Redemptive Connections in the Book of Ruth
Many people have said that the Book of Ruth is the most beautiful short story ever written. It’s an account of anxiety, fear, love, and commitment that inflames the imagination and soothes the soul. It begins with despair and ends with delight.
When Benjamin Franklin was the Ambassador to France, he occasionally attended the Infidels Club — a group that spent most of its time searching for and reading literary masterpieces. On one occasion Franklin read the book of Ruth to the club, but changed the names in it so it would not be recognized as a book of the Bible. When he finished, the listeners were unanimous in their praise. They said it was one of the most beautiful short stories that they had ever heard, and demanded that he tell them where he had run across such a remarkable work of art. He loved telling them that it came from the Bible!
The Book of Ruth is a book celebrated by the Jewish People even today. When they celebrate the Jewish holiday of “Shavuot” they sing the entire book out loud. On the Thursday night of the Shavuot, many people stay up all night to study the Book of Ruth. It’s also customary to eat dairy foods throughout the festival because the Torah is likened to the sweetness of milk and honey.
A lot of key information is found in Ruth 1:1-5
1. Timing. The events take place during the time when the judges ruled in Israel. As we’ve already pointed out, this was a period in which God’s people would move from disobedience to defeat to deliverance. Because everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes, sin was rampant and God’s people had hardened hearts. Several commentators suggest that the storyline in Ruth took place during the time when Gideon served as one of the judges.
2. Setting. We read in verse 1 that because there was a bad famine in Bethlehem, a man took his wife and two sons to live in the country of Moab. The famine was a consequence of the deliberate disobedience of God’s people according to Deuteronomy 11:16-17: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.” When we left Gideon last week, the nation had been enticed to turn away and worship false gods.
3. Journey to Moab. Moab was a land of rich soil and adequate rainfall so this man traveled to a place where his crops wouldn’t fail. This family would have traveled north to Jerusalem and then crossed the Jordan River at the fords by Jericho. Depending on where they settled, the trip would have been about one hundred miles and would have taken about a week.
4. Relations with Moab. It’s important to know that Moab was an eternal enemy of Israel. It’s not going too far to say it’s a bit like Israel and the PLO today. In Numbers 25, we read that the Moabites led Israel into sexual immorality and pagan worship. Deuteronomy 23:3-6 lays out some pretty strong words: “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt…Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.” This man is trying to flee the judgment of God on Israel and is disobeying doubly by going to live among the Moabites.
5. Characters in the story. The Israelite man’s name was Elimelech and his wife’s name was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. These two sons married Moabite women, one who was named Orpah, and the other Ruth. When we come to chapter two, we’re introduced to a man named Boaz, who was a relative of Elimelech.
6. Situation. During their stay in Moab, Naomi’s husband Elimelech died and then about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion also die. Naomi, Orpah and Ruth are now widows. Widows in the ancient world had no social status and no economic means to survive. This would especially be true for Naomi, since she was an Israelite living in a foreign country. There was no Social Security system and she had no male protector or provider. In such a situation, widows back then would equate to the homeless in our society today.
7. Gleaning. God has always made provision for the poor and destitute. Leviticus19:9-10: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” This helps explain what Ruth was doing in chapter 2 and it also reveals a little about the character of Boaz as a man who followed the Law and cared for the poor.
8. Kinsman redeemer. Since God had assigned each family of each tribe a section of land, this land was extremely important (and still is) to Israel. In order to make sure it stayed in the family, the kinsman redeemer law was instituted. If a man died and left a widow and no sons, his nearest relative would be given the opportunity to buy his land and marry his widow so that she could have sons to carry on the deceased’s name. This relative would be obligated, at his own expense, to buy back the property and give it back to the relative who had sold it. If the nearest relative refused, then the next closest kin would take on the role of the redeemer. There was a catch, however. The kinsman-redeemer couldn’t make the decision to redeem on his own. He had to be asked by the widow to buy back her husband’s land. That helps to explain what takes place in chapter 3.
