In my previous post, I introduced an unremarkable Israelite family that moved to Moab to ride out a famine. I described them as “ordinary people trying to live decent lives,” and I think they were. But the ordinary human condition is brokenness, not holiness, and this family was no exception.
When Naomi and her husband and sons relocated to a foreign country, we’re told that the sons married Moabite women. In the Torah (the first five books of our Bible which include God’s laws for the Israelite nation), God warns the Israelites not to intermarry with foreigners who follow other Gods, even to the point of forbidding intermarriage with certain nations. He also explicitly curses the nation of Moab for not helping Israel out when they wandered in the desert for forty years. So, while there wasn’t a literal “don’t marry Moabites” rule, these marriages were shady at best. It’s as if Naomi’s sons took advantage of a loophole in God’s covenant law.
The people in this family, as decent as they were trying to be, chose to cut corners. They’re not the most illustrious of heroes. But God has blessed broken, sinful people throughout all of history, and God paints His grace in bold colors all over the story of Naomi and Ruth as well. The finished masterpiece is the image of His Son, Jesus.
The character who seems pretty darn Jesus-like in this story is Boaz, Naomi’s distant relative who took Ruth the Moabite under his wing. The first thing I notice that looks like Jesus is Boaz’s kindness to a God-fearing foreigner. There was a historical reason for Boaz to disdain any Moabite, but Boaz heard of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and offered her more than the crumbs she came to gather from his field. Jesus did the same thing, over 1,000 years later, when a foreigner asked him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus challenged the woman’s right as a foreigner to benefit from his power, goading her to say more for his disciples’ (and our) benefit. Her response: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27, ESV). Jesus responded by commending her faith and healing her daughter. With both Boaz and Jesus, a foreigner seeks nothing more than crumbs and receives an abundance of grace.
In case you’re unconvinced that Boaz’s kindness to a foreigner foreshadows Jesus, there’s another detail in this story that really hits it home. The author of the Book of Ruth tells us that on the day Ruth met Boaz, he invited her to sit down to lunch with his field hands. He did this by saying, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine” (Ruth 2:14, ESV).
Dipping bread in wine (that is, wine vinegar)…why does the author of Ruth mention this at all? It’s so we can see that before Jesus was even born, God designed communion, the bread and the wine, as an image of Christ’s sacrifice for all mankind–Jew and Gentile alike. This little detail in Ruth didn’t make sense for a millennia, but God looked forward in time, knowing His Son would declare the bread and wine to be a symbolic reminder of the new covenant made with His blood. God directed Boaz’s actions to foreshadow those of Christ.
Boaz also claimed a specific role in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives, a role that is defined by Israelite tradition as a “kinsman-redeemer.” It’s similar, in my mind, to a godparent. A kinsman-redeemer was meant to recover the property and societal standing of a deceased male family member, thereby lifting any of his surviving (female) relatives out of poverty. The Jews at the time didn’t know Jesus, who we call our Redeemer, but God set up this system in Israel to reflect the coming Savior–God was again looking forward in time to the day when His rescue would be poured out on all Gentiles, not just Ruth.
So though this family starts out on shaky footing with God and His law, and though Ruth is a foreigner from what seems to be a doomed nation, God sends someone (Jesus’ great-grandfather) to pour out undeserved grace and love. An outsider is invited in, broken people are made new, and we get a hint from this story that God’s love has no limits. And we see through the story of Ruth that Jesus, the Son of God, was no accident. His sacrifice for us was always in God’s plan. The Father arranged for our rescue long before He made it happen. So be encouraged, because God’s love for us in Christ knows no bounds of sinfulness, foreignness, space or time!