Devotional May 4, 2020
The book of Ruth is, at its core, a love story. It is about the love that Naomi has for her daughters-in-law as she releases them from their commitment to her so they can return home to their Moabite families. It is a story about the love that Ruth has for her mother-in-law when she chooses to return with Naomi to Bethlehem from Moab, even though she doesn’t have to follow Naomi back to land where she will be considered an outcast in more ways than one. It is a story of the love that Boaz shows Ruth in becoming her “kinsman redeemer” and taking her as his wife. Ultimately, it is a story of the love and faithfulness of God.
If you aren’t familiar with the book of Ruth, Naomi, her husband, and her two sons leave Bethlehem, which was their home, and sojourn in the land of Moab because of a famine. While there, Naomi’s sons marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Eventually, Naomi’s husband dies, as do both of her sons. During this time, Naomi learns that the famine has ended, and she plans to return to Bethlehem. Because both of her daughters-in-law were Moabite and did not have children, Naomi decides to release them from their commitment to her. This was done so that they would be able to go home and perhaps eventually have children of their own one day because the prospect of that happening by coming with Naomi was extremely unlikely as Naomi explains to them. Orpah leaves, but Ruth commits to stay with Naomi. In a heartfelt cry to Naomi, Ruth pledges her commitment and love for her mother-in-law in Ruth 1:16-17 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.’”
So they returned to Bethlehem. Now, it is important to note a few items of the culture at the time that shed some light on the gravity of Ruth’s decision. First, she was a widow, though still young, she had been married and had borne no children to her husband. This would have placed her in a precarious financial situation in those days. As a woman, she would have had very few options for providing for herself or anyone else. Normally in those cases, a widow who had borne no children would have been married to the next brother in line in order to continue the line of the family. In this case, there were no other male children of Naomi’s for Ruth to marry. The second issue is that Ruth was a Moabite. During this period of time, the Israelites were not to marry among the nations whom they were supposed to have driven out of the promised land.
Once Naomi and Ruth return, Naomi decides to do her best to care and provide for Ruth by coming up with a plan. There was a man named Boaz who was a close relative of Naomi. According to Leviticus, he could step in as a “kinsman redeemer” and take Ruth as his wife and thus provide for Ruth and Naomi by taking them into his household. Ruth presents this to Boaz, and Boaz, being a righteous man, who had expressed his appreciation for the faithfulness and dedication Ruth showed to Naomi agrees to do exactly that. So Ruth marries Boaz, Naomi and Ruth are provided for by the faithfulness of God expressed through their faithfulness to one another, and Ruth and Boaz have a son so that the line of the family will continue. Not exactly your made for Hollywood love story, but the layers of meaning put the great love stories to shame.
Ultimately, this is not a love story about the compassion a mother-in-law has for her daughter-in-law. It is not about the commitment a daughter-in-law has for her mother-in-law. It isn’t even about Boaz choosing to willingly fulfill his role as redeemer for Ruth and Naomi. No, this love story is all about the faithfulness of God.
God was faithful in providing for Naomi and her family during a famine. God’s faithfulness was shown in Ruth’s faithfulness and commitment to follow Naomi back to a land where she would be viewed as an outcast. God’s faithfulness to Naomi and Ruth is shown in Boaz being faithful to his role as a “kinsman redeemer.” And, ultimately, God is faithful in providing a child for Ruth and Boaz. We see this picture of God’s faithfulness and love expressed in Ruth 4. After Ruth and Boaz have a son, the women of the city 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
This might not seem like a huge deal, until you read one of the last verses of the book. “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying ‘A son has been born to Naomi,’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” Ruth 4:17 You see, Ruth’s son Obed would then have a son Jesse, who would himself have a son named David, who would become King of Israel. Even bigger than that, the Messiah Himself comes from the lineage of David, which means that God, in His faithfulness and blessing, placed a Moabite woman in the line of the Messiah. A Moabite woman who followed God, who reflected His faithfulness and love, was given the privilege of being part of the lineage of the Messiah! In fact, Ruth even gets her name mentioned in the book of Matthew when Matthew recounts the genealogy of Jesus.
There is so much to unpack in the book of Ruth, so we will keep it simple. God is faithful during even the greatest times of need. He provides for so much more than our immediate physical needs. Just like Boaz became a “kinsman redeemer” to Ruth and Naomi, we have a redeemer in Christ. The two main qualities of a “kinsman redeemer” are, someone who is identified with the one being redeemed and someone who redeems another because of their need. We see both of those qualities exemplified in Boaz. For us, we also have a redeemer who identifies with us and who redeems us because of our need. He is Jesus. Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 point out Jesus role as a high priest able to identify with our struggles, and our need because of our sin was dealt with at the cross.
So, as you go through your day, your week, your month, remember that you have been redeemed. That Jesus loves you and is faithful. That though your needs might seem overwhelming, God is working in the middle of it all. You can trust Him, because Jesus, our high priest, can identify with our struggle and He has provided for our greatest need of forgiveness, so we can trust Him with all our other needs.