In Part 4 of our study through the ancient Hebrew story of Ruth, we watched as Ruth makes a most unusual proposal to Boaz. If you are just jumping into the story here at the end, I urge you to start at the beginning, as the drama has been building. This Part 5 will be much more meaningful, in my opinion, if you start at Part 1 and continue from there.
We concluded Part 4 with Ruth having just made a marriage proposal to Boaz. It was very risky, as it was uncommon for a woman to propose to a man, not to mention the way she did it was quite forward. Boaz could easily be offended and say, “Get away from me you inappropriate woman!”
But Boaz’ answer is a resounding “YES!” From his comments in verse 10, we hear a hint of relief in his voice. Apparently he is an older man, maybe wondering if a young woman would go for him. He sees Ruth’s proposal as a great kindness, which brings us to what is possibly the most significant part of the story.
There is a word in the Hebrew that is used here. It is hesed. Kindness. It is a word used often in the Old Testament, and it is often translated “love”. So it is more than just being kind. It is loving-kindness!
In 1:8, Naomi, when she is telling her daughters-in-law to return to Moab, says “May the Lord show hesed to you.” So this is something God is capable of. Or better, it can be said of God.
In 2:20, Naomi says it again when she realized that Boaz will be their kinsman-redeemer, and again, she attributes this to the hesed of God. So twice now we have God showing loving-kindness.
But then Boaz says in 3:10 that Ruth had done a kindness to him. This is a deep kindness.
One commentator I read noted that nowhere in the book of Ruth do people say to God “I need help, I want you to be kind to me! Save me! Help me!” Instead, the main characters in the book go out and they themselves act with kindness. They seem to have understood that their role in being faithful followers of God is by being like God himself.
Do you want to experience the hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your life? Then go share that same hesed with others.
This is the high point of the story, and from there it is all joy and wonder. Boaz goes and pleads at the city gate because there is actually another kinsman-redeemer closer in lineage than himself. That gentleman defers, and Ruth and Boaz are married.
They have a son, and the son becomes grandfather to the most famous King of Israel, David. Because Jesus was of the family of David, that means this Moabite lady, Ruth, is Jesus’ great, great, great….and many more greats grandmother.
When you practice the Hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your family’s life, you can change the destiny of your family.
In his commentary, my OT professor, the late Dave Dorsey says, “In Ruth’s loyalty, diligence, and determination to support her again mother-in-law, combined with Boaz’s kindness and generosity, the audience is left with the central moral to the story: the admirable qualities exhibited by Ruth and Boaz can be used by God to reverse the fortunes of a whole family; or even the fortunes of a whole nation, as shown by the final outcome of this story—the Davidic dynasty.”
The same can happen in our families. What is the tragedy, the brokenness in your family? Will you see yourself as the one who can be used by God for renewal and healing?
How can you practice loving-kindness to the people in your family this holiday season? The process of healing what is broken can take time, and that is normal. Can you practice hesed at least in some way big or small this season?
Ruth chose loving-kindness when she could have easily responded to her loss and pain in a self-focused way. She could have been bitter and angry at God. Instead Ruth responded to her pain in a selfless way, reaching out, serving, and helping. She decided to trust that God was at work and she reached out to her mother-in-law, Naomi. How can you reach out? By giving selflessly, you just might launch your family on a whole new trajectory.
So where is the pain in your family that needs to be healed? Where is the brokenness? Ruth ran toward the broken with loving-kindness. She could have easily stayed with her family in Moab and let Naomi go back to Israel alone. I think most people would understand if Ruth had stayed in Moab, and we would not have faulted her. If she had stayed in Moab, of course there still would have been healing to do in her life. She just lost her husband. But Ruth didn’t stay. She took an even riskier path. She gave herself to care for her mother-in-law Naomi, who was of a different nationality, thus taking Ruth away from her support network, her family, her country!
What do you need to do to practice that kind of loving kindness in your family?