Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
I love me a good love story and the Book of Ruth and her love story with Boaz is one of the romantic accounts of the Bible. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves because the story of Ruth begins in tears, in widowhood. I know a few widows and I know how society looks down upon, mistreats and generally maligns widows. Do not even get me started on young widows, the rumor mills are set on maximum speed as soon as the death of their spouse is made public. I can only image the pain and agony of being a widow in Ruth’s days and in our days.
Ruth is a widow of a foreigner. She is a Moabites (I loove the way mine pronounce this word). Her dead husband is an Israelite living in a Moab after their entire family left Bethlehem because of famine. Ruth is not the only widow, her mother in law Naomi is also a widow and her sister in law Orpah is also a widow; three widows in Moab. One day Naomi wakes up and decides to go back home, to Bethlehem. Only problem is, she has two widowed daughters in law. She decides to cut them off, politely so, by informing them that even if she were to give birth at that moment it would not be viable for them to wait. Orpah heads back home after wailing but Ruth clings onto Naomi and utters the famous words in Ruth 1:16-17
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Good move Ruth. Good move. The two widows arrive in Bethlehem and the gossip mills are on overdrive. As Providence would have it, it is the beginning of the barley harvest time. So Ruth learns how things are done by Naomi and she gets to work to provide for both of them. Do you remember Leviticus 23:22; 19:9
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
Well, Boaz was one of those diligently walking in obedience to God’s command. And once again, as Providence would have it, Ruth finds herself gleaning in the land of Boaz. Boaz comes around his farm and voila! A new madam is in his farm gleaning, ofcourse meaning she either poor or a sojourner. He quickly enquires about her identity and when she is informed about her, it would seem Boaz immediately takes a liking to Ruth. Ruth is welcome at Boazland for the rest of harvest season. She goes home and tells Naomi all about it and brings some bounty from Honcho Boaz.
In comes the concept of a Kinsman Redeemer; a concept well executed by Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. In essence a widow is redeemed so that the name of the deceased does not get lost. Naomi knows this all too well and she gives Ruth a crash course on what to do. Boaz does what he needs to do and Ruth get a husband and bears a son Obed.
The part Naomi plays of it is beautifully summarized by Sylvia Gunter:
“Sit still, My daughter, the apple of My eye, waiting as long as it takes, until you learn (know, perceive, understand, discern, and distinguish as truth) how the matter, thing, question, or cause will turn out, because surely the Man Christ Jesus, your Kinsman-Redeemer, will not by any means be idle, or silent, or have any peace until He finishes His purposes, working until the job is done, in His eternal now.”
Love is a beautiful thing. Ruth’s love and devotion towards Naomi. God’s love and devotion towards His children. Boaz’s love towards Ruth. Hesed is the Hebrew word that summarizes this type of love. It is rich. It includes kindness, Providence, care, protection, wisdom, procreation, preservation. It is an all encompassing love. And Ruth the Moabites gets to experience this love in all its fullness. She shares it with Naomi. She receives it from Naomi. She shares it with Boaz son of Rahab the prostitute and together they, two women considered as outsiders Providentially find themselves planted in the genealogy of Jesus the Son of God, Jesus the man from Nazareth. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God – all of us, including those considered as ‘outsiders’
So now faith, hope, and LOVE abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13