Seeing Christ in the Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is filled with suspense, romance and intrigue. It tells of God’s sovereign hand in guiding Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, from near ruin to redemption. Let’s dive into this fascinating book, understand its story and see how it points to Jesus Christ.

The book of Ruth begins with Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, returning to Naomi’s home of Bethlehem in Judah after having lived in Moab, a Gentile land, for some years. Naomi returns home destitute – she has lost everything: her husband, her sons and her wealth. While her daughter-in-law could have stayed in her homeland she decides instead to follow Naomi to Bethlehem. As widows, with no one to provide for them, they are suddenly plunged into a life of poverty. 

According to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:9-10, Deuteronomy 24:19), those who farmed the land had to leave some crops on their fields for the poor to reap harvest for themselves. This is precisely what Ruth begins to do. 

One day as she is reaping in the fields, she catches the eye of an honourable man named Boaz, a close relative of her mother-in-law. He shows her favor, adopting her like a daughter, letting her reap from his field and inviting her to eat and drink with him.

Once Naomi hears of this, she tells Ruth to make an advance on Boaz by creeping under his blanket while he is asleep. Boaz wakes up startled in the middle of the night to find Ruth at his feet. She asks him to be her redeemer. In other words, she asks him to marry her, as the role of a redeemer in those times was to buy a relative out of poverty, provide for them and if need be, provide an heir.

Boaz accepts Ruth’s offer and becomes her redeemer. He buys a piece of land that belonged to Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech, marries Ruth and agrees to provide an heir to Elimelech’s estate. They have a son, Obed, who is the grandfather of King David.

God’s faithfulness, steadfast love and sovereign hand are evident throughout this incredible story. God graciously guides and provides for Naomi and Ruth. The God of Israel indeed keeps his covenant promises to his covenant people. 

How then does this story point to Christ and his gospel? 

Boaz’s adoption of Ruth points to our adoption in Christ.

In chapter 2:8-13, while Ruth is reaping in Boaz’s field, Boaz adopts her. Ruth is a Gentile – a Moabite, an alien in the Land of Israel, a complete stranger to Boaz. He adopts her into his family. He bestows upon her all the benefits of belonging to his family: protection and provision, and he calls her “daughter” (2:8).

Boaz’s adoption of Ruth looks forward to Christ’s adoption of us. Ephesians 2:12-13 describes our state outside of Christ as, “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Like Ruth, we were aliens, not deserving to be called God’s people. 

Yet, as the text continues to say, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ…” Those of us in Christ have been adopted as his own children, and as God’s own children, we receive his protection and provision, and he calls us his own “sons” (Romans 8:15). Like Ruth, we receive this rich inheritance out of no doing of our own. It’s received as a gift of grace from the one who adopts us. 

Boaz’s redemption of Ruth looks forward to our redemption in Christ.

Boaz redeems Ruth in chapter 4:7-10. According to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 25) a relative was to act as a redeemer for any family member who was destitute, widowed or living in poverty. The redeemer would buy back property that person had lost in time of need, so it would be kept in the family. If they were sold into slavery, the redeemer would buy back his freedom.

Boaz becomes Ruth’s redeemer. He gets her out of poverty, provides for her, buys back Elimelech’s land and marries Ruth, providing an heir for Elimelech’s line. She is redeemed from poverty to abundance and from hopelessness to a bright future.

This is a picture of how Christ redeems us. Where we were meant to face God’s just punishment for our own sins, trusting in Christ, that punishment has been borne by him. He paid our debt of sin on the cross. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

In Christ, we’ve been redeemed from being slaves to sin and from facing God’s wrath to being forgiven in him, knowing his grace and peace. Like Ruth, we’ve been redeemed from spiritual poverty into Christ’s abundant life and from hopelessness and death to true hope and life that is eternal. This gift is ours out of no doing of our own, sheer grace!

Jesus is a descendant of Boaz and Ruth.

Not only does Boaz point to Christ, but Christ is actually descended from Boaz and Ruth. In the very last verse of the book (4:22), it says that Ruth and Boaz’s son, Obed, fathered Jesse, and Jesse’s son was David. Jesus, being a direct descendant of David (Matthew 1:1), is therefore a direct descendant of Ruth and Boaz. Matthew 1:1-5 includes them in Jesus’s genealogy.

How incredible is this? The promised Messiah, the Savior of the world is descendant from this unlikely couple. They were brought together by God’s sovereign hand in order to accomplish his divine plan. God foreknew this plan involving Ruth and Boaz before the creation of the world. He brought it to a climax in the fullness of time with the coming of Christ to earth.

We can see God’s sovereign hand guiding all these events. From Naomi and Ruth’s tough times and loss, to Boaz’s redemption of Ruth, we can see God at work. Ultimately the book of Ruth points to Christ and his gospel as it reveals to us our God who works all things for the good of those who love him. 

Photo of Antonio Coppola

Antonio Coppola

Antonio has been in full-time ministry since 2005. He worked for the Anglican church in South Africa, for nine years and served as a pastoral intern at New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Escondido, California, USA, for three years. He completed a Master of Divinity at Westminster Seminary California. He is the founder of Kloof Theological Centre. He is currently in the process of planting a Reformed church in the Durban, South Africa, and is passionate about preaching and teaching the gospel and raising up solid disciples of Jesus Christ.

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