“So Boaz Took Ruth”
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“So Boaz Took Ruth”

Ruth 4:1–13  (ID: 2263)

After Ruth approached Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer, this noble man hoped to marry her. He also wanted to fulfill his duties to his family. What did Boaz, a man of honor and position, do next? As Alistair Begg considers, Boaz demonstrated that he valued righteousness over emotion. While Naomi encouraged Ruth to wait patiently, Boaz took quick action to follow Jewish law and show public respect for the community.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ruth

God of the Ordinary Ruth 1:1–4:22 Series ID: 10801

Sermon Transcript: Print

I’d like to invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the Old Testament with me, to the book of Ruth. Chapter 4:1:

“Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, ‘Come over here, my friend, and sit down.’ So he went over and sat down.

“Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, ‘Sit here,’ and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, ‘Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.’

“‘I will redeem it,’ he said.

“Then Boaz said, ‘On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.’

“At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, ‘Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.’

“(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

“So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it yourself.’ And he removed his sandal.

“Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!’

“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. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’

“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.”

You should keep your Bibles open on your lap. Let’s pray:

Lord God, again we ask that, as we study the Bible together, that beyond the pages and the voice that we hear, we may meet you, the living God, that we might hear your voice, and that you will use your Word to convince and to convict, to correct, to reprove, to encourage, to accomplish the purposes that you have ordained for it. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we’re studying the only book in the Bible that is devoted to the domestic history of a woman. I don’t know if you’ve thought about that, but it is true—and interestingly, a woman who is actually a foreigner in Israel. I have had to resist, in my notes and in thinking about this evening, the temptation of rehearsing the whole story all over again, because it is a wonderful story. And those of us who have been studying it and thinking about it, I think, have found that, in much the same way as going back to a wonderful meal and going back to the leftovers, somehow or another, when it is a really good meal, the leftovers with a little bit of heat can taste as good or even better again. And as I’ve gone back and rehearsed this story, I’ve found that my heart has been kindled. I hope you have also. But I have to resist the temptation. I hope in our final study to read from a book that someone sent to me, which is a children’s version of Ruth, and it is the whole book of Ruth set to poetry. So I’m looking forward to doing that, and you may want to bring your children on that occasion. Actually, the reason I like it so much is, it’s written at my intelligence level, and I’ve benefited from it greatly.

But chapter 3, you will recall—those of you who have been present—ends with Ruth having met with Boaz in secrecy. All of chapter 3 has taken place, as it were, under the cover of darkness. She had then, as a result of the encounter, gone home to Naomi, and Naomi has urged her, there in 3:18, to “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens.” The word, colloquially, means “sit tight.” And Ruth comes home after all of the drama of that evening, as she has encountered Boaz on the threshing floor; she has come bearing the encouraging gifts that have been sent by the hand of Boaz, and the wisdom of Naomi says, “Now I just want you to sit tight.” With that wonderful female intuition, finely honed by time and by circumstance, Naomi is pretty sure that Boaz isn’t going to dillydally when it comes to the issue that has been raised. She reckons that he’s going to want to settle this matter very, very quickly. And so she says, “I think if you just hold on, things will fall out in a moment or two.”

The Gate, the Negotiation, and the Sandal

I summarized chapter 4 under three separate headings. I’ll give the first of these to you now. I wrote down first of all, “The Gate, the Negotiation, and the Sandal.” “The Gate, the Negotiation, and the Sandal.” Because that’s really what the first eight verses are all about. Naomi is right; Boaz has wasted no time in getting to the place he needs to get to in order to deal with this issue that has transpired on the previous evening. He has gone, we’re told in verse 1, “to the town gate.” And I tried in my mind’s eye to see him there, perhaps under the cover of the morning mist, hastening in order that he might get in position as early as he possibly could.

Ruth is the only book in the Bible that is devoted to the domestic history of a woman.

There would be people at that time in the morning: traders beginning to set up their stalls; beggars hoping for an ideal spot, so that they would be strategically placed when the little trickle of a crowd began to develop into a stream; and a great conglomeration of people making their way out of the town to head to their place of employment. The gate area, in a place like this and in this period, was spacious, and purposefully so. Because the towns and the cities—and some of you have visited in the Middle East—were built in a very compact fashion. Many times, the roads and the thoroughfares were actually in darkness because of the way that places were constructed, usually very narrow and cloistered away. And so there really was no place within the labyrinth of those streets and byways for people to congregate. And so the places where they gathered were at the gates, where often the architecture provided even places for them to sit so that they may conduct business. So, much like an Italian piazza, serving as both a marketplace and a civic center, there the law was administered and there business was conducted.

