God promised His people, the Israelites, a deliverer, a Messiah. This Messiah would be a Jew from the lineage of King David. So how does a Moabite widow end up in the family tree of the Son of the Living God? A good question since the Moabites were long standing enemies of the Jews. Given this fact, a Moabite for an ancestor seems highly unlikely, impossible really. BUT GOD!
So how did this even happen? Well, it all started with a famine in Israel. This led to Elimelech taking his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to live for a while in the land of Moab. Now Elimelech died, leaving Naomi, her two sons and their Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth. That’s right. Both Naomi’s boys had married women from the pagan culture in which they were living. Next we learn that both of Naomi’s sons die. This leaves all three women widowed and childless. They are alone in the world, with no one to take care of them. Then we read,
“When she (Naomi) heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. . . . they set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.” (Ruth 1:6-7)
But remember, Judah was only home for Naomi. As far as Orpah and Ruth were concerned, they were heading to a foreign land, a place where they would be the outsiders, the foreigners. Perhaps they would even be perceived as the enemy because they were Moabites who didn’t worship Yahweh. Orpah and Ruth weren’t heading home. They were actually leaving home. Which must be why Naomi had a change of heart and said this to her daughters-in-law,
“Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. . . . At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. . . . So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. . . . So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” (Ruth 1:11-14,19 & 22)
The future looks pretty bleak for the two women at this point – with no husbands and no children to care for them, what were they to do? Well, Ruth had a plan. We read –
“And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’ Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter.’ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” (Ruth 2:2-3)
Elimelech? Remember him? He is Naomi’s deceased husband, the one who moved his family to Moab during the famine. And now Ruth finds herself working in a field belonging to a relative of her deceased father-in-law. Coincidence? I think not. But our story continues. Ruth is a hard worker. She catches Boaz’s attention and finds favor with him. So much so that we read in Ruth 2:8-9 what Boaz does for Ruth,
“So Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.’ ”
Boaz offered Ruth both provision and protection. Ruth was able to work the harvest in safety and bring food home to Naomi every night. Naomi’s reaction to this good news?
” ‘The Lord bless him!’ Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing His kindness to the living and the dead.’ She added, ‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.’ . . . Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ ” (Ruth 2:20-22)
So this would be a good end to the story, right? The two women are safe and Ruth is able to feed them by working in the fields during the barley harvest. Boaz has even extended her kindness and protection. BUT GOD – God had so much more in mind than simply providing food for Naomi and Ruth – so much more.
Boaz falls in love with Ruth and being an honorable man of God, he goes through the proper channels to make her his wife. This involves a public hearing at the town gate where business is conducted in the presence of many witnesses. We read what happened in Ruth 4:9-10 –
“Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!’ ”
This is a great ending to the story. Boaz has married the foreigner, giving her standing and belonging in this foreign land where she was the outsider. Ruth and by extension, Naomi are now both provided for and protected, because Boaz is a God honoring man of standing. Owning many fields, he is rich as well as influential in the community. Ruth has married her prince charming. She is no longer a widow. She and Naomi are no longer alone.
BUT GOD – but God had still another blessing to bestow on Ruth and Naomi. Ruth and Boaz had a son whom they named Obed.
“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’ ” (Ruth 4:14-15)
Obed was a blessing, a gift from God. As the story of Ruth draws to a close, we read this about Obed –
“And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.” (Ruth 4:17)
That’s right. Obed was the grandfather of King David, Israel’s greatest King, of whom it was said, “he is a man after God’s own heart.” Which means, Boaz and Ruth are the great grandparents of King David. It also means they are a part of the earthly lineage of Jesus. We see both Ruth’s and Boaz’s names listed in the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:5. This is remarkable, since most of the genealogy lists only the father’s name and because Ruth was a foreigner, not an Israelite.
BUT GOD – God is no respecter of persons and welcomes all who come to Him. Ruth made her decision to do just that clear when she said to Naomi –
“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ ” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth made a choice when she said, “and your God my God.” And that’s how a widowed Moabitess became the wife of Boaz, the mother of Obed and a part of the earthly lineage of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world! BUT GOD!
BUT GOD – “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20)
sincerely, Grace Day