The Book of Ruth is simple, beautiful, and a deep lesson for us today. Throughout this short book, faith is demonstrated in loving-obedience: Ruth to Naomi, Naomi to Ruth, Boaz to his kinsman, Boaz to Ruth, and all to the Lord.
Hear Ruth, the Moabitess, as she pleads with Naomi:
“Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you stay, I will stay; 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 to me, and more, if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Death and poverty prompt Naomi to leave Moab, and return to Bethlehem; to the ancestral inheritance of her family. In poverty, she tries to send her daughters-in-law away. Orpah reluctantly returns to her home. Ruth stays with Naomi.
Unfolding during the time of the Judges, when Israel is yet maturing as His covenant people, Ruth, as biblical literature and history, is beautiful.
Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem with nothing. The family land is yet unredeemed. Ruth must go to the fields of surrounding landowners and glean from the harvest. By the Torah, this is permissible as a means of support and dignity for the poor; but in that era, not necessarily practiced. Ruth would have to rely on covenant-kindness, for her as a stranger, and Naomi as a poor Israelite; but also, the faithfulness of a yet unknown landowner.
The Torah commands:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:9-10).
There are many such commands regarding kindness in faith shown to the poor, the stranger, the widow and orphan in God’s economy. Kindness that ensures life, and human dignity.
Ruth finds her way to the fields of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer of Naomi’s family. Most of you know the story of the events from that point: Boaz directs his laborers to show kindness to Ruth, not chasing her away, but leaving sheaves of grain for her to find; ultimately leading to Boaz redeeming Naomi’s family inheritance, and his marriage to Ruth.
Faith-obedience, expressed as loving-kindness is the underlying message of this precious book. Naomi shows kindness to Orpah and Ruth by releasing them from any obligation to her. Ruth shows kindness by clinging to Naomi, then going out into the unknown to glean from the harvest.
But it is the kindness of Boaz that is our focus. He allows Ruth to glean, ensuring her safety. And ultimately he redeems Naomi’s family inheritance, lifting them from poverty. He could have gone the way of his generation, even the unnamed “so and so” (פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי) who was a closer redeemer (Ruth 4:1), and refuse to redeem the land and family, but he did not do so.
Still the concluding blessing for all started with the kindness in the field, see Leviticus 19:9-10 above.
The series of events that followed brought forth family: Obed, to Jesse, to King David, and generations later Messiah Yeshua/Jesus. Hallelujah!
We also live in an age where everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, not necessarily feeling an obligation to anyone but self. Laying aside what is right, for what is expedient, and the holy for the accessible.
When it mattered, Boaz did the right action in faith-obedience to the Lord. It was a command of kindness, that in the immediate sense caused Boaz loss, but ultimately, blessing to him and gain for the world.
In the moment of need, we will not know the end result of kindness shown. Yet, we are directed to the act nonetheless. The kindness itself is the blessing, and right action in faith-obedience to Him sets us in the way He has ordained.
In faith, obedience to His Word, even when uncomfortable, will keep us in the way He has prepared, and bring us to the place He has prepared for us (Jn. 14:3).
Our Kinsman redeemer, Yeshua, has shown us extraordinary kindness; and in His example, He has called us and prepare us to walk (Matt. 4:19; 5:44-48). Amen.
Be well. Shalom.