The story of Ruth is a delightful story of love, faith and fidelity teaching the wonderful principle of redemption. (Redeem means: to buy back, recover, as to redeem from sin by sacrifice) It is set in the time of the judges, a time of wickedness and violence. Yet we learn how individuals can show faith and love in spite of the terrible conditions surrounding them. Ruth’s experiences teach that salvation is an individual matter. Her humble, self-sacrificing service worked in God’s plan to bring about a marriage from which ultimately came King David and the Lord Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind.
There was a famine in the land of Israel. Wanting what he thought was a better life, Elimelech chose to leave his home town of Bethlehem-Judah for the gentile country of Moab far from the land of his heritage and live with a people expressly forbidden by God from associating with (Deuteronomy 23:3). He took his wife Naomi and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. After a time Elimelech died and the two sons each married women of Moab, Ruth and Orpah. The two sons also died leaving no children.
Bereft of their husbands, the women were left without support. Facing bitter poverty Naomi decided to return to her land as she had heard the famine was over. Deeply attached to their mother–in-law all three women left Moab but on the way Naomi urged the young women to return to their country, marry again and settle down. She did not want them to face uncertainty in a strange land. It took some urging but Orpah decided to return. Ruth’s choice was different. She loved Naomi and was devoted to her. She had become a devout worshipper of the true God and wanted to completely identify herself with His people. “Thy God shall be my God, thy people my people.” (Ruth 1:16,17)
Having deliberately severed all association with Moab, Ruth found joy among the strange people whom she had made her people. It was with confidence that the God under whose wings she had come to trust would provide for her. She courageously took up the role of supporting herself and Naomi by gleaning in the fields as their return coincided with the barley harvest. Provision was made in the Law of Moses permitting the poor and strangers to glean. ie: picking up the grain that was dropped or left behind. Ruth was not ashamed of the low order of her work but humbly and gratefully took her place with the poor and outcast.
Ruth “happened” to be gleaning in a field that belonged to Boaz who was a relative of Naomi. Boaz was a God-fearing man who cared for the poor and was kind to his reapers earning their respect and benediction. Making enquiries about Ruth he learned of her sacrifice for Naomi and her conversion to the worship of God. He commands his reapers to purposely drop extra sheaves for Ruth’s benefit and asks her to glean only in his field for her added protection.
It turned out that Boaz was one of Naomi’s nearest relatives and was able to “redeem” her, another principle in the law for the preservation of families. This law stated that where a husband died childless, the nearest relative might be called upon to perform the duties of a husband and raise up children for the deceased. The one relative that was actually closer to Naomi was unable to perform this function so Boaz being the next in line took on the responsibility. Before a council of ten men at the city gate, Boaz announced before witnesses his decision to buy Ruth’s inheritance and marry her.
God smiled upon the marriage of honourable Boaz and virtuous Ruth and blessed them with a son Obed. Obed eventually became the father of Jesse who became the father of King David and eventually the father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Gentile by birth Ruth became the chosen line through which later the Saviour of the World appeared. He came to redeem both Jew and Gentile alike. She was the ancestress of him who, by his death brought us nigh to God.