The Life Project: Ruth
As is true in the first seven books of the Bible, so it is true in the book of Ruth; God is the main character; we humans just play supporting roles. At the beginning of this great story we find that the people of God are in a time of famine. There is no food in Israel. And here is Naomi. In the first five verses of Ruth, Naomi moves to a foreign land to try and feed her family, her husband dies, her two sons marry and her two sons die. The events in these verses encompass well over a decade, but they are given such little attention, because they are the preface, what you need to understand before the story starts. You need to understand that death is the human condition and in these verses, the author shows us that Naomi, a child of God, is well acquainted with death. And here is where the story begins.
Naomi resigns to leave Moab and return home. She urges her daughter-in-laws to stay in Moab with their people and their god. But Ruth, a gentile, has come to know Yahweh as God because of Naomi’s influence in her life. She refuses to leave Naomi. And here we see the first instance in the book of Ruth where God exchanges death for life. Because of Ruth’s love for Yahweh and for her mother-in-law, we see that Naomi is given a companion, a friend. God has brought some light out of Naomi’s great darkness. Life from death.
As the two widows travel back to Israel, I wonder what their conversations were like. Would they be able to find food in Israel? Shelter? Would the women ever marry again? Would Ruth ever know what it feels like to be a mother, Naomi a grandmother? Naomi was grumbling, doubtful. Like we would be.
It’s okay that Naomi had her doubts. God was faithful. The two widows had shelter. Ruth was provided with an opportunity to work gleaning barley behind the reapers. She was given favor and the workers purposefully left behind more barley than usual so she could have enough. God was bringing provision where they were certain they would face destitution. Life from death.
Enter Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Ruth asks him, at Naomi’s prompting, to be their kinsman redeemer. Ruth and Naomi had no way to pay their bills. They had debt and as widows they had few options. They could sell themselves as slaves and work off their debt. This was a common practice in Israel. Or they could find someone to save them from slavery- a kinsman redeemer. There were four requirements for a man to be a kinsman redeemer. The man had to be related, free of slavery himself, capable of paying the debt, and willing to pay the debt. Boaz met these requirements. He bought the land, paid their debts, and married Ruth. He saved them from slavery and gave them a heritage. God used Boaz to once again bring about life from death. And God used Boaz to foreshadow the ultimate Kinsman Redeemer who saved us from the slavery of sin and made us His bride. Jesus Christ, who is life, is OUR Kinsman Redeemer.
Boaz and Ruth are married. Naomi and Ruth are no longer destitute. God has really turned it around for these ladies. But as a final gift in this ancient story, God gives Ruth a baby, Naomi a grandson. The baby is named Obed, who would be the father of Jesse, the father of King David whose lineage ultimately leads to Jesus. Life from death.
So what about you? Are you facing death? Literal death, death of a relationship, death of a dream,
death of faith, death of hope…. We all face it. Death is the human condition. This week as you read the
book of Ruth, I encourage you, in the face of your death, to embrace the life that God has for you. In the
midst of the destruction and starvation of the soul surrounding you, look for the life God is calling you
Do you see the miracles God is working on your behalf? Do you see the offer of life He is reaching out to
you? If you don’t then one of two things is happening. One, you may have the wrong perspective. You
may have the perspective of Naomi who begs people to call her Mara because the Lord has abandoned
her and made her bitter. All the while she misses what God has already done. She is lacking faith to
understand that God is continuing to move.
Or two, you may be rolling around in your own death. You may be taking a bath in it. Dressing in it.
Refusing to leave it. What would have happened if Naomi stayed in Moab? If Ruth stayed in Moab? If
Ruth refused to work gleaning the fields? If Ruth didn’t ask Boaz to redeem their family? 2nd Peter 2:21-
22 says “It would have been better for them never to have known the way of life that God approves of
than to know it and turn their backs on the holy life God told them to live. These proverbs have come
true for them: ‘A dog goes back to its vomit,’ and ‘A sow that has been washed goes back to roll around
in the mud.’”
I hear a refrain from Deuteronomy, “I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered
you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.” So that’s
it. Choose life, our Kinsman Redeemer is offering it.