RUTH 1:1 – 4:22 and LUKE 11:33–54
This account seems to take place in the earlier reign of the Judges. There is a famine in the land of Bethlehem-Judah which caused a man by the name of Elimelech to go to the country of Moab for a short season where the land was not as affected. Together with his wife Naomi they had two sons. These sons married two Moabite women which was not common. It seems that these women, Ruth in particular, were introduced into the Jewish faith based on their understanding of many Jewish customs. These marriages lasted for a period of about 10 years before the two sons, Mahlon and Chilion suddenly died in addition to Elimelech who passed on earlier. This left Naomi to be alone with both Ruth and Orpah, her daughters in law from Moab.
Naomi, hearing that the famine had ceased made plans to return to her native land. This leaves Orpah and Ruth in a bit of a dilemma. They both loved their mother in law but to go back with her would most certainly prove to be a life of uncertainty at best. Here we see a clear distinction between two good women. Initially they stated that they would go back with their mother in law but Naomi insisted that they would be better off in their homeland where they could remarry and live peaceable lives. It is here where the separation takes placed between Ruth and Orpah. What is the difference? Ruth clave to her mother in law in; she was willing to forsake everything so as to identify with Naomi.
Ruth recognized something about her, something worth holding onto. She would not let her go even after multiple attempts of Naomi to have her reconsider turning back. We see something similar with Elisha and Elijah at the time when Elijah was about to be taken up. There were many prophets who knew that Elijah was about to be taken up but they viewed the events from afar (2 kin 2:3, 5, 7). Elijah told Elisha to stand at a distance, trying to talk Elisha out of following him. Elisha still persisted. This quality of persistence appears to be one that God highly esteems. Ruth identified with Orpah and as a result risked everything in choosing to follow after her. Do we see a similar value in our calling or walk with God? Are we willing to forsake and let go of all in order to lay hold of God? This declaration of Ruth is on par with other similar verses in scripture:
Rth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Rth 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
One can glean similar sentiments from Isaac when willingly presenting himself as a sacrifice (Gen 22:7-8) or as the three friends of Daniel when confronted with death due to their principled stand (Dan 3:18). Naomi and Ruth travelled to Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest. It is clear that God so loves the kind of heart that is exhibited by Ruth. Every circumstance spoke for her to stay in Moab. She was counselled over and over by Naomi to stay in Moab. Still, in the end she made a choice, a life changing choice to identify with her mother in law. Her love and concern for Naomi superseded all other concerns. Ruth, the Moabitess woman risked it all for God.
Boaz was a man who was related to Naomi. The character of Ruth soon came to the attention of Boaz. The servant of Boaz that had responsibility over the reapers reported on Ruth, the fact that she came from Moab and that she laboured faithfully in the field (vs 6-7). Boaz as a result bestows full gleaning privileges to her. How was it that Ruth found such favor and grace before Boaz? Her testimony towards her mother in law was now beginning to be noticed by Boaz and others. We see here the goodness of God at work. There were no guarantees that Ruth would find such grace nonetheless she still forsook her family and land for the unknown. She laid down no conditions for her staying close to Naomi’s side. What we see in Ruth is a picture of unconditional love.
God is now beginning to reward her for the example of selfless devotion towards her mother in law. It is important to bear in mind that she is from Moab and that she is serving in a totally foreign environment. Boaz displays even greater privileges for Ruth by allowing her to reap and work alongside the reapers (vs 14-17). Naomi takes note of the provision that has been given to Ruth. She quickly comes to know that she must have found favor in someone’s eyes due to the food rations she was carrying. Naomi was even more amazed when she came to know that Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz. In verse 19 you can see Naomi reviving somewhat seeing that Boaz is a relative and that perhaps God was working in a way far beyond what she could have ever expected. Naomi instructs Ruth to work alongside the maidens and stay close to them. Ruth continued in her labours and was able to provide for both herself and Naomi. This went on for a period of about 3 months. Step by step we see the faithfulness of God at work in this beautiful story. The best is yet to come!
