The Biblical book of Ruth is a love story. Its plot is hopeful and sweet. Most people read Ruth and tenderly exclaim, aw. After all, it’s a classic tale of boy meets girl, of unexpected love discovered in the most routine of settings.
But it is more than a love story. It is a story about redemption, a story of how a person can be utterly empty one minute and overflowing the next. It is a story about how shame can be absorbed, about how someone can be lifted out of the pits, placed on a pedestal, and bestowed with a crown. Rags to riches. Indignity to stateliness. Destitution to grandeur.
At the beginning of the story, Naomi and her family leave their hometown Bethlehem and move to Moab. Unfortunately, her husband dies while there. Ten years after marrying Moabite women, her sons also pass away. Naomi is left with only two Moabite daughters-in-law.
Preparing to return to Bethlehem, she tearfully admonishes her daughters-in-law, “Return to your mothers. You can start again.”
One complies. Ruth, the other, does not and returns with Naomi. In Bethlehem Ruth and Naomi struggle to feed themselves, and Ruth is forced to scrounge for food the farmers accidentally leave behind during the harvesting process. In ancient Israel, the law prevents wives and daughters from inheriting property or estates. Because of this, Naomi must sell the land originally owned by her husband because the men in her family have died. There is one caveat: if one of Naomi’s relatives purchases the land, it stays in the family. The relative would then become Naomi’s “Kinsman-Redeemer.”
As Ruth and Naomi struggle to endure and find a buyer, Naomi’s rich relative Boaz notices Ruth as she is gathering in his field. Curious, he provides extra food and protection for her. Boaz nobly decides to buy Naomi’s property, but only after he has cleared it with Naomi’s other relative, who also qualifies to be Kinsman-Redeemer.
At first, the other relative is eager to buy the property. It appears to be a highly strategic move until he learns the deal includes marriage to Ruth and caring for her mother-in-law Naomi. You see, any offspring produced by Ruth and the Kinsman-Redeemer would lawfully belong to Naomi’s dead husband’s estate, and not the Kinsman-Redeemer’s. In other words, the Kinsman-Redeemer would be furthering his dead relative’s name instead of his own. Not so strategic anymore.
The first relative backs away from the deal. Boaz, however, gallantly offers to take his place. He will do it. He will purchase the land and marry the widow Ruth. He will redeem the broken family. Through Boaz’s decision, Naomi and Ruth’s family line will continue. The memory of Naomi’s previous family would live on.
There are some things we can learn from this story and apply to ourselves.
- Jesus notices you. Like the first relative, others may not see your value. The first relative carefully considered the proposition and realized Ruth and Naomi were just too weighty. Too needy. Others may do the same with you. They may see you as an encumbrance rather than asset. Oh sure, at first you appear to be advantageous, but they retreat once they learn of your humanity. In their eyes, you’re a liability. Suddenly you aren’t so useful to them anymore. Perhaps you have too many setbacks and they have enough of their own. Or they’re not prepared to deal with all your stuff. Either way, from their perspective you’re a commodity and the price is too high.
My salvation dawned at an unlikely time. At the age of twenty-seven, my life was full. Actually, that’s an understatement – it was swarming. Someone must have opened my luggage and dumped ten thousand huge rocks, zipped up, and said here you go. Good luck. I was struggling not to flounder. Young children, household, family. Extremely demanding, round-the-clock career. My brain often flooded and spilled valuable information. I’d forget birthdays, important appointments, once I even forgot my name before having to sign it. And unbelievingly, I was a perfectionist. It really was a huge setback. If it wasn’t faultless I started twitching. Which means I looked like I had a problem. That Easter in the midst of my frazzled mess God asked, Will you be Mine? I astonishingly looked around as though He were speaking to someone else. Me? I asked. I’m a jumble. Are You sure you aren’t talking to that young woman who’s just starting out? She’s a far better prospect. After all, I reasoned, I just have nothing left to give. I’m all tied up and my baggage is enormous. I’m a package deal. Surely I was no benefit.
Fortunately He was addressing me. To this day I don’t know what He ever could have seen, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that He sees. He saw past my messy problems and weights. He does the same with you, Friend. He sees past your issues, the problems you bring to the table. His piercing gaze sees your true value, the assets of your inner being. Like Boaz, Jesus sees you differently. Boaz looked past Ruth and Naomi’s potentially problematic situation and saw Ruth’s resilience and humility. He sees the value and desires them for himself. Jesus does the same. His penetrating eyes see past your surface issues to your heart and mind. The exterior is irrelevant to Him; He wants to know if you are receptive. He’s searching for an extended spiritual antenna. Your baggage is beside the point. Do you have a criminal record? No problem, Jesus says. Are you a dog-tired mom with too many clamoring hands to satisfy? Jesus wants you on His team. Do you have way too many failures on your record to ever offer anybody anything ever again? Jesus beckons you.
