By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Over the past several weeks we have been working through the book of Ruth on Sunday mornings in our current sermon series. When most people think of the book of Ruth, they probably don’t think of the season of Advent or the birth of Christ. However, this Old Testament story relates to the coming of our Lord Jesus in some surprising and significant ways.
The book of Ruth is a story about God’s providence and covenant faithfulness even in the midst of the darkest times. As the story begins, Naomi and her husband Elimelech flee the land of Bethlehem during a famine and search for food in the foreign land of Moab. But life in Moab is filled with misery, and during their years there Naomi loses her husband and her two sons. It would appear that all is lost, but in the midst of the darkness God provides a ray of hope: Naomi receives word that the famine has ended in Bethlehem! Not only that, but her daughter-in-law Ruth decides to return with Naomi to her homeland and refuses to leave her side. It is clear that God is still at work in this family even in the midst of their distress.
Back in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth face an uncertain future without husbands or sons. But when Ruth goes out to the fields in search of grain she is providentially led to the field of a man named Boaz who is one of Elimelech’s relatives. Even though Ruth is a foreigner, Boaz welcomes her to glean in his fields and he gives her protection and provision. When Naomi finds out about Boaz’s generosity, she wonders if perhaps God put Boaz into their lives for a greater purpose than just as a provider of food; she wonders if perhaps he could become a “kinsman redeemer” who could purchase their land and become Ruth’s husband.
In a risky maneuver, Ruth approaches Boaz one night and asks him to take on this role. Here again we see the godly character of Boaz on full display, for despite the fact that Ruth is a foreigner and an outsider, he realizes that God has brought her into his life for a purpose. Boaz agrees to Ruth’s proposal, and eventually they are married. Ruth even becomes pregnant and has a son named Obed, at which point the women of Bethlehem say to Naomi: “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!” (Ruth 4:14).
The story could easily end there, but it doesn’t. In the very last verse of the book of Ruth we are given some significant details about Ruth’s descendants: “Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (Ruth 4:22). What is revealed here is that Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David! Not only that, but this also means that she was part of the lineage of the Messiah! Matthew confirms this in his Gospel when he traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Abraham and Ruth’s name is smack-dab in the middle of it (Matt. 1:5).
What this means is that the birth of Christ was dependent upon the union of Ruth and Boaz centuries earlier. When God brought Ruth and Boaz together he wasn’t only being faithful to Ruth and Naomi by providing a kinsman-redeemer, he was also being faithful to his covenant promises to provide a Messiah-redeemer who would die for the sins of the world. Although Ruth and Boaz did not recognize it, God was working out his sovereign purposes and his plan of salvation through their union.
This advent season, you can find hope in the story of Ruth, which reminds us that God is weaving together all of the details of our lives—even the painful ones—according to his great purposes. When Ruth gave birth to Obed, she could never have imagined what God would do when he brought forth another son centuries later: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).