9. Corner of covering. Chapter 3 will make you hold your breath and scratch your head. Ruth puts on perfume and dresses in her finest clothes and goes to the threshing floor to scope out sweaty Boaz. When Boaz falls asleep, Ruth takes the covers off his feet and lies down next to him! When Boaz turns over in the middle of the night, he discovers this woman lying at his feet and wants to know who she is. She identifies herself and then says in verse 9: “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” This same word is translated “wings” in 2:12, when Boaz says to Naomi, “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully.” Ruths asking Boaz to shelter her under his wing and to redeem her. In short, she is making a marriage proposal to him!
10. Town Gate. In Chapter 4, Boaz goes to the city gates and sits down to conduct business. The gate of a city was like a courthouse, where transactions took place, and where cases were heard. This was also the place where you most likely to run into someone, kind of like Wal-Mart.
11. Sandals. Sandals were the ordinary footwear of the time, but were also symbolic in the relationship between a widow and her legal guardian. The giving of a sandal was like a signed contract back then, especially in cases where land was in dispute. This originated because someone would walk off a field in their sandals in order to measure it.
One of the largest themes in the book of Ruth is the theme of Kinsmen-Redeemer. Consider for the moment that there was provision set in the Law of Moses for a poor Israelite to be purchased back out of slavery, since it was common in the ancient world. A person might be born into slavery, that is the children of a slavery. They might be captured or they might fall into debt and then needed to sell themselves to pay a debt. . Only nearest of kin could step in and “buy back” what his relative was forced to sell (Leviticus 25:48f). The kinsman redeemer was a rich benefactor, or person who frees the debtor by paying the ransom price. “If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold” (Leviticus 25:25)
Boaz, as the kinsmen redeemer is but a shadow of the connections to God’s redemptive history that we will later see Jesus fulfill for us as both full God and fully man.
1st Our Kinsmen redeemer has Unmerited Favor: Ruth is a Moabite – someone with whom Boaz – an Israelite could have reasonable hostility given the enmity between the 2 countries. Boaz notices Ruth and allows her to glean the fields. Verse 10, Ruth asks Boaz “ Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” Let me remind us that we were all foreigners, aliens and orphans to God – we were slaves in the land of Egypt and God heard our cry. Every time you find yourself in the right moment just at the right time remember that Jesus is a redeemer and he is doing things in the back ground of your life. In the book o Ruth God weaving His purposes through events and circumstances. He uses a famine to bring a Jewish man and his family to Moab, where one of his sons marries a Moabite woman. Through the unexpected widowhood of both Naomi and Ruth, they end up in the Promised Land because they hear that the famine has ended. Naomi teaches Ruth about the things of God and Ruth make a life-changing commitment.
Maybe you don’t believe in providence maybe to you its just coincidence but all I know is that in this life the seemingly insignificant is really significant and the littlest details God uses to show that while he is at War with Satan and bad things do happen despite Gods activity. When people only see the moment you see the eternal. When the world seems likes its falling apart you see how all the pieces go together.
I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because He is almighty God; He desires to do this because He is a faithful Father.
2nd Only the Kinsmen redeemer can provide Atonement: Go to Ruth Chapter 3. Here Ruth meets up with Boaz at the Threshing Floor. Let me show the significance of the threshing floor.
The Threshing Floor represents the relationship between God and his people but starting in this passage it represents something even more. Genesis 50:10-11, “the threshing floor of Atad”, where Joseph and his brothers mourned the death of their father, Israel. “heave offering” in Numbers 15:20. It speaks of the “offering of the threshing floor”. We see a similiar reference in Numbers 18:27 threshing floor of Nacon”, that Uzzah was struck dead for taking hold of the Ark of the Covenant (II Sam. 6:6-7) because it disrespected sanctity of the relationship
The threshing floor David had purchased from Ornan the Jebusite (I Chron. 22:1) is where the Temple of God is still standing today in Jerusalem. And then in the Book of Ruth the Threshing Floor becomes the place of symbolic relationship between the Bride and Groom of Christ.
At the center of the threshing floor, one finds two large flat stones, one resting on the top of the other. They were “fitted and joined” together. The top stone was known as the “female” and the bottom stone the “male”. The “grinding of grain” was a depiction of the act of marriage (Job 31:10).
The act of marriage is a physical depiction of the “spiritual communion” God desires between Himself and Man. When God’s covenant people stray from Him and worship other gods, God calls it “adultery” or “playing the prostitute” (Ezek. 23:37, Hosea 4:12). Notice what God says to Israel in Hosea 9:1, “You have loved the prostitute earnings on every threshing floor”.
