Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible. What a precious story of faithfulness!
First of all, my heart goes out to poor Naomi. She moved from Bethlehem to Moab with her husband and her two sons because of a famine – and after they reached Moab, her husband died. So, she’s far from home and loses her husband. Her sons marry Moabite women (Orpah and Ruth) and lived in Moab for ten years. Then, the sons died. So, Noami is far from home and she has lost everything in her life that matters at all – except her daughters-in-law. It was custom back then for a widow to marry a brother of her ex-husband (doesn’t that seem strange to our sensibilities?); however, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to leave and go back to their homes as she was not likely to produce any more children – and even if she did, would they wait for them to grow up? (again, even weirder to us!). So, the ladies wept and Naomi eventually convinced Orpah to return to her home, but Ruth clung to Noami (Ruth 1:14).
“But Ruth said ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’ And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more” (Ruth 1: 16-18).
When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, it was the beginning of barley season. Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s late husband and Ruth went to glean what was left in his fields (picking up from the ground what his hired harvesters had left). When Boaz took notice of her, he told his workers not to touch her (likely to protect her from them), to let her glean, and to leave extra from their bundles behind for her to glean. When Boaz approached Ruth, he told her not to glean in any other field because she would be safe if she stayed close to his young women. He also told her to drink from the water his men had drawn when she was thirsty. You might say Ruth had touched his heart and found favor with him… and I just love what comes next. ~smile~
“Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!’” (Ruth 2: 10-12 ESV)
She was faithful to her mother-in-law and God was faithful to her. There’s no doubt in my mind that God orchestrated this meeting between Boaz and Ruth. Even before she came to Bethlehem, He had made a way for her needs to be met (as well as Noami’s needs). Sometimes we believe God has forgotten us, especially when we go through tragedy, but He is always working in the lives of His children.
As we fast-forward ahead in this story, we find Noami encouraging Ruth to go lie at Boaz’s feet at night in the threshing floor. So she went, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Can you imagine waking up and finding a woman sleeping at your feet, especially when you know you were alone when you went to bed? I would imagine it was quite a shock!
“He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.’ And he said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 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 3:9-13)
Boaz, being an honorable man, knew he needed to allow the kinsman redeemer who was closer kin to Naomi’s late husband (Elimilech) to have the first opportunity to redeem Ruth, Naomi, and their land as that was their custom. Yet, Boaz didn’t waste any time scheduling a meeting to talk to this man. The day after he found Ruth lying at his feet, he met with this man at the city gate (this is where the judges and respectable men of the city would gather to discuss issues and make business transactions in front of witnesses). At first the man agreed to buy the land that Noami was selling, but when he found out that he would also have to redeem Ruth, he declined because doing so might endanger his own inheritance. Therefore, Boaz declared (by taking off his sandal and handing it to the man – strange customs indeed! ~smile~) that he would buy Naomi’s land and redeem Ruth.
“Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon [Naomi’s sons]. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.’” (Ruth 4:9-10)
He didn’t have to redeem her. He could have easily said that she’d need to go seek the nearer kinsman, but he didn’t. He took it upon himself to see that she was redeemed, whether by him or the other redeemer. She had found favor in his eyes and I believe he wanted her to have all she needed as well as for Naomi to be taken care of.
So Boaz and Ruth married, and she gave birth to a son, Obed. Obed was King David’s grandfather, and as we know, Christ is in the direct descendent line of David. How awesome is that!?! A Moabite woman (i.e., a non-Israelite) who refused to leave her mother-in-law, but to follow after her God, was to be in the ancestral line of Jesus!
“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! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’” (Ruth 4:14-15)
The beauty of Boaz and Ruth’s union shows us a picture of what Christ did for us on the cross. We were bitter and had nothing, just as Naomi, but He paid the price to redeem us. We were lost and dead in our sins, but He made a way for us to be saved (Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 2:5). God not only provided for Ruth by giving her a husband (twice) and a son, but Naomi was also redeemed. Now she had provisions and a grandson! Even in all the heartache she endured, God had not forsaken her. He sent Boaz to redeem her! Even when we think God has forgotten us, He hasn’t. We have to trust that He’s working on behalf of His children!
What I love about Boaz is his honor and determination to protect and provide for Ruth, even before they were married. He was an honorable man – the kind of man women want to marry. Ruth was faithful and respectful. She showed such gratitude for Boaz. She was a hard worker, gleaning fields from dawn till dusk so she and Naomi could eat! This is the kind of woman that would make a godly man happy! What gentleman does not want a wife who works hard, shows meekness and respect, and is a joy to have around? What good woman doesn’t want a man who takes care of business, provides, protects, and is respected by his community?
When I read the book of Ruth, I am reminded of how God made a way for me to live eternally by sending His only son, Jesus, to redeem me. I am also reminded of the grace and faithfulness Ruth modeled for us ladies, and the strength and honor Boaz modeled for the gentlemen. I would encourage you to read the book of Ruth for yourself. It’s a relatively short book of the Bible, but it is packed with wisdom and encouragement, and it provides a good example of godliness in relationships.