TITLE: Romance and Redemption
By Patricia Protzman
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“Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God...” (Ruth 1:16, 17 NIV).
Romance and Redemption
The first thing I saw upon entering my office was a vase of yellow roses sitting on the desk. The card read, “Sue, to the love of my life. Your Lover, Greg.”
Yes, these beautiful roses were from my one and only lover—my husband. It was not my birthday or any other holiday, it was Greg’s way of letting me know how much he loved me. God had brought us together as teenagers over forty-four years ago and following a three-year dating period, we married. Romance is an important part of our marriage and so is God. He is the glue that holds it together. My favorite Bible story is the romance of Ruth and Boaz.
Naomi and her family were Israelites who had left Bethlehem during a famine and moved to the country of Moab. While living there, her two sons married Moabite women. The Moabites were enemies of Israel and originated from the incest between Lot and his eldest daughter. Following her husband and sons’ deaths, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Naomi told her two widowed daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpha, to remain in Moab. Orpha stayed, but Ruth decided to remain with her mother-in-law and accompany her back to Bethlehem. By remaining with Naomi, she chose the true God, refusing to return to her idol worshipping family.
Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem during the barley harvest. They were alone and destitute; Ruth decided to glean barley from the fields for survival. Gleaning was a recognized custom; widows, strangers, and the poor could pick up whatever grain was left by the harvesters. It so happened that Ruth began gleaning in a field owned by a man named Boaz, who was a kinsman or relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Boaz was a wealthy and honorable man of Bethlehem.
Boaz was interested in Ruth right away. He asked his foreman who the young woman was gleaning the fields. The foreman told him she was the Moabitess who returned from Moab with Naomi. Boaz approached Ruth and told her to stay and glean in his field and follow the servant girls. He also told her he had instructed the men not to touch her and to let her have a drink of water when she was thirsty. Ruth bowed and asked Boaz why he would treat her, a foreigner, kindly. Boaz’s reply was he heard how well she had treated Naomi, coming with her to a strange land and people, leaving behind her family. She thanked Boaz for his kindness. At lunchtime, Boaz invited her to his table and she ate all she wanted with some grain left over, which she took back to Naomi. He told the harvesters to leave extra grain behind for Ruth. This was not just luck; God was bringing them together. Romance was in the air.
Ruth threshed the barley and it amounted to an ephah, almost a bushel. Naomi asked Ruth where she had gleaned that day and after finding out it was the field belonging to Boaz, she told Ruth he was one of their kinsman-redeemers. Naomi instructed Ruth to stay with the servant girls of Boaz until the barley and wheat harvest were finished. The custom in that day was a widowed woman’s relative or kinsman-redeemer had the first option by law to buy any land for sale. They could also marry the widow, if they chose.
Naomi was aware of Boaz’s interest in Ruth and she concocted a plan for Ruth to get him for a husband. She told Ruth to bathe, apply perfume, and dress in her best clothes. She was to wait until Boaz was finished eating and was sleeping on the threshing floor. The custom required someone to stay there until all the grain was removed, to prevent stealing. She lay down and uncovered his feet just as Naomi had told her. This startled Boaz and he asked who was there. Ruth identified herself and said, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" (Ruth 3:9 NIV).
She was asking Boaz for a pledge to marry her. Ruth’s action was in accord with the law of levirate marriage, which required the initiative of the widow in seeking the marriage. Boaz was honored by her request and told her she was an honorable person and had not run after the younger men. He informed Ruth there was a closer kinsman to Naomi. This man had the first chance to marry her and redeem Naomi’s inheritance. He reassured her that if this person wasn’t able to act as her kinsman-redeemer, then he certainly would be. Ruth slept at his feet that night but arose and left before daylight, but not before he gave her barley to take back, telling her not to go back to Naomi empty-handed.
In the morning, Boaz went to the meeting place at the gate of the town. Negotiations went on with the other kinsman-redeemer. He was interested in the land, but did not want to marry Ruth. Boaz was free to marry Ruth.
They married and a son was born, named Obed. Obed was now part of Naomi’s family, according to the custom of the day. Obed was father to Jesse, Jesse was father to King David, the greatest king in Israel. Even though Ruth was a foreigner, she was part of God’s plan to deliver the Savior through her seed.
Ruth and Boaz were common, ordinary people. Their love story is a reflection in which we can see the divine love of a Savior for you and me—our kinsman-redeemer Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins. He redeemed us from the power of sin.
Father, I thank you for rescuing me
from a life of darkness and poverty.
My kinsman-redeemer has freed my soul.
He has cleansed and purified, made me whole.
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