It should be quite clear to you by now, that the “threshing floor” speaks to us about a place of worship. But what meaning has this for us under the New Covenant. Is there a message in the “threshing floor” for us?
I believe that worship for us is to be a time of “threshing”, when God separates the “wheat’ from the “chaff” in our lives. When we enter into worship, we are stepping on to God’s “threshing floor” where He deals with those things which need to be “winnowed” out of our lives.
Worship is the Bride and the Bridegroom coming together to “consummate” their marital relationship, out of which “life” is produced.
Ok so now read Verse 3:9 “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsmen redeemer.” The atonement is a covering over guilt, of wrong doings, and of reconciliation with God by provisional redemption through payment. The ark of the Covenant has the atonement cover which is the lid of ark. Its also called the mercy seat. See Exodus “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.” (Exodus 25:22) And in Leviticus “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” (Leviticus 16:2)
Every year, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (aka Yom Kippur – usually around October). Bringing burning incense to shield his eyes from a direct view of God’s glory, he sprinkled blood from a bull onto the atonement cover for his and his household’s sins, then sprinkled blood from a goat for all the sins of Israel. God promised that when He saw the blood, it would cover over man’s sin. (To atone for means to cover over — hence the name atonement cover.) God did not see the sin anymore but the provision instead, and it appeased His wrath.
3rd The Kinsmen-Redeemer – redeems the names of the weak and the sick forever. This last theme blows my mind. In Ruth 4:9, Boaz redeems the names of the dead “so that his name will not disappear from among his family or town records.” Who is the text talking about Naomi’s son’s Mahlon and Kilion. I did a little research do you know what Mahlon and Kilion mean – they mean weak and sickly. So check this out, this is going to blow your mind: my God buys back the land of the dead, the weak and the sick – and then he writes their names into his estate. He rewrites their names back into his Kingdom by virtue of paying the price. – I love what the text says, “We are all witnesses of this.”
So how is this all connected to Jesus? Oh my goodness, read Galations were it talks about how we are now “quote in Christ” and that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.” In chapter 4, it transitions from our slavery to say that “when the time had fully come God sent his Son to redeem those under law that we might have full rights as sons” It goes onto say that since we are no longer slaves but sons we will also be heirs.
But there were four qualifications for a kinsmen redeemer. First, He must be of kin, that is related by blood to the person he is attempting to free. Second, He must be free himself. No slave can purchase another slave. All of us are slaves to sin except Jesus. The Bible says he became sin who had no sin that he might become our righteousness. Third, he must be able to pay the price. A Kinsman redeemer must be free of debt and able to come up with enough to pay the price. The cost of our freedom is on penalty of death by means of a perfect sacrifice –to substitute eye for eye, tooth for tooth, a life for a life. Fourth, he must be willing to pay the price. It was not enough to have a kinsman who was able to accomplish the work of redemption. He must also be willing to make the sacrifice of paying the price, which could include writing the names of the slaves relatives into His estate.
See you must have a Jesus who is fully God and man. A kinsmen-redeemer – he’s got to be blood. He’s got to be cut from the same cloth. If Jesus is not simply God he cannot heal us. If he is somehow not fully human he cannot redeem us. His DNA has got to match ours – his Godhood’s got be to full for authority to be true. But he is and he is traced from the line of Ruth – written into the line of Kings from Boaz, to Obed, from Obed to Jesse, Jesse to David.
Do you understand what I am saying? Matthew 1 demonstrates the divine order of a plan – Abraham to Joseph from the Patriarchs to the Passion. From Adam number one to the Last Adam – Adam 2.0. The Archetype, the Originator – the Imperator – Jesus Christ.
So go ahead and trace him, from a homeless, widowed, foreigner woman! And remember his roots. You might be homeless, widowed, or in a foreign land – But its not over until he says its over!!!
The Book of Ruth pictures the marriage relationship that God has with His people. He is romancing you right now. He longs to have a relationship with you, but you need to make the proposal. He’s waiting for you to ask Him. Another reason why Ruth is revered is because she is the first “believer by choice” in the Bible. She put her faith in the God of Abraham voluntarily and she did so with a full-fledged commitment