The story of Ruth is one of my most favorite of its era in the Old Testament, that dark and grim time of the Judges. What I love about this story is how it is a beautiful story of grace.
Think about it this way:
Naomi and her family went to Moab, a land east of the Dead Sea. The people lived there were the descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot (for the whole nasty affair, read Genesis 19:30-38). They didn’t worship the true God, but an idol called Chemosh, whom later writers called an “abomination” (1 Kings 11:7).
But this is where Elimelech took his family, which was probably not a good idea. Then his sons married Moabite women, which was also not a good thing, since God had said the Israelites weren’t to marry women from the surrounding nations (although there were some exceptions, like Rahab from the book of Joshua). So they live in a land they didn’t belong in, they marry people they’re supposed to marry, and then…
And a little while later, Naomi’s sons die.
And Naomi goes back to Bethlehem, the town she’s from, a widow. And along with her comes Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law. Ruth made a vow to Naomi, promising to worship the true God only and forever, to always be with Naomi. And God did a wonderful thing: he provided a redeemer for Ruth and Naomi.
Ruth was gathering leftover grain in a field—something that only the poorest of people in the land did—when she met the field’s owner, a man named Boaz. Boaz was wealthy—and a relative of Elimelech. He was also a family redeemer, someone who could provide Naomi and Ruth with help, protection, security, and redemption. The way the book’s author tells it, Boaz fell in love with Ruth rather quickly. I imagine it as almost like in all those romantic comedies I hate—he got all googly-eyed; it’s a love at first sight moment (which is impressive since Ruth probably wouldn’t have been at her best at that moment). He shows her great compassion, making sure she’s provided for and protected while she gleans. And later, he agrees to marry her—to redeem her, and gains the right to do so from the one who was ahead of him in line. He goes to such extraordinary lengths to do this. And it is amazing.
But what’s even more amazing is how God had planned for this from the beginning.
Ruth’s story is our story
See, one of the cool things about our God is that he is always using ordinary people to fulfill his plans. People like you and me. People like Ruth, Naomi and Boaz. And a thousand years before Ruth lived, God promised Abraham that He was going to bless Abraham’s family.
Ruth became a part of that family.
Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed. Obed later had a son named Jesse. Jesse, we read at the end of the book, was the father of King David. And through David’s family, God would send a greater rescuer than any of the Judges, a greater Redeemer than Boaz, and a greater King than even David. Through them, he was going to bring Jesus into the world through this family.
And this is good news for us because ordinary people like us are still being used by God to fulfill his plans in the world today. God didn’t entrust the message of the gospel to celebrities and the cultural elite, but to average people who do very ordinary things like go to school and have a job, shovel snow and rake leaves, and a thousand other things besides. Ordinary people who don’t all come from a background where God was honored and worshipped. And every day, as ordinary people share the good news of Jesus with the people around them—as they tell of what Jesus has done on the cross to rescue us from our sins, and as they act with compassion and mercy and love in their neighborhoods—they are being used by God to see his plan fulfilled.
He wants all of us—everyone who trusts in Jesus—to be a part of this work. And we can join him in it, knowing that he will accomplish what he has set out to do. He will rescue his people. He will redeem this world. And there will be joy forevermore.
Note: This post is based on my teaching notes for session five of unit nine of The Gospel Project for Kids, “Ruth and Boaz”. As such it is naturally heavily influenced by its content, though no copying and pasting has occurred. For a free preview, visit gospelproject.com/preview.