The Most Beautiful Short Story in the World Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
We can picture Ruth following the reapers, but before long Boaz, the owner of the field spotted her. “Who’s that?” he asked his foreman. When he heard who she was he sent for her and said to her, "I know about all the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you left your father and mother in your own land and have come here to live among strangers.” He made it clear that she was very welcome, and wished her a full reward from the God of Israel under whose wings she had come to take refuge. But Boaz knew it was worthless wishing someone well and doing nothing about it when it was in his power to do something, so he told his foreman to look after her and make sure that bundles of corn were “accidentally” left behind for her to glean.
God expects us to translate our good intentions into action—often to be expressed in giving of our talents, time and possessions. God’s gracious provision for us often comes through the generosity of others, and then we in our turn are able to bless others—we have the responsibility of keeping the momentum going.
As in the case of Boaz, it often happens that the one who prays is, in fact, the one through whom it is answered. It’s through Boaz himself that Ruth is to be given security; to find joy in marriage, a new home, and a new family.
If we belong to Christ, we are the covenant people of God; we can pray that same prayer for ourselves and for others. We can experience the refuge of His wings, and also be the means by which others may experience this too. When Ruth got home to Naomi what a surprise she had for her! Naomi was quick to realize that the hand of God was upon them in their situation. Through Boaz, God’s “wings of refuge” were already overshadowing them-God was there, God cares, God rules, God provides. All they had to do was to stay under those wings.
In practical terms, though, Naomi told Ruth not to stray from the field that belonged to Boaz, because he was her benefactor. He didn’t know it then, but he soon was to take on a greater role as her kinsman-redeemer.
One can never tell what a single act of kindness, under the hand of God, will lead to. One must never underestimate the wisdom of your mother-in-law! Naomi certainly knew when Ruth was on to something good because she remembered that Boaz was a relative of her deceased husband, Elimelech, and so was qualified to be Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, to take the place of her dead husband and so preserve the family name through her having his children.
The unusual kindness shown by Boaz to Ruth must have set Naomi’s heart and mind racing in planning the next steps in the romance.
I don’t know if it was leap year--you know, the year when tradition says that women can take the initiative in proposing marriage! However, Naomi counseled Ruth to take the opportunity to keep close to Boaz as the harvest workers camped together. (I am sure that none of you wonderful ladies ever did any conniving to get a man, so you can’t relate to this.)
In the middle of the night when everyone else was fast asleep she proposed to him on the grounds that he was her kinsman-redeemer—it’s a lovely story; you must read it for yourself.
Well, what would Boaz say? In all the best traditions of a love story, he said, “Yes”. However, there was a problem because there was another man who was a closer relation and so he had the first right of refusal, but he gave his word that he would see what he could do. Boaz didn’t waste any time because the very next day he went down to the city gate, where contracts were made and publicly witnessed by the city elders, rather like today’s courts where contracts are registered.
When the man who was the nearest in line to Naomi came along, Boaz told him he was acting for Naomi in selling her field and asked if he would like to buy it. The man said that he would redeem it, but he changed his mind quickly when he heard that not only would he acquire the land, but a wife as well.
He couldn’t do this because it would endanger his own estate for the law said that in these circumstances the first-born son of the marriage would take Elimelech’s name and the inheritance would fall under that name, not his, even though he had redeemed it at personal cost. But Boaz, because of his love for Ruth was willing to pay that price. Paying the price, sacrifice—that is what redemption is all about.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich.”
Jesus is the supreme example of the kinsman-redeemer. Mankind, as the first Adam, fell from grace, and like the nearest kinsman, couldn’t save the human race and therefore it was left to the second Adam, the Lord Jesus. Thank God, He was qualified because of His sinless life. Thank God He was willing to sacrifice, not mere possessions, but His life, in order to do so. Just as Boaz had the right of redemption and yet was under no obligation, so it was with Jesus-it was an act of love.
Redemption-the word means that something that was lost has been brought back. It means liberation, like setting a slave free. It means to deliver from some great danger. When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross He redeemed us. He bought back that which was lost; He made it possible for those in sin’s slavery to be freed and He delivered them from its penalty. A new family has been created by the intervention of our great kinsman-redeemer; we are adopted into God’s family.
Yes, the story of Ruth is a love story in human terms. It is also an illustration, a picture, ever so faint of the greatest love story in the world, of the love of God. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The simple message of the Gospel is that if you’ve trusted in Him, and have come into a relationship with Him, as we have seen with Boaz and Ruth, through the providential love of God, you belong to Him, you are a member of His family, and you have a future and a hope.
Christ is our kinsman-redeemer.