A good concordance, incidentally, will help you with this. You just simply need to look up “gate,” and then you can go and look all around the Bible at every time the town gate or the city gate is mentioned. And when you do, you will find, for example, the words of Job 2[9]: “When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside, and the old men rose to their feet.”[1] In Proverbs 31, as Solomon speaks of the wife whose nobility is a commendation to her husband, he says, “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”[2]

Now, until we understand that, we may say to ourselves, “What’s the big deal about going to a gate?” Well, it wasn’t that he was just going to a gate that was hanging on a fence in a garden somewhere, but he was going to the main, central place where the citizens would gather in order that commerce might be conducted, and in order, as I say, that the law might be administered.

So the writer of this story—and it is a wonderful story—has both of the characters sitting. At the end of chapter 3, Naomi has told Ruth, “I want you to sit tight.” And here, as chapter 4 opens, Boaz has gone to the town gate, and he’s sitting at the town gate. Now, it wouldn’t be true to say that he went there because he had an appointment; rather, he went there hoping for an appointment.

And the reason that he went there, because he was committed to doing the right thing. That’s the reason that he went to the town gate. You remember, in chapter 3 he had said to Ruth, when she said, “Spread your blanket over me,”[3] when she made this proposal of marriage to him, essentially, he said, “Well, you know, I’m so gratified by your kindness and all of the considerations of your heart, but I need to tell you”—and you’ll find this in the heart of chapter 3—“I need to tell you that there is another kinsman-redeemer who’s actually in line before me. So I really like the idea, but I have a problem, because I must do the right thing.”[4] And because he was determined to do the right thing, he goes to take his place in the city gate, in order that he might make contact with this individual and see just how he’s placed.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I found myself reading this and saying, “Oh, come on, Boaz. She loves you. You really like her. Don’t go fiddlin’ around at the gate! You never know what might happen. Marry her, for goodness’ sake!” But that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

If you determine in every decision that you make to make that the first question you ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ at least you’ve asked the right question at the right time.

Because the first question every day about everything is always the same question: What is the right thing to do? And if you determine in every decision that you make to make that the first question you ask, at least you’ve asked the right question at the right time. And because he is a man of such integrity, because he is concerned about the law of Israel, because he is concerned to live in purity before God, he is unable to simply allow himself to rush off on a great swell of emotion. Nor is he about to encourage this young girl to do the same. So he says to her, “We’re going to have to do the right thing.” Alas, how many marriages have been consummated without taking time to ask that question: What is the right thing to do? Just because you think he is the correct package, or he looks the right way on the outside, or you think she’s the real deal, or whatever it is, or you got a feeling in the pit of your stomach, or you had a great surge of emotion, or whatever it was, you must always ask, What is the right thing to do?

And when you’re getting the answer to the right thing to do, you’re going to get it by reading your Bible carefully. You’re gonna get it by listening to your mother and father. You’re gonna be getting it by paying attention to those who know you best and love you most. And then, ultimately, you will get it as a result of the Spirit of God bringing circumstance and guidance from Scripture and the counsel of godly friends, and that concurring with the feeling within your heart. But if the feeling in your heart takes you counter to all of those other issues, don’t do it. Don’t spend another moment even considering it.

So what we discover is that the circumstances of Boaz and Ruth were such that they were determined to act in concurrence with the laws of redemption, because of what it meant for them and also for what it implied in all of Israel. Now, don’t misunderstand me: that’s not to say that they were marrying each other, or they were moving towards marriage, propelled simply by external circumstances. It is clear that their hearts belonged to each other. But nevertheless, they were not about to be swept away by pure emotion.

So Boaz goes to do what he needs to do. And he puts himself in the best possible place to meet this other individual. This is the thoroughfare, this is where the people come, and if he happens to find him here, then he’s in an ideal spot, because this is where the elders of the city deliberate over issues like this. And if he can meet him at this exact place, then he can perhaps get enough of those fellows together, and he can conduct business right there and then and proceed with his day. And that’s exactly what happens. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, he’s sitting there looking, and he can’t believe his eyes. “Here comes Mr. So-and-So,” he says.

