"And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman."
We will begin our study in the Book of Ruth at chapter three, verse nine, where Boaz said to Ruth, “Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” This Book, like all the Old Testament Scriptures speaks of Christ our Redeemer, that Judge who saves his people, the One of whom all the other judges were typical. The subject of this Book is redemption. The whole book is a picture of our redemption by Christ, our kinsman Redeemer. The key word, used repeatedly in these four chapters is “kinsman” (2:1, 20; 3:9, 12; 4:6, 14). The kinsman is the one who has the right to redeem.
The law of the kinsman Redeemer was given in Leviticus 25:25. "If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." That prophetic law was given to be a picture of Christ and was fulfilled by him. Our father Adam sold us into bondage and sin; but Christ, our kinsman Redeemer, bought us and brought us into liberty, righteousness, and life (Rom. 5:19).
The Book of Ruth is a beautiful picture of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ as our kinsman Redeemer. It shows us both our need of a kinsman Redeemer and the way we may obtain the blessings of redemption.
There are some people names in these four chapters, who are the primary characters in the book. Their names are meaningful and important. There was a certain man of Israel called Elimelech of Bethlehem-Judah in the days of the Judges. Elimelech means “God is King.” Yet, when famine came to Israel, Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and went down into Moah, a heathen country where God was neither known nor worshipped. Naomi means “sweet and pleasant.” Mahlon means “weakness.” Chilion means “consumption.” Orpah means “stiff-necked and declining.” Ruth means “companion.”
Elimelech left Israel in weakness and was consumed in Moab. He died in Moab and left his wife and two sons. His two sons married Moabite women, lived with them for ten years, and then they died. Now poor and brokenhearted, Naomi determined to go back to Bethlehem. She told her daughters-in-law to remain with their own people. Orpah did just that. She went back to her people and her gods; but not Ruth. She was “steadfastly minded to go with” Naomi (Read Ruth 1:16-17). So Naomi and Ruth returned to the land of Israel and to the people of God at the beginning of the harvest season.
Read Ruth 1:19-21. Here is a picture of our ruin by the fall of Adam. When Naomi came back to Bethlehem, everyone gathered around her, looked at her with astonishment, and said, “Is this Naomi?” To that she replied, “Don’t call me Naomi (sweet and pleasant); but call me Mara (bitter) because God hath dealt bitterly with me!” She went out young, happy, beautiful, and full; but she came back old, bitter, worn, weary, poor, and empty. That’s us!
Looking at our fallen human race, we might ask of fallen man, “Is this Adam?” Can these poor, dying, corrupt creatures called men be the sons of Adam, who was created in the image of God? (Rom. 5:12; 3:10-19). Man was created a prince, but now he is a pauper. He who was created a king in the garden, is now just a beggar. Man, who was created in pleasantness, has fallen into bitterness. Adam was given fulness; but his sons are emptiness. In the beginning, the race was blessed; but now Adam’s fallen race is cursed.
Read Ruth 2:1-5, 9, 16. Here is a picture of Christ’s free love to sinners. Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest season. They were poor. Their allotted inheritance in Israel was gone. They had no one to support them and take care of them. But it was required by God’s law in Israel that the poor people be allowed to follow the reapers through the fields and glean, or pick up what the reapers left behind (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19).
Ruth knew that there was a kinsman who could redeem her (v. 1). Boaz was a kinsman. He was a mighty man. And he was a man of great wealth. She went out into the fields to glean with the poor, hoping she might find grace in the eyes of her kinsman (v. 2). If it were possible for her to have her inheritance with God’s people redeemed, Ruth was not willing to perish in poverty. She went to the place where she was most likely to meet her kinsman, with the hope that he might be gracious to her. As Ruth went to the harvest fields, where she had the greatest prospect of meeting Boaz, so sinners in need of mercy are wise to meet with God’s people in the house of worship. There, Christ walks with and reveals himself to his chosen (Matt. 18:20; Rev. 2:1).
Boaz spotted Ruth and had compassion on her (v. 5). There were many poor widows gleaning in the fields. But Boaz set his eyes upon Ruth, took notice of Ruth, and had compassion on Ruth before she even knew who he was. Even so, the Lord Jesus Christ took notice of us, loved us, and chose us before the world was made. He loved us freely from eternity. Let men talk as they may about universal benevolence, God’s love for his elect is a special, sovereign, distinguishing love (Isa. 43:3-4).
Read Ruth 2:1, 9, 16. Here is a beautiful picture of God’s special providence. As the fields of Bethlehem belonged to Boaz, so this world belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is his by design, by decree, and by death (Col. 1:16-17; John 3:35; 17:2; Rom. 14:9). As Ruth’s “hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz,” God graciously brings each of his elect to the place where he will be gracious to them. As Boaz commanded his young men not to touch Ruth, so the Lord Jesus Christ has given commandment to all creation, saying, “touch not mine anointed!” As Boaz commanded his men to let fall “handfuls of purpose” for Ruth, so our Savior takes care to provide for his elect, even throughout the days of their rebellion and unbelief (Hos. 2:8). Indeed, his angels were created to be ministering spirits to those whom he has chosen to be heirs of his salvation (Heb. 1:14).
