Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife... Matthew 1:5-6
Still in the New Testament, we continue with the family tree that brought in our perfect Savior, Jesus. We see that the mother of Boaz, our hero in the story of Ruth, was RAHAB. Remember Rahab? She lived in a foreign land…Jericho, the first city God calls Joshua and the Israelites to conquer and fully destroy as they begin their entry into the Promised Land. She was the prostitute the spies encountered who hid the men to keep them safe. As a result, the Israelites spared her and her family when they ultimately destroyed Jericho. Like Ruth, Rahab made a decision to turn from the gods of her city and follow the God of the Israelites – our God, the one true God – and live among them.
Let that sink in…Rahab was the mother of Boaz! Think of the lessons she taught him as a child, recounting her redemption story and all that God had done for her, even as a foreigner.
The entire Bible, from the beginning to the end, points to Jesus. The life and story of Ruth is no different. Redemption comes at the hand of the One True God.
Like Rahab and Ruth, we have chosen to follow God, the Creator and orchestrator of all things. Like Naomi, without God and the gift of His Son Jesus, whom He sent, we will live a lonely, bitter, helpless life. We need a redeemer to bring new life.
We don’t need to be born into the “right” family, fully understand all of the laws and customs, or even be “good enough.” We only need to step into the arms, under the wings, of the Redeemer. We are never too far away to be saved if we are willing. All things, even those not condoned by God, can ultimately be used by Him. Even if you don’t have it all figured out or have it all together, choose God…and then watch Him work.
Challenge: Spend time reflecting on God’s power, mercy, and grace.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was TAMAR, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was RUTH, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been URIAH’S WIFE… Matthew 1:1-6 (caps added by me)
We are taking a detour to fast forward to the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus. Four women are mentioned in the family line (which was extremely unusual). Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.
Before we get to Rahab and Ruth, we see Tamar. Her story is recorded in Genesis chapter 38 and it isn’t pretty. Tamar was married to Er, the oldest son of Judah (the son of Jacob and the wife he was tricked into marrying. Leah). Er was extremely wicked, leading to his death at the hands of God. When Er died, the Jewish custom would have been for one of Er’s brothers to redeem her by caring for her, marrying her, and having a child with her to preserve Er’s family name. But the second oldest son was also wicked and died at the hands of God. Judah doesn’t keep his promises to Tamar to provide for her so she takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah takes the bait. She gets pregnant and has a child, Perez, who we see in the family line of Jesus. Tamar is both the daughter-in-law of Judah and the mother of his child.
Don’t be afraid to say it or think it…this is a terrible story. None of this sinful behavior is directed or approved of by a holy God. It is evil in His eyes. But despite unholy people, God’s forward-looking plan continues. God is faithful even when we are not. God’s plans will always prevail. We want to be on Team God, even though we will live it out imperfectly. He is sovereign and always in control.
Questions: Why was it important for God to preserve accounts of these people and decisions steeped in sin and messy living? What can we learn about the character of God in these stories?
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:16-17
So just when you think the story couldn’t get any better, it is punctuated with the genealogy a few generations after the son of Ruth and Boaz…Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Yes, King David. We will learn more about him as we continue in God’s story to us, but you may have heard of him. The shepherd boy who killed the giant, Goliath, everyone was afraid to fight. The one described as a man after God’s own heart. David, the great-grandson of the once homeless and childless widow, Ruth.
Let that soak in. A redemption story that has impact generations beyond its story.
Interestingly it is Naomi who is mentioned as taking the child into her arms and caring for him. Naomi whom the women say, “Naomi has a son!” He is part of her redemption story too.
And while this is the end of the book of Ruth, it isn’t the end of God’s story. The entire Bible points to Jesus. Naomi, Ruth, Boaz were all part of the story…as are all of us. While there are ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, the story isn’t about us. It is God’s story and it is all about Jesus, the one who came to save us. To fully satisfy the penalty of our sin by His blood so the story can end with us with Him for all eternity.
Just as Ruth and Naomi needed a redeemer, we too need a redeemer. This life and fallible humans in it will always let us down. Trying to do things in our own power will always let us down. Trying to be good enough will always let us down. And until we recognize our need for a redeemer, we won’t receive the power that comes from being redeemed.
Questions: Where are you growing weary trying to do things on your own? Have you come to a point of realizing your desperate need for a redeemer?
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Ruth 4:13-15
The fairytale ending…Ruth and Boaz together at last. A son. An heir.
Naomi, who left Bethlehem blessed and came back bitter, is now full. Oh, how our stories can change. We never know what lies ahead. No matter how bad things seem, nothing is beyond repair. Nothing is outside the loving arms of God.
