Today we read the book of Ruth. It is a record of two women of great faith (one who was not even an Israelite!), a kinsman-redeemer, and most of all a God that provides for His people. We see that this takes place sometime during the time of the judges (1:1). Because of the famine in Israel, Elimelech of Bethlehem winds up moving his family to Moab. God uses all circumstances to achieve His purposes. Along with the famine, the death of Naomi’s family sets a scene defined by the lack of earthly good. Note in verse 5 that Naomi is literally left with nothing.
When Naomi sets out to return to Israel, she does not want her daughters-in-law to join her (v. 8). She wants them to find rest (v. 9), and she can offer none. In verse 12 we see that Naomi lacks even hope. Yet Ruth, also left with nothing, will not leave Naomi (v. 14). Notice that in verse 16 Ruth “converts” and commits to following YHWH (vv. 16-17). Note verse 21, where Naomi went away “full” but has returned “empty” because all God has brought to pass.
Chapter 2 begins with Ruth going to glean of the grain during the barley harvest (2:2), and she providentially does so in the fields of Boaz. This shows that the women are poor, and that Boaz is an obedient man of faith (see Lev 19:9-10). In verses 8-9, Boaz invites Ruth to let him provide for her needs. In verse 12, Boaz credits God with the provision, because Ruth has made YHWH her refuge. In verses 14-16 Boaz ensures that Ruth is taken care of beyond the gleanings of the harvest. Notice in verse 18 that the provision of God though Boaz is more than enough for Ruth. The fact that Boaz is a near kinsman that can redeem Elimelech’s property – and Ruth – is not lost on the wise Naomi (v. 20). In verse 23, we see that the provision by Boaz continues through the next harvest season, which means about three months.
Chapter 3 opens with Naomi wanting to seek the rest for Ruth that she wanted for her back in 1:9 (3:1). After Boaz’s provision for the three months, Naomi knows that Boaz is willing to provide that rest for Ruth. So Naomi tells Ruth to clean up, and go to where Boaz will be that night (v. 3). She instructs Ruth to go to Boaz after he has drunk a little (or a lot… the whole “heart was merry” thing in verse 7 means he drank too much) and lie at his feet. Naomi is telling Ruth to go offer herself to Boaz as wife, which Boaz would have understood by Ruth’s actions.
When Boaz wakes up in the night, he notices Ruth (v. 8). Note that Ruth invites him to “spread your wings” over her because he is a “redeemer” (v. 9). Back in 2:12, Boaz credits God for all the good he has shown Ruth because she has sought refuge under God’s wings. Here, in 3:9 Ruth is telling Boaz that he has been, and she wants him to be, the means of God’s blessing and provision to her, and to be her redeemer. In modern terms, Ruth just proposed to Boaz. And we see here a clear pointer to Christ – the Mediator of God’s blessing: our Brother, our Redeemer, our Bridegroom.
However, Boaz is an obedient man of faith. Though he provisionally accepts her proposal (v. 11), he knows that there is a nearer relative who has right of first refusal for Elimelech’s possessions, and for the wife of his son (v. 12). In verse 14, we see Boaz’s concern for Ruth’s reputation – much like Joseph with Mary (see Matt 1:19). And Boaz provides richly once again (v. 15). And Naomi knows Boaz’s heart for Ruth (v. 18).
In chapter 4, we see that Naomi is wise, indeed. Boaz waits at the gate of the city for the nearer relative (4:1). In verse 2, Boaz calls his witnesses to the legal proceedings about to take place. In verse 4, the other kinsman agrees to redeem Elimelech’s possessions. But then Boaz tells him about Ruth. He must also redeem Ruth according to the Law for Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-6), which he is unwilling to do (v. 6). The reason is this: if he has a son with Ruth, that child will be legally the child of Mahlon. While this man would have to invest in the property of Elimelech and in Ruth and their firstborn son, the possessions would be legally belong to that child in adulthood. In other words, this man is afraid that he cannot afford to redeem the property and Ruth since the physical possessions would not ultimately be his.
In verse 7, we see that this man gave his sandal to Boaz to confirm the transaction. Boaz calls upon the witnesses to witness his own commitment to be the kinsman-redeemer (vv. 9-10). This is now a legal contract. Note in verse 12 that among the blessings the people pronounce on Boaz and Ruth is the hope that Boaz would be like Perez. Go back to Genesis 38 to see who he is. Here we have two of the unions in the line of Christ (see Matt 1:3, 5). Judah and Tamar came together sinfully. Boaz and Ruth came together legally, though she is a Moabite. The Bible records history as it unfolded. Unlike many other religion’s “history,” the Bible records the truth, which is often very imperfect.
In verse 13 we see that Boaz and Ruth are married, and they have a son. This son is now legally the grandson of Naomi. In verse 14, we see that God has provided for Naomi. She is not left empty. She is not left without hope. She has hope in the Redeemer, the line of which is preserved through this man and woman of faith. He will be a Restorer of life, indeed (v. 15). We see that this son would be the grandfather of the king – who at the writing of this book was the greatest king Israel had ever known.
But David points us to the true King. The chapter ends with a genealogy – a genealogy that the Apostle Matthew would also record to show Who the true King is (compare Ruth 4:18-22 with Matt 1:3-6). But Matthew’s genealogy goes further back, and continues forward. We see in that the one providential history of redemption orchestrated by the will of a sovereign and good God. Through all we have read so far in the Old Testament, God has kept His promise to Abraham. Through the exodus, through the wilderness wanderings, through the taking (though not completely!) of the land, through the cycle of sin and redemption that characterizes the time of the judges, through a famine – God used the faith of two women and one man to move His redemption forward.
God still uses the faith of men and women to move that redemption forward…