Ruth chapter one No King?
Coming to this-------------story of Ruth ( you can fill in the adjective, I couldn’t decide on one) it may be appropriate to consider a few background facts. The date of the book is circa 1231 B.C. placing it about half way thru Judges (300 years) i.e., it does not come, time-wise, at the end of Judges. It was probably written by Samuel in order, among other things, to show David’s heritage. Significant is the fact that the area where the story takes place is in Samuel’s own neighborhood which had been plagued with problems primarily due to there being “no king in Israel” so everyone did his own thing (Judges 18:1 and 21:25). Note that two of the most tragic stories in the Bible took place here in Bethlehem-Judah (ch.17-19 of Judges) and it is almost as if Samuel, deeply troubled by such crimes, wishes us to realize that though times were bad, they were not hopeless.
A beautiful love story unfolds before us as this drama proceeds. Elimelech, whose name belies his character, seems to openly defy Jehovah by taking his family to Moab. There are 13 famines in Scripture and they all speak of judgement. Do we “face the music”, seek help, (Boaz and many good people evidently “stayed the course”) and trust God to see us through, or do we cut and run? Naomi as a dutiful wife stayed by his side and though embittered by the experience managed to be a bright light in a dark land, as evidenced by her pagan daughter-in-law’s faith.
This tale is a great example of how God mysteriously uses man’s sin and failure to serve His Divine purpose (Acts 2:23) and assures us that in the midst of the darkest of times He “faithful will remain”. It is called “providence”!
Note: There is an interesting Chaldean translation of v. 4 “they transgressed the decree of the Word of the Lord in taking strange wives.”
Ruth Chapter two “A Mighty Man of Wealth”
What a problem it is deciding which of the great truths to focus on in this story. Like the hymnwriter says “jewels rich and rare are hidden in its mighty depths” for those would search them out. Today, let us think about types.
Types are like pictures or shadows, something like a prophecy with the fulfillment usually in the New Testament. Naomi pictures Israel coming back to the land in unbelief. Ruth is the Gentile bride attracted to Naomi’s God, believing what her ear hears and destined to see it all unfold in magnificent and munificent fashion. “Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Ruth will begin to understand these things by grace when she meets Boaz and senses the warm embracing touch of the feathers of the Almighty (v.12). Was it happenstance (v.3) or were her feet guided to his province? By the law everyone had the right to glean in those fields belonging to him but by grace, we now know, she was chosen to do so. Is not that your story and mine? She could not begin to imagine what yet lay in store . What matters right now is the acceptance in his voice, the love that shone in his eyes and the calm assurance that in this “house of bread” she had found a savior.
As we draw this to a close let us contemplate, as well we should, something of the character of this kinsman redeemer. Wealthy yet humble, strong, wise and kind, he pictures for us our Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Does not this simple story make Him more real as it “warms the cockles of your heart”?
Ruth chapter three The Believer’s Claim
Because of the depraved conditions of our society, we may first think there is impropriety in Ruth’s actions as seen in our present episode. Let it be clear from the outset, there is nothing of that sort here. What Ruth did she had every right to do under the law and, to the contrary, we rather see these two lovers acting in absolute deference and with moral purity toward each other.
There is, however, nothing wrong in our imagining a bit of what was going on in their minds. “How am I to carry out this scenario outlined by my mother-in-law without being misunderstood?” For Boaz, “I had hoped she loved me and I wondered how it would all play out under the circumstances but now I see the way. I know she will have me but we must wait to see what the nearer kinsman will do.” I dare say neither of them got much sleep.
If Ruth had lain by his side, that would have been unacceptable and wrong by their standards and ours, but rather, she laid herself, fully clothed, at his feet, as Naomi had instructed her. This symbolic gesture along with Ruth’s request “spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid for thou art a near kinsman,” was a plea for Boaz to do the part of the kinsman-redeemer and also marry her to raise up seed so that Naomi’s husband’s land would not pass out of the family (4:10). She was doing this for her mother-in-law whom she dearly loved (1:16 & 17) and, incidently, she hoped that it would work out for her own sake as well, I think, don’t you?
For further study, see: Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, and Matthew 22:25. As believers, do we have a claim to an inheritance and to rights afforded us in Christ? What are they?
Ruth Chapter 4 Exquisite Design
Did you think of an adjective to describe this book yet? I think I’ll settle on the word “exquisite”. Isn’t that a delectably sounding word? and one that fits. Look it up, I had to! I am thinking of the pattern, the intricate design and the beauty of the characters. I love it!
Let us pause a moment to consider the “nearer kinsman.” Possibly he is a type of the law which came first but couldn’t redeem (Gal.3:21). Then, perhaps relatedly, he is a type of the flesh unwilling to because of selfish reasons. Both of these are worthy of consideration.
Primarily I would like us to think of the price Ruth and Boaz paid to do the will of God. It cost them their firstborn son which was required by the law to be given to Naomi. This was the result of “raising up the name of the dead upon his inheritance” (4:5) (Ruth’s first husband) according to the law of Levirate marriage as we have seen in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Note carefully the section of this chapter, verses 13-17 which makes it clear that their first child was given to Naomi to raise and her neighbors said that a son had been born to her.
Boaz, giving up his firstborn son, is also a type of God the Father giving up His son to satisfy the demands of the law (Naomi).
The exquisite ending of the story, however, is that the son thus given, ultimately becomes the savior of the nation, David, the great king of Israel and probably the greatest type of the King of kings, and Ruth becomes the bride of the mighty man of wealth!
When we embrace the cross, not counting the cost, the result is the life of Jesus produced in us.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24