Most love stories are about two people. This one is about three people. It is the story of two widowed women, related to each other through marriage, and a distant male relative. Most of the story unfolds in a field of grain during the harvest season a most unlikely place for a relationship to begin.
The book of Ruth is nestled in the middle of the Old Testament. It has only four chapters and 85 verses, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in rich relationships, abundant love and uncompromising faithfulness as Naomi, Ruth and Boaz discover, firsthand, the generous and loving nature of God.
There are two models of friendship in the Bible. The first one is the story of David and Jonathan, a friendship that begins happy and ends with Jonathan's tragic death. The second one is the friendship of Ruth and Naomi. This story begins in sorrow, as these women suffer through the deaths of both their husbands, and ends in unparallel joy as Ruth presents Naomi with a kinsman grandson to bless and nurture.
The story takes place during the time of the Judges, when "everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Ruth, however, comes to know and embrace the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and remains faithful to God despite her Moabite heritage.
The story opens when Naomi’s husband Elimelech decides to move his family from Bethlehem Judah to Moab because a severe famine had come upon the land. Naomi pleads with him not to do that because she believes that Jehovah Jireh will provide for them and supply all their needs. But Elimelech's mind is made and they go to Moab.
In Moab, life is difficult and a short time after their arrival, Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi and her two sons without a provider. But it isn?t very long, before the two sons meet two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, and eventually they marry them. Now Naomi is destitute. She has no husband and now both her sons are gone. Naomi thinks that her life cannot get any lower, but then in the midst of her grief and desolation, her two sons die.
Now, without a husband, sons or grandchildren she is a poor lonely woman. And in addition to that, she now has two Gentile, widowed daughters-in-law to shelter. Not knowing what else to do, she decides to return to Bethlehem.
She pleads with Ruth and Orpah to return to their homes, but they insist they want to return to her people with her. Orpah eventually turns back, but Ruth clings to Naomi and says, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
It is back in Bethlehem that Ruth meets Boaz. In order to provide for Naomi and herself, she is gleaning grain in the fields of this rich, Godly landowner. Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi's deceased husband, has heard of Ruth's devotion to Naomi, and he instructs his workers to leave extra grain for her.
As the friendship develops, Naomi conceives a plan that would possibly mean a better life for her daughter-in-law. She instructs Ruth to visit the threshing floor when the grain is being winnowed, lay down next to Boaz and uncover his feet. This bold act was an ancient way of asking protection as a next of kin.
Boaz is flattered by Ruth's actions. But there is another closer relative than he that could redeem Ruth and buy her inheritance. He immediately goes to the other kinsman and asks his intention regarding Ruth. He says he is unable to buy the Ruth’s inheritance because it would conflict with his own. So with the town elders as witnesses, Boaz announces his intention to marry Ruth.
Some time later, Ruth became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom they name Obed. The women of Bethlehem are overjoyed for Naomi, praising God and saying, "May he be famous in Israel, and restore your youth and provide for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who has been better to you than seven sons."
We see God's divine providence unfold as Obed becomes the father of Jesse and the grandfather of King David. Ruth and Boaz, many years, later find their name woven into the web of God's history as it is through the line of David, that Jesus the Messiah is born.
As Naomi redeemed Ruth by introducing her to Jehovah, Ruth redeemed Naomi through her hard work and love, and Boaz redeemed them both by buying their inheritance and marrying Ruth, so God has redeemed us. But our redemption cost much more than it cost either of them. Because the blood of Jesus was the price paid for our redemption and it cost Him His life. This is the greatest redemption known to mankind.
And, Jesus, our Kinsman Redeemer gives us the same joy, hope and love that Naomi, Ruth and Boaz knew.