- Jesus absorbs your burdens. Once Boaz redeemed Ruth and Naomi, their encumbrances didn’t disappear. Without him, they were still poor widows. They still needed help. However, Boaz absorbed those problems and thus they became non-issues. You see, most people mistakenly believe once they’re saved, their baggage disappears. Not so.
Let’s be honest, we are accompanied by many problems. For example, some need constant affirmation, or are continually discontent. Or, some have poor self-images or excessive worry. These are burdens. Sure, Jesus lovingly shapes our hearts to eliminate these negative traits, but it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Renewal takes time. In these cases, Jesus absorbs your problems. He vouches for your insecurity. He takes on your jealousy and covetousness. He speaks for your negative thoughts and actions. Does He excuse them? Absolutely not. Will He douse you in fire to eliminate them? You bet He will. Does He, however, acknowledge and recognize them? Yes. He knows you are a work in progress. He willingly receives these problems if it means He has you. He’s after your heart, Friend. If it means He has to put up with your other, not-so-grand stuff, He’s tenderly prepared to do so.
- When Jesus redeemed you, He will redeem others through you. When Boaz redeemed Ruth, he also redeemed Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi. Through Ruth, Naomi is cared for, valued, and included. She has a place at the table in the Household of Boaz. She is the esteemed grandmother of Boaz and Ruth’s son, Obed. She has been plucked from impoverishment to opulence. Without Ruth, Naomi probably would have wasted away. She would have returned to Bethlehem alone and without the means to change her situation. She would have remained in hardship until the end. Through Ruth, however, that all changed.
Many have said to me they don’t believe they have influenced one person for Christ. They fear once they reach Heaven they will bring no one with them. I believe otherwise. I believe each and every person, whether they’ve been homebound or completely introverted, will have been a conduit of God’s love for at least one other. We underestimate our power and persuasion. God knows how effective our words and actions can be. It’s the one reason, I believe, Jesus left us here after our salvation. You were chosen to be a mouthpiece, an ambassador, a channel for God’s devotion to His creation. Never doubt that.
You are Jesus’ Ruth. Once you become a believer, Jesus reaches through you to your surrounding friends and family. He puts in your mouth the words He desires for them. He communicates His unrelenting love for your peers through you. He uses your ministry to speak His adoration to their hearts. He orchestrates your words and actions to capture their spirits to His.
- Jesus didn’t redeem you merely to live shame-free. He redeemed you to be in the king’s lineage. When Boaz redeemed Ruth, he redeemed Naomi. Naomi became grandmother to Obed, Boaz and Ruth’s son. Obed later fathered Jesse, who fathered David. King David. Naomi not only became a beloved grandmother; she became revered great-great grandmother to the most admired Jewish king of that time. Her memory lived through King David, who influences millions even today through his Psalms and stories. Christians everywhere rely daily on King David’s writings. The life of Naomi likely affects every believer alive today.
You see, Jesus didn’t redeem you simply to be dignified again. He wants far more for you. He purchased you to be in the King’s genealogy. He paid the price so you could sit at the table of royalty. He has a crown of splendor and a regal robe awaiting you. He desires to adorn your finger with His Majesty’s ring. You were saved to be a king. A queen. Not just noble. Imperial.
That’s not all. Jesus Himself was born in the lineage of King David. Jesus was born twenty-eight generations later into Naomi’s family tree. Jesus, the King of the World, chose Naomi to be His venerated great-grandmother. And because Jesus is the Father of all who believe, Naomi is effectively the great-grandmother to all Christians. How awe-inspiring.
Oh, Friend. Jesus has so much more for you than we often imagine. Our minds conjure images of just getting by, paying the bills, and surviving. Of being saved from trouble. Jesus envisions so much more. He sees past your temporal, surface shell and desires for you a life of redemptive splendor. Of great supremacy and success. Of profuse blessings and triumph. He yearns to do for you as He did for Naomi and deliver you out of the muck of despair into the hands of victory. God’s brilliance awaits you. He longs to set you high on the grand mountain of His Promised Land. All that’s needed is to trust in your Boaz – Jesus Christ – to swoop you out of the depths and into higher ground. Fairy tale love stories really do exist. Behold, Friend, your Ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer waits patiently for you.