The story of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament starts with a tragedy – actually, a series of tragedies. Ruth’s life is not living up to her expectations. She is a childless widow, living in a foreign land, dependent on the favor of strangers. Enter the Redeemer – the one who can rewrite the ending of a story gone wrong, buying back tragedy and making way for restoration.
To redeem means to buy back, to free from distress, or to make something worthwhile. Boaz enters the story and works to buy back Ruth’s suffering and pain. He offers care and protection to Ruth. Hopefully, his character might remind you of someone else – Jesus’ protecting, providing, loving, and redeeming.
Do you have an ending that needs to be re-written? A story of suffering that needs to be redeemed?
Let’s look at an excerpt from Ruth 1:
There was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Naomi’s husband died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both sons also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloudand said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters. No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
So the two women came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almightyhas made my life very bitter.I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflictedme; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
In what ways did Ruth and Naomi suffer? They were widows in a patriarchal society, in which the livelihood of women depended on fathers, husbands, or sons.
Do you have a story of suffering, too? Which pieces of your story have you come to terms with, and which pieces seem to defy meaning or purpose? What might it look like for God to buy back your story when your life doesn’t seem to have hope?
Why do you think Ruth was determined to go to Bethlehem with Naomi? What things did Ruth choose to leave behind? Have you had to leave anything behind in order to pursue a new chapter of your life? Is there anything you need to set aside but are unwilling to? Talk to God about how to let go.
Naomi stated that God caused her pain. How do you approach suffering? How does it affect your idea of God?
The beginning of the barley harvest seems to be a symbol of hope in this chapter of the story. With all that you may have endured, what signs of hope are you able to see in your story?
Naomi and Ruth may have been tempted to think that their story was over – that nothing good could come from it. We have the perspective to know that their story was far from over. God was about to write a totally new, beautiful chapter.
Can you envision your story being rewritten partway through? How does the experience of suffering make it difficult to hope for a good future? What has gone wrong for you? Are you ready to ask today how your story can still get a new ending?