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Reflections on Ruth December 29, 2010

Posted by Jeremy in Thoughts on Theology.
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Over the past four weeks the church Tracy and I are part of has been going through the book of Ruth.  I’ve really enjoyed spending time digging  into this book and hearing it preached through from start to finish.

I thought I would share my reflections on the book.

First, a little background about the book since I’m sure many of you are unfamiliar with it.

The book is written during the period of the judges.  Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons leave Bethlehem because of a famine to stay in Moab.  Elimelech dies and his two sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah.  After ten years of being married both sons die and neither of them have had any children.  Naomi, who now has no family, decides to head back to Bethlehem hearing that the famine is over in Israel.  Orpah stays in Moab but Ruth decides to go with Naomi.  Ruth meets a relative of Elimelech, Boaz.  Naomi knows he is a possible kinsman-redeems.  A closer kinsman-redeemer refuses to marry Ruth, Boaz marries her.  They have a son Obed, who becomes the grandfather of King David.

There are two things that I want to flush out that I gleaned from Ruth.

One is that of kindness.  Ruth showed so much kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi.  She didn’t have to come with her to Israel, which would be a foreign place for her….leaving her family.  You see the loyalty that Ruth has to Naomi in 1:8-18.  In this section you have the classic line of Ruth to her mother-in-law.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. (Ruth 1:16-18 ESV)

You also have the kindness that Boaz shows to Ruth, acting as her kinsman-redeemer, and in marrying her.  Man I want to understand the kindness that Ruth & Boaz exhibits in their lives and have that reflected in mine.  That my kindness would reflect that of the kindness (steadfast love) shown to me through Christ.

Second is that of redemption. This is at the heart of the story that unfolds in the book of Ruth.  “Reedeem”, “Redeemer”, and  “Redemption” appear 23 times.

Understanding the kinsman-redeemer

The Law of the kinsman redeemer is found in Leviticus 25:47-55. The redeemer must be a kinsman (vs 48-49). The idea of a kinsman redeemer in Old Testament times was to help someone in poverty who was unable to redeem their inheritance. Besides this gracious act of redemption towards one’s own kind, the kinsman redeemer could also preserve the family line of a deceased male relative by marrying his widow and providing an heir (Deut. 25:5-6).  The Law also stated in Leviticus 25:25 “when your brother is reduced to poverty, and sells some of his inheritance, if a relative of his brings the redemption for it, then the purchaser shall restore it to his brother”.

Once Boaz redeems Ruth, both Ruth and Naomi’s circumstances and plight change drastically. “This reversal is highlighted by contrasts: living/dead (1:8-20); find/seek rest (1:9; 3:1); pleasant/bitter (1:20); full/empty (1:21; 3:17); last/first kindness (3:10).” (ESV study bible notes, intro to Ruth)

Boaz is an image of Christ.  Christ is the ultimate kinsman-redeemer of his people, his church.    Ruth is a Gentile woman who leaves her country and trust’s the Lord’s care for her life and future.  Her inclusion in the kingdom of God foreshadows the expansion of God’s kingdom to Gentiles in the New Testament.

The main question I was struck with as we finished this book is that how is the Lord calling me to be like Boaz?  How is the Lord calling me to be an agent of reconciliation and redemption in my community and the broader world?  This is what I’ve been reflection on as a result of my time in the book of Ruth.  I look forward to the Lord meeting me in these areas.

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