This is the final of four meditations on the book of Ruth.
The book of Ruth is many things. Among them are ‘misunderstood,’ ‘underappreciated,’ ‘forgotten,’ and ‘abused.’ Also among them are ‘inspired,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘wise,’ and ‘one of my favorite books of the Bible.’
This is not the place to learn contextual insights or study deeply about what the book means. If you want to do that, I highly recommend Carolyn Custis James’ book The Gospel of Ruth.
What I invite you to do here is to experience Ruth. You may learn some things along the way, but truly, I want to allow you to live the story as fully and richly as possible.
These are not essays on Ruth, nor are they sermons. They are meditations. Orient yourself toward God and rest in the Spirit. Listen to the words as they wash over you, and allow them to reach deep into your being and form you.
Perhaps you may find God, if you listen closely.
Below is the last of four audio recordings, each focused on one of the chapters of the book of Ruth. All you have to do is rest and allow your imagination, the words, and the Spirit to do their work.
If you prefer to read and reflect, the transcript is posted below.
Ruth 4 Meditation
Boaz knows his business. He goes to the town gate, where business is done, and he sits and waits to catch the other family redeemer on his way into the town. Soon enough, the redeemer comes by. Boaz calls out Mr. So-and-so, and says, “Come over and sit down with me a moment.”
So the man comes over to Boaz and sits with him. Then Boaz gets the attention of ten of the town elders, and Boaz tells the elders, “Sit here,” and they all sit here, just as Boaz tells them.
Boaz begins. He says to the family redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from Moab, is selling a piece of land that belonged to our cousin, Elimelech. I thought I should let you know. If you want, you can buy it back into the family right now with everyone here, the elders and all, as witnesses. If you want to redeem it, go for it. But if you don’t want to, let me know, because there’s no one else, and I’m next in line for the rights.”
The redeemer doesn’t hesitate. “I want to redeem it,” he answers, grabbing at the unexpected windfall dropping into his lap.
Without missing a beat, Boaz adds, “Oh, and when you buy the land from Naomi, you also get Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the man who was the heir to the land, as your wife so that you can fulfill the family line and perpetuate the man’s name on the property.”
The two stare a moment, Boaz impossible to read, and the redeemer sighs. [Perhaps he does not know the Torah as well as Boaz and has not anticipated the full significance of his redeemer responsibilities. Or, perhaps he thought Naomi too old to have children and that he would manage to keep the inheritance since there was no chance for an heir. Either way, Ruth being part of the deal ruins his plans.]
“Look” the man says, “I can’t redeem it myself. I’ll ruin my own family’s inheritance if I have to foot the bill for getting the crops up and running just to have it go to someone else. If you want it, take it. I can’t do it.”
So, since they don’t have pen and paper to write up a contract, instead of handshake to seal the deal, both Boaz and Mr. So-and-so take off their sandals and give them to each other in front of the witnesses, making it legally binding. The redeemer [if we can call him that] when he hands his sandal to Boaz, says flatly, “Buy back the property yourself.”
Boaz, trying not to look too satisfied, announces to the elders and the crowd gathered around, “You are witnesses today that I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. I will also receive Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased man’s name on his property so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his home. You are witnesses today.”
The elders and everyone else at the gate respond, “We are witnesses. May Yahweh make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built the house of Israel. May you be powerful in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem. May your house become like the house of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah, because of the children and their descendants Yahweh will give you by this young woman.”
So, everything as it should be, Boaz and Ruth are married. They know each other in the way of a man and a woman, and Yahweh enables Ruth to conceive, and she gives birth to a son.
Then the women of Bethlehem say to Naomi, whom is no longer bitterly forsaken by God, “Praise Yahweh, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May the child’s name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. And indeed, your daughter-in-law Ruth, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” [In this patriarchal culture, better than seven sons!]
Naomi takes the tiny child who will one-day care for her as she ages, holds him close, and raises him as her own son.
The neighbor women say, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they name him Obed, [which means “One who serves”]. He grows up and becomes the father of Jesse, who becomes the father of David.
The name of the unfaithful redeemer is lost and forgotten, in spite of or because of his fear of endangering his legacy through risky faithfulness. Naomi is remembered, just as Yahweh remembered his delight in her. Boaz is remembered as the man of valor he proved himself to be. Ruth, though, Ruth, the woman of valor and one who consistently demonstrated Yahweh’s brand of faithful love to Naomi when any ‘sensible’ person would have gone her own way, she is immortalized as the mother of the line of Yahweh’s anointed king.
And this is the story she joins:
Perez, son of Judah and Tamar, fathered Hezron.
Hezron fathered Ram, who fathered Amminadab,
who fathered Nahshon, who fathered Salmon.
Salmon, with Rahab, fathered Boaz,
who fathers Obed with Ruth, who fathers Jesse,
who fathers David, the king.
David fathers Solomon by Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife,
and Solomon fathers Rehoboam, who fathers Abijah,
who fathers Asa, who fathers Jehoshaphat,
who fathers Joram, who fathers Uzziah,
who fathers Jotham, who fathers Ahaz,
who fathers Hezekiah, who fathers Manasseh,
who fathers Amon, who fathers Josiah,
who fathers Jeconiah and his brothers
at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
After the deportation to Babylon,
Jeconiah fathers Shealtiel, who fathers Zerubbabel,
who fathers Abiud, who fathers Eliakim,
who fathers Azor, who fathers Zadok,
who fathers Achim, who fathers Eliud,
who fathers Eleazar, who fathers Matthan,
who fathers Jacob, who fathers Joseph,
who is the husband of Mary,
who gives birth to Jesus, who is Yahweh’s anointed king.