Faith of a Stranger: The Story of Ruth Part 4 (Final)

One of the most powerful love stories in the Bible is the story of Ruth. Not only does it show the development of love between Ruth and Boaz, but it reveals a lot about the God who loves us. This month, the focus of the series of posts will be about Ruth.

It is easier, even for the children of God, to bear adversity than prosperity, especially if it come after long delay and unexpectedly. But Ruth was “simple” in heart; or, as the New Testament expresses it, her “eye was single,” and God preserved her. And now, in the altered circumstances, she still acts quite in character with her past. She complains not of her poverty; she explains not how unused she had been to such circumstances; but she takes humbly, and with surprised gratitude, that to which she had no claim, and which as a “stranger” she had not dared to expect. 

Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament

Part 4: The Redemption of a Stranger

Boaz promised Ruth that she will be redeemed. But to do that, Boaz need to fulfill the tradition to the dot. While Boaz is a kinsman of Elimelech, he is not the nearest of kin. He needed to make sure that there would be no question as to how he accomplished Ruth’s redemption.

So the next day, Boaz went to the town gates. There he met with the nearest kinsman. It is remarkable that the man’s name was not mentioned at all in the story. He is simply known as the kinsman.

Boaz then began talking business with the kinsman but first he gathered the elders to discuss the fate of Elimelech’s lot. Boaz called the elders to witness the conversation. This would ensure that their process is right and should there be any objections, the elders could correct them.

Boaz began by explaining that Elimelech left land that he could inherit. His opening invitation is ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ ”

This piqued the interest of the relative. He immediately told everyone that he would buy the land. However, Boaz mentioned that should the relative desire to claim the land, he also needs to claim Ruth. This takes us a glimpse of God’s law during their time. He does not want one person to buy off everyone’s land thus, the moment a person sells of his land, he regains ownership of it after a few years. A relative may purchase the land when that person dies, however, the sale includes the family that was left by the deceased. This would ensure that the widow and the orphaned children would be taken cared of.

The relative was immediately taken aback! He did not want additional mouths to feed. He thought that taking Ruth under his wing, a Moabitess, a stranger, and a widow, would actually mar his inheritance. He thought that such an act would be a lowering of his stature as an Israelite and as a nobleman. So the relative insisted that Boaz take the land and Ruth as his wife.

As a custom during their time, once a sale is done, a man is to give his sandal to the man he is transacting with to indicate that the deal is closed. So before the elders and the rest of the people of the city, the next of kin took of his sandal and gave it to Boaz.

Thus Boaz now owns Elimelech’s land and has taken Ruth from the bondage of poverty and widowhood and is now married to Boaz.

According to Due Process

Boaz desire to redeem Ruth was expressed the night prior. While he can do it instantly, he decided to follow the due process because there is a kinsman who is a closer relative, and thereby had a better claim to Elimelech’s property and to Ruth. Thus, Boaz’s every movement is of significance to the process of redeeming Ruth. Just by sitting by the gate of Bethlehem, he is declaring that he has a legal matter to attend to or a business to transact (see Deut. 16:18). He then called the kinsman and ten members of the elders (see Exo. 18:25) in the presence of the whole town, he made his transaction legal. What made him do all of this is because of his love for Ruth.

But why was Boaz so hasty, why so fond of the match? Ruth was not rich, but lived upon alms; not honourable, but a poor stranger. She was never said to be beautiful; if ever she had been so, we may suppose that weeping, and travelling, and gleaning, had withered her lilies and roses. But that which made Boaz in love with her, and solicitous to expedite the affair, was that all her neighbours agreed she was a virtuous woman. This set her price with him far above rubies (Prov. 31:10); and therefore he thinks, if by marrying her he might do her a real kindness, he should also do himself a very great kindness. He will therefore bring it to a conclusion immediately.

Matthew Henry Commentary

The same could be said of Jesus. He came to this world to fulfill an ancient covenant given at the beginning of time in Genesis 3:15. He came following the due process of things. He came as the righteous Son of God who will redeem mankind from the oppressive poverty of righteousness and from being a stranger in a world usurped by the deceiver. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19) Jesus did it in due process. He had to live the life of the humble and weak. He called out people who would be witnesses to the life He would live. He frequently reminded them of the covenant that God had made after Adam and Eve sinned. Finally, He offered His life. The requirement was death as a result of the disobedience that Adam and Eve have committed. He gave His life up willingly as full payment of the sins of mankind.

Fair and Honorable Dealings

At the gates, Boaz made his proposition to the kinsman. He reminded the kinsman of the land that Naomi through her husband Elimelech currently has. He mentioned that this property could be purchased from Naomi. He wanted to see the intention of the kinsman by offering the land to him. He could actually have bought it in private without the knowledge of the kinsman, yet he went out into the open as the laws have dictated. At the end of his offer, he recognized the his status with the kinsman: “I am next after you.’” This is a move that shows his humility. Telling the kinsman and the people of Bethlehem that he too wanted this land, but because someone had a better claim to it, he wanted to do it fair and square.

