A Greater Obed

Ruth 4:13-17 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He 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 given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Welcome to Grace Church. More importantly, welcome to Easter/Resurrection Sunday! Each of us may have come here for different reasons, but one thing we all have in common is this: This morning we have all been given a remarkable gift of God. By the very nature of our being here we have been given a chance that many have never had; the chance to hear and celebrate to the climax of the greatest story ever told.

The general purpose of our church and the specific point of this morning is to declare and call everyone to respond to the good news that Jesus Christ died in our place and then rose from the dead. We’ve already heard, read, and sung about that glory. And now, from Ruth 4:13-17, we’ll have another chance to encounter and embrace to that great news.

In this passage the townspeople praised God for the birth of Obed, Boaz and Ruth’s son. They collectively rejoiced in the fact that he was a type of redeemer, they collectively prayed that he would be of great renown, and they collectively declared that he would be a restorer and a nourisher. Little did they know that from him would come King David and from King David would come King Jesus-the Great Redeemer, Restorer, and Nourisher of greatest renown. Let’s pray, then, that God would awaken us to celebrate all that He offers to us in Christ, the greater Obed.

If you’re just joining us we’ve been working our way through the OT book of Ruth for the past while. It is the story of the winding road of glory for two women (mother and daughter-in-law) who both tragically lost their husbands. The mother-in-law, Naomi, was a Jew from Bethlehem. The daughter-in-law, Ruth, was a Moabite. After many years in Moab (while there was a famine in Israel) the two women made their way back to Israel in the hopes of finding help in their time of need.

The women made it safely back to Bethlehem; Ruth full of hope in light of her recent conversion (to Yahweh from the pagan gods of Moab) and Naomi full of bitterness in light of her interpretation of God’s hand in her hardship.

Under the kind providence of God, almost immediately after returning to Bethlehem, a godly man named Boaz took the women under his wing. He provided the women with food and protection. Eventually he promised to redeem Naomi’s family land and marry Ruth in order to carry on the family line of Elimelech (Naomi’s husband). In order to keep his promise, however, he needed to convince another man, a closer relative, not to purchase the land and marry the woman. By God’s grace he was able to do so.

Thus, with the legal hurdles taken care of, and with the blessing of the town’s elders, we come to 4:13. In that passage we find that “Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.” What we’d continued to hope for, but not quite allow ourselves to expect, finally came to pass. Boaz married Ruth and as a result she and Naomi were once again in a place of safety, provision, and care.

But there’s more. God not only granted that the two be married, he also blessed them with a child, “And he [Boaz] went in to her [Ruth], and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.” This is particularly important in that Ruth had been married to Mahlon for over 10 years and was unable to conceive. In an impressively understated way, the author draws his readers’ attention to the miraculous providence of God. It’s subtle statements like these (“and the LORD gave her conception”) that make clear who the story is really about. It is the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz for sure. More than that, however, it is the story of God working quietly through a humble people in a humble city to accomplish his good and perfect and everlasting purposes. Ruth is the story of the winding path of God’s glory working itself out in this one slice of history.

As if to confirm this understanding of the marriage and fruitfulness of Boaz and Ruth (that it was a sweet gift of God, as a part of God’s much larger plan), the town’s women “said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He 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 given birth to him.'”

In this passage Naomi is presented as the chief beneficiary. But again, the divine origin of Naomi’s blessings (even though they physically came through Boaz, Ruth, and their child) is not to be missed. God is to be praised even though his kindness came through others.

Boaz and Ruth acted righteously and insodoing provided Naomi with a grandchild – Blessed be the LORD.

The child of Boaz and Ruth is said (in an interesting twist) to be Naomi’s redeemer – Blessed be the LORD.

The hope of the townspeople is that Naomi’s grandson would have his name renowned in all Israel – Blessed be the LORD.

Boaz and Ruth’s son, it is hoped, would be the restorer of Naomi’s life – Blessed be the LORD.

Naomi had a chance to find nourishment in her old age from her grandson – Blessed be the LORD.

Naomi had lost two sons, but Ruth’s love for her was better than seven sons – Blessed be the LORD.

Naomi was able to know the sweetness of providing daily love and care for her grandson (almost as if he were her own—as if her sons had been returned to her); another gift from Boaz and Ruth – Blessed be the LORD

Through simple acts of faithfulness, Boaz and Ruth (and hopefully, eventually their child) were the means of immeasurable blessings of God for Naomi. The women of the town recognized this fact and so they blessed God for his kindness.

Finally, then, we find out the child’s name through the women of Bethlehem, Obed.

What a sweet, sweet scene. What a remarkable twist in a story that started off in remarkable tragedy. What a turn of pleasantness in a story that began in such bitterness. What a straight and beautiful path of glory that initially seemed to be nothing but windy and treacherous. And if the story had ended there, it would have been a remarkable story indeed.

But the story didn’t end there. As the last line of this passage informs us, the story continued to even greater heights of blessing. Obed “was the father of Jesse, the father of David!” Who could have seen that coming? Through sin and death two widows were made. Their very survival seemed to hang in the balance at the beginning of Ruth. That they were not mistreated was no small gift. That they survived their time in Moab, their journey home, and once they arrived home was no small gift. That they found a redeemer was no small gift. That they ended up with an heir was no small gift. That their heir was the grandfather of the greatest king in Israel is truly mind-blowing. The redemption, renown, restoration, and nourishment hoped for in Obed came to pass in Obed and then 100-fold in his grandson, King David. Only God can offer such gifts. From near-certain extinction to the most powerful family on earth within two generations is a story that only God can write.

