Introduction: An unknown author wrote during the reign of David (Ruth 4:22) providing a marvelous glimpse into the ordinary lives of godly people during an oasis in the turbulent period of the Judges. The story shows a Gentile widow coming to faith in Yahweh and marrying into the bloodline of Jesus, Savior of all mankind. Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer and new husband, foreshadows Christ in that he was a blood relative to Ruth (as is Christ to us), had the price with which to purchase the forfeited inheritance (Boaz for Ruth and Christ for us; 1 Peter 1:18-19) and was willing to make that redemption for the one unable to do so (Hebrews 10:10).
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Ruth (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
Faithfulness: Yahweh is the source of the hesed (v.8) and rest (v.9) which Naomi trusts for her Moabite widow daughters-in-law following the loss of her husband and sons. Though His hand "has gone against" her (v.13), she trusts God and returns to His people. Note that though she says God has made life bitter for her (v.20-21), she does not say she is bitter towards God, nor does she go by the name "Mara" (bitter) after her return to Bethlehem.
Though it is unlikely Naomi possessed any written scripture in Moab and had no fellowship with other believers, Naomi remains faithful to Yahweh and Ruth remains faithful to Naomi.
(Moab (v.1) was the land and people settled by the son of Lot, following incest with his eldest daughter (Genesis 19:31-38). The Moabites worshiped Chemosh (meaning "destroyer" or "subduer") who was offered human sacrifice.)
Application: I will remain faithful to Yahweh through loss and reverses (v.13, 21). I will stay with God's people whatever betides. I will not allow bitterness to overtake me even if I taste bitter experiences in life.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for the strength of Naomi, faithful to You, prepared to travel 80 km. alone on foot without human protection to be with your people. Thank you for the commitment of Ruth, rightly used as a model in marriage, to the woman who showed such strength of faith. Lord, cause this spirit from You to rest also on me.
(v.16) "Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. (v17) Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me ever so severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"
God has compassion for the poor, instructing His people to allow the poor to glean within limits among those with more (v.2) (cf. Lev. 19:9 and 23:22).
God's compassion reflected in us: Boaz reflects this compassion of the Lord both in his spoken blessings (v.4, 12) and his practical behaviour (v.8-9, 14-16). In this also, humans tend to become like the object of their worship, for good or ill, depending on who or what they worship. Those who deny accountability to God tend to worship the state, an ideology or themselves, leaving themselves without ethical foundations. Yahweh's people however reflect Yahweh's compassion.
Some have suggested Boaz's kindness to Ruth was of a lower motivation of interest in her femininity. Boaz however consistently shows respect, taking no advantage or unseemly initiative towards her and warns his servants not to touch her (v.9).
Application: 1.) I will seek opportunity to show compassion today, with special attention to the needs of relatives should that arise (v. 20, Hebrew "goel" = kinsman-redeemer). The example of scripture is that compassion is not limited to gifts but includes also opportunity needed to get ahead.
2.) I will speak blessing to others I meet today (e.g. v.4, 12). Doing so both gives blessing to the person and is a witness to the goodness and trustworthiness of the Lord.
v.4: "Boaz said to his reapers, "May the LORD be with you." And they said to him, "May the LORD bless you."
My Prayer: "Father, thank you for calling for a society of compassion to the poor and of expressions of blessing one to the other. Help me do both today as an expression of Your character and of honor to You."
Practical Compassion: God's compassion for the poor extends also to providing for "levirate marriage" in which a relative takes responsibility for a widow as "goel" (kinsman-redeemer) to redeem family property and marry her (the widow of his relative; Deut.25:5,7-10).
Family is First Line of Care: While this provision may seem odd in an era of social welfare, it provides family security as well as needed finance. The Old Testament if full of examples of New Testament agape love. We should take responsibility to assist with family needs as able when they are unable.
Application: Despite ambiguities inherent in the interpretation of "as able" and "unable" in a specific case, the principle remains and is not to be shuffled off to government. I will be generous of spirit when family members are bereaved or struggle for other reasons with poverty.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for putting us in extended families for love, safety and support through difficult circumstances. Give generosity of spirit in loving one-another in practical ways, modelling Your care for the needy, physically and spiritually.
Both God and man are involved in expressing care: Naomi said to Ruth, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?" (v.1), and Boaz speaks again of hesed (as in 1:8 and 2:20) as the highest blessing of which one can ask of the Lord (v.10).
Family Responsibility bring Blessing: God gives greatest responsibility to the nearest relative to provide for the poor in the family; if not, then the responsibility goes to the next nearest relative, etc. (v.4). Naomi's nearest relative does not accept the financial burden of buying her field and providing for Ruth, therefore the responsibility goes to Boaz who does so (v.6). This arrangement allows Ruth to bear a son to carry on the family name (v.13), and in fact become grandfather to King David (v.17) in the lineage of Jesus.
Obedience Today: We must not neglect the poor in our families, nor must the poor in our families take advantage of this obligation. I will initiate conversation leading to decision with my family on how to help a member of the family who falls on hard times. I will learn greater fluency in blessing those around me verbally as in vs.11-12, 14-15 and chapter 2:4, 12.
Kinsman-Redeemer: v.17: "The neighbour women gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi!" So they name him Obed. His is the father of Jesse, the father of David."
There are several oddities in v.17 in that the neighbour women rather than the parents named Obed and that he was called a son of Naomi rather than of Ruth or Boaz. Obed however means 'servant' and is called goel 'kinsman/redeemer' in v.14, reminding us all to be 'restorer of life and sustainer of your (parents') old age' (v.15). Obed's being called goel also points to the role of the Messiah who was to be born of his lineage.
My Prayer: Father, what a wonderful picture of Christ we see in the kinsman-redeemer of this rich story of family grace. May the character of Boaz and the charge to Obed be a model to me and our extended family for many generations. May we follow and reflect Christ, our kinsman-redeemer who gave His all for us, in our self-giving to family and beyond.