Introduction and Outline
The historical setting of this little book is the notorious time of the Judges. As our last study noted, that period was one of great darkness, rebellion and sin against God. Yet, the book of Ruth shows us that even during these times of great evil, God was still working to bring glory to His name. He was still revealing Himself to sinners (even one from a pagan nation), and was displaying His grace in dark situations. Ruth is a very encouraging book!
Chapter 1-Naomi’s Great Loss
Chapter 2-God’s Providential Care in the Field of Boaz
Chapters 3&4-Boaz Redeems and Marries Ruth
Background and Explanation
There was a law in Israel where God required that if a man passed away, his brother would marry the widow in order to carry on the deceased brother’s name. In the case of Naomi’s family, Ruth’s husband and her lone brother-in-law died leaving her destitute. In cases like these, it seems that the nearest of kin could be eligible to buy the possessions of the deceased but also would be required to marry the widow. There was one nearer of kin to Naomi and Ruth than Boaz, but this man was unwilling to do so. Boaz was willing. Boaz prefigures Jesus Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer.
In order to be a Kinsman-Redeemer, these qualifications were necessary (and note how these point us to Christ):
- Near of Kin-Jesus took on human nature just like us (Hebrews 2:11-18). He is not ashamed to call us His brothers.
- Able to Redeem-Boaz was wealthy, thus he had the sufficient resources to buy Naomi’s field and provide for Ruth and Naomi. Jesus is rich in grace and is the all-sufficient Savior of His people.
- Willing to Redeem-Unlike the nearer relative Boaz had a desire to marry Ruth. Jesus loved His people and willingly gave Himself for them.
God’s Great Grace
Culturally and theologically speaking, Ruth had strikes against her. She was a widow (often meant poverty and vulnerability) and a Moabite (a foreign Gentile, not part of God’s people). The Moabites had a dark and sinful origin (Genesis 19:30-38) and had been enemies of Israel (Numbers 22-24). Naomi had strikes against her. She was also a widow, a bereaved mother and one who had left Israel during famine to go to a pagan land. Her sons had been permitted to marry pagan wives and now were dead. She felt so keenly the pain and loss that, upon her return to Bethlehem, she told the people to call her Mara (bitter) rather than Naomi (pleasant) because “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). I believe we are meant to see in Ruth and Naomi a picture of ourselves. We all are sinners and outsiders in terms of our sinful nature before a holy God. We have broken God’s law and sin has brought us low. Furthermore, we are weak and poor being wholly unable to remedy our situation before God.
With this backdrop, Ruth magnifies the great grace of God. Boaz (prefiguring Christ) loved a Gentile widow. When she was gleaning in his field, this rich man purposefully gave to her more than she expected (Ruth 2:16, 17). He desired to have her as his wife though it would mean cultural baggage. After their marriage we find grandmother Naomi bouncing a baby boy on her knees, experiencing the tender mercy and grace of God. Naomi who probably thought she would be under God’s judgment forever, was brought great joy thru the restoring grace of God. This little boy who was born to Boaz and Ruth was in the line of David and therefore, in the line of Jesus Christ.
Scripture teaches that God is in control. It teaches us that His love and wisdom is governing every detail. This is true when things are outwardly positive and when things are dark and discouraging. This truth doesn’t remove the painful consequences of sin, but it does give us hope even in the midst of our failures. The book of Ruth illustrates God’s providence in several ways. First, it shows His mercy in overruling the sinful marriages of Elimelech and Naomi’s sons. They permitted their sons to marry idolaters. The father and sons all died. This was dark and painful. But, in God’s providence, one of these now widowed idolaters was going to be brought to trust in Jehovah. Their sin was wrong. But, God’s mercy was shown in His grace towards Naomi through His salvation of Ruth.
Next, we see Providence working so beautifully in chapter 2. When Ruth went to go glean in a field, she “just so happened” (Providence working behind the scenes) to come to this particular field that was owned by Boaz. His heart was kind towards her, and the rest is history! Finally, it was ordered in God’s plan that through this unlikely union of Boaz with a Gentile widow would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
God is always working. We don’t always know what He is doing, but we know it is wise and good. The book of Ruth should bring us encouragment, comfort and thanksgiving that God’s providence is at work for His glory and the good of His people.
The namesake of this book is a trophy of God’s grace. Ruth was not raised worshipping Jehovah, but was brought to know and trust in Him. She affirmed her faith and commitment to Him plainly (Ruth 1:16, 17). That this faith was genuine is demonstrated by her willingsness to abandon her native land in Moab and migrate to Israel with Naomi. Her godly character is seen in her faithfulness to care for her mother-in-law, which included diligent labor reaping in the fields. Her consistent faithfulness made an impression on the new society that she had come to live in (Ruth 2:11,12; 3:11). Believers, like Ruth, have been brought from our sins to trust under Jehovah’s wings. Let us then follow her example of godliness and devotion, that it may be a light to those around us.
- This story took place during what time period in Israel’s history?
- _______________ prefigures our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
- The kinsman-redeemer had to be near of kin, ____________ and ______________ to redeem.
- What did Naomi ask the people of Bethlehem to call her when she returned?
- True or False: Boaz wanted to buy the family land and marry Ruth, but he didn’t have enough money.
- True or False: Ruth was raised in a godly community by people who loved Jehovah.
- True or False: Ruth’s faith and godly character made an impression on the people of Israel.