The women say a blessing over Naomi. The Lord is praised. God’s provision of a guardian-redeemer has come through for Naomi.
From the beginning when sin first entered our lives through Adam and Eve, God had a redeemer in mind. And it is even better than Boaz, this protector and man of honorable character we have grown to love.
God ultimately had in mind His one and only son. The only sinless person to enter the world. The only one worthy to stand up and say, “I will redeem it.”
The women tell Naomi this daughter-in-law who loves her has proven better than any number of sons…the one thing Naomi thought she needed for her future well-being.
God's plans will also prove better than any we could imagine. God, whose creativity made all things, has things in store for our lives and His glory that are beyond our small scale thinking and imagination. He is a good good Father.
Question: Has God’s plans for a situation in your life manifested in a way that far exceeded your hopes and expectations?
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” Ruth 4:11-12
Not only do the elders and others at the gate declare they are witnesses that Ruth is now with Boaz, they also speak a blessing over this union and their offspring.
But remember the beginning of our story. We learn that Ruth is barren, which is why she and Naomi have no heirs. However, as we well know at this point, all things are possible with God.
The blessing reaches back into stories passed on among Israelite families. Of Rachael & Leah, two wives of Jacob who gave birth to some of the sons that would later make up the Israel nation – the 12 tribes of Israel. And of Perez and Tamar.
Interestingly both of these family examples were not stories of devoted loving relationships and smooth sailing. These historical families referenced as part of the blessing were from broken, deceiving, hurtful relationships. Remember that Jacob was in love with Leah’s sister and Leah lived heartbroken, very aware of Jacob’s devotion to Rachael. It was a messy family, to say the least. And the messy family tree doesn’t end there (more on Tamar’s story to come).
Time and again we see God’s plans prevail despite our sinning, scheming and stepping all over ourselves. Not that God condones sinful behavior – in fact, the opposite is true -- it painfully causes separation from Him. But despite our mess, God can work all things for good and for His Glory.
Ruth and Boaz show that our position in society or sinful baggage from generations past will not thwart God’s good plans.
Question: Do you ever feel like your past mistakes, or maybe even those of your family, keep God from working in your life?
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” Ruth 4:5-6
Boaz acknowledges that he is a guardian-redeemer for Ruth’s family, but notes that there is one that is more closely related who must be notified and given the opportunity to redeem first.
Boaz goes immediately to the place of business…the town gate. He sits, waiting for his competition for Ruth. He motions the man to come over and presents the facts about the land of Elimelek to be redeemed.
“I will redeem it,” the man says.
But Boaz had a bit of information he was holding back. With redeeming the land comes Ruth, who Boaz points out is a Moabite. Not only does the man have to take this Moabite woman, but he will also have to share his inheritance.
The man is more concerned with the impact on his own estate than with helping his relatives. He declines.
But that’s okay. As we have seen from the beginning, God has a better plan. Boaz is free to be the guardian redeemer. Free to marry Ruth.
The man (not even named in the book of Ruth) did not have the vision to see what was available to him. Little did he know that he had a chance at becoming an intimate part of God’s bigger redemption story, but turned it down for the treasures he currently esteemed more highly.
How often we cling to things that keep us from having even more of what God has in store for us.
Challenge: Pray that you will not miss out on bigger things of God by holding on to what you think you want and need to make you happy. Think about how you can continually be open to God’s bigger plans instead of clinging to your lesser plans.
When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” Ruth 3:16-18
Naomi devises a plan for Ruth to essentially let Boaz know she is “interested” and that he is a guardian-redeemer. She is basically asking Boaz to marry her. Like the laws God gave the Jews about gleaning in the fields to provide food for the less fortunate, God also put in place a way for widows to be taken care of and the family name to be preserved where there were no heirs. The guardian-redeemer is a male relative who has the privilege and responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble or in need. The Hebrew term translates to one who delivers, rescues or redeems property or a person. Again, we see God in advance of all things making a way to protect and provide for His children.
In Ruth’s story, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus, our ultimate deliverer, rescuer, redeemer.
Meanwhile, back at the threshing floor, Boaz continues to protect Ruth with dignity and respect. He wants to make sure no one misinterprets her presence to protect her reputation. He ensures she leaves with provisions for her and her mother-in-law, sending her off with more barley…more meals. They won’t be going hungry on his watch. He may not be the official redeemer yet, but he intends to take care of them.
Naomi is encouraged as she eagerly awaits the outcome. Hope emerges. Things just may indeed change for this bitter woman trying to heal from a devastating set of circumstances.
