Welcome back to Day 6 of the True Love Challenge! Join Leanna as she tells the love story of Ruth and Boaz. Open your Bible to Ruth, and give the entire book a good read. (Just four chapters!) And even if you’re familiar with this story, trust me, you’ll want to listen close and be reminded of the ways our God weaves the best stories, from bitterness and emptiness to fullness and joy. —Samantha, Lies Young Women Believe Blog Content Manager
Once upon a time, there was a famine in the land. Not a great way to kick off a good story, right? Yet this is exactly how the book of Ruth begins. But don’t you worry, it gets better. Much, much better.
The story of Ruth is a tale of deep loss, surprising love, and renewed joy. It’s the classic “damsel in distress” kind of fairy tale—only this one is true and includes a hero who is no mere brave knight; He’s a loving King.
A Barren Situation: Chapter 1
We meet the characters in this story while they’re in dire straights. The situation for the family of Elimelech and Naomi keeps going from bad to worse:
- A famine strikes the land of Judah where the family lives (v. 1).
- The family flees their home country to find food (v. 2).
- The father of the family, Elimelech, dies (v. 3).
- The two sons marry women of Moab, an enemy nation to Israel (v. 4).
- Naomi’s only two sons also die in Moab, leaving her widowed and childless (v. 5).
Only five verses in, and already there’s plenty of cause for distress.
Naomi feels as if the Lord’s hand is against her (v. 13). But I love what Pastor David Platt says about this: “When we feel empty or alone, God may be setting the stage for the greatest display we have ever seen of His faithfulness to us.”
What Naomi doesn’t know is that the Lord is actually using her grievous circumstances to weave together a beautiful story of redemption for all people of all generations. But I’m getting ahead of myself here!
So, Naomi is completely despondent and asks to no longer be called Naomi (which means “pleasant”) but instead Mara (which means “bitter,” see v. 20). She decides to return home because she’s heard there’s food there again (v. 6). But when she urged her two widowed daughters-in-law to stay behind, one of them, Ruth, “clung to her” (v. 14) and refused to leave Naomi’s side.
But Ruth said, “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 I will be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (vv. 16–17).
Ruth doesn’t have to leave behind all she has ever known to care for her bitter mother-in-law in a foreign country. But she chooses that path. She forfeits her right to find love again and instead chooses to immigrate to a country where people of her nationality are not favorably received. Her sacrificial love is astounding!
And it’s the first glimpse we see of an even greater display of love from a Man who also left everything to enter a world where He was despised and rejected.
A Bountiful Harvest: Chapter 2
The first verse of chapter 2 sets the stage for a surprising plot twist. We’re introduced to a new character, Boaz, and are told he’s a relative of Naomi’s husband. We’ll see later why this is so important, but for now keep this little fact in the back of your mind as we continue on.
It’s harvest time when Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, and Ruth immediately gets to work finding food for the two of them. It was the custom in that day according to Old Testament Law to provide for the poor by allowing them to come behind the reapers and glean what was left behind (see Deut. 24:19–22).
Now watch what takes place: Ruth “happens” to go the field owned by Boaz who “happens” to be related to her deceased father-in-law (v. 3). She “happens” to find favor from the foreman who “happens” to tell Boaz who she is (vv. 5–6). Well, it just so “happens” that Boaz has already heard a good report of her and is happy to let her glean in his fields.
A bunch of happenstance? I happen to think not!
Only God could orchestrate such an incredible turn of events.
Ruth the Moabitess—a poor foreigner—is unexpectedly showered with provision, kindness, and protection. And this is only the beginning of the bounty God has in store for her!
Naomi is elated when she hears of the day’s events. “May [Boaz] be blessed by the LORD,” she beams, “whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (v. 20). She then informs Ruth of what we already know: This same Boaz is a close relative and, in fact, one of their kinsman-redeemers.
