For those not familiar with the wonderful story of Ruth let me share it. A man from the city of Bethlehem in Judah was forced to flee to the neighboring nation of Moab because of a famine in Israel. This man’s name was Elimelech. He brought his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Chilion and Mahlon, with him.
While in Moab, Elimelech died. His two sons married Moabite women. Mahlon married a woman named Orpah. Chilion married Ruth. Before long, both of Elimelech’s sons also died in Moab. This left Naomi with no husband, no children, and no grandchildren. All she had was two foreign-born daughters-in-law.
Widowed and bereaved of all her children, Naomi couldn’t remain in Moab any longer. The famine in Israel was over, so she told her two daughters-in-law that their obligation to her was over. They could return to their families, find new husbands, and build lives for themselves in their homeland.
Orpah returned to her family. But Ruth loved Naomi and had adopted Naomi’s faith in God. She refused to be separated from her mother-in-law, uttering those words that are usually recited at weddings.
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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).
So the two women returned to Bethlehem together. But Naomi, although a landowner, was still impoverished. She was now an old woman and the family land in Israel had been neglected. She had no means of preparing, plowing, and planting it.
Ruth, an energetic young woman, had to be the breadwinner. Since it was harvest time, she went into a neighboring field to gather whatever barley grain had been left behind by the reapers. This was a practice authorized by the Law of Moses for the benefit of the poor (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).
But without realizing it, Ruth had chosen to “glean” the fields of Naomi’s close relative – a man named Boaz, a very rich man. Fortunately for Naomi and Ruth, Boaz was a very kind person and began to take a personal interest in Ruth. He protected her from the other workers and supplied her generously with grain.
Naomi, aware that Boaz was a close relative, knew he had an obligation to “redeem” her from her poverty, according to the Law (Leviticus 25:23-28). Naomi had plenty of land but was faced with starvation. The gleanings at harvest time would not sustain her and Ruth through the long winter. She was in desperate need of money. So, through Ruth, Naomi pleaded for Boaz to redeem her by purchasing her property.
Boaz was more than happy to redeem Naomi and her daughter-in-law, especially if marrying Ruth was part of the deal. However, there was another relative of Naomi who was closer than Boaz. This unnamed relative had the primary obligation to redeem Naomi. Fortunately for Boaz, this nearest kinsman was unwilling and probably unable to do so. He asked Boaz to carry the burden of redemption.
Yet although Boaz was motivated by love for Ruth to redeem her mother-in-law, this was by no means a winning proposition for him. The property which Boaz purchased from Naomi would not be added to his lands. It would go to Ruth’s sons, which Boaz would raise up in the name of the deceased – another obligation according to the Law (Deuteronomy 25:5). So, Boaz’s money would go to Naomi, the sons he raised up would carry Chilion’s name rather than his own, and the land he acquired from Naomi would go to Chilion’s sons. Plus he would carry the burden of supporting Ruth.
It is, therefore, little wonder why Naomi’s nearest kin backed out of the responsibility. Unless he was an exceedingly wealthy man, he probably couldn’t absorb the loss. He certainly didn’t want to shortchange his own sons by diminishing their inheritance. If Boaz had any sons, they would thusly be shortchanged. If he did not have any sons, then Boaz faced complete oblivion. His offspring would not be his own and his entire inheritance would go to them.
Christ was motivated by selfless love to redeem us.
What a picture of Jesus Christ does Boaz present before us! Christ was motivated by selfless love to redeem us. He hardly enriched Himself by redeeming us, but saved us at a great loss to Himself. Yet His redemptive act reconciled us to God and opened to us the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every other name. So that, at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD (Philippians 2:9-11).
Dear Father in heaven, thank You for the supreme gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ – who saved us at a terrible cost to Himself. Help me to live in such a way to honor His selfless love by living selflessly for Him and for others. Amen.