Death is one of the more tragic losses all of us experience in life, that final goodbye with someone we love dearly, and the long years of their absence to come. Even though death is part of every life, it can still feel like an affront, and more often than not, you and I are just not ready. Not ready to let go of that relationship, that person.
So it was for Naomi, and surely for her two daughters-in-law. Death had robbed them of their husbands, but also their places in society. Widowed, with no children, there was no home left for them, and few options for making a living.
Yet out of that darkest valley, came God’s light.
Ruth’s story begins with her being utterly bereft of all but faith, and next moves to her relationship with Boaz, a kind-hearted farmer who took care of both Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Boaz then became even more, as he formally the land, name, and heritage of Naomi’s dead husband, for at the end of Ruth’s story she places her firstborn son Obed on Naomi’s knee.
The story of Ruth is one of redemption. In fact, the word redemption shows up twenty-three times in this little book of only four chapters.
Because Ruth wanted so much to belong to God and to God’s people, the Lord redeemed her from the very edges of society, widowhood, and childlessness, and placed her in the lineage of God’s own Son.
Boaz is called the kinsman redeemer. In a type of Christ, he offered redemption to a woman who otherwise would have had no hope of marriage and family. Yet the middle-aged man, Boaz also experienced redemption in marrying a young woman of such depth of character and love.
And Naomi experienced redemption from her life of desolation, bereft of husband, sons, and country through the devotion of Ruth and the kindness of Boaz. Her status was redeemed in society by the marriage of her daughter-in-law to a kinsman, by the birth of her grandson, and by the increase even in her standard of living, no longer gleaning and begging but living well.
Even Elimelech was redeemed, for though he had died in a foreign land, God redeemed his name and his inheritance through his kinsman Boaz, and for all eternity through Christ. For the very end of this story points to the lineage of Israel’s most-loved king, David,
Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.Ruth 4:21-22 [NRSV]
When you and I are in that deep valley of the shadow of death, it is hard to even imagine light could penetrate there, to even imagine there is anything left to hope for. Yet Ruth’s story tells us there is.
In a paraphrase of the apostle John’s testimony,
“In Jesus is life, and the life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot, will not overcome it.”John 1:4 [Based on NRSV]
Each video is designed to offer background scholarship on the topic, including setting, culture, original language, and archaeology, as well as a theological study.
The “Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful” series is a companion to the book, available on Amazon, and published by Wipf and Stock.