Ruth. The 8th book of the Bible…and every Christian grandmother’s favorite love story. If I have to hear my grandmother ask me one more time, “So Gina, did you meet your Boaz yet!?”…I’m going to lose it.
Who was Ruth?
Ruth was a Moabite woman who lived in the country of Moab. Her first husband was a Hebrew man named Mahlon. They met in Moab. Why was a Hebrew man in Moab? Well, Mahlon was in Moab because his parents, though originally from Bethlehem in Judah, left their homeland during a famine and trekked to the country of Moab. They settled there. He grew up and married Ruth.
Eventually, his father died. His brother died. Then, he died.
At this point, Ruth is now a widow and is living with her sister-in-law Orpah, and her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi hears that the Lord has visited His people, so she decides to go back home to Bethlehem in Judah. She tries telling Orpah and Ruth to go back home to their mothers, and Orpah does – but Ruth decides to take the journey with her mother-in-law.
Once in Judah, Ruth gets a job gleaning wheat in the fields for a man named Boaz. Boaz was a distant relative of Naomi. In chapter 2, Ruth says, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.”
Spoiler alert: she does just that. She works hard and catches Boaz’s eye. He makes it his mission to find out who she is. Her workers let him know that she is the Moabite woman who came back with her mother-in-law. Boaz goes to her and tells her to stay close to his women, and to help herself to water when she’s thirsty. She responds in gratitude and grace; and Boaz pronounces a blessing over her.
In fact, most of their conversations appear far too dramatic for reality. Maybe that’s what love is like.
After Ruth had been working for Boaz for some time, Naomi offers a radical suggestion to move things along. She tells Ruth to wash herself, anoint herself, and go to the threshing floor – a place where a bunch of men will be drinking alcohol and winnowing barley. She tells her to observe the place where he lies, and when she finds him, to go uncover his feet, and to lie down, with her head near his feet. He will then tell her what to do.
She did exactly that. And guess what? It worked. She asked him, to “Spread his wings[a] over his servant, for you are a redeemer.”
What does she mean by that? By calling him a “redeemer”, Ruth is referencing an ancient custom in which a brother would marry the wife of his deceased brother if he died without children. The first child born of that union would then be considered the child of the deceased brother, and would inherit all of his properties. However, this was radical because Boaz is not the brother of Ruth‘s dead husband. Plus, there was a relative closer in kin to Ruth.
While he was impressed that she chose him, in his honor, he knew that there was one more person that was closer in kin to her who would be the rightful redeemer. He told her he would check to see if that other dude wanted to redeem her.
He checked; and the dude said, nah, I’m good.
And so, it was settled. Ruth and Boaz, together forever.
What is the purpose of this story?
Is it to give us a formula for winning our husbands?
I don’t think so. I think this story is about faith.
Ruth teaches us that Spirit-led direction will not be comfortable, nor will it comply with social obligations. Ruth had no obligation to Naomi. It was not her duty to restore the family line. But she chose to have the faith to believe that God could use her in bigger ways than she could imagine. And through this little book, Ruth connects the family of Israel to the nation of Israel. She is a first fruits of what Paul talks about centuries later in the book of Romans – The nation of Israel – for the promise that God made to Abraham, is that he will have many sons and daughters of FAITH. Ruth is the first Daughter of Faith!
How do we know that? How do we know that she is not just a foreigner that got to marry a man of God? After Ruth and Boaz’s marriage, the townspeople praised her for her boldness, comparing her to other women in the line of Abraham.
Ruth Chapter 4 verse 11 and 12 tell us, “Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
And Who is the offspring that will eventually be birthed by this woman? Jesus! In face, Ruth is King David’s great grandmother. That’s a pretty cool title, if you ask me.
In following Naomi back to Bethlehem, and making her confession of faith, Ruth chose to identify herself as one of God’s chosen people. She chose to make the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob her God. And because of that, God chose her to be a part of the lineage of Jesus.
Ruth teaches us that faith-filled obedience connects our life story to the never-ending story of God’s kingdom. However the Spirit may lead us to act in our lives, I pray that we too may respond in courage, loyalty, and love.