Today’s Reading: Psalm 26, 49, 72 & 77
There are five women in the genealogy of Jesus – five women with stained reputations but also five women whom God chose to bless by placing them in this royal lineage. As Jesus was growing up, I am sure his parents taught him the stories of his ancestors.
What would Jesus have said regarding Ruth, the third of the women in his paternal genealogy? Let’s look at her story – a story that includes the loss of a husband and leaving everything she knows to go to a strange land, only to be treated as an outsider or foreigner. Ruth’s stained reputation had nothing to do with her actions and everything to do with the color of her skin and her ethnic heritage.
Just like Rahab, Ruth was a foreigner who took refuge under the wings of the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). When given the opportunity to return to her family and their false gods, Ruth said to her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” – Ruth 1:16-17
In those days, the nearest relative to the patriarch in the family was referred to as the “Family Redeemer.” They had three responsibilities:
1. If you became so poor that you were going to have to sell your land, the Family Redeemer was to pay off your debt so the land would remain in the family.
2. If you became so poor that you had to sell yourself into debt-slavery, the Family Redeemer was to purchase your debt and save you from slavery to a non-relative. You would then become a servant to the Family Redeemer to work off the debt.
3. If you were killed by another’s hand, the Family Redeemer was to pursue justice for you.
Boaz became the Family Redeemer for Naomi and Ruth when they returned to Israel from the country of Moab. Naomi returned to land that had been inactive in her husband’s absence. With no one there to plant the seed, there would be no harvest. Naomi sent Ruth out to gather what was left after the workers had harvested the fields. But God’s plan for Ruth was not for her to survive on leftovers, but that she would thrive in abundance. She had been faithfully devoted to both Naomi and to the Lord, and He was about to do something for her that was beyond her understanding.
Boaz was a wealthy and influential man and a close relative to Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech. Boaz was not the closest relative however, so he went on Ruth’s behalf and arranged to buy the land and take Ruth as his wife. I love the blessing of the elders and people who witnessed the generosity of Boaz:
“We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.” – Ruth 4:11-12
Reading this passage has brought me to tears. Ruth was receiving a blessing in comparison to another young widow whom God blessed generously – Tamar. Like Tamar, Ruth was a widow who was left without children to carry on the family name. But God had a plan of redemption for Ruth, just as He had for Tamar. Not only would Ruth’s family be famous in Bethlehem, Bethlehem would become famous because of Ruth’s family.
The women in the town saw this union of Boaz and Ruth as Naomi’s redemption. She had lost her husband and both of her sons and was left alone with only her daughter-in-law to support her. Knowing who was to be born in this family lineage, consider the powerful words of these unsuspecting women as they speak a blessing on Naomi and her descendants.
“Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”
Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David. – Ruth 4:14-17
So Ruth was the great-grandmother to David, the first King of Israel and the one whose lineage would produce the Messiah. From the union of Boaz and Ruth, the ultimate Family Redeemer would be born. Because of our own sinful choices, we were slaves to our sin, but Jesus paid the debt for our sins and rescued us from slavery with the shedding of his scarlet blood.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:28
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. – Romans 3:23-25a
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. – Ephesians 1:7
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. – Titus 2:14
This is the story of how Ruth came to be in the lineage of Jesus. Though others saw her as less because of where she came from, God saw her as more because He knew where she was going. God’s plan of redemption was not only for Tamar and for Rahab and for Ruth. God’s plan of redemption is for all of us. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus is our Family Redeemer. Though we are poor and have nothing of earthly value to offer him, He has paid our debt and delivered us from slavery to sin.
Let us worship our Family Redeemer – the One who was born and died to offer us eternal life. Let’s humbly bow down and offer to Him all that we are, along with all of our past regrets, so that we can walk into His future and thankfully accept His gift of salvation.