“After setting forth the facts and recognizing the rights of the nearer kinsman, Boaz clearly reveals his personal interest in the matter. He expresses hope that the nearer kinsman will not purchase the property.”

SDA Bible Commentary

The Lord deals with us fair and square. He wants our allegiance. He wants us to have faith in Him. But He is the one who waits for our decisions. He does not force himself on us even if in essence He already owns us by virtue of creation and redemption. Instead He acknowledges our own decision – to follow Him or not.

Jesus often ends his sermons or parables with the line “He who has ears, let him hear” (see Matt. 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35). He brings everyone to attend to the importance of His message and often the story or message is about making a decision. The same is true with Boaz’s line “And I thought to inform you” which literally translates “uncover your ears.” With this opening line he presented the kinsman his proposal. Jesus Christ also presents us with a proposal: a life of other-centered love which leads to ultimate joy, or a life of self-centered love which leads to more suffering. In this life, the biggest choice we could ever make is to choose Jesus Christ. At the end of age, the same lines will be repeated many times over. (see Rev. 2:7, 11; 3:6, 13 and 13:9)

“He who has an ear, let him hear.” What do you choose to hear?

Running from and Accepting Responsibility

The kinsman initially accepts the offer. He knew that an additional plot of land would benefit him greatly. He gladly accepts the offer without a second thought until Boaz showed him the fine print of the deal. He has to marry Ruth. Suddenly the kinsman showed a change of heart. While the kinsman was after the land, Boaz did not have the property in site. What he wanted was Ruth.

The order in which Boaz brought up the two aspects of the case implies that he was more interested in Ruth than in the land. This would be a typically Eastern approach to the problem, for Oriental psychology would lead Boaz to hold in the background that which was of major concern to him, and seek to arrange a satisfactory settlement without making his own interest in the matter the determining factor. In contrast, the nearer kinsman’s interest was centered exclusively on the land as a source of profit.

SDA Bible Commentary

In the Lord’s plans for the children of Israel, He intended that no one is left alone, penniless or helpless. Once a man dies, his next of kin should till his land and marry his wife. The idea was that next of kin and the wife would then have a child but that child would be counted with the first husband, ergo inheriting the property (see Deut. 25). This is what the kinsman avoided. He did not know that Elimelech had a daughter in law. Once he buys the property and marries Ruth, once they bore children, he would instantly have to give up the property to the children. Thus, voiding his purchase. The kinsman simply could care less to see the virtuous Ruth rather he focuses on the losses he would incur.

Accepting Jesus Christ does have a prize. We may not be assured of all the great things because we still live in an imperfect world but we are assured of salvation and a changed life and frame of mind. Yet, that assurance also entails a responsibility. When the kinsman agreed to purchase the property, he agreed to the gains he would receive but upon realizing the responsibility that the purchase entails, he immediately fled. He did not flee from his responsibility for Ruth, rather, he fled from his responsibility to God.

When we accept Jesus we are promised mansions (see John 14:1-3), but we are also called to go out into the world and make disciples of men (see Matt. 28:19-20). His promise for us to receive a land of peace and joy is sure, but in order to do so, we have to bear more of His children. In order to bear his children, we are to bring more people at His feet. We are to introduce Him to the world. His presence in our lives compels us to also receive such a responsibility and it is our choice to receive this promise and this responsibility. This is also love in action.

A Story Written by God

While the story seems like a simple poignant tale with a wonderful ending but with no significance to the whole narrative of the Bible. We can see how God was arranging all events to His purpose. At the end of the story, Boaz was able to purchase Elimelech’s land and marry Ruth. But the real ending to the story comes years after.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,

Matthew 1:5

God’s plan was not revealed until the birth of Jesus. As Matthew traces the genealogy from Adam to Jesus, Ruth and Boaz’s story suddenly becomes very significant. Ruth became the grandmother of David and the great-grandmother of Christ. The verse also testifies to the grace of God who allowed Ruth to be part of the genealogy of Jesus. She is 1 of 4 non-Israelite women ( the other being Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) who had the highest honors of being mentioned as part of the line of Jesus Christ. In a patriarchal society, women were not normally named in genealogies unless they have a significant story to tell. Ruth and Boaz’s love story turns out to be part of God’s plan to show to the world that He makes seemingly insignificant stories about female foreigners in a Hebrew dominated narrative turn into an important story of redemption that mirrors His eternal plan for salvation. In the end, the story of Boaz and Ruth is the story of Jesus and mankind.

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