Meditations in Ruth : 19. Completion
Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.
The story comes to a simple end – the couple get married and live happily ever after. Well that’s how fairy tales end but this isn’t a fairy tale; it is factual history. In our verse above we are given a simple shorthand version of what follows: they are married and Ruth has a son. If that is all we knew it would not be remarkable but when we follow it through we see something so very significant.
The neighbours bless Naomi with a prophetic blessing: “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!” (v.14) Yes, indeed this kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, will become famous in Israel for we have been reading about his graciousness all the while in this book. They continue, “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.” (v.15) This birth that has ultimately been brought about through the grace and righteousness of all the parties concerned will bless Naomi and bring new joy and meaning to her in her old age. Suddenly she is a grandmother!
The story is brought to a conclusion: “Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (v.16,17) The emphasis here is on Naomi for a reason we will consider in a moment. The final significance of all this of all this is noted by the historians in verse 17. This baby will become the grandfather of King David and as such will be part of the Messianic family tree which we find in Matthew: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” (Mt 1:5,6) So what does all this say to us?
First of all, Naomi. Here we have a picture of redemption, of a woman, a wife and a mother who follows her man into a foreign land and loses everything. To all intents and purposes her future is gone but then, by the end of the story, she is a full member of her community, a grandmother with all of the honour that goes with that in that sort of culture and community. She has been gloriously restored.
Next, of course, there is Boaz. What a picture of grace, a good employer, a sensitive, caring and righteous man who is willing to act according to the Law to care even for this foreign woman who has so shown her true colours by returning to Israel with her mother-in-law.
Finally and in many ways, most importantly, Ruth. Of herself she wins our hearts by her touching concern and loyalty for her mother-in-law, willing to leave the familiarity of her own people and her own gods, and go and become part of a totally different culture and follow the One True God. She follows that up with her obedience to her mother-in-law’s suggestions, works hard and does what is considered right in this new culture and takes as a husband an older man, and becomes in every way a member of this community.
But it is not so much her personal attributes that makes Ruth stand out; it is who she is in the divine economy. As we see she becomes a part of the Messianic family tree and, almost in the same breath, with that other foreign woman, Rahab. There, in that male dominated family tree in Matthew’s Gospel, for every male-orientated Jew to see, are two foreign women. When you consider the murky backgrounds of the other two women mentioned in that family tree – Tamar (v.3) and Bathsheba (by implication v.6) we realise there are interesting messages being conveyed by God.
The first message must surely be that although for obvious reasons historically men have been the more dominant, in God’s eyes woman are equally significant.
The second message must be that, because in the case of each of these women their backgrounds have had serious question marks over them, John shows us through them that God is in the redemption business and that He delights in taking bad situations and bringing good through them.
The third message, in the light of the fact that three of these four women were Gentiles, must be that God looks to draw people from all people groups around the world to Himself. Indeed with Ruth that must surely be The main message. Again and again we are reminded that she is a Moabite, she is a foreigner – but God is interested in all the world, not just Israel.
The fourth and final message, a more personalised form of the second one, is that background does not debar anyone from the kingdom of God. Past history, past failures, dubious family or whatever, none of these things can keep you from God’s love in God’s kingdom. The Moabites were constantly enemies of Israel and yet this Moabite woman is now in the Messianic family tree. Knowing that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not by Joseph, even more this family tree is there to convey messages from heaven. This is the Lord putting up a banner, if you like, across the book of Ruth that declares boldly, strongly and clearly, “All-comers Welcome!” Hallelujah!