(or listen on the YouVersion app)
The book of Ruth
As I listened to the story of Ruth on my bible app – I was immediately drawn to the beautiful relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. The depth of their commitment to one another is relatable yet puzzling. Relatable because I lost both my middle sister and my mom to cancer in two and a half years. I know the void that left in me but I also know what that shared loss did for my relationship between my oldest sister and I. There was no one on the planet who understood how I felt like Eileen did. We both ached together and we found comfort from each other in the midst of great sadness. I expect that Naomi and Ruth felt similarly.
On another level, I find it puzzling because rather than withdrawing and turning inward like most people do when grieving – they turned outward – thinking first of the other. Naomi is willing to face a future all alone – just so she can give both her daughters-in-law the freedom to make a new life for themselves. Ruth is willing to be: “dealt with ‘ever so severely’ by the Lord if anything but death separates her and Naomi.” (Ruth 1:18) Both women love so deeply that their own needs and desires pale in comparison to the needs and desires of the other. It is a self-less picture of loyalty and devotion that seems unusual in the frame of grief.
What comfort it must have brought Naomi to know that she would not face her challenging future alone but instead, she would have someone to walk by her side. Two widows heading together toward a future without offspring was bleak but definitely more bearable together. Culturally, having someone to carry on the deceased Father’s name was of great importance. So important, in fact, that God made provisions for it in the law. We read in Leviticus 26 where God outlines this provision in the concept of the Kinsman-Redeemer.
GotQuestions.org describes the Kinsman Redeemer like this: The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues or redeems property or person.
Genesis 48:16, Exodus 6:6, Leviticus 26:9-25 and 25:47-55.
This is why Naomi carries on so much in Ruth 1:11-13. She knows that having another son (a brother to the deceased) is the only way to produce a relative to “redeem the family”. It is the only opportunity they have for lineage. Since childbearing for her isn’t likely – Naomi’s best solution is for them to part ways and for the younger women to find a new life. Clearly, we discover Ruth is not in agreement.
So here we sit with Ruth and Naomi – two women staring into a future void of hope, but committed to one another.
…I’m feeling like this is the part in the story where the Rocky music should start to play and the camera pans back as we see Ruth begin to climb the stairs waving her boxing glove-clad hands over her head. (Da nah nah… nah nah nah) Digging down deep she pulls up her bootstraps and the independent woman rises up, overcoming all the odds and providing a beautiful future for her sweet little MIL as the CEO of the “Bethlehem Bread & Pastry Shoppe”.
Enter the giant red X – (like the one Simon hits on AGT) – as instead, Ruth resolves in 2:2 to provide for their most basic needs and “to pick up leftovers behind anyone in whose eyes she can find favor.”
Ruth’s story is not one of self-determination and feminine independence. Instead, it is one of obedience, integrity, and trust in the God of her Mother in Law – and now also the God of Ruth. (Ruth 1:16) She is not helpless by any means, she is a hard worker who does what she can with what God has given her but she doesn’t go out and try to prove herself. Instead, she trusts in His law and His provision for foreigners and widows and she proceeds with humility and hope to pick up scraps in the fields of the barley harvest.
Boaz. (You can add some music here if you want).
“The Lord be with you!” (Ruth 2:4) he shouts to his employees. And they respond; “The Lord bless you!” (Wow! For a girl who loves Jesus – that is some kind of sexy right there!) This man is kind and connected to his employees. He desires God’s blessings for them and they respond in kind. Immediately, we see that Boaz notices Ruth and we find that her reputation had found its way to his ears… “He heard of all she had done for her mother in law since the death of her own husband, how she left her father and mother and home to come and live with people she didn’t know.” He desired God’s blessing on her and hoped that the God of Israel would richly reward her. He is impressed by her character and doesn’t hesitate to show her compassion and loving-kindness. He gives her permission to stay in his field and to find protection in his care.
As our story progresses – Ruth learns from Naomi that Boaz is a relative, but not just any relative, Boaz is a kinsman redeemer! Hope rises. Naomi sets out with a plan to give her beloved Daughter-in-law a future. She encourages Ruth to change from her mourning clothes, to bathe and shower and get dressed in her best because tonight she is going to ask Boaz to redeem their family line. Ruth does just as she is instructed and after some interesting customs involving uncovered feet and the transfer of a sandal, Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife. It is The Lord who allows her to conceive and she gives birth to a son named Obed.
Or is it? I mean really? Is that it God? Why Ruth? What in the world is a short story of loyalty, commitment, redemption, and hope doing in the Bible? … Haha! Oh, wait! That IS the Bible! I see what you did there!
Ruth is me and Ruth is YOU! Ruth was a foreigner who needed a future. She walked in integrity, did what she could but no matter the effort – her future rested in the compassion and loving-kindness of another. We too need a future and a hope and our Boaz is Jesus Christ! He is our kinsman-redeemer who acted on our behalf to redeem and rescue us from our state of hopelessness. For “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Bringing us out of a life of bondage, sin, and death and into a hope of eternal life. A legacy without end.
Oh God – you are so incredibly good. Your word is living and active and stories that happened thousands of years ago still impact our lives today by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for the story of Ruth. Thank you for sending Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer to show us a picture of what Jesus came to do for us. We ask for your strength to be women of integrity and commitment and to walk faithfully in the plans you have made for us. We love you and we thank you for Jesus and pray all these things in His Holy Name. Amen.
You can see from the end of Ruth 4 that Obed was the Grandfather of King David. Which makes Ruth David’s Great Grandma. Dig a little further and you will see that not only did God give Ruth a lineage but He included her along with four other women in the lineage of Messiah. (Matt.1) In Matthew’s Jewish world genealogies traditionally mentioned only men but in Jesus’ genealogy we find Ruth- she was rescued by her kinsman-redeemer so that we could be rescued by the ultimate Kinsman Redeemer; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today’s post was written by Nora Elkins.
Nora is married 31 years to her first love, Scott. They have raised four children into adulthood and are now enjoying the reward of professional grandparenting. Nora can be found living the real-life version of “Fuller House” in her four-generation household. You can find her serving at her local Real Life campus where she practices the spiritual gift of warm hugs and happy smiles and if you’re lucky you may even catch her dancing to the music in the parking lot before service.