Now read Ruth 2:18-20. According to the law of God given to Israel (Lev. 25:25), if a man sold his inheritance and he had a near kinsman, who was willing and able to do so, the kinsman could buy back his brother’s lost inheritance. Boaz had given Naomi and Ruth a reason to hope that he might be willing to redeem them. In chapter 3, Naomi tells Ruth what she must do. She told her to go to the threshing floor where Boaz, the near kinsman, would be. She told her to humble herself, lay down at his feet, and spend the night there – “And he will tell thee what thou shalt do.” And Ruth did what Naomi told her to do.
Read Ruth 3:1-11. In these verses we see a picture of true repentance. Ruth marked the place where Boaz would be and went there (v. 4). She came in softly and laid herself at his feet (v. 7). The sinner who needs mercy will always be found at the feet of his Lord (Matt. 8:1-2; 15:21-28; Luke 7:37-38; 10:39). Many are too proud to bow as broken, humbled beggars at the feet of Christ. But this woman risked being scandalized. She risked losing the only thing she had left, her name, that she might obtain Boaz’s favor.
Ruth plainly told Boaz what she wanted (v. 9). In essence, she said, “Take me. I am your handmaid. Take me for your wife.” Boaz said, “I will do all that thou requirest!” “But,” he said, “there is a kinsman nearer than me. He must be dealt with first.” Even so, Christ will be merciful. Christ will save. But he could never save anyone until first he had dealt with the law and justice of God. God must be just, even in (especially in) justifying sinners (Rom. 3:24-26).
Our Kinsman Redeemer
That bring us to chapter 4. Here is the last, great picture of this book - Boaz is set before us here as a picture of Christ as our kinsman Redeemer. Read Ruth 3:11 and 4:1-13. Boaz went up to the gate of the city where men transacted business and met Ruth’s nearer kinsman. He said, “You have first claim upon Elimelech’s field. If you want it buy it.” So the man said, “I’ll buy it!” Then Boaz said, “If you buy the field, you must also marry Ruth, his daughter-in-law.” Then the man said to Boaz, “I cannot do that, lest I mar my own inheritance. You redeem her.” So Boaz bought the field and married Ruth (vv. 9, 10, 13).
The Lord Jesus Christ is our kinsman Redeemer. He is our kinsman by his incarnation (2 Cor. 8:9). He is a great and mighty kinsman, for he is himself God (Col. 2:9). He is a kinsman of great wealth. All things are his. All the fulness of grace and glory is in him. As Boaz loved Ruth, so Christ Jesus loved us without a cause, freely. “We love him, because he first loved us!” He says, “I have loved thee, with an everlasting love…I have drawn thee with the cords of love.” As Boaz promised to redeem Ruth, so the Son of God promised to redeem us in the covenant of grace before the world began (Heb. 7:22). But, as with Ruth, there was one who had first claim upon us. The law of God held us as its captors (Job 9:2; 25:4-6). But the law of God says, “I cannot redeem the fallen one, lest I mar my righteousness.” The law has claim upon us, but not the ability to redeem us. The law is our kinsman condemner, but could never be our deliverer (Rom. 3:19-20). So the Lord Jesus willingly paid the price of our redemption, the price demanded by the justice of God. By his life of obedience, he magnified the law and made it honorable, and brought in everlasting righteousness for his people. By his sin-atoning death, he fully satisfied the wrath and justice of God as our Substitute.
As Boaz took Ruth to be his wife, so the Lord Jesus has taken chosen sinners to be his bride (vv. 13-15). Thank God, he has not left us without a kinsman. Christ is the Restorer of our lives. He is the Nourisher of our old age. Like Boaz, our Lord Jesus will not rest until he has “finished the thing.” “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it.” “He is able to keep you from falling;” and he will. Christ will, at last, present you who are his holy, unblameable, and unreproveable before the presence of his glory.
O love surpassing knowledge,
O grace so full and free!
I know that Jesus loves me,
And that’s enough for me!
O wonderful salvation,
From sin Christ set me free!
I feel the sweet assurance,
And that’s enough for me!
O blood of Christ so precious,
Poured out at Calvary,
I feel its cleansing power,
And that’s enough for me!
Ruth, the pagan Moabitess, became the wife of Boaz, heir to all his vast estate, great-grandmother of king David, and was placed in the direct lineage of Christ. Even so, all who trust him are married to Christ, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, and are made to be the sons and daughters of God almighty. – All by grace! – All through Christ our kinsman Redeemer!