Ruth is a short story, but brilliant. In a few words it is able to spin a love legend of beautiful complexity. It rattles/expands our notion of God and who he will use for his redemptive work. The story sets up the tale of King David, for Ruth is his great-grandmother. In a sense, this compact story should be titled Naomi, for she is the other main character - the woman whom we first meet and whom we see last.
Interestingly, God doesn't have anything to say in this story, though he is very present and much acknowledged. In fact, God is not well liked for the first half of the story, Naomi has a grudge against Him. The raw honesty of this book ought to be comforting to all the women in this world who have gotten the shaft, an unfair shake, the cold shoulder, a slap in the face. Naomi's name means "pleasant", but she insisted that she be called Mara, for her life had become "bitter". That could be the story of a lot of women.
Boaz is the main man of this little book, a man whose name means "strength". If God had taken human form in the story, to be the man to deliver Naomi and Ruth, he would have looked like Boaz. Boaz was an elder in the town, in the second half of life, wealthy and overseer of many fields. He worked hard, was well-respected, and honored God. And through a man like that, God was able to turn Naomi's life around, to draw out the bitterness that had infected her heart, and pour back into her the sweet pleasantness that she craved.
What's your purpose in life? What if you won't know it until the second-half of life? What if you have to wait a long time before you are the main act of the play? How will you conduct yourself in the meantime? Ruth was married for ten years, her womb remained barren and then she became a widow. Naomi despaired, but Ruth didn't. What if Ruth had given up? What if Boaz, in his old age, became crusty and resentful of beautiful Ruth, and lusted over her rather than protect her as a daughter?
When is it okay to give up on God? When is life so bad that trading pleasantness for bitterness is the wisest move? Can God deliver you? Are you willing to walk through hardships for a decade or two? Do you trust that God could bring a Boaz into your life if you stay loyal long enough?
Because Boaz stayed faithful, true, and honorable for decades and decades and decades, at just the right time, God used him to begin what would become a dynasty of kings. Because Ruth stayed faithful to those she loved and trusted in God over the long haul, she finally became a mother of a son from whom would come royalty. But more then kings and royal dynasties, Boaz and Ruth endured hardships that are still common today, and they kept waiting for God to redeem their situation while they worked and trusted. Is your life hard? Are you feeling bitter about your lot in life? Is your hope fading?
"Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer."