus that one “must be born again.” Born into the family of God. Not a hireling nor a mere servant but a child and heir. Paul boldly declares that ours is one of relationship- heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. It would be foolish of us indeed to think we could somehow earn or deserve such privilege. What could you and I do in comparison to Christ that would be sufficient to earn us even the least position of a servant in heaven were that even possible? No, a thousand times no, as the prodigal son discovered. He wasn’t received back home because he somehow deserved to be. Instead his welcome had nothing to do with him other than the fact that he was a son loved by his father. The same is true for you and I.
Finally John in his little letter says that it’s not going to be someday in the future that we will somehow become the children of God. Instead he says that because of the incredible love of God- not merit- now- not in the future- we are the children of God.
Why is this important? Because it isn’t enough just to be given the privilege to glean the fields for our daily supply. We need more. We need to be family, heirs, so that not only now but in eternity we will be satisfied and all will be restored to us. We need the power of a name and we have been given one. None of that comes any other way than through relationship by adoption.
Many people talk much about the wonders of heaven. To them it’s the place of blessing. They quote from Revelation the promise that in eternity there will be no sorrow, sickness, death, suffering, or lack. In that place there will be no evil, fear, or night. We will gather with loved ones who have died in Christ and our tears will be wiped away. We will live in mansions of splendor, walk on streets of gold and share in the marriage supper of the Lamb. But all of this is the gleanings of the field. These are the fringe benefits, not the main course. If we just focus on these things, as great as they may be, we are like the diner who only sits for the appetizer and misses the entree. The story of Ruth tells us there is more than gleaning fields or laying at the feet of the Master. The main course is the recognition of family. The father told the elder brother that because he was a son, all the father’s possessions were his.
God is more interested in our relationship with Him than He is in our work or service.
Today it’s time to move from the field into the house putting on the mantle of inheritance rather that of servant. One might ask that if this is the case does that mean that we cease to labor? Do you think that Ruth’s work ceased and all she had to do was to live with Boaz? I think not. What I do think is that her motive for work shifted. No longer did she have to work to make provision for herself. Instead, now because Boaz was meeting her every need, she turned her attention to the work that brought pleasure to Boaz, that expressed her love for him. Those who are the adopted children of God don’t cease from labor and sit idle. Liberated from the bondage of being servants trying to earn the favor of their master, they, now as beloved children, work because their love for the Lord, motivates them to please Him.
When we get to heaven, all our earthly work will cease. There will be no need for sermons, witnessing, serving the poor, feeding the hungry, or giving a lift to those who have fallen. And I think that if heaven is just about its benefits, it won’t be long before they become stale. Moving into a new home is exciting but eventually it becomes taken for granted. It will be incredibly refreshing to wake up each day with no challenges or adversity, but after a while that will become the norm. The initial family reunion will be indescribable but I think after a while, we’ll get used to being together again. But one thing I am sure about: true love and true relationship never plumb their depth and with each passing moment reach increasing passion. Some of us have and are experiencing that here on earth in a small way- hence the departure of loved ones is incredibly painful. But God’s love for us has no boundaries and no limits and as we return that love, we will discover neither will ours for Him.
The legacy of Ruth and Boaz isn’t about things but about two people, foreigners to each other, who met and fell in love and left an incredible legacy to their heirs. Ruth was the ancestor of King David and Christ Jesus, the King of kings. I think her story reminds us that God is more interested in our hearts than He is our hands.
Dr. John Thompson