Now, “kinsman-redeemer” may not mean much to our modern-day ears, but Ruth would have understood the significance. According to Jewish law, if a man died childless, the closest living male relative bore the responsibility to preserve the land and family name of the deceased man. The relative, called a kinsman-redeemer, could fulfill this duty by buying back the man’s estate or by marrying the man’s widow. He could opt for both, but he could also refuse to do either.
Knowing all this, Naomi’s hopes skyrocket when she learns whose field Ruth has been in all day. She sends Ruth during both the barley and wheat harvest to glean daily in the fields of a man who has the power to rescue them out of their poverty and shame. You can sense the anticipation bubbling up inside of her. Hope is on the horizon! So, what happens next?
“And [Ruth] lived with her mother-in-law.” And so reads the anti-climatic ending to chapter 2. Boaz doesn’t make his move. And so we sigh in disappointment and turn the page to see what will come of poor Ruth and Naomi.
A Bold Risk: Chapter 3
The next part of the story is where Ruth the Moabitess becomes Ruth the Brave.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”
And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her (vv. 1–6).
Can you imagine?! Now before you stop reading in dismay or attempt to woo a guy using this method, let’s consider what Naomi is actually suggesting here. Scholars believe there is nothing risqué in this plan. While it’s clear that Ruth is indeed boldly requesting marriage of Boaz, she’s not doing so in a provocative or forward way. She’s simply presenting to him the need, reminding him of his uniquely qualified position, and awaiting his response.
Boaz, fully comprehending the request, answers Ruth favorably (v. 10). He’s gladly willing to do all she asks. But everything doesn’t end happily ever after just yet. Once again, hope is shrouded by a cloud of fear. Boaz explains there is actually another man who is a closer relative than he, making the other the rightful kinsman-redeemer. But Boaz will not rest until the matter is settled.
A Blessed Restoration: Chapter 4
And settle it he did. The very next morning he confronts the gentleman in question to determine who will rise to the occasion, redeem the land of Elimelech, and perpetuate Elimelech’s name by marrying the surviving daughter-in-law, Ruth. For reasons we’re not given, this other man yields his right of redemption to Boaz (v. 6). And so Boaz took for his wife Ruth the Moabitess, making her Ruth the Redeemed.
This is where it sounds like a fairy-tale ending. But I’m sure there were times when Ruth questioned God’s plan for her life. She couldn’t see the ending to her story. And while it’s possible that Ruth’s faith in God remained strong through seasons of barrenness as well as bounty, it’s just as possible that she, being a normal human being, wavered at times.
But God’s love for her never did. He provided for Ruth through a kinsman-redeemer. He restored her and renewed her joy after a long season of grief.
And that surprise ending I mentioned? It isn’t merely that Naomi and Ruth are redeemed and restored from a life of poverty and shame to one of prosperity and blessing. The final verses tell us that from the descendants of Ruth and Boaz comes a famous king and warrior, King David (vv. 18–22), the same David who killed Goliath and wrote many of the psalms. But flip over to the opening verses of Matthew 1 and you’ll see further down the same lineage of another King—one greater than David. This Redeemer, Jesus, would rescue the impoverished of this world and remove their sin and shame, elevating them to the status of son or daughter of the King.
A Beautiful Love: Conclusion
The story of Ruth is a beautiful one. It’s the story we all want. And the incredible news is, it can be yours! Whether or not God’s provision and tender care for you includes a loving husband, He has made a way for you to be forever loved and cared for.
You may at times feel empty and unloved, but, as David Platt says, “You will never be empty under the protection of your God.” Jesus is your Kinsman-Redeemer. His is a love that far surpasses any human love.
Ruth may have sacrificed much to love Naomi, but Jesus’ love is the greatest sacrifice of all (Rom. 8:31–32). Boaz may have shocked everyone with his love for Ruth the Moabitess, but nothing could be more surprising than Jesus’ love for sinners, for the outcast, for hostile strangers of God (Eph. 2).
And this love came with a price. It cost Jesus everything to give it to you. Will you give up everything to receive it? Open your heart to a God who loves you supremely and rest in His love.