Death and Emptiness to Life and Fullness: Ruth 4

Introduction
The fourth chapter of Ruth comprises three different sections. Together they bring the story of Ruth full circle from Chatper 1 where Naomi, through a set of circumstances, found herself barren and empty because death had stripped her of the males in her family. Only two daughters-in-law remained. Now in this great concluding chapter, the story which started in desolation ends with blessing. Such are the stories of God’s amazing grace.

Situation
Ruth had made a request of Boaz. She had asked him to be her kinsman-redeemer. He promised that the next morning he would consider her request and make a decision for her. So in the morning he meets with another kinsman, who has the levirate right to marry Ruth, along with the elders of the city in order to make good his word to Ruth.

Observation
In the opening section, (Ruth 4.1-12), Boaz meets with the kinsman who is nearer in line than he is along with the legal assembly and secures the right to buy Elimelech’s field and marry Ruth and care for Naomi. The request of Ruth (3.12-13) involved the matter of the prior right of the nearer redeemer in the matter of marrying Ruth. Boaz gathers the legal assembly in the town. This assembly’s task was to sit in judgment in criminal cases and exercise judgment in civil cases in the transfer of rights. In a society which was not literate, the legal translations were orally recorded and preserved for posterity. This occurred in case a subsequent dispute in the civil matter arose. The negotiations took place and Boaz received a blessing, which was that through this family Boaz may flourish and gain renown in Bethlehem. Thus, the right to redeem Ruth and bring life and fullness, which would replace death and emptiness, was set in motion.

The second section, (Ruth 4.13-17) shows the women of the town in joyous celebration over the child born to Boaz and Ruth as the one who restored life and fullness to Ruth and Naomi. In this short section, the emptiness of Naomi fully found complete restoration. Boaz and Ruth are married and God allows Ruth to conceive and bear a child. She was barren for ten years in Moab, but God gave instant fertility. It is a grand conclusion of one woman who, in a land where life depended on men, gave up her right to find a husband and committed herself to an older woman. Ruth was restored all that she had given up plus more. The child also was a redeemer for Naomi. He restores her life and becomes her support and stay in her old age. Death and emptiness have finally given way to life and fullness. One can see an echo of the reverse of the Garden story here. The name of the child carries great meaning in the setting of this story: Obed means guardian or provider.

In the final section, (Ruth 4.18-22), the family line of David is recounted. Ruth was a loving, committed daughter-in-law to Naomi as she left national and religious origins. Naomi’s risky plot on the threshing floor demonstrated Naomi’s care and concern for Ruth. Boaz’s faithfulness to his family responsibilities went beyond the claims of self-interest. The birth of the child to Ruth and Boaz demonstrates God’s protection and graciousness. These events brought a home and a husband to Ruth. They also brought life and fullness to Naomi. But, in addition to all this, the faithfulness of all the parties concerned brought great blessing on the nation Israel, because Obed was the grandfather of David.

It is difficult in our Western world to gain the full impact of being left destitute and being restored by a grandson. We should not forget that the character of God’s restoring power is seen in this story. Feeling the pangs of death, is your gage on empty? God will bring restoration to you through his son, Jesus. Be patient and let him restore. This story demonstrates the Bible’s main theme of salvation history of which we are direct benefactors.

Meditation

  • Think about the times you needed God to bring restoration to your emptiness. Make a list and recite them often.

Living into the Story

  • Find an area of your life that needs God’s redemptive power to invade. Ask him to bring redemption to you just like he did to Ruth and Naomi. Be patient!

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