Naomi is perhaps beginning to see Providence at work. Once she came to know that Ruth gleaned in the fields of a kinsman she began to plan to look after the welfare of Ruth via a husband. This in turn would prove beneficial to Naomi as well. How would this come about? The manner of approach that Ruth made towards Boaz is peculiar but at the same time appears to be somewhat customary. There had to be a measure of trust on both sides. Would Ruth be perceived as morally loose by lying at Boaz’s feet? Could Boaz be trusted given the nature of man in such circumstances? What has been clearly seen in the lead-up to this moment is integrity and examples of character from both Ruth and Boaz. When this act became known to Boaz he was greatly moved in recognizing the tremendous honor she was paying to her family, her mother in law along with her willingness to leave her homeland to do that which is best and right. He also recognized that she could have sought after marriage with men much younger than himself. Some Jewish historians estimate that Ruth was about 40 at this time with Boaz being about 80. This was not your typical marriage proposal nonetheless Boaz was overwhelmed at how virtuous and upright she was in her approach to him.
There is the matter of a nearer kinsman that must first be settled. This is a fulfilment of a requirement as spoken by Moses.
Deu 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
Boaz measures for her a large portion of barley and goes about the matter of the kinsman redeemer. Ruth returns to her mother in law and is told to Rest, to see how the matter will play out (vs 18). We see a picture of what the Rest of God represents. Naomi and Ruth have done their part and now the matter is in the hands of the Lord. It helps in giving a greater understanding and definition to the following verses:
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
There is a Rest, a place that God desires to bring us into. There is a Rest for Ruth and Naomi and it was to be found in the land of Naomi’s birth which was at Bethlehem. There then had to be a labouring to enter into that Rest. Ruth was faithful in serving in the fields of Boaz which allowed God to bring Ruth to his attention. Naomi instructed Ruth to do certain things (a labouring) in order to come to the place where she could be brought into marriage. It is now in a position of Rest where Boaz instructs Ruth to wait and see if he can perform the role of the kinsman redeemer. It is in a place of Rest where Naomi tells Ruth to be still (Rest) and see what God will do.
Boaz assembles several of the elders of the city along with the nearest kinsman to discuss the matter of Ruth who was the daughter in law of Elimelech, who was known in that place. The nearest kinsman was keen on buying the small piece of ground but changed his mind when he came to know that he would have to buy it of Ruth, the Moabitess. This would include raising up seed so as to continue on the name of the dead. This was unacceptable due to the effect this would have on this man’s inheritance. The matter was then settled before the witnesses where Boaz bought all that pertained to Elimelech as well as that of Chilion and Mahlon of the hand of Naomi (vs 9).
This also meant that Ruth would now become the wife of Boaz (vs 10). The witnesses conferred and agreed that Ruth would be likened to Rachael and Leah thus giving her recognition that though she was of Moab she now is recognized as being from Israel. What a beautiful picture of how one day the Gentiles will be assimilated into the branch. We saw something similar at the time when Israel entered into Jericho with Rahab. God on certain occasions allowed matters to go outside the Old Testament pattern so as to convey deeper truths pertaining to the future. There are the lessons of Melchizedec that Paul highlights in Hebrews that speaks of a greater priesthood than that of Levi. We saw how David was an exception where he, like Melchizedec functioned as both a king and priest all of which pointed to greater truths and revelation. The story of Ruth is that of a Gentile Bride, and yet it is through this Gentile Bride that the ultimate and true redeemer would one day come forth. Mention must also be made concerning Boaz due to many attributes of Christ that are seen in his life. He was the kinsman redeemer to Ruth which serves as type of the True Redeemer to come. The ways of God are truly unfathomable. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after Him. He is worthy to be trusted to work that which is best and good no matter how impossible the situation. Ruth saw something in cleaving to Naomi. How much more the responsibility we have in seeing the value and privilege we have in cleaving and laying hold of God. He is faithful and worthy. There is a Rest to the people of God; may God for us to labour to enter into it.
Luke 11 – Read day 93 commentary