In our study today we will find that the impact of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz does not end when the Book of Ruth ends. Its reach continues through Israel’s history, through the birth of Jesus, and into our lives today. Let’s take a look.
Many people are drawn to the Book of Ruth because it is a love story of the old “boy meets girl” type. And it has a happy ending. But, if that’s the only love story we see in this book, we are missing something big.
There are implications, just by the language chosen to tell the story, that the love always in the background is God’s great love for his people. In this short book of four chapters, the Hebrew word hesed, most often used in Scripture in reference to God, is used three times. You can check them out in Ruth 1:8, 2:20, and 3:20.
Hesed is usually translated as kindness. But, the word is more complex than that. Hesed, through the Old Testament, is translated as lovingkindness, mercy, favor, or grace. Throughout the short Book of Ruth we find multiple allusions to God’s great love, compassion, and care for his people. That’s the greatest love story of all and one that never ends!
The story of Ruth and Boaz is the most developed story in the Old Testament about the role of the kinsman-redeemer in the culture of early Israel. Here is one definition of go’el, the Hebrew word used to describe Boaz in this story. It is translated “kinsman-redeemer” and is defined this way:
“to act as kinsman, do the part of next of kin, act as kinsman-redeemer by marrying brother’s widow to beget a child for him, to redeem from slavery, to redeem land, to exact vengeance.” (Strong’s Old Testament Hebrew Lexical Dictionary)
Boaz was a man of character and of stature in the community. He had the financial resources and the desire to rescue Ruth and Naomi, who were helpless to rescue themselves. The law of God made a way for what should be done: He could redeem the land Naomi’s husband had owned and then marry Ruth to raise up children to carry on the family name of Ruth’s deceased husband and father-in-law. Boaz paid the redemption price and, over time, placed Ruth (and by extension Naomi), into a new family.
Do you see the parallel with Jesus? Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, came to earth for the purpose of redeeming those who were lost and fallen. In his death on the cross, he bore our guilt and shame, thus rescuing us from enslavement to sin. In his resurrection, our redemption was made complete and those who put their trust in him are placed in a new spiritual family. Jesus sees us as joint-heirs with him of all the riches of glories of heaven (Romans 8:16-17). And he sees all Christians as brothers and sisters in the great and loving family of God.
Finally, the Book of Ruth ends with some amazing information about the genealogy of Jesus. It simply says this about the new baby born to Boaz and Ruth: “They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:17b). Their son became the grandfather of David, King of Israel, through whose line God brought the Messiah – his Son Jesus.
By chapter 4 in this story, Ruth had lived among the people of Judah for months already, but still Boaz (twice in this chapter) refers to her as “the Moabite”. Her identity is as one who is foreign, an outsider. And, to the Jewish people, she was just that – a Gentile. God had other plans for Ruth, though - plans to include this godly Moabite woman in the lineage of his own Son. And, beyond that, her inclusion foreshadows God’s greater plan to include Gentiles into the family of God. When Jesus came, the door to salvation was opened wide to all – equal access to Jews and Gentiles alike. Finding Ruth’s name in the line of the Christ whispers that promise (see also Matthew 1:5-6).
And the genetic line of Ruth and Boaz, settling in Bethlehem, meant David would be born there and, thus, generations later, Mary and Joseph would have to go from Nazareth to the hometown of David at the time of Augustus’ census. As a result, Jesus, the Bread of Life, would be born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread just as the prophets foretold.
For Us Today
We should never doubt, whatever is happening in our lives today, that God is working a plan greater than we could ever understand. He works with timing, people, cultures, governments, and even geography to bring about his will in this world. When we align ourselves with him, even when we can’t see his plan, we live with hope and anticipation of what he is accomplishing in our lives and in the world. May his name be glorified for now and forever!
“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”
– Proverbs 19:23