The principle of redemption (vv.1-12)
In v.1 Boaz goes up to the gate of the city. The gate speaks of administration and it was here that the business and legal affairs of the city were carried out. Lot sat in the gate of Sodom (Gen 19.1), but sadly had no influence on the immoral evil practices of the inhabitants. He vexed his righteous soul from day to day - what a lesson for us, teaching that we ought not to involve ourselves in the politics of this world and that greater influence can be exerted through believing prayer. However, this is the gate of Bethlehem, the house of bread! Boaz the mighty man of wealth is sitting in the seat of administration and influences for good the outcome of the lives of the people of God.
He is concerned about redemption, and though he is a near kinsman there is one who has the prior claim, being a nearer kinsman. Boaz asks this man to sit with him at the gate and invites ten of the elders to join them. Ten is the number of human responsibility to God, and this is epitomised in the demands of the ten commandments of the law. What we are seeing worked out here is the "duty of an husbands brother" according to Deuteronomy 25.5-10. He had the responsibility to go in to the wife of the deceased to raise up seed in the place of his dead relative. He also had the right to redeem the possessions of his dead brother. Naomi was selling a parcel of ground. It was the God-given inheritance of the family of Elimelech and as such was valued more than life itself. Consider the stubborn refusal of Naboth to sell his vineyard to king Ahab even though it would cost him his life (1 Kings 21.1-19). Also Shammah, the son of Agee, one of Davids mighty men, defended a piece of ground full of lentils and wrought a great victory over the Philistines (2 Sam 23.11-12). Do we place such value on the inheritance we have from God today?
In order for a person to fulfil the requirements of redemption, three matters had to be considered: the right to redeem, the ability to redeem, and the willingness to redeem. The nearer kinsman was prepared to redeem the land but unwilling to redeem Ruth to be his wife: "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance" (v.6). Boaz, on the other hand, fulfilled all three requirements. So, too, did the Lord Jesus as He accomplished the work of redemption for His people. He had the right to redeem because He was our near kinsman. Hebrews reminds us that "as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb 2.14). This is why He took up humanity and, as a sinless, spotless man, He shed His precious blood at Calvary. He also had the ability to redeem us. "In him is strength", and by the power of His death and resurrection redemption has been procured. He destroyed "him that had the power of death" and delivered "them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2.14-15). How grateful we are that He was also willing to die in our stead. He loved us and gave Himself for us!
In Ruth 4.7 we have the confirmation of the transaction made: "a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour". The shoe represented a mans right and claim, whether to land or relationship. In this ritual that right was forfeited! He makes way for Boaz and says, "Buy it for thee" (v.8) as he gives him his shoe!
What grace is now afforded to Ruth the Moabitess.
Grace to redeem her (v.10). We must appreciate, however, that with redemption come responsibilities. We have been redeemed from the law and its curse (Gal 3.13; 4.5); therefore we are to "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" (Gal 5.1). We have been redeemed from our "vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers" (1 Pet 1.18). Let us not return to an empty way of life but, "as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Pet 1.15). Paul tells Titus that we have also been redeemed "from all iniquity" (2.14), so we must behave as Gods special people with a zeal for good works!
Grace to receive her (vv.11-12). The people say, "The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah". They were the original mothers from whom the nation sprang. Now the people recognise a new beginning through Ruth and the grace that would receive her into the line of Judah and Pharez his son through Tamar. There is favour, "do thou worthily", fruitfulness, as Ephratah speaks of fertility, and fame as well for Boaz. Note that the expression "be famous" means "Proclaim thy name", and how fitting that is to designate the importance of the name of the Lord in the assembly of His people! We gather to His name alone and we seek that His name alone would be glorified. We preach no other name in our gospel presentation for "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4.12).
Grace that rewards her (v.13). First, she is rewarded in her relationship with Boaz as she becomes his wife. So we stand today as part of the Bride of Christ. Like Ruth we are strangers, gleaners, and worshippers but we are also part of that intimate company He loved and for which He gave Himself. He has also promised to return for her to make her His bride! Second, she is rewarded in reproduction: "the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son". Is this not the great purpose for which we have been redeemed, and in the intimacy of our relationship with Christ we shall reproduce the features of Christ in our lives!
The process of restoration (vv.13-16)
Here is Naomis blessing, and God has accomplished it all. Let us never forget that the Redeemer is also the Restorer.
"He restoreth my soul" (Ps 23.3). How does He do it? By leading in pastures of tender grass by waters of rest and into paths of righteousness! Am I in need of His restoring grace? In what pastures am I feeding? Am I enjoying the refreshment of His Word day by day?
He is able to "restore the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2.25). Has there been lost time in the things of God? Be resolved to make up for it now and to redeem the time by buying back the opportunities to shine for Him.
He is "The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Is 58.12). How that fits the setting in the book of Ruth. How glad they were they left the fields of Moab and returned to Bethlehem-judah. They not only recovered themselves and ground for Him; they found a home in which to dwell! What a comfort to know that there is nourishment even in old age! No matter how old we are there is no excuse for drying up in the things of God!
Naomi had something to give, and she "took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it". How many grandmothers are doing just such a rewarding work for God today, and who knows how many Timothys will be produced as a result!
The provision of rule (vv.17-22)
We are introduced at the end of this book of grace to the kingly line that would eventually lead to the introduction of the "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6.15). The son who was born to Boaz and Ruth was called Obed which means "Serving", and from him came Jesse (Jah is) and then David (Beloved). They are all symbolic of the Lord Jesus. Obed as the serving Son, Jesse as the One who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and David as the beloved sovereign in whom is invested kingship and universal rule. Matthew, as he begins his Gospel, takes up this theme: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David", so setting out the credentials of the One who is born King.
There are ten unnamed men at the beginning of this chapter who sit in the gate as witnesses to the one who fulfilled the law and paid the price of redemption. There are ten named men at the end of the chapter as witnesses to the One who meets the requirements of God to be the future ruler of Israel. What grace, that we the saints of this present dispensation shall be reigning with Him in the day of His glory.