You remember this back in chapter 2? Ruth says to Naomi, she says, “I would like to go out and see if I can find favor in the eyes of somebody, and go and glean behind the reapers in somebody’s field.” And you remember back in chapter 2, and it says, “And as it happened…”[5] “As it happened,” amongst all the fields and all the possibilities, in whose field does she find herself? In the field of Boaz! “As it happened.” And here, “as it happened,” he came down the road. An apparently inconsequential moment, being guided by the providential choice of God putting together the decisions of life. Wonderful!

Incidentally, I read as my own extra credit homework Genesis chapter [24] and the wonderful story of the way in which Rebekah is chosen as a wife for Isaac. If you haven’t read that story in a while and you have time before you go to sleep, read Genesis chapter 24. There will be extra credit for it. I don’t know who gives out the credit, but anyway, there will be.

So Boaz summons the individual. Actually, the King James Version is wonderful. The way it reads in the King James Version is this: “Ho, such a[n] one! turn aside, sit down here.”[6] So, you’re just walking along Chagrin Boulevard, and someone says, “Ho, such a[n] one! turn aside, sit down here.” But that’s what he says! And the remarkable thing is not only that he said that but that the fellow sat down: “And he turned aside, and [he] sat down.”[7] “‘Come over here, my friend, and sit down.’ So he went over and sat down. [And then] Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and [he] said, ‘Sit here,’ and they did so.”

This guy’s a pretty powerful guy. “Excuse me, sir. Sit down.”


“And hey, the ten of you, over here. Sit down.”

“Okay, fine. We’ll be right there. Not a problem.”

An indication, incidentally, probably, of the significance of Boaz in terms of his position in the culture, but also in terms of the quality of his character. If he’d been a scurrilous rascal, people would have said, “You know what? You go sit down somewhere, Boaz. We don’t have time for you or your kind.” But he’s able to say, “Excuse me. Could you sit for a moment?”


“And you fellows, could you help us? There’s a matter here we need to discuss.” And immediately, they’re right there.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that this strategic character has no name in the record. Clearly, Boaz knew his name. And yet he doesn’t give him a name. And there’s no name here. In fact, he refers to him as Mr. So-and-So, or in Cockney terms, what’s’name? ’Ey, what’s’name? Which is “What’s his name?” Or “’Ow’s your features?” “Hey, come here, mate. Sit down here. Here, what’s’name. Sit down.”

Why they don’t give his name? I can only think of two reasons. One, the writer doesn’t give a name because he doesn’t want the embarrassment to follow to his heirs when they realize that this man who had an opportunity to enter into the circumstances of these people decided not to do it. Or perhaps that there is a sense of judgment in it, in that this man deciding that he wants to preserve his name, and as a result of his desire to preserve his name, to preserve his inheritance, and to preserve his family, he’s unprepared to do anything for Ruth, and so the writer says, “Well, you were so concerned to preserve your name, I’m not even going to give you your name.” And so the biblical record doesn’t have his name. He’s just Mr. So-and-So. Just a little reminder in passing for those of us who are trying to make a name for ourselves: Forget it. Let someone else make a name for you. Let someone else praise you. Don’t you worry about your name.

Now, the negotiations which follow are there. You can see them. They’re straightforward. Ten of the elders acting as witnesses; it was a standard practice. And I could spend a long time now complicating this issue. I don’t want to do that. I want to run the risk of simplifying it to the point where you said, “I’m going to have to go and get a commentary. I’m sure it’s much more interesting than the way in which he described it.”

Just a little reminder for those of us who are trying to make a name for ourselves: Forget it. Let someone else make a name for you. Let someone else praise you. Don’t you worry about your name.

But I’ve told you before that the law made provision for the widow who was childless. It was her late husband’s brother’s duty to marry her as a widow. The law also provided for the care of an individual who was forced, as a result of widowhood, to sell the property which had fallen to her as a result of marriage. And the next of kin of the original owner had first dibs at buying that property. And the object in both instances was the preservation of the family and the family name, as you see in verse 5 and again in verse 10. So the marriage responsibility was seen as a duty, and the process of the purchase of the property was to be regarded as an opportunity. Now, we may want to think of them the other way around, but that’s the way in which it is presented.

