Act 4: The Promise of Redemption
Big Idea: Redemption is coming through Christ
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What could be better than a story with a happy ending? How about a story that ends with a happy beginning? That’s exactly how the story of Ruth wraps up in Act 4. This four-chapter book of the Old Testament has taught some memorable lessons about trusting God through the smoke-filled seasons of life. It ends by pointing to a future where God redeems all of creation through the coming of Christ.
In the first chapter ("Act 1"), Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth taste the bitter pill of God’s providence and are presented with an opportunity: to trust God’s character and capability in the midst of crisis. Holding on to the truth that God’s plan is for their good and His glory is wrenching in the face of famine, death, and fear. They return from Moab to Bethlehem penniless and seemingly without hope. Naomi despairs; but Ruth seizes the opportunity and chapter 2 reveals the fruit of that decision.
In Ruth 2 ("Act 2"), God’s kindness is revealed. Ruth takes the initiative to find food for herself and her mother-in-law by going to pick up the barley left behind by harvest workers in a field owned by Boaz. She not only comes home with plenty of food, she shares an amazing story of the remarkable kindness Boaz extended to her that day. Naomi realizes none of this is a coincidence. Boaz is a close relative who, according to tradition, can rescue them from their situation. God has been leading, providing, and redeeming all along. He is rewarding them for taking refuge in Him.
Ruth 3 ("Act 3") ends with a cliffhanger. The women have placed their hope in God as their greatest help in hardship. Naomi now has a fresh vision for the future; Ruth trusts God so much she is willing to risk her reputation and possible rejection by proposing to Boaz; and Boaz accepts Ruth’s proposal but can’t act on it. He has the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s land and marry Ruth, but he is unable to because there is another closer relative who has superior rights. Boaz chooses to wait on God’s timing.
Ruth 4 ("Act 4") gathers the loose ends into a beautiful tapestry. In the most honorable way imaginable, Boaz calls together the elders of the city and a crowd of witnesses and sits down with the other man. Boaz explains the circumstances and offers him the opportunity to buy Naomi’s land and marry Ruth. The man wants the land but realizes he can’t marry Ruth. Having a child with her would jeopardize his inheritance for the children he already has. He passes.
The elders and witnesses to this transaction pray a beautiful blessing over Boaz and Ruth: “...May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” (v.11)
Ruth had been barren for the ten years she was in Moab married to Naomi’s now-deceased son, Mahlon. The elders are praying that God will do for her what He did for Rachel and Leah: He opened their wombs and they bore children who maintained His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Boaz redeems Ruth (v. 1-12) and God does exactly that. They are married and she gives birth to a son who will become the grandfather of the greatest king in the history of Israel, King David.
God not only blesses Ruth and Boaz, he restores Naomi (v. 13-17). She has gone from being a widow with a hopeless future to the great, great-grandmother of a king. She is reminded by her friends: “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!” (v. 14) This baby has brought new life and hope. Chapter 1 had been marked by pain and loss; now Chapter 4 concludes with blessing and joy.
As the chapter ends, the smoke clears (v. 18-22). Interestingly, it’s the genealogy at the end of the book that is the most important part of the entire story. It reveals what God has been up to this whole time in the lives of Naomi and Ruth.
At this time is history, Israel was in disarray and desperately in need of a godly king that could lead her back to God. God used this smoke-filled story to accomplish that plan. Naomi could not have known it at the time, but her pain was part of God’s plan to save all of humanity. Ruth’s baby, Obed, was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David. From the line of King David came King Jesus to conquer sin and death!
All Naomi’s tearful questions wondering what God was doing went unanswered in the moment. Even at the end, with little Obed sitting on her lap and tears of joy no doubt streaming down her face, she couldn’t fully comprehend the eternal implications of God’s plan. But all along, God was putting the necessary players in place to redeem His creation through Christ.
We, too, can trust that God is in control during the smoke-filled seasons of our lives. He is always at work for the fulfillment of His good and perfect plan through all He’s created.
Question for further reflection:
What do I currently need to trust God with?