The Gospel in the Book of Ruth

So let’s dive into a few examples of finding the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Let’s start with the small book of Ruth and answer a few questions to guide us. But first, a short summary.

In the book of Ruth, a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi move from Bethlehem to the land of Moab. Elimelech dies.  His two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  Then the sons died.  So Naomi plans to return to Bethlehem but asks her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to stay with their Moabite people.  Orpah finally stays, but Ruth declares her loyalty to Naomi, and goes to Bethlehem with her.

1. What problem or tension remains that the people cannot solve on their own?

Upon their return to Bethlehem, the problem for these two women, Naomi and Ruth, is their lack of husbands and extreme poverty; a poverty problem that they literally cannot solve on their own.  Naomi announces to her Bethlehem friends, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

But God provides a solution.  As Ruth is gleaning, gathering the leftovers from the harvest, she finds herself in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi.  Boaz learns who Ruth is and after some back and forth, chooses to redeem Ruth.

(Just as an aside, when Boaz first meets Ruth, he welcomes her because he had heard of her loyalty to Naomi.  There is nothing wrong with using this to teach a lesson on loyalty. Just because our focus here is on finding the gospel, do not overlook the moral lessons for us and our children in these Old Testament stories.)

Back to the story.  Boaz chooses to redeem Ruth.  Boaz takes on the role of kinsman-redeemer, a legal transaction in which someone enters into an obligation to redeem a relative facing extreme hardship.  And Boaz does this for Ruth.

2. How does this passage point toward the cross and the need for Christ?

Naomi and Ruth faced abject poverty with no hope of solving it on their own. We face a spiritual poverty with no hope of solving it on our own. We need a kinsman-redeemer.

3. How is this solved in Jesus?

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer.  He saved us when we could not save ourselves.  In the last chapter of Ruth, where the redemption process takes place (Ruth 4:4-10), the word “redeem” appears 6 times. With a clear pointing to Christ, Boaz “purchases” Ruth as his bride, just as Christ purchased us (the church) as His bride. We have been redeemed!

Another way we see Christ in this story is in the Messianic line of Jesus’ forebears. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed who becomes the father of Jesse who becomes the father of King David who becomes the father of … eventually Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  So even their family tree points to Christ.