Marriage: “You’re going to have to marry.”

“Uh huh.”

“It’s your duty.”


“But guess what? You get to have this big field. It’s your opportunity.”


Now, that’s why T. S. Mooney, the little Irishman, when I asked him at the age of seventy-eight why he had never married, he said he would rather go through life wanting what he didn’t have than having what he didn’t want. Because he recognized the peculiar duty that was involved in marriage. And so it is that here Boaz confronts this individual in that way. The property that was held by Naomi went, both in equity and in law, with the hand of Ruth. It was a package deal; you couldn’t get the one without the other.

And so Boaz, very properly—and yet, I think you will agree, very skillfully—sets before this kinsman-redeemer first of all the privilege that is represented in the redemption of the land. That’s where he starts; isn’t it interesting? “Naomi, who has come back from Moab”—verse 3— “is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring it to your attention, so that you might have the opportunity of redeeming it.” And as you’re reading this story for the first time, you’re reading it, and of course you’re already on the side of Boaz, I hope. You’re saying, “Come on, Boaz,” you know, “you gotta get this girl.” And you’re reading along, and he says, “And go ahead,” and you’re saying to yourself, “He’s not gonna redeem it, he can’t possibly redeem it,” and all of a sudden, in verse 4, you hear the man saying, “I will redeem it.”

“Oh no, no! Boaz, I told you not to do that. I said don’t do that. I said just go ahead and marry her. Don’t do this, Boaz.”

Boaz says, “Wait a minute, I’m not finished yet. Hear me out; I’m not done with the deal.” So he says to the guy, “Now, listen, before we start chucking sandals around here—before we start swapping sandals and whatnot—there’s just another part of this story that I need to mention to you. Because on the day you buy the land from Naomi, and Ruth the Moabitess”—whom he hasn’t mentioned to this point—“you acquire the dead man’s widow.”

“Oh,” the guy says, “wait a minute. No, no, no. I’m in for the land, but I’m not in for the widow. And if the land and the widow go together, if it’s a package deal, then I’m out.”

And Boaz says, “Well, I guess you’re out.”

And the reason that he was out, you see, is “because I might endanger my own estate.” You see, in the first instance, if he just was buying the land—if he was redeeming the land—then it gave him the opportunity of an accruing asset. The only thing that could be a detriment to that would be if Naomi somehow or another were to marry and have an heir, because then the heir would fall heir to the land, and so it would be of no advantage to him. There was no possibility of that, but now when he hears about Ruth the Moabitess, then he realizes, “Wait a minute. If I do this, I will not only be out for the purchase price of the land, I also get a wife that I’m not particularly interested in having. And furthermore, when all is said and done, this will dilute my own empire and will create the possibility that what I’m holding in trust for my own children will be diminished as a result of me entering into this legal transaction.” And so he says, “Quite honestly, you just go ahead and redeem it yourself”—verse 6—“I cannot do it.”

And then the kinsman-redeemer, in verse 8, “removed his sandal.” A symbolic gesture. We’re given a little aside there: “In earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it the other.” That’s kinda nice, isn’t it? You know, maybe have your Social Security number on the bottom of your sandal, something like that. But the transaction was sealed in a legal way. There’s purpose in that, isn’t there? In order that not only would they hear with their ears the commitment that was made by both parties, but also that they would even see the transaction unfolding before them. So that in that kind of community, they would be able to say, “Aha, no, no, no, no. I remember very clearly. No, no, no. It was Mr. So-and-So who took his sandal off and gave it to Boaz. It wasn’t Boaz that gave his sandal to Mr. So-and-So. And I remember hearing what he said. He said, ‘If that’s the case, I will not redeem it. You go ahead and buy it yourself.’”

And all the way through the Bible, actually, we have these wonderful symbols to reinforce things. We have it when we come around the Lord’s Table, do we not? As we’re nourished by bread and sustained by drink, so we’re nourished in the gathering around the Lord’s Table. In baptism, we have a graphic reminder: “Here and now, I rescind my rights to myself, and I follow Christ.” We can say it, but we depict it.

