The wonderful Book of Ruth is sandwiched between the end of Judges and the beginning of 1Samuel. The story narrated in Ruth occurs during the days that the judges ruled Israel (Ruth 1:1). This narrative brings a welcome relief to the crass idolatry of Micah and the Danite tribe in Judges 17 & 18 and the gross moral behavior of the Benjamite tribe in Judges 19-21, which almost results in the disappearance of this tribe from Israel.
The Book of Ruth encourages us by revealing to us that despite the general moral deterioration that was present in the time of Judges, there were great instances of noble love and godly character in Israel. We see this in the shining example of Boaz who steps onto the stage in Ruth 2:4. In this verse, he arrives from Bethlehem and greets his harvesters with the words, “The Lord be with you!” The harvesters reply back, “The Lord bless you!” His subsequent behavior reveals his love for God and for others. As usual, there is a godly remnant present within Israel.
Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, return to the Promised Land of Canaan at the end of Ruth 1. Naomi arrives empty, widowed and poor. Many years before, Naomi and her husband Elimelech, with their 2 sons, had left Bethlehem during a famine and settled in the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1,2). Her sons eventually grew up and married Moabite women, one of them being Ruth. Elimelech and both sons end up dying in Moab, leaving all 3 women widows.
After Elimelech’s and her sons’ deaths, Naomi hears that the famine in Canaan is over, so she prepares herself for the journey back to Israel. She encourages both daughters-in-law to go back to their families and their people. But Ruth cleaves to Naomi and utters some of the greatest words of devotion ever penned in Ruth 1:16b: “”Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Later in the story, in God’s providence, Ruth ends up gleaning in the fields of Boaz. Boaz, whose name means “in him is strength”, happens to be a near relative of Naomi and a kinsman redeemer (goel). There is a provision in the Mosaic Covenant for a brother or near relative to redeem or purchase back property for their relative if they sold their land because of poverty. The kinsman redeemer could also marry the widow of the brother or near relative if no sons had been born before the brother or near relative died. The 1st son of the marriage with the widow would carry on the name of the widow’s deceased husband.
Boaz ends up marrying Ruth with the subtle encouragement of Naomi. Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, is a type of Christ figure. In acting as a kinsman redeemer, Boaz had to possess 3 main and indispensable qualifications: i) he must have the right to redeem; ii) he must have the power to redeem and; iii) he must have the will to redeem. Christ, as our “goel”, or kinsman redeemer, has the right as our true kinsman, and the power as the Son of God, and the loving willingness. Our heavenly Boaz, Jesus, has not merely redeemed us for the forfeited estate of Elimelech – an earthly possession; “He has made us His bride, to share forever with Him His life, His home, His wealth, and His eternal joys” (Baxter).
Boaz and Ruth end up having a son, Obed, who ends up being the grandfather of King David. Boaz and the Gentile woman Ruth end up being a part of the Messianic family line through which Jesus the Christ was born. Oh, the matchless grace and wisdom of our great God! There is a a wideness to God’s mercy and love which reaches out to people of any ethnicity, socioeconomic class and race. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord (in repentance and faith) will be saved.” In Christ’s love & service, Pastor John