The Book of Ruth | Memorial Park Church

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Advent is the time of year leading to our celebration of the birth of Christ. The four Sundays preceding Christmas are a time to focus on four virtutes—hope, love, joy, and peace—and to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus. Advent is actually Latin for “coming”, and this preparation for Christ’s coming can be explored three-fold: Christ’s birth into the world of man where He came to die for our sins; Christ’s coming into our lives now through the Holy Spirit; and Christ’s return to the world.

Yet God’s divine plan began much earlier than the birth of Christ. Each and every story in the Bible points towards the coming of Jesus. Even the stories of those who turned away from God ultimately point to His grace and towards salvation. One of the vital narratives of redemptive history is the Book of Ruth. This detailed telling of the story of Naomi, Ruth, and a man named Boaz, shows the patterns of grace that God works in Scripture and in our lives today—all pointing towards Jesus, the coming King. In these few weeks before Advent officially begins, we’ll be exploring the Book of Ruth and its importance in the timeline leading to Christ.

Give me the synopsis. What’s the story?

For those of you who have ever used Cliff Notes know how handy they are (as an English Literature major, I was absolutely guilty of this in a pinch!). We’ll go through a brief summary of the Book of Ruth and the major players we see before digging in further.

Here’s what you need to know: the story begins with a woman named Naomi, her husband, and two sons. While they were originally from Bethlehem, they decided to move to Moab where Naomi’s two sons married. Her daughters-in-law were named Orpah and Ruth. After several years, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. She decided to return to Bethlehem and told her Orpah and Ruth to return to their fathers’ houses as she would be traveling back to Bethlehem. While Orpah did return to her childhood home, Ruth did not, instead following her mother-in-law. In Bethlehem they settled, and Naomi sends Ruth to glean the leftovers from the harvest in the fields so they would have something to eat. Ruth faithfully follows her mother-in-law’s instructions and ends up in the fields of a man named Boaz. Boaz notices Ruth and allows her not only to share his food, but to also glean in the fields until dark. Ruth returns home to tell Naomi about the man and her day. Naomi counsels Ruth to meet Boaz that evening after he has fallen asleep. Ruth does so, Boaz realizes that Naomi wishes for Boaz to become their redeemer (the man closest of kin to Naomi and Ruth who would care for them) by marrying Ruth, and sends Ruth home with barley for her mother-in-law. Boaz, knowing there is a closer relative than himself to take on the redeemer role, approaches the other man the following day, settles the matter, and marries Ruth. Together they have a son.

Those are the basics of the Book of Ruth. You’re probably thinking, that’s all? What’s so important about Ruth if that’s the entire story? Yet within each facet of the narrative—moving from Bethlehem to Moab and back—we can find great significance and an enormous measure of God’s grace.

What do we get from the story?

Let’s start back at the beginning. In Ruth 1, Naomi, her husband, and her two sons decide to leave Bethlehem (where their people worship God and find community together) for Moab (where the people do not worship God and where Naomi experiences tragedy in the death of her husband and sons). The beginning of this story tells of a turning away from God. This is not abnormal in the Bible. Many of the books of the Bible tell the histories of those who turned away from the Lord for one reason or another. While the Book of Ruth doesn’t detail why Naomi and her family left, we can assume that they were in search of prosperity. Yet in the ten years that Naomi lived in Moab, she found the opposite. Her decision to return to Bethlehem is spurred by hearing that the Lord had blessed His people with food. In her search for more, Naomi is guided back to where she can experience fullness.

Even when we might stray from Him, He offers us a way back. For Naomi, he offers redemption by showing her that she can find fullness (physical and spiritual) by returning to her homeland. She is offered a chance at redemption—what He offers each of us. Yet, what’s more surprising than the repentance of Naomi is Ruth’s desire to go with her.

Ruth is from Moab. She has spent her whole life growing up in a land that did not know of or embrace God’s love and grace. Yet Ruth saw something in Naomi that led her to say, “‘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’” (Ruth 1:16, NIV). What did she see in Naomi? Did she see the grace with which Naomi weathered the grief caused by her husband and son’s deaths? Did she see a promising return to faith in Naomi when she decided to return to Bethlehem? God worked through Naomi to spark a conversion in Ruth, who, from this point forward, dedicated her life to her mother-in-law and, more importantly, to God.

Hindsight is 20-20

In Sinclair B. Ferguson’s book Faithful God: An Exposition on the Book of Ruth, he notes that of course Naomi and Ruth (and later Boaz) couldn’t know the plans that God had for them in the moment. “The providences of God, as John Flavel cleverly put it, are Hebrew,” Ferguson remarks, “they can only be properly read backwards” (50). While neither Naomi or Ruth would think anything of the trajectory of their lives in the moment, we see clearly that through Naomi, God worked on Ruth’s heart to cause this great conversion. This book is about the way in which the Lord brings us to faith.

In that light, let’s move on to explore Boaz. The first mention of Boaz is seemingly insignificant—“Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz” (Ruth 2:1)—yet he ends up playing a pivotal part in this history.

One idea we should cover before we explore the relationship between Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, is the concept of the “redeemer”. In Jewish tradition, if a woman was widowed, the closest male relative of her husband was expected to marry the widow, taking care of her as family (any other responsibilities we won’t get into here). This is often referred to as the kinsman-redeemer and can basically be defined as a male relative who has the responsibility to help a relative in need. (You can explore more on this topic in“The Importance and Meaning of a Kinsman-Redeemer” at So, when we see Boaz referred to as a “redeemer”, this means that he is responsible for helping his relatives (Naomi and Ruth).

