The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law-who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)
Naomi began her story bitter. But she ends it blessed. The difference was made by the presence of her guardian-redeemer.
As we saw last week, Naomi turned the corner toward hope when she recognized that Boaz was one of her family’s guardian- or kinsman-redeemers. Not only that, but Boaz had taken notice of Ruth and gone above and beyond in showing kindness to her. Earlier in the book Naomi said she was not able to provide a new husband for her daughter-in-law to marry. Now she realizes that perhaps she can. As their redeemer, Boaz can marry Ruth, rescue her from poverty, and secure her future.
Naomi seizes the initiative. She has Ruth change into her best clothes, wash, put on perfume, and approach Boaz at night on the threshing floor–taking off her clothes of mourning and labor and dressing herself as a bride. She sends Ruth to approach Boaz as their redeemer. Ruth did all that Naomi asked, asking Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her in a clear request for marriage (Ruth 3:9; Ezekiel 16:8). Boaz agreed, pledging to marry Ruth and redeem the land–and Naomi.
Israel had two different traditions that Naomi and Ruth conflate here. One was the practice of levirate law, in which a man could have children with his brother’s widow in order to provide an heir for his brother and keep his family name from dying out. The other was the concept of the go’el, the guardian- or kinsman-redeemer. If a relative was forced to sell himself into slavery, the go’el could redeem him. If a kinsman sold or borrowed against his portion of the land, the go’el could redeem it. The kinsman-redeemer could deliver, rescue, and redeem. Boaz willingly embraces this role for Ruth and Naomi. He marries Ruth and redeems the land, providing both Ruth and Naomi with a future. And the story ends with Naomi bouncing a baby boy on her knee. But not just any baby. The women’s song celebrates that Ruth and Boaz’s son Obed is also a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi. Obed became the grandfather of King David. And Jesus is from the line of David–a line of kinsman-redeemers.
Naomi’s story is the journey from emptiness to fullness and bitterness to blessing. But her story is more than that. It is a reminder of the power of our redeemer. Naomi begins her story devastated, but we know that devastation is meant to lead to restoration. In Scripture, exile leads to return. Sorrow turns to joy. Slavery ends in redemption. And death makes way for the resurrection. Our Redeemer lives, and he will not leave you at the “all is lost” point of your story. Trust in your Redeemer, who renews, sustains, and gives us life.
Our Redeemer lives.