In marriage, the same is true. We could simply say things, but we don’t simply say things. We say, “And I now declare you husband and wife, on the basis of the fact of the giving and receiving of a ring, and by the joining of your hands. For as much as X and Y have declared the same before this congregation and have witnessed to that fact by the giving and receiving of a ring and by the joining of their hands, I now declare them husband and wife.” So you have in this simple gesture a demonstration by Boaz of his commitment, of his love, and of his personal sacrifice.

The Announcement, the Confirmation, and the Prayers

Now, I have just a few minutes. I’m going to go into my second point. I won’t go all the way through it, for your encouragement. For some of you, especially the youngsters here, you’re going, “Oh dear. Please don’t go to the second point.” But I promise you, I won’t go very far. The second heading read, “The Announcement, the Confirmation, and the Prayers.” “The Announcement, the Confirmation, and the Prayers.” First heading… I’ve forgotten myself. I don’t imagine you have remembered it at all. Oh, yes: “The Gate, the Negotiation, and the Sandal.” (You’ll find that in years to come; some of you’ll say, “What in the wide world was that about? I haven’t a clue.” And then you’ll say, “I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now.”)

But anyway, the second heading: “The Announcement, the Confirmation, and the Prayers.” “Then,” in verse 9, “Boaz announced…” He announced. And in verses 9–10, you have the final words of Boaz in the story of Ruth. After this, he says nothing. This is his final statement. The bystanders at the town gate had clearly given their attention to this little drama. It had unfolded before ’em in the morning hour. Some of them were a little late for their work. People said, “Where were you this morning?”

He said, “Oh, you won’t believe what happened. Mr. So-and-So gave his sandal to Boaz. And it was unbelievable. Apparently, he’s marrying Ruth the Moabitess.”

“Oh, wow, I wish I’d been there. I’m sorry I missed that. Well, get on with your work now.”

“Yes, he was very clear. His words were solemn, they were precise, they were strikingly detailed. He stood up, and he made it absolutely clear about the property—it belonged to Elimelech, to Kilion and Mahlon, the sons. The transaction was clear. He assumed both the privilege and the duty. And he made very, very clear the identity of the girl that he’s marrying. Her name is Ruth the Moabitess. And frankly, between you and me,” someone may have observed, “he paid dearly for her.” But, of course, he was happy to pay dearly for her, because “a wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. … Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”[8]

Clearly, there were personal benefits to be enjoyed by both of them. But notice how Boaz explains his purpose in marrying Ruth. Verse 10: “In order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records.”

“I hear you’re getting married, Boaz.”

“Oh, yeah, I am.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, I don’t want the name of Elimelech to disappear from the town records.”

“Pardon? That’s why you’re getting married?”

“No, that’s not the only reason I’m getting married, but that’s one of the reasons I’m getting married.”

“It is? That seems like a very selfless reason to get married, Boaz.”

“Well, I suppose you could say it is.”

“I mean, most people that get married, Boaz, are only getting married because they’re just so consumed with the possibility of getting what they can get from this individual upon whom they’ve set their affections. And here you are, standing in the public square, saying that the reason that you’re marrying this lovely girl from Moab is so that the name of Elimelech will not disappear from the family records. That’s amazing to me, Boaz! That’s striking. That’s unusual. That’s different. That makes me think, Boaz, that there might be something even more significant to this marriage than you yourself know.”

And the person says… they don’t even realize what they’re saying! For the baby Obed is the grandfather of David. And Ruth is the great-grandmother of David. And how does it happen that this marriage takes place? Because of a surge of emotion? Because of Boaz’s glands? No! Because Boaz determined to do the right thing: “Seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [will] be added unto you.”[9] But reverse it, and you’re on your own. God says, “You take care of my things, and I’ll take care of your things.”

So Boaz says, “‘And this is why I’ve done what I’ve done. Today you are witnesses!’ And the elders and all those at the city gates…” As in Fiddler on the Roof, you know, when they say, “Do you have a blessing for the czar?” And remember, the little rabbi says, “Yes. May the czar live as far away from us as he possibly can.” And they all say, “Amen, amen. May the czar live as far from us as he possibly can.”[10] Well, that’s exactly what’s happening here. “Today you are witnesses!” And then the group said, “Witnesses!” If he’d been concerned only for himself and his own desires, he could have snatched Ruth off as his wife, and they could have run off and had their honeymoon without all of this nonsense out in the town square.

