Ruth, God’s Gracious Providence in Redemption

Famine uproots Naomi, her husband Elimelech and their two sons from their native Bethlehem to foreign Moab. But the food they find there is the bread of adversity. Death steals Naomi’s family and joy. Emptied of everything but two Moabite daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah), Naomi rises to return to her country (Ruth 1:1-6).

Ruth and Orpah begin the journey with Naomi but are soon urged to turn back; a second marriage was more probable in their motherland than with a bitter mother-in-law (Ruth 1:8). Orpah concedes but Ruth does not. She clings to Naomi with these words: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For 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).

In the days of the judges when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, a Moabite woman does what is right in God’s eyes (Ruth 1:1; Judges 21:25). Ruth reflects God’s own covenant love for His people in choosing to leave her familial home for the saving of another. She turns from father, mother, and country for a people she does not know and finds refuge under the wings of Israel’s God (Ruth 2:11-12).

The women journey on, arriving in Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest (Ruth 1:22). Risking her safety, Ruth decides to glean for their food and we can only smile as her feet come to rest on Boaz’s field. God orders all things, even footsteps, according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).

Boaz was a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech (Ruth 2:3). Ruth gleans in his field for two months. She labors through both the barley—which began in early April—and wheat harvests—which lasted through June (Ruth 2:23)[1]. As she works, Boaz shades her with care; he charges his men not to touch her; he includes her in the meals provided for his laborers; he permits her to glean—not only on the periphery of the field but—among the sheaves. Ruth doesn’t depart from Boaz empty-handed (Ruth 2:8-21; Ruth 3:15-17).

Still to provide for a poor sojourner was one thing (Leviticus 19:9-10). To marry a Moabite was another. As a close relative of Elimelech--a deceased man without sons--Boaz was among a line of kinsmen redeemers for Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 3:9; Deuteronomy 25:5-10). But would a worthy man embrace a Moabite woman with an ancestral legacy of incest (Genesis 19:30-38) and curse (Deuteronomy 23:3-5; Numbers 25:1-2)?

The circumstances of Ruth Chapter 3 beg the question. After eating and drinking, Ruth approaches a sleeping Boaz (an older man who refers to her twice as “daughter”) and uncovers his feet. The scene looks uncomfortably like that of Lot and his daughters. Yet Boaz doesn’t see a cursed seductress but recognizes Ruth--a worthy woman who left father, mother and native land for a people she did not know and for a God, under whose wings she now sought refuge (Ruth 2:11-12; 3:11).

He redeems Ruth in marriage and the Lord enables conception (Ruth 4:13). A child is given as a comfort to Ruth and Naomi; that baby also preserves the line that brings the Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25-29). The Book of Ruth closes the way Matthew 1:3-6 begins. The Moabite becomes the distant mother of the Ultimate Redeemer, Christ the LORD, the truest image of God’s covenant love (Colossians 1:15).

This Jesus has made foreigners like us members of His household (Ephesians 2:11-22). Believers in Christ are awaiting ultinate residence in a land not natively our own (Philippians 3:20). Christ offers rest to a far-off people who labored in sin (Matthew 11:28–30; Colossians 1:15). “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left [you and I] this day without a Redeemer” (Ruth 4:14).

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015) 396.