Flannelgraph Preaching (Part 4)

Continuing our study of the hidden truths in the Book of Ruth, this final part of the series picks up with the fourth critical truth that points us to Christ.

  1. Redeemer (or kinsman-redeemer) points ultimately to Christ:

Boaz preaches the qualities of Jesus Christ. Everyone agrees that Boaz was not actually Jesus. Boaz was just a man, not the God-man. Boaz needed redemption because he was a sinner. But the writer of Ruth makes the reader see Christ painted in the portrait of Boaz. He saves. He is the kinsman-redeemer. He rescues. Who is “he?” Boaz or Jesus? Yes! David Murray wisely instructs of Ruth, “The book might equally be named after him because he is the center and pivot of the book. Chapter 1 begins with a bitter Naomi, and the book ends with a blessed Naomi. What made the difference? Three chapters of Boaz. All eyes should be on him.”1

God promised to Adam and Eve that he himself would provide a Messiah. Genesis 3:15 states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Wonderful! But what are the specifics? What will the coming Savior be like? The Jews understood that God is a redeeming God because of the deliverance out of Egypt, but could there be more that is known? How does God redeem? God powerfully redeems, but is there a personal aspect to God’s redemption? God redeems nations, but does he redeem individual sinners? Jesus is like Boaz, but better! David Murray insightfully highlights the big picture:

The key word in the book also dramatically spotlights Boaz. The Hebrew word ga’al appears twelve times and the noun version of it nine times. It is variously translated, but it basically combines two elements: relation and redemption. It refers to a close family member who steps in to defend, protect, and provide for the needy. It’s a word used to describe God’s past action of redeeming Israel out of Egypt, and the later prophets also used it repeatedly to describe a future redemption what God would accomplish. . . . Let’s read there and find out about what kind of Redeemer God is and what kind of Redeemer the Messiah will be. . . . The Messiah is like Boaz. Notice Ruth’s important genealogical postscript that further boosts the messianic momentum by tracing her descendants to King David.2

Would you like to know how God redeems? Look at Boaz. In what ways will the Messiah redeem? Boaz unlocks the answer for the Old Testament reader. Exodus 14 reveals God redeeming a nation through the Red Sea with power and finality. What is the personal side of God’s redeeming love? Boaz cracks the code.

Notice the use of “redeem” and “redeemer” (just in the third and fourth chapters of Ruth) and let the words leave an indelible mark on your mind and heart (emphasis added):

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9)

And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. (Ruth 3:12)

Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” (Ruth 3:13)

Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. (Ruth 4:1)

Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech.” (Ruth 4:3)

“So 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, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” (Ruth 4:4)

Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (Ruth 4:6)

So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. (Ruth 4:8)

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!” (Ruth 4:14)

Flannelgraphs might be able to illustrate the deliverance of a nation through the Red Sea, but they cannot make the connection between the brute redemption of the nation Israel and the personal touch of a kinsman-redeemer like the kind and gracious Boaz. Even more, flannel cannot connect the dots and preach Jesus from Samuel’s account of Boaz (we think Samuel wrote Ruth). If Boaz’ act of love in marrying Ruth was magnanimous, how much more is Christ’s love for his bride? “Over and above” are good terms for the loyal love of Christ and the Christ-pointing Boaz. Robert Deffinbaugh highlights the redeemer concept writing, “Boaz set aside his own self-interest (unlike the nearest kin), so that he might be a blessing to those in need.”3 Centuries later, Paul exclaimed something similar, speaking of Jesus:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:7–10)

According to Jewish law, slaves could only be freed by a relative. The eternal Son of God cloaked himself with flesh so that he could rescue us from sin and our slavery to it. The emancipation proclamation of Genesis 3:15 ultimately is fleshed out in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, but proximately it is on display in Ruth. Boaz redeems. Boaz is not Jesus, but he preaches him. Sometimes the most obvious displays are the hardest to discover. Ruth needed redemption and it cost Boaz something. It was deliverance by a ransom. Who is the ultimate Ransomer? Jesus’ life was the price of purchase. The refrain of Paul, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews is in unison:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, . . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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. (Titus 2:13–14)

. . . knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Pet 1:18–21)

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:12–14)

As a child, cable ties scared me. The one-way tightening. Pictures of blue fingers pre-social media were nightmarish. Yikes. Sin is like a cable tie. It secures itself and just keeps ratcheting tighter and tighter. But unlike a cable tie, no human can remove the choking bands of his or her own sin. Deliverance must be by power and precision. The brilliance of Christ’s redemption through the ransom price of his own blood is an escape worth singing about. B. B. Warfield proclaimed,

There is no one of the titles of Christ which is more precious to Christian hearts than “Redeemer.” . . . [Redeemer] is the name specifically of the Christ of the cross. Whenever we pronounce it, the cross is placarded before our eyes and our hearts are filled with loving remembrance not only that Christ has given us salvation, but that he paid a mighty price for it.4

The book of Ruth preaches redemption through a redeemer. Boaz or Christ? Yes.

Conclusion

I do not have “flannel-phobia” or any kind of real aversion to flannelgraphs. I actually enjoy them and maybe I should consider a church budget request so that I can have one around for basic story concepts. I will fill in the invisible blanks with the Bible and some Christ-centered preaching. If you do the same, make sure you follow the well-worn adage, “The Lord is my hero, I shall not want . . . another hero.” Read, teach, and preach the Old Testament like Jesus instructed believers to proclaim it, that is, as a Christian book!

The words attributed to R. L. Wheeler serve as a fitting conclusion to any discussion of Ruth:

If I had the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of John, the meekness of Moses, the strength of Samson, the obedience of Abraham, the compassion of Joseph, the tears of Jeremiah, the poetic skill of David, the prophetic voice of Elijah, the courage of Daniel, the greatness of John the Baptist, the endurance and love of Paul, I would still need redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sin.

Notes

  1. David Murray, Jesus on Every Page (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 61.
  2. Murray, Jesus on Every Page, 62–63.
  3. Robert Deffinbaugh, “A Light in Dark Days (Ruth),” Bible.org, June 30, 2004, https://bible.org/seriespage/light-dark-days-ruth.
  4. B. B. Warfield, “‘Redeemer’ and ‘Redemption,’” The Princeton Theological Review 14, no. 2, (April 1916): 177, https://commons.ptsem.edu/id/princetontheolog1421arms-dmd002.

Editor’s note: This essay was originally published in Evangelical White Lies, NoCo Media, 2016.

You can find this whole series as it publishes here.


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Posted by Mike Abendroth | Tuesday, January 23, 2024 | Categorized Education, Pastoral Ministry, Preaching the Word | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Mike Abendroth

Mike Abendroth (MDiv, DMin) is Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Bible Church (West Boyleston, MA), where he has served since 1997. He is host of No Compromise Radio and author of Jesus Christ: The Prince of Preachers (2007), The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus (2011), Things that Go Bump in the Church (2014), Discovering Romans (2014), Sexual Fidelity (2015) and Evangelical White Lies (2016). He is married with with four children. When not enjoying his family he is often found on a bicycle.

2 comments

  1. Mike,
    Thank you for bringing David Murray and ‘Jesus On Every Page’ forward in time. He presented this book on Ligonier. His presentation of Jesus Christ in all Scripture is sound and encouraging to hear.

  2. I grew up with flannel graph catechisms. I loved Church as a kid. But certainly learned nothing but ethics ect.
    But after I was converted I heard Alistair Beg teach Ruth. It was beautiful.

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