Questions: How hard is it for you to wait for something you really want? How long before you start to scheme up plans to move things along quicker?
Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:22-21
Ruth returns to Naomi with stories of her day and food to eat. She recounts Boaz’s advice and Naomi repeats it…stay close to Boaz and the workers in his field. While gleaning was Jewish law, it could also be dangerous. Not everyone had the best intentions and Ruth was a foreigner in their land. By staying close to those who could be trusted, she had a better chance of being safe.
The same is true in our lives. There are people in our lives we should stay close to and those that we should probably put more distance between us and them.
Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And whether or not this is true, one thing is for certain…the people you hang out with influence and impact you.
We need to be careful and intentional about who we “stay close” to. People who lift us up instead of tearing us down. People who will tell us the truth, even when it is HARD, rather than those who just say what we want to hear. People who will draw us close to God, rather than those that will pull us away. People who have our back and will help protect us, rather than those that will do us harm at the drop of a hat if it serves their purposes.
At the same time, we need to be those people to our friends. We need to be the kind of person people seek out to stay close to.
Questions: Are there people in your life that are doing more damage to your character and your walk with God than helping it? If so, how can you create some distance? Are there people you want to seek out or get to know better that you would like to “stay close” to? What steps can you take to have more people like this in your life?
Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:11-12
Ruth’s reputation as loyal is spreading. What a wonderful thing to be known for in your new homeland. She came to town as a foreigner and widow with nothing. And not just any foreigner, a Moabite. The Moabites descended from deep sin and were looked down upon by the Israelites. Despite all of this going against her, it didn’t take long for her to be known for her love of her mother-in-law and strong work ethic. Her character was outshining her background and circumstances.
What we do and how we live matters. As Christians, we are told that people will know the love of God by seeing how we live and love people.
Boaz gives Ruth a blessing…that the Lord repay her for what she has done and for her to be richly rewarded. Boaz recognizes that she has come under the wings of the Lord to take refuge from her circumstances and loss.
With every action, Ruth is proving to be a woman of strong character, and Boaz shows himself as a man of God. “As it turns out” this was not a bad field to work in.
In a small way, Ruth is beginning to see some light in her dark situation. While she didn’t stand by and wait for others to fix things for her, she did crawl into the wings of the Lord – this God she likely heard so much about from her husband and his family -- for refuge. Things are looking up.
Questions: What would you say you are known for? What traits would people list about you if asked? How can we take refuge in the wings of the Lord? What does this look like in our lives?
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” Ruth 2:8-9
Boaz, the owner of the field Ruth is working in, arrives onsite and asks about the new girl, Ruth.
Gleaning was a part of Jewish law mentioned several places in the Old Testament. It’s a command to leave a portion of crops for foreigners, widows, and orphans to come after and collect. It is a reminder to the Israelites that they were once slaves in Egypt and now that they are free, they should look out for the less fortunate among them.
God made a way for the poor to support themselves and the more fortunate to be generous to those in need. It was an opportunity for dignity and productive work for those who otherwise would have to depend on begging, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. God put laws in place to protect and provide for His people.
All of us have areas in our life with abundance that we can share. Think outside of financial needs too. Have you gotten through a rough experience that you can share with someone in the middle of it now? Have you overcome obstacles in areas you can help others in the midst of them? Are you a good listener and can sit quietly with someone who is hurting? Are you a natural encourager who can provide that extra bit of support someone may be needing? God intended us to share our gifts. And God sends people to come alongside us to share their gifts with us.
Sometimes we will be the ones in need of gleaning, and sometimes we will be the ones with abundance to share. Let’s always have the courage and conviction to step into each of these roles when the opportunities present themselves.
Challenge: Where do you have abundance God may be asking you to share? Create a plan with ways you can share your gifts with others.
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek. Ruth 2:2-3
Rather than sitting on the sidelines wallowing in self-pity about her horrible and unfair circumstances, Ruth is ready to get to work. She asks Naomi about going into the fields to pick up the leftover grain left behind. The Israelites were commanded by God to leave behind some of the grain during the harvest for the widows and less fortunate.
Ruth doesn’t wait for someone to fix things for her, or even tell her what to do. She looks for opportunities and makes a plan.
At the end of the passage, we see that “as it turned out” she was working in the field of someone from the family of her deceased father-in-law. At first pass, it may seem she lucked out with that one. But as we study the Bible, we learn more and more that God’s hand is on everything.
It is such an encouragement – and relief – to recognize and trust that God is in control. But we must also remember that we need to do our parts. We aren’t supposed to just sit on the sidelines. We are supposed to be in the game; looking for opportunities and taking steps…even if baby steps…to make the changes we need to make in our lives and circumstances where we are able to.
