Few stories in the arc of God’s providence are as remarkable as that of Ruth. Her story is a striking example of how God works to further His redemptive plan for His people. She could never have anticipated or planned the life that ultimately unfolded. Consider this brief biography:
- Born a Moabite, she married a Judean (Note 1).
- She was widowed at a young age.
- Despite poverty and an uncertain future, Ruth remained steadfastly faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi.
- Naomi determined to return to her homeland. Ruth insisted in going with her, adopting both Naomi’s nation and God. Only by death would they be separated.
- Following their return to Bethlehem, Ruth went out to gather barley to feed Naomi and herself.
- When Naomi realized that Ruth had been gleaning barley in a field owned by Boaz, a relative, she recognized the opportunity to secure a better future for Ruth.
- Naomi had a parcel of land at risk of being lost in her poverty. Boaz was willing to be the Mosaic law kinsman-redeemer (Note 2), but there was another, closer relative entitled to the privilege.
- As tradition dictated, Boaz called a hearing before elders of the city to facilitate the redemption. With ten elders of the city as witnesses, he appealed to Naomi’s kinsman to redeem the plot of land which had belonged to Elimelech (a sacred trust that must not pass out of the family) and to which he added the obligation of levirate marriage to Ruth. The kinsman believed he could not afford the financial obligation and renounced his right in favor of Boaz.
- Ruth and Boaz were married. Their first child was a son whom they named Obed. Obed was the grandfather of David and in the direct ancestral line of Jesus.
Like Ruth, our lives continuously bring new experiences, unexpected challenges, and new relationships. We are called to be steadfastly obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We can never know how His purpose for our lives will play out in the Providence of God (Note 3).
Note 1: During the period of the Judges there was a famine in Judea. Elimelech, an Israelite from Bethlehem, took his wife Naomi and their two sons and immigrated from Judea to Moab. Elimelech died leaving Naomi a widow. Her two sons, having married Moabites (Orpah and Ruth), died without heirs.
Note 2: According to Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), a kinsman-redeemer was a male relative who had the privilege and responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger or need. The concept included marrying a close family member’s widow so that the family line would continue. “If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold.” Leviticus 25:25
Note 3: The Lord is Israel’s (Kinsman) Redeemer (Isaiah 41:14). God’s redemption of Israel began in Exodus 6:6 when He acted on behalf of Israel to protect the nation from the Egyptians. The term means “one who buys back” and is primarily associated with the concept of the kinsman-redeemer that is displayed in the interactions between Ruth and Boaz in the book of Ruth. The role of the kinsman-redeemer was to preserve, protect and recover a particular Israelite tribe member’s losses.