In Ruth 2, we see Ruth’s first interactions with Boaz and what kind of man Boaz is: a faithful servant of God. Ruth goes to the fields that Boaz owns to follow behind the men who are harvesting the grain to glean (essentially to pick up what is left over from the harvest). When Boaz notices her, he treats her like family: he invites her to sit and eat with him and his harvesters, he allows her to glean from his fields as long as she’d like, he offers her protection by telling his men to watch out for her, and he sends her home with plenty for herself and her mother-in-law. Not only that, but he praises her dedication and her conversion in coming to a new land and embracing God. He sees something in her that reflects something in himself: faithfulness. And she returns full of God’s blessing and provision.

We can see that God has plans for these two. Like I quoted before, God’s plans can only be clearly read backwards. We can see this “accidental” meeting as more than just happenstance because we are reading this after-the-fact. This story is a reflection of the ultimate story that God tells: a person searching for redemption will always find it in Him. As we continue reading about the interactions between Ruth and Boaz, God makes himself known in their dialogue and their actions.
Naomi ends Ruth 2 with a blessing over Boaz: “‘May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20). As Ferguson writes in his exposition of Ruth, “Blessing, as Naomi well knows, is the expression of God’s covenant goodness to those who trust and obey him, who mirror his image and express his character in the way in which they live in this world.” Throughout Ruth thus far, we see both Ruth and Naomi wishing blessings on Boaz, and Boaz blessing Ruth. These blessings hint that both Boaz and Ruth are a reflection of God’s covenant goodness in the world.

In the (slightly scandalous) Ruth chapter 3, we begin to see even more of the covenant goodness (hesed) in both Ruth and Boaz. Although Naomi’s redemption has progressed, she is not, perhaps, fully trusting in the Lord. Or perhaps she is overly excited about God’s plan she sees unfolding before her. She is anxious for their future. She urges Ruth to go to Boaz on the threshing floor (a place for men after working the day of harvest), hide until after he has eaten, drank, and fallen asleep. Naomi instructs Ruth to uncover his feet (gasp!) and lay there until dawn. Boaz will tell you what to do, Naomi says. Can you see the stereotypical mother trying to match-make? She sees what is happening and makes every attempt to move things forward. Yet, “hunches about what God is doing should not be turned into schemes by which we engineer circumstances in order to bring those purposes to pass in an accelerated way” (Ferguson, 86).

Even so, Ruth, in her faithfulness and trust, does what her mother-in-law says. She goes to the threshing floor, finds Boaz after he is asleep, uncovers his feet, and waits. At this point in the narrative, we are holding our breath. What will happen? How will Boaz react to this forward, brash behavior? After he wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet, he yet again proves he is a reflection of God’s goodness. He doesn’t scold Ruth or get angry, he blesses her and her worthiness. Yet, we also have Ruth to consider: did she know what she was doing? Certainly she was aware of how taboo her actions were and how her mother-in-law was manipulating the situation. Yet why did she put herself in a situation where she could have been dishonored? Might it have been because she saw in Boaz what he saw in her? Perhaps she knew that Boaz would react the way he did from their previous interactions and the blessings they laid on each other. One can only guess.

Leading to More

The Book of Ruth ends in just 4 chapters, but Ruth 4:1-22 are perhaps the most pivotal of the entire narrative. Yes, the book is almost entirely transactional: two men striking a deal. Boaz realizes he is not the closest male relative to Naomi’s deceased husband (the first in line for the redeemer role), so he sets of to talk to the man in line before him. This man is not named in the narrative, but they discuss redemption. Boaz asks the man, will you buy the parcel of land Naomi is selling and with it, acquire her daughter-in-law, Ruth? The man, initially, says he will buy the parcel and take care of Naomi, but when he learns of Ruth, he declines, passing along the right of redemption to Boaz. The chapter goes on outlining the confirmation of the transaction between the two men, and wraps up with a “happily ever after.”

“So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.” The end. Or so we think.

Ruth and Boaz, in their blessed marriage, had a son. “Then, the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him’” (Ruth 4:14-15). Finally, Naomi finds redemption. And so do we. The final verses of Ruth outline the lineage leading to Jesus. “Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (Ruth 4:18-21). King David, who fathered the linage of Jesus!

Finally, the purposes of God in the narrative of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz become clear. We see a turning away and a returning, a sin and a redemption, a hint of what God will do in the future. All of the small details He looks after, all of the seemingly minor twists and turns He throws at us, all of the meddling with the best of intention He works around to fulfill His ultimate plan: salvation, redemption, fulfillment of His covenant. He ultimately leads us to Jesus, who is our salvation.

Looking Ahead

A drop in the ocean is minor, but at the same time part of a grand, ever-moving body of similar drops that make a whole. Ferguson, in his exposition, summarizes quite eloquently the purpose of narratives like the Book of Ruth: “the explanation for much that takes place in our lives lies well beyond our own lives, and may be hidden from us all through our lives. For God does not mean to touch only our lives by what he does in us; he has the lives of others in view—even those yet unborn” (125). The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz is a relatively short book in the Bible, yet without it, we wouldn’t have Jesus. This seemingly minor narrative is just one example of God’s grace in planning for our ultimate salvation.

The Wrap Up

I could go on and on finding other details to explore in the Book of Ruth. This is certainly a small sampling of the significant choices God made and the narrator chose to tell us of the story of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz. Yet, this will hopefully give you an opportunity to think about the ways in which God has worked in your life to bring you to where you are now; to wonder where He is taking you next; and to joyfully celebrate where He will ultimately bring you through Jesus’ sacrifice. As we prepare for the Advent season, we hope you will tune into our podcast , which explores Ruth in more detail, our sermons, which will dive into each chapter of Ruth exclusively, and explore the variety of resources on RightNow Media that talk about Ruth, Advent, and more. As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email us ! We’d love to hear from you.

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