So he’s a different kind of guy, isn’t he? He’s the kind of man you should be looking for, girls. Don’t be looking for some guy that knows how to fiddle the books and get the best out of his expense account. Don’t be looking for the guy who can go from nothing to zero in terms of his passions in a moment, in the flush of enthusiasm, but when it comes to the issues of integrity—the way in which he deals with people, the way in which he responds to his parents, the way in which he sets up his business, and so on, all of these things—these are the most significant things. Because these are the things that will make and break your marriage together. The other stuff is a sideline. A happy sideline, but a sideline. We’re not creatures; we’re human beings. And if ever we had any doubts about the nature of marriage as it’s laid out in Scripture, we could go just to the book of Ruth, and I think we would have enough.

Leaving, Cleaving, and Interweaving

And I’ll say a couple of comments in closing. When marriage is laid out for us in the Bible, it is not laid out in the way in which most of us think of it. It’s not in the Bible as a private alliance between two people that can be made or unmade as they wish by their own private choice. The presence of witnesses in relationship to this, and in relationship to marriage, is not just some happy but irrelevant gesture. It is a vital part. It is a constituent part of what is taking place in a marriage. Because a marriage is a social, civic ceremony as well. That is why you should not elope—even if your father offers you money to do it. That is why, for the same reason, you should not be baptized in a bathtub either, up in somebody’s second-floor bathroom. Because the whole point of the symbolism in the ceremony is that it is public. And in the same way, marriage takes place like that.

Young people, resist every temptation without you and within you to reverse the order of God’s plan. First you leave, then you cleave, then you interweave.

Genesis 2: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh.”[11] So you have leaving, cleaving, and interweaving. And as marriages crumble around us, and as confusion reigns in the minds of many, it’s absolutely crucial that at every point through the structure of our church here, we’re making absolutely clear what the Bible says concerning the nature of marriage. And it is to this that we will come back on the next occasion.

I’ll finish my comment on marriage, and then I have one final comment, by giving you a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In one of his books he says,

Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance. … In your love you see only the heaven of your … happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is [something] more than … personal—it is a status, [it is] an office … that joins you together in the sight of God and [in the sight of] man.[12]

Young people, resist every temptation without you and within you to reverse the order of God’s plan. First you leave, then you cleave, then you interweave. Interweave is my word—well, not my word; it’s in the dictionary, but it doesn’t say that word there. But everything in you as a teenager says, “Let’s go interweave right now.” And if you’re only concerned to go with your glands, then you’ll reverse everything. And you’ll find that you have dreadful difficulty reversing back out of everything. And then the whole idea of leaving and cleaving, in a public dimension, is actually a tawdry and sorry-looking piece of merchandise. Take the advice of an older man, won’t you? No matter what anybody says.

It cost Boaz to do what he did. And he is, in that, a wonderful picture to us of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a kinsman. He had to be related to do what he did, and Jesus became like us in order that he might be the priest for our sins, a faithful High Priest. Boaz shared his bed with a penniless alien, making her his bride, and Jesus by redeeming us has made us his bride. And we the penniless aliens are the beneficiaries of the fact that he did the right thing. John said to him, “No, really, you should baptize me, not me baptize you.” And Jesus said, “No. Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.”[13] Which means what? “Thus it is fitting to do the right thing.” And Christ did the right thing. And Boaz provided for this young Moabitess a future and a hope. And the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer, has provided for us also a future and a hope, so that we look forward to the day when we will stand in glory and we will see his face. And then we will praise his name forever in that holy place.

[1] Job 29:7–8 (NIV 1984).

[2] Proverbs 31:23 (NIV 1984).

[3] Ruth 3:9 (paraphrased).

[4] Ruth 3:10–13 (paraphrased).

[5] Ruth 2:2–3 (paraphrased).

[6] Ruth 4:1 (KJV).

[7] Ruth 4:1 (KJV).

[8] Proverbs 31:10, 23 (NIV 1984).

[9] Matthew 6:33 (KJV).

[10] Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Norman Jewison, written by Joseph Stein (Beverly Hills, CA: United Artists, 1971). Paraphrased.

[11] Genesis 2:24 (paraphrased).

[12] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,” May 1943, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, new ed. (1953; repr. and abridged, Norfolk, UK: SCM, 2017), 7.

[13] Matthew 3:14–15 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.