The book of Ruth is one of my favorites in the Old Testament. This isn’t just because it is only four chapters long and easy to read in one sitting. I’ve never heard (or preached) a sermon on it and I’ve never gone over it in Bible class, but I think I’ve heard it mentioned in a VBS one time (after a while every VBS starts to blend together). Even though it is short and rarely taught (in my experience), it is a blessing to read. Here are a few reasons why it’s one of my favorites.
It’s a Beautiful Story
The book of Ruth is sometimes portrayed as a modern-day romance novel. While this certainly isn’t the case (Wes McAdams does a great job of discussing this here), it still is a beautiful story. It has the elements of a great story. There is heartbreak that melts away into hopeful restoration. It has catastrophe (the death of Naomi’s sons and husband – 1:3-5), unexpected good (Ruth determining to stay with Naomi – 2:15-18), tense moments of suspense (Ruth’s bold attempt to seek Boaz as a redeemer – 3:7-12), and heart-warming transformation (Naomi and Ruth’s restored hope after Boaz’s redemption – 4:13-17).
Though Ruth is more than some sort of stop-gap, and it is found in a different place in Hebrew Bibles, it serves as a refreshing transition between the violent chaos of the last chapters of Judges and the vulgar moral failure of Eli’s sons in the first chapters of First Samuel.
It’s a Book of Hope
Ruth is a hopeful book in many ways. The first and most obvious way is in the content of the narrative itself. Naomi goes from losing everything to gaining more than she thought was possible. Ruth goes from collecting the scraps of the field to marrying its owner. Boaz personifies the redemptive quality of God’s love, a quality which shines even in the darkest scenarios.
The book of Ruth is also full of hope in that it sets the scene for Israel’s great king David. The genealogy at the end of Ruth hints at the very purpose it was written, filling in the gaps of David’s important genealogy (Ruth 4:18-22). Most notably, however, Ruth points us to Jesus (see Matt. 1:1-6). Jesus’ identity as “the son of David” is crucial to His identity as God’s Messiah and our savior (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Rom. 1:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:8; Rev. 22:16), and this was (at least in part) made possible through Boaz’s role as a redeemer.
I Too Was in Need of Redemption
The male ego (at least mine) wants to identify with Boaz, but such would be dishonest. Even if I help people and go out of my way for the less-fortunate I cannot honestly identify with Boaz in this story. Even if owned a large farm and allowed a destitute migrant worker to live in my house and eat their fill from my farm, or in some other way reflected Boaz’s moral fortitude, I could not honestly identify with Boaz. Even if the cultural customs of a family redeemer and levirate marriage were still in place and I fulfilled my duty to them both, I still couldn’t really identify with Boaz.
Because, even in a completely different culture and time, I am too much like Ruth. Not in the physical sense (obviously), but spiritually. I was spiritually destitute, hoping to just gather the scraps of the sheaves of God’s field. I was broken-hearted, afraid, and hopeless. I had nowhere to turn. All I could do was throw myself at the feet of my redeemer and hope that He would redeem me by His own mercy. Thankfully, He did. Now I can rest as a member of His household, secure and protected from the shame, reproach, and danger that exists outside of His care. In Ruth I find a reminder of what God has done for me.