Read His Words Before Ours!
High up on a mountain, where two rivers meet and men fought for the freedom of slaves, my then-fiance asked for my hand in marriage.
Harper’s Ferry, October 27, 2001.
There are plenty more details to my engagement story, and don’t you want to hear them all? Who doesn’t love a romantic proposal?
Did you know Ruth 3 is a proposal story? But as we read on to Ruth 4, we see it’s not a romance novel, but a legal thriller!
When we read Scripture, it’s important to first grasp the cultural context. So to begin this study, let’s learn why land, and therefore redeemers, were pivotal to Ruth’s story.
As we’ve discussed previously, Elimelech and his family left their home of origin, Bethlehem, because of famine. Notably, when Elimelech left Bethlehem, he most likely sold his land; this is a safe assumption based on what happens later in the book, and also a significant detail.
For the Israelites, land was vital. While land was ultimately owned by God, parcels of land were assigned to specific tribes, clans, and families from which an Israelite knew his identity and experienced the provision and kindness of God.
When her husband and sons died in Moab, Naomi was in a desperate situation. She was in a foreign land without a provider. According to Torah law, she couldn’t buy back her family’s land in Bethlehem because she was a woman and a widow. She needed a kinsman redeemer.
Naomi knew Boaz could fill the redeemer role, but it was entirely his choice, and a huge responsibility. It’s important to understand Boaz had much to lose in stepping forward as redeemer. Boaz would have to purchase the land from his own wealth, and his first son from marriage to Ruth would be considered Elimelech and Naomi’s heir:
“The women said to Naomi:
Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today [ . . . ]
Indeed, your daughter-in-law [ . . . ] has given birth to him.
Then Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became his nanny.
The neighbor women said, ‘A son has been born to Naomi!’” (Ruth 4:14-17, emphasis mine)
NAOMI is recognized as this child’s mother, not Ruth! And this hours-old baby is recognized as the kinsman redeemer, NOT Boaz.
As a mother of three children whom I carried for nine months, labored with for hours upon hours, and delivered under great distress, this stood out to me greatly. I wanted to scream, “That’s not fair!”
But understanding what was required of Boaz as kinsman redeemer in Jewish culture allows us to see the goodness of God in sending His Son, Jesus, as our kinsman redeemer, in a clearer, more beautiful light.
Just as Boaz had everything to lose and only relationship with the woman he loved to gain, Jesus had everything to lose and only relationship with us to gain in becoming our kinsman redeemer.
Jesus not only gave up His life; He gave up perfect communion with His Father in Heaven.
He gave up sole claim on His inheritance to share it with us.
He gave up His righteousness to take on our sin.
He gave up His divinity to take on human flesh.
And then, He gave up that flesh to a shameful death through cruel crucifixion.
All He had to gain was us, who, like Naomi, brought nothing but our desperate need.
Ruth is a book screaming of the upside-down nature of God’s ways. Truly, it’s not actually about Ruth; Naomi is more prominent than Ruth. We could even make a case for Boaz being a more central character than Ruth!
Yet, the book is named “Ruth,” and the genealogy of Jesus outlined in Matthew includes Ruth intentionally.
I surmise this is a signpost, reminding us of the inclusive nature of our God. He not only longs for all to know Him; He wants all to play a part in His redemptive story!
Don’t miss the prophetic nature of Ruth, either. Dire circumstances bring Naomi and Ruth back to Bethlehem, the same town where Mary and Joseph would one day travel under dire circumstances, and the same town where it was prophesied the Messiah would be born.
At the time of loss, Naomi and Ruth didn’t comprehend their place in God’s amazing redemption story; all they knew was their need.
At the time of their journey, Joseph and Mary could not have grasped the full scope of their roles in His redemptive story. All they knew was their need to get to Bethlehem and possibly deliver an illegitimate child along the way.
Could it be all we know right now is our need and yet, within that need, God is working out His master plan, amazing and redemptive and full of His glory?
The story of Ruth shows us how God preserved an entire family line
and how God preserved and provided for ONE person—one woman—within that lineage, Ruth.
God does not forsake the individual for the good of the group, nor does He sacrifice His ultimate redemptive plan to care for the needs of one. He, unlike us, accomplishes it all simultaneously, making a way where there appears to be none.
In God’s desire and plan to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, He does not gloss over each person within those people groups. He sees one and He sees all. He loves just one, and He loves all.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!