Tongues AfireWhen have you recently endured the wound of another person’s words?
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A Son to Redeem the Land and a Son to Redeem the World
Excerpted from the heart of the story by Randy Frazee
Ruth 1:1 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (v. 16)
[Ruth and Naomi] arrive in Bethlehem during the harvest season, which offers a way for these two poor women to earn some money. According to God’s instructions, wealthy farmers were required to let the poor glean the fields — follow behind the harvesters to pick up scraps of grain they missed. Ruth convinces Naomi to let her go to a field to glean, a sure recipe for trouble. Bethlehem is a relatively small town where everyone knows everyone else and especially takes notice of strangers.
As it turns out, of all the fields surrounding Bethlehem, Ruth unknowingly chooses one that is owned by a relative of the father-in-law she never knew. This relative’s name is Boaz, and when he discovers that she is the Moabite widow who accompanied Naomi back to Bethlehem, he showers her with kindness. He invites her to glean all she wants and to drink from the jars of water he provides to his workers, and he warns his men not to lay a hand on her. He even tells his workers to deliberately leave a little extra grain behind so that Ruth won’t have to work so hard.
Ruth is stunned! She knows her status. Foreigners were never treated so well, and when she rushes home to tell Naomi her news, the older woman begins to taste hope for the first time in many years. So the old woman takes on the role of a Jewish matchmaker straight out of Fiddler on the Roof.
She tells Ruth to take a shower, splash on a little Chanel No. 5, and put on her Sabbath best. She must then head over to Boaz’s place that night and play the part of Cinderella. She has to wait until he finishes eating — never approach a man with an empty stomach. After he goes to bed, she is to sneak in and uncover his feet and lie down at the foot of his bed. Boaz will understand exactly what Ruth is doing.
And Ruth follows her mother-in-law’s inspired instruction to the letter. When Boaz awakens, startled at the sight of this stranger camped at the foot of his bed, he asks who she is, to which his secret admirer replies, “I am your servant Ruth . . . Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”3
The word for “garment” in Hebrew is the same word for “wing.” When Ruth first met Boaz, he referred to God’s wings providing her a place of refuge. Ruth is now asking Boaz to become God’s wing for her permanently. And he accepts. He exercises his obligation, and they become married! He buys not only Ruth’s deceased husband’s land but his brother’s land and Elimelek’s as well. Risking his own estate, he redeems them all.
As overwhelming a turnaround as this is, the good news doesn’t stop here. There’s more going on in the Upper Story. At the end of the book of Ruth, we are given the genealogy of Boaz’s family. Here we learn that Obed grew up and had a son named Jesse. Jesse grew up to have a son named David. Twenty-eight generations later, a little baby named Jesus was born in a stable in the town of Bethlehem.
Jesus is the ultimate Guardian-Redeemer. He will redeem all who want his wings of forgiveness to cover them, even outsiders. Jesus came from the family of an outsider named Ruth!
God was working above the scenes of Ruth’s and Naomi’s lives in the Lower Story to provide them with a son who could redeem the land. God was also working above the scenes of Ruth’s and Naomi’s lives in the Upper Story to provide them with a Son who could redeem the world.