Ruth is a story of redemption. The author of this beautifully crafted Hebrew short story uses the word “redemption” 23 times in his work. The narrative centers around the brokenness and emptiness of Naomi, who after being widowed, loses both her sons as well. Naomi commissions her grieving daughters-in-law to return to their mothers, but one of them, the noble Ruth, refuses. Her selfless devotion to her mother-in-law is evident by her statement in 1:16, “for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth follows Naomi to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest where she gleans in the fields of a man named Boaz. Naomi’s sorrow turns to joy when Boaz is revealed as a relative, a “kinsman-redeemer”. Under OT Law, this redeemer would purchase land that a poor relative sold outside the family (Lev. 25:25-28), buy back a relative sold into slavery (Lev. 25:47-49) and provide an heir to a brother who had died (Deut. 25:5-10). Boaz fulfills this duty, providing Naomi an heir and in so doing, he writes himself into the lineage of both David and Jesus.
The redeemer is one who buys back. The work of Christ as redeemer is championed by Paul in Colossians 1:13-14, “For he rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Part of the beauty of Ruth’s story is that Boaz does for her what she cannot do for herself: he provides for her by allowing her to glean in his field, in a sense adopting both Ruth & Naomi by accepting responsibility for them as kinsman-redeemer. And the life of Boaz is but a parallel to the greater work of his descendant, the Christ, the Ultimate Redeemer of depraved humanity. In a sense, we have all been widowed, divorced from our true selves at the Fall. Like the primary story of redemption in the OT, the Exodus, we too are in bondage — slaves to sin. Christ redeems us, buys us back, restores us to God. He does this through His atoning death, and yet – “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives!” He gives us a hope and a future; he makes us heirs of his inheritance (Romans 8:17). Our joy has been made complete. We aren’t without a relative. He is our kinsman-redeemer!