Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we come to you now in faith, believing that this is your Word and that by the power of the Spirit it will not return to you void. Make these your words food for our souls, strengthen us, correct us, turn us to you that we might know real joy, real peace, and so may your word return to you bearing fruit. Through Jesus…
We come now to the end of Ruth, and we see the house of Elimelech restored and his name preserved in honor. This is brought about through the selfless courage of a faithful Moabite woman and Boaz the redeemer. But ultimately it is all the covenant mercy of God.
The book of Ruth opens and closes with “tens” (1:4, 4:2, 18-22). Ten is the number of “Words” of Yahweh (Ex. 34:28, Dt. 4:13), and it is the number of times Israel rebelled in the wilderness (Num. 14:22). Boaz says that Naomi is selling a portion of the field that belonged to Elimelech (4:3), and Boaz says that he wanted the near kinsman to know about this opportunity. He says literally that he wanted to “uncover his ears” just like Ruth uncovered the feet of Boaz (3:4, 7). Boaz presents the opportunity to redeem Elimelech’s inheritance in two distinct steps. First the land is offered (1:3-4) then the levirate duty to Ruth (1:5). This appears to be so that it is clear which part of the offer the near kinsman objects to. The near kinsman fears for his own inheritance (1:6). A portion of the levirate law is recorded as the near kinsman’s sandal is removed (4:8), and Boaz calls upon the elders and the people to be witnesses of the wedding (4:9-10). And the witnesses in turn bless the new bride and groom (4:11-12). The blessing of the witnesses is two-fold: that Ruth would be like Rachel and Leah and that the house of Boaz would be like the house of Perez the son of Tamar (4:11-12, cf. Gen. 38).
A Son is Born
The Lord gives Ruth conception, and she bears a son (4:13). The women speak with Naomi and bless the Lord and Naomi’s redeemer, and they call upon God to make this son a Moses who brings Exodus which restores life and be a provider for Naomi in her old age (4:15). Naomi becomes the nurse of her own grandchild which is itself miraculous, but this indicates that not only has the barrenness of Ruth been removed but so has Naomi’s (4:16). It’s the “neighbor women” who call the “son born to Naomi” Obed which means servant or worshipper (cf. Num. 3-4). The involvement of the neighbor women may have been customary, but it at least suggests that this son is born to the broader community-family. A son has been born to Israel by Ruth and Naomi. The book closes with the “generations of Perez.” Not only do the names take us back to the book of Genesis but so does the “Toldoth” formula (e.g. Gen. 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, etc.). King David, according to the Genesis allusion, will be like a Noah and an Abraham. The last paragraph reveals that the curse of God on the illegitimate birth of Perez has now been undone since David is the tenth generation and will be permitted to enter the assembly of the Lord (Dt. 23:2). This also suggests that Obed ought to be understood as meaning “worshipper.” Not only will David be a Boaz-like ruler, he will restore faithful worship to the house of Israel.
Applications & Conclusions
The book of Ruth is a gospel story: a son is born to a Mary, and the house of the dead is brought back to life (4:11-12, cf. Eph. 2:1). Notice also that this salvation is accomplished through gentile women (cf. Rom. 11:15). And this salvation is for worship.
The final blessing of the women reveals that beneath all the toil, beneath all of the restlessness (1:9, 3:1, 18), it has been Yahweh at work all the time (4:14-15). And this is all the more startling when spread over generations (4:18-22). And this is the God you serve.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Our Father, you are faithful. You always come to the rescue of your people. You always hear the humble pray. We thank you and praise you that you are at work and that you do not rest when we are hurting. You are not resting while we are confused and unsure. You do not rest while we suffer, but you are the Redeemer God, the God who acts, the God who hears, the God who plans and executes judgments, and you do this even while we grow old and die, you do this generation after generation, and you will do it until all your enemies have been put down, until the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And therefore we praise you, we worship you, and we place our trust in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray, singing…