This look at Ruth is an excerpt from The Other Three Sixteens.
“When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her…”
The story begins with sadness. Three women, Naomi and her daughters-in-law, are grieving the deaths of their husbands and facing an uncertain future. Besides the heartbreak of losing a spouse, widowhood was exceptionally problematic in ancient society. Women relied on men to provide for them, so without a husband or son, these women were left without resources.
But, Naomi was not a woman who passively sat back and allowed life to pummel her. She’d been living as a foreigner in their current country, Moab. It made sense for her to return to her home in Bethlehem. Practically, she encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their own families in their native Moab and remarry. Though one daughter did just that, the other stayed. And so we meet Ruth, a daughter-in-law who declared her loyalty to Naomi, Naomi’s family, and even Naomi’s God. By remaining with her mother-in-law, Ruth gave up a chance for secure life. She chose poverty with Naomi over provision without her.
The two women arrive in Bethlehem with very little besides their mourning hearts. For nourishment, Ruth goes to the fields to collect scraps the harvesters leave behind. It just so happened (translation: God’s hand was at work) that Ruth chose a field owned by a guy named Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s. Not only was Boaz successful, he was also kind. He gave Ruth water and something to eat. He allowed her to gather more than meager scraps, and told his workers to leave extra on the ground for her. Ruth returns home with a bounty.
Chapter three begins with Naomi thinking practically once again. She knows that Ruth needs a stable home and she thinks Boaz is just the guy to provide it. Using her knowledge of their customs and Boaz’s evening plans, she gives Ruth specific instructions. When we read verse 16, Ruth is returning home the morning after and reporting back to her mother-in-law “everything Boaz had done for her….”
In addition to his kindness in the fields, Boaz demonstrated compassion by promising to care for Ruth as a guardian-redeemer (hold on to that detail). He also kept her honor by allowing her to return home before daylight so it wouldn’t arouse unnecessary rumors or speculation. Boaz also gave her barley for Naomi. This is a guy who goes above and beyond for Ruth. Could it be true love?
Not all the love in this story comes from Boaz. God is clearly at work in the life of Ruth. Remember, she is not an Israelite. The favor she’s given is not because of her heritage. Ruth did, however, choose to serve the God of Israel. She had sacrificed the comforts of a secure life in Moab in order to worship the one true God. How great is our God? He doesn’t require us to come from a certain heritage before he welcomes us in as his own. Our choice to serve and worship him is all it takes to be part of the family. The only prerequisite to the Lord’s blessing is a heart that chooses him. There’s no test to pass, no burnt sacrifice to offer, no spiritual hoops to jump through. Just “declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) That’s the love of our heavenly Father.
A loving father provides for his children, and God is no exception. In fact, our Heavenly Father goes beyond what anyone on earth could do. We see the providence of God all through the book of Ruth. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Nothing that happened to Ruth or Naomi was an accident. It was not coincidence that led Ruth to Boaz’s field, nor was it happenstance that Boaz noticed her and gave her favor. Even if Naomi’s idea for Ruth to visit Boaz that night were completely her own (which, knowing how faithful Naomi was to the Lord, it’s pretty unlikely that this was out of the blue and without prayer), God allowed Boaz’s response to be favorable.
Now, let’s go back to that whole “guardian-redeemer” thing. A man in the family who was a “guardian-redeemer” could help relatives in need. The title literally means “a family member who can buy back”- such as purchasing family land that had previously been sold or buying back a member of the family from slavery. Other responsibilities included marrying a childless widow, like Ruth. Boaz was such a guardian-redeemer, and he fulfilled his role very well!
And we have our own guardian-redeemer! We’re slaves to sin. There’s no way around it. It’s human nature to sin, and therefore the consequences are unavoidable. We’re trapped. That’s where Christ steps in. The Son of God is our guardian, and he’s the Son of Man who walked to earth in the flesh-our kinsman. He stepped in to pay the price that would buy us back from the slavery of sin. That cost was the highest imaginable- his death on the cross, his life for ours. But, more than Boaz loved Ruth, Jesus loves us and he willingly redeemed us, despite the sacrifice.
Ruth’s story ends with a “happily ever after.” Boaz marries her, and they have a son. The baby continues Naomi ’s family line, and extends all the way to their descendant, King David, and then to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. God’s loving provision went beyond Ruth to cover the world.