Sermon in a nutshell: “Today, You are Witnesses!” (Ruth 4:7-12)

Sermon in a nutshell: “Today, You are Witnesses!” (Ruth 4:7-12)
One of our church members sent me a religious joke. It goes like this: The preacher’s 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why. “Well, Honey,” he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. “I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.” “How come He doesn’t answer it?” she asked.
I am confident that when I ask the Lord to help me preach a good sermon God answers it. However, even when God answers our prayers, we need human confirmation also. Even a man of God needs human approval! That is why we celebrate Father’s Day today. Our fathers have sacrificed their lives to protect the well-being of the family and to provide resources for the family members. Fathers need recognition from the family members.
Everybody needs recognition. In principle, we do not need rewards given by the world. If God knows what we are doing, we should be joyful and happy. In reality, however, we do need the support of each other and confirmation from others. It should be enough for us fathers when we see that our family members are doing well. However, from my own experience, I am delighted when my children or my wife say to me, “I love you! I am so proud of you!”
That is what happens in the Bible, also. Boaz was doing a wonderful work to protect the two widows and to provide a permanent solution for them. His generous and wise move, however, was confirmed by the law and blessed by the people in the town. As the Bible says, “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 guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal and gave it to Boaz. However, the original law was slightly different. I will quote the Bible passage concerning the law:
However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled (Deuteronomy 25:7-10).
Instead of insulting the man who did not want to sacrifice his resources, the town people blessed Boaz and Ruth and Naomi. When Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, 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 his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” everybody in the town cheered and 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 family 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.”
This is a wonderful blessing. Ruth was a Moabite. However, they blessed her to be like Rachel and Leah, the mothers of Israel. Those two women, Rachel and Leah, were the wives of Jacob. If you read the Bible, Jacob’s brother Esau had Hittite wives. However, Esau’s mother Rebecca said in Genesis 27:46 “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” So, Isaac and Rebecca sent Jacob to Laban, Rebecca’s brother. They hoped that Jacob would take an Israelite wife! “So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” (Genesis 28:1-2) Then Jacob took not only one but two Israelite wives, Rachel and Leah. In other words, Rachel and Leah represented the wish of the Israelites that they be of pure blood! So, they blessed this Moabite woman to be like Rachel and Leah! This was a huge blessing. It is the same as our church members blessing me, a Korean pastor, to be like Billy Graham!
Why did they do that? Because the line of the Israelites was in danger of being disconnected. Many times they honored and valued those who enabled the bloodline to continue. For example, Judah’s line was about to be disconnected. However, Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, courageously and creatively acted to help the family to keep its name (Genesis 38, I cannot explain this chapter in detail here. You can read it at home yourself.). What Ruth was doing was like what Tamar had done in the past. This effort was valued more than pure blood. Now Boaz could be a father of a family and the family could continue without being disconnected.
If nothing else, the Bible praises fathers for producing lives and continuing the family. From God’s point of view, we do not need to be heroes or warriors. Being a father is a good enough reason to be blessed and praised. However, here is the key point. You do not have to be a biological father of a son to be a father! When Boaz had a son, the son would continue Elimelek’s family. In other words, it is important to keep the community, not just your own family. So, be a father of our nation! Be a father of our church! Bring lives to our community! Be a Father!
1. Who is your spiritual child?
2. In what area are you going to be a father of somebody or something?

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About biblepreacher

United Methodist Church Pastor. My wife, Hysung Hong Lee, is also a UMC pastor and my children are all grown and have their independent life. We have now empty nest. I and my wife are collecting some mission eggs now in that nest!
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