No holds barred. No rules. It’s Friday, so we don’t have to stay on topic. We can talk about whatever we want today. We can even just make it up as we go along, which is what fiction writers do anyhow. Let’s see what we can stir up this week. Today’s post is a re-run of one I did back when no one read my blog except me.
The story of Ruth and Boaz is a familiar one to most Christians and Jews, but why did God see fit to include it in His Bible? Was He just giving us a sideline story as a transition between the era of the patriarchs and that of the kings?
You may recall that Ruth, a native of Moab, married one of Naomi’s sons. After her husband Elimelech and both of her sons died, Naomi decided to return to Israel. When Ruth announced she was going with her, Naomi discouraged her, because Naomi knew Ruth’s dark complexion would immediately brand her as a Moabite, and they were considered sort of the scum of the earth by Israelites. Undaunted, Ruth made one of the most famous statements in the Bible: “. . . where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.” [Ruth 1:16]
When they arrived in Israel, they faced poverty. Neither woman had much in the way of worldly goods or income, so Ruth told Naomi she would go glean in the fields for food. When the farmers harvested their crops, they had to leave the corners of their fields so anyone poor and hungry could pick what was left, and this is what Ruth set out to do.
The field where she started belonged to a wealthy farmer named Boaz, who was a kinsman of her late father-in-law, Elimelech, and when she began to glean, Boaz noticed her. Even though her dark skin branded her as a Moabite, she was a lovely young woman, and Boaz was entranced by her beauty. He urged her to return to his fields for all her gleaning, and he instructed his men to leave extra grain wherever she worked, making her job easier and providing more food for her and Naomi. Seeing the extra grain, Naomi asked Ruth whose field she worked in, and upon hearing that it belonged to Boaz she explained that he was kin to them.
As the harvest drew to a close, Naomi knew Boaz would spend the night on the threshing floor with his barley, so she told Ruth to go to him. She had her dress her best and told her to slip into his blankets at his feet.
According to Mosaic law, when a woman was widowed, it became the duty of her late husband’s closest kinsman to redeem her, to marry her and provide for her. Naomi explained all this to Ruth in her instructions.
When Boaz felt Ruth crawl under his blanket, he asked who was there. She identified herself and said, “. . . spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” [Ruth 3:9]
Already enthralled with her beauty, Boaz was excited about her request and promised to fulfill it, but he said there was one problem. There was one man who was a closer relative than he, and marrying Ruth fell to this other man first.
The following morning, Boaz went into the city and into the space between the inner and outer walls where men met. Before long this other relative came along, and Boaz asked him to step aside so he could speak to him. Then he asked ten other men of the city to sit with them, and he brought up his business, reminding the man that he was Ruth’s closest kin and, under the law, obligated to redeem (marry) her.
The man recoiled at the thought. He knew nothing about Ruth except that she was a Moabite, and he was afraid marrying her might harm his reputation, so he declined. The law required that if the closest relative refused to redeem a widow, he had to remove his shoe and hand it to the next relative, so this man removed his sandal and handed it to Boaz, telling him to redeem her.
This was exactly what Boaz thought would happen and what he hoped would happen. Ruth would now be his. He didn’t care about her ethnic background, and he redeemed her in marriage, taking both her and Naomi into his household.
This woman was born an outsider. Not an Israelite, she was looked down upon and not considered fit to be treated as family. Her closest relative couldn’t redeem her, but because of the willingness of Boaz, she was adopted into the family of Israel and became the great-grandmother of David and a part of the line of Jesus.
What a beautiful picture of need and redemption!
We are like Ruth. We were all born as outsiders to the family of God. We all needed to be redeemed in order to become part of that family.
Like Ruth, we all have a close kinsman that could not redeem us. Our closest kinsman was the law. It preceded Jesus by hundreds of years, putting it first in line. But the law is impotent. It can show us our need for redemption, but it cannot provide it.
The law had to take its shoe off and hand it to Jesus. Where the law failed, Jesus stepped in and succeeded. He provided our redemption and our adoption into God’s family. Because of the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are all sons of the Father.
If Ruth hadn’t . . . but she did. And if the first kinsman had . . . but he didn’t. And if Boaz hadn’t . . . but he did. And now, we are “. . . seated . . . with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6]
Ø How do you feel when someone tells you have to do this or couldn’t do that in order to be a “real” Christian?
Ø What do you think Paul meant in Romans 7:4 when he said. . . my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ . . .
Ruth is one of my most favorite books in Old Testament history. I thank you for posting this marvelous blog in addition to providing such a lovely, realistic and inspirational reminder of who we were and who we are now because of whom we belong to. It’s beautiful how you correlated scripture to history and anthropology. Fantastic!!! This book draws into the essence of what it truly means to be ‘redeemed.’
The LORD be with you, my friend.
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Because of being told what to do, I have placed Spirituality first. Decision making – whether right or wrong, is a gift from God. No one can walk our paths, but us. Ruth’s story has long been one of my favorite, because of her dedication to her mother-in-law.
Thanks, Max. Mine, too.
Regarding your question re Paul’s words: “What do you think Paul meant in Romans 7:4 when he said . . . my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ . . .”
The fulfillment of scripture to those who seek with their whole heart is promised. But fulfillment promised after the creative process takes us into a labyrinth of experience, wonder, pain, awe, death and resurrection within, and awe. The scripture “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” has been fulfilled within me, and I am freed from the law … and religion. Liberty. To explain this fully, regarding the body of Christ, the word ‘body’ indicating a death, I would have to explain the cross, and that would take a while.
I’m here because Kate Wood mentioned you in her mash-up. Thank you for the metaphors and symbols, emphasizing again, that we are the created, and God is the creator. Something within always guided me through my searching, letting me know that if I was to do something or avoid something, God would let me know. I was blessed to be able to avoid the counsel of the doctrines and traditions of man. To me, sin is not a behavior, but relates to missing the mark rather like a road map, as in untruths, causing us to veer for a time, but God doesn’t have any failures. And then there was the day that I knew the ten commandments were promises, not threats.
Again, thank you for this post.
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Thank you, Kate.
I hate when people and specific organized religions try to tell us what makes a “real” Christian. I personally think your relationship with God is, well, personal. I think you have to feel good about it. I once had a pastor call my parents because he found out I was taking communion at another church (when I’d spend the night with my friend.) He was concerned that I was stating publicly that I believed what they believed. I argued (at 14) that it was between me and God. It was something I’ll never forget.
As a kid, I was given so many rules & regulations in church that I turned away from Jesus totally when I went away to college. I didn’t turn back to Him and receive Him as my Savior until I was 31.
This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible! Way to tell it, David! Awesome! 🙂
Thanks, Jessica. I really appreciate that.
David–the story of Ruth was part of a sermon a few weeks ago. It is a sad tale (Naomi’s husband and both sons died in a strange land!) brought to a sweet conclusion. (Naomi and her beloved daughter-in-law are returned to Israel and are “redeemed” back into the family.)
You have shed new light on this story for me, and I thank you. Glad you reposted it!
Thanks for your comments, Texanne. I heard the story told more or less this way years ago by a fabulous teacher named Malcolm Smith. Wish he were still around teaching.