Powerful things can happen when we combine God’s incredible provision…putting people in our path, opening doors, and nudging us toward His purposes…with our stepping out to do our part. God can’t wait to team up with us for things beyond our imagination.
Questions: When you are dealt a bad hand in life how do you typically respond? Do you complain or feel sorry for yourself, or do you get to work, doing what you can to try to make things better? Do you believe God is working in all things at all times?
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-21
Until this point. it seemed like things may be looking up a bit for Naomi. Her daughter-in-law has shown incredible loyalty and love to follow her back to her homeland. A new fresh start. But we see in this passage the despair is just as deep.
The women arrive home…Bethlehem. The whole town is in a stir. Imagine a life with no tv, cell phones, 24/7 news, social media. The return of Naomi was BIG news. Imagine the whispers and questions and stares.
When we envision a homecoming, we want to come back looking good, with sweet reports of the great life we left and exciting stories of our adventures. Naomi recalls initially leaving Bethlehem full. There may have been a famine they were escaping, but things were good. The last thing we want to do is crawl back home heartbroken with nothing. Worse off than when we left.
Naomi’s reaction quickly reveals her state of mind. Rooting her identity in her present circumstances, she tells them to change her name to Mara…bitter. Names had much meaning in their day. She recounts that she left full and returned empty. She recognizes God’s sovereignty but feels He has afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. She is basically having a pity party, yet who can really blame her.
But we learn the barley harvest is beginning. Crops are growing again. New life. Perhaps this is a hint of what is to come for Naomi. God is so big, so good, so present… and has so much yet to show Naomi about her true identity in the One who provides and redeems.
Questions: Do you often find you have a narrow view of your life based on your immediate circumstances? Do you have a hard time looking forward or trusting that God has good plans when you are in the thick of a rough patch of life?
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
Naomi’s story takes a hopeful turn when word reaches her that the Lord had come to the aid of His people, the Israelites. Remember the cycle the Israelites were in…rebel, remorse, God’s hand/peace, repeat. The tide seems to have turned and there is peace in Israel now. With no family ties to Moab and nowhere to turn, Naomi decides to head home.
Naomi urges the wives of her two deceased sons to stay with their people in Moab. Going with Naomi would mean a significant change in their lifestyle and culture. It would mean worshipping the God of Naomi’s religion and living a life of hardship and poverty with no male head of household.
One of the daughters-in-law, Orpah, likes the idea of showing kindness to Naomi but is not up to the sacrifices of following through. Not so of Ruth.
Ruth is set on traveling with Naomi and comforting her in this time of despair. She knows what the right thing to do is, and she does it!
She is determined to leave her home, people, gods, and lifestyle to comfort and serve Naomi. She doesn’t have all the answers, but she believes Naomi’s God – our God – is BETTER than anything she would leave behind.
With nothing but each other and hope for a better future, Ruth joins Naomi on the journey back home.
Questions: Has anyone ever stuck with you during a hard time in your life, even when it required a sacrifice on their part? Do you think that Ruth, living with her husband’s family, was introduced to their God (the God of Israel…our God)? Do you think God has the power to draw people to Him, even in the “foreign” lands of difficult circumstances, a culture and world that tends to reject Him, a time when following the One True God is not very popular?
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. Ruth 1:1
There is a beautiful story of redemption tucked into the Bible’s account of the dark period of Judges…a time when God’s people were stuck in a cycle of rebellion, remorse, peace, repeat. They would have incredible victories when they trusted God, followed by corruption and devastating defeat when they looked to the idols and customs of their neighbors.
The story of Ruth opens with a move during a time of devastation and famine. An Israelite named Elimelek and his wife, Naomi, with their two sons, move to Moab. While there appears to be peace between the nations in this brief period, the Moabites and Israelites were notorious enemies.
Elimelek and Naomi made the Moabite land home for over ten years. Though foreign, it probably became comfortable in some ways. Their sons even married Moabite women. But suffering followed them to their new home. Naomi’s husband and two sons die, leaving her in a foreign land steeped in deep sorrow and loss. She has nothing. No heirs to carry on the family name, no one to take care of her, no family to comfort her. Loss. Devastation. Isolation.
We can sometimes read books like Judges in the Bible and lose sight of the fact that there are real people living ordinary lives in the midst of the roller-coaster chaos. The story of Ruth gives us a peek into the lives of one family struggling through this period. We’ll spend a few days looking at this family and the redemption story that unfolds through their lives.
Question: Have you ever felt like you were in a period of famine, devastation, or hopelessness in a foreign land? If so, let the story of Ruth over the next few days be a source of hope.