Were you ever lost in the darkness? Imagine that in your youth you and a friend get lost walking home. You are crossing along the edge of some woods near a cow pasture. There is no moon tonight and it is cloudy so there are no stars to be seen. It is pitch black. You can barely make out forms of trees or a fence line. You and your friend stumble over tree roots. Crunching dead leaves scare you. Shadows scare you. Suddenly, just over the rise of a hill, you see a distant light. That light represents hope. That light represents peace from your fears. It is a very welcome sight, and you and your friend rejoice to see it as you make your way towards it. That is the way it was for Israel in the time of the judges. People were so evil they were stumbling in their sin, not knowing which way to turn. Judges 21:25 summarizes the time period: “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” It was a time of darkness and confusion. Suddenly, there is a light.
The story of Ruth provides us with a glimmer of hope in the spiritually dark time of the judges (Ruth 1:1). Since she is the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:13-17), she lives in the latter times of these rulers. We are not certain what judge is leading Israel at the time, but her story probably occurs during the rulerships of Samson and Samuel. The book of Ruth is a love story, but it starts with hard times and tragedy.
Ruth 1:1-7 records a famine occurring in Israel. Judah, with its desert wilderness is particularly affected. Elimilech, a prominent Israelite, moves his family away from Judah to Moab. Out of desperation he moves into the land of his enemies. We might argue that he should have stayed, prayed and relied on the LORD for deliverance, but in those days everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Given the same set of circumstances, perhaps we would have made the same decision he did.
While his family is in Moab, his sons marry Moabite women, and then he and his sons later die. Naomi and her daughter-in-laws are left destitute, but they hear God has provided food for Israel so they decide to return. God provides for His own if we are patient. God is merciful and gracious to widows and others who are destitute.
Orpah and Ruth, Naomi's daughter-in-laws, begin the journey with Naomi. However, Naomi thinks it better if they return to their own country and re-marry. Orpah leaves, but Ruth insists on staying. Ruth is a Moabitess, but she shows her love for her mother in law by leaving her country, her people and her gods to be with her (Ruth 1:16-17, 20-21). This is a picture of salvation - leaving our gods and our sins and turning to the true God for deliverance. Naomi's God, the true God, becomes her God, and the Israelites become her people. Naomi, however, is very bitter about her situation, having lost a husband and two sons. We can certainly sympathize with her. However, in the grace of God, she gains two loving daughter-in- laws, one which refuses to leave her. God is gracious even during dark and difficult times.
Ruth seeks to provide for her mother-in-law. She is industrious, even though she herself is grieved with the loss of her husband. She has a very good reputation for her kindness and loyalty to Naomi (Ruth 2: 2-3, 11-12). How do we behave with our in-laws? What is our reputation?
The place where Ruth goes to glean after the harvesters “just happens” to belong to Boaz, a near kinsman and a rich land owner (God is in control and directs the course of our lives for His glory and our good). Boaz is very kind to Ruth, although she is a foreigner. He protects and provides for her. When Naomi finds out it is Boaz who has been kind to Ruth, she praises God because Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer. What is a kinsman-redeemer? According to Leviticus 25:23-28 if an Israelite is poor and wants to sell his property, the nearest relative has rights to buy the property and everything associated with it so the family name, clan and tribal stewardship of the property will continue. All the land belongs to the LORD, but the Israelites are stewards of it. The nearest relative who purchases the property and its possessions is the kinsman-redeemer.
Naomi immediately recognizes the advantage of Boaz being a near kinsman. Perhaps he could marry Ruth, buy their land, and provide for their needs. He has the reputation as a godly man and is a well-respected rich land owner. It is obvious he cares for Ruth because he is so kind to her and Naomi. Naomi instructs Ruth:
Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do. (Ruth 3:3-4, NIV)
In the middle of the night something startles the man, and he turns and discovers a woman lying at his feet!
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:8-9, NIV)
Ruth is asking Boaz to spread his garment of protection over her; in other words, she is asking Boaz to fulfill his role as a kinsman redeemer and marry her. Boaz is most willing to fulfill that role. One man is a closer redeemer than he, however; but if he will not be a kinsman redeemer, Boaz will do it. Although we might question the advisability of Ruth sleeping in the same place as Boaz at night, there was probably no immorality between the two because they were both people of high integrity. He spread part of his garment over her feet and she stayed for a time. She left in the wee hours of the morning so no one would see her and ask questions. But before she leaves, Boaz provides her with more grain and sends her home.
The next day Boaz meets with the town council at the gate of the city. He meets there with the nearest kinsman and offers him the opportunity, but when the nearest kinsman finds out he will have to marry Ruth as part of the deal, he refuses it. He takes off his sandal and hands it to Boaz.
Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel. (Ruth 4:7, NIV)
“The passing of the sandal symbolized Boaz's right to walk on the land as his property,” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.427). Boaz takes the offered sandal and becomes the kinsman-redeemer. He marries Ruth, and she becomes the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17). She is also an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. Jesus became one of us in the flesh (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-7). He paid the price of redemption, not with money, but by the shedding of His own blood on the cross of Calvary. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace” (NIV). Titus 2:14 says, [Christ is the one] “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good,” (NIV). Like Ruth the Moabitess, although we are foreigners to faith, if we renounce our wickedness and turn to God for salvation through faith in Christ, we become a new people with a new inheritance (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—(Colossians 1:21-22, NIV)
Knowing we have a Kinsman-Redeemer and are a new people with a new inheritance, how are we living? Are we eager to do what is good? Are we reflecting Jesus, the light of the world, in the darkness of our culture? (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14-16). Are we merciful and gracious to the poor, widowed, and orphaned?
Lessons to Live by
• For a new relationship with God, leave your sins and turn to Him for deliverance
• We must trust the LORD; living by our own wits can be disastrous.
• We can be lights in the darkness; we don't have to conform to our culture.
• God is gracious to us even in times of darkness and difficulty.
• Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He is the light. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life. Through Him we have a sure hope in a hopeless world.
• We should be merciful and gracious to the poor, widowed, orphaned, and distressed like God is.
Today's Bible Memory Verses
Matthew 5:14-16, NIV
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.