Of course if the story ended there it would go down as one of the greatest stories ever told. But it doesn’t end there either. And its continuation is what ties it to this morning.

So where does it end, and what does all of this have to do with Easter? What does all of this have to do with Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead? How does any of this relate to us today? To help us all see and celebrate the answer, I want to draw your attention back to the series of unbelievably significant terms used for Obed in this short passage. There were four terms ascribed to and hoped for him: redeemer, renowned, restorer of life, and nourisher.

In 4:14 we read these words, “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer…'”. While Boaz served as a redeemer for Elimelech’s land (he purchased it on behalf of the women), it is unclear precisely what the women of the town had in mind in ascribing this term to Obed. On the most basic level, they must have been thinking of Obed as one who would continue to maintain control of the family’s property and well-being.

In Ruth (as we’ve noted a number of times) we have in practice what God gave in principle in Leviticus 25. That is, the idea of redeeming and the office of redeemer were instituted and commanded by God many years prior to the redemption events recorded in Ruth. The idea was that in the course of normal life, there would occasionally come times when God’s people would lose possession of their land and be unable to get it back on their own; they would require the help of an outsider to purchase it back (redeem it) on their behalf.

In providing this earthly, physical expression of redemption God was actually creating a much bigger, much more important category for the Israelites. That is, far more serious than losing their land, God’s people had sinned and lost their fellowship with God. What’s more, no one is able to regain fellowship with God on our own and no mere man or woman is able to regain it for us. We need someone entirely unique to redeem us—to purchase us back from our sin and death into fellowship with God.

What does this morning’s passage have to do with Easter? Through Obed’s line came King David and through King David’s line came KING Jesus, the Son of God, the One True Redeemer of all mankind. Thus, Paul wrote,

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

And again…

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,…the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

What’s more, Jesus redeemed us not with money, but with his own blood; and we gain access to it not by our good works, but by grace through faith in his.

Romans 3:23-25 all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Boaz and Obed provided for Ruth and Naomi a kind of redeemer and a kind of redemption, but Jesus is the True and Living Redeemer of all mankind and that’s what Easter is all about.

But that’s not all. The second term used for Obed is “renown”. Again in 4:14 we read the words of the townswomen, “…and may his name be renowned in Israel!” Their hope is that Obed’s name would become famous in Israel; that he would be known throughout the land for his goodness and fruitfulness. Certainly he would gain a certain renown as his grandson came to power as king of Israel.

Once again, however, true renown would come in his later ancestor, Jesus, King of the world. His name is above every name. Not just Israel, but the entire earth will bow before his great renown.

Philippians 2:9-11 God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This, then, is another way our passage for this morning meets Easter. Easter is the day in which we acknowledge the absolute supremacy of the name of Jesus above every other name. It is the day in which his name is renowned above all for he alone rose from the dead, defeated death, and invites mankind to join him in eternal life in his Father’s pleasure.

Restorer of Life
The third term of enormous significance that is ascribed to Obed is “restorer of life”. In 4:15 the women declared that for Naomi, Obed “shall be to you a restorer of life…”. Where Naomi’s (Elimelech’s) line was once almost certainly extinct, in Obed it had one who would perpetuate it into the future. Where extinction seemed inevitable, another generation was now present.

In a very real and significant way Obed did serve as a restorer of life for Naomi. Once again, however, his main role was to point to the One true restorer of life.

Ephesians 2:1-5 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…

While it would have been tragic had Elimelech and Naomi’s family line ended, all of us are confronted with a far more serious form of death—eternal death at the hand of God on account of our sin against him. Once again, Jesus, our Redeemer, is the only one who can save us from that kind of death and bring us true and everlasting life.

Easter is the celebration of the One who came to bring not just another generation, but life in unending abundance (John 10:10).

Finally, Obed was said to be a “… nourisher of [Naomi’s] old age…”. That is, the women of Bethlehem declared, that where Naomi once had no one to provide or her, she now had a grandson who would be able to sustain her for the rest of her life through his labor and produce. It’s hard to overstate the vulnerable position widows were in in ancient Israel. To have a nourisher was a really big deal.

But once again, Obed was merely a shadow of the One who would come through him. Where, at best, Obed could nourish and sustain Naomi for a few years, Jesus, the point of Easter, is able to nourish and sustain all mankind eternally.

Acts 17:28 In [Jesus] we live and move and have our being…

1 Corinthians 1:7-8 our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 … will sustain you to the end…

Colossians 2:19 In Jesus, all of God’s people are “nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, [and are made to grow] with a growth that is from God.”

No one can bring nourishment like the Author of Life. Easter, once again, is the celebration of the Greater Obed, the one who rose from the dead to provide for us all that we could ever need.

The point of this passage is that God did remarkable things for Naomi through Obed. But the point of the whole bible is that He does far more remarkable things for his people through Jesus.

Redeemer, renowned, restorer of life, and nourisher. Jesus is all of these things for all eternity for all who hope in him. And he is able to be these things because the Father accepted his suffering and death as ours, and because the Father is pleased to count Jesus’ obedience and resurrection as ours. Jesus took our sin and death and gave us his righteousness and life. Obed gave us a glimpse of these things. Easter gives us the full picture.

Therefore, let us celebrate today, not as ones who merely have an Obed of our own—someone able to rescue us in times of temporal trouble, someone of some measure of significance, someone who is able to provide for us in our time of need—but as ones who through faith have been united with the Greater Obed—the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.