Ruth is not only one of the loveliest stories in the Bible, it’s one of the loveliest stories in all of ancient literature. What is most surprising about this is that it occurs at the time of the Judges.
We continue our monthly study of the books of the Bible. We have finished the Pentateuch and more recently we studied the books of Joshua and Judges – hard books filled with ruthlessness (no pun intended) and violence, of depravity and sinfulness. These were dark, dark days when “Israel had no king, and everyone did as he saw fit” – and that turned out to be pretty ugly indeed.
Reading the book of Ruth in context is like watching through to the middle of “Saving Private Ryan” or “Gladiator” and then suddenly cutting to an episode of “Little House on the Prairie”.
A quick introduction:
Ruth was a Moabitess (a woman from Moab – not a Jew) who married into a Jewish family at a time of relative peace between the Jews and the Moabites during the period of the Judges.
Let’s look at the story outline, and then we’ll look at some of the deeper meanings.
1. Naomi and Ruth ナオミとルツ
i.Elimelech, driven by famine into Moab, dies there
ii.Mahlon and Chilion, having married wives of Moab, die also
iii.Naomi, returning homeward
iv.dissuades her two daughters-in-law from going with her
v.Orpah leaves her, but Ruth with great constancy accompanies her
vi.The two come to Bethlehem, where they are gladly received
2. Ruth Gleans in the Field of Boaz ボアズの畑で落ち穂を拾うルツ
i.Ruth gleans in the field of Boaz
ii.Boaz takes notice of her
iii.and shows her great favor
iv.That which she got, she carries to Naomi
3. Naomi’s Instruction to Ruth; Boaz Accepts Ruth ナオミのルツへの指示；ボアズがルツを受け入れる
i.By Naomi’s instruction
ii.Ruth lies at Boaz’s feet
iii.Boaz acknowledges the right of a kinsman
iv.He sends her away with six measures of barley
4. Boaz Marries Ruth and Begins the Line of David ボアズがルツと結婚し、ダビデの家系が始まる
i.Boaz calls into judgment the next kinsman
ii.He refuses the redemption according to the manner in Israel
iii.Boaz buys the inheritance
iv.He marries Ruth
v.She bears Obed, the grandfather of David
vi.The generations of Pharez unto David
Three key points:
1. Ruth – a non-Jew – reflects God’s love so clearly in a period of history where God’s own people are so wayward. She is a true daughter of Israel by faith – not unlike those of us today who are non-Jews by birth yet by faith come into the family of God. “She strikingly emphasizes that participation in the coming Kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the ‘obedience that comes from faith’ Rom 1:5”. NIV Commentary
2. Ruth becomes an ancestor of Jesus. This is striking given the importance of ancestral lines and that salvation through the promised Messiah would come by the Jews. We should be encouraged by this, remembering that God really does exalt the humble.
Vinnie MacCallion. ‘All history books are written by and about kings and great people – except for one: the Bible is the only ancient history book that features normal people as being a key part of history.’ We should not be surprised at this as God routinely takes ordinary people and does extraordinary thing with them. (Adrian Plass’ self-assessment and image of the angels laughing at the idea of using such a broken man for public speaking.)
3. Redemption is a key theme throughout the book of Ruth.
In Ruth especially, we see redemption brought about by one who is called a “Kinsman-redeemer”, that is, a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to deliver or save a relative who was in trouble, danger, or in need of vindication.
This idea is most clearly illustrated in the Book of Ruth where Boaz redeems Ruth and in so doing saves both Naomi and Ruth.
But this concept of a kinsman redeemer that we see in the book of Ruth is a foreshadowing of greater redemptions that are to come, first through Ruth’s great grandson David as the nation of Israel is established and the Jewish people are saved from their enemies, and finally through Ruth’s descendant, Jesus, who has established the Kingdom of God and saves all who turn in faith giving eternal life.
Jesus is God’s ultimate kinsman-redeemer in two ways:
i. He identified himself with us (“kinsman”) and
ii. He redeemed us because of our need to be free from sin and to be saved (“redeemer”).
Hebrews 2:11: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”
What does this mean for us today?
Jesus is not only our redeemer from sin, but as Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 point out, he is a kinsman to us and understands our struggles. So he has not only saved us but is able to help us in our times of need.
Let’s give thanks for the salvation we have through Christ as our redeemer, and lift to him our anxieties and concerns as a kinsman who has taken on the privilege and responsibility of delivering us.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.