THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SHORT STORY IN THE WORLD
I think everybody likes to read a love story, especially if it’s true. The book of Ruth is such a story if it’s read at a superficial level and taken at its face value. It’s got all the ingredients: there’s a beautiful young girl who met a young man from another country. There’s tragedy because the young husband died, as well as his brother and father. There’s a mother-in-law - one of best I hasten to add. There are tears on leaving their homeland; and there’s another man who brought the young widow happiness. Why, it puts a Mills & Boon pulp in the shade!
Yes, it’s a good story. In fact, it’s been called "the most beautiful short story in the world", but there must be another reason for it’s inclusion in the Scriptures. It’s been said, quite correctly, that in thinking about the Old and New Testaments, "the New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed". When we ponder over God’s revelation to mankind of his redemptive plan we see the truth of that saying.
As people who are living in the twenty-first century, we are positioned in time in the Christian era, on the completed side of the Cross. From this standpoint we can see how God’s dealings with his people Israel were foreshadowings of his once-and-for-all intervention in human history in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: theologians call it “an incarnational act”. Let’s see what light the story of Ruth can throw on the purpose of Christ’s coming to planet Earth.
If we’re to understand the meaning of the actions of the main characters in this story we must go back into Hebrew culture, for there we learn about the laws of redemption. If you owed a debt and were unable to pay it, then you could be sold as a slave, and you would have to work off that obligation. Fortunately, there was another way out, because a member of your family could come along and pay the debt: he would be your "kinsman-redeemer" because he had paid off your debt and redeemed you from slavery.
This principle of redemption also applied to property. Politicians talk about a "property-owning democracy": well, in the founding years of Israel it was a "property-owning theocracy". It was an important feature in Jehovah’s provision for his people that property should remain within the family. Each family unit was given a portion of the land, and it was important that the family maintained that inheritance. So, whenever a field was sold, when the deed was drawn up there was a clause whereby in a specified period of time, the property could be bought back into the original family, it could be redeemed. The person who accomplished this redemption was the kinsman-redeemer.
The principles behind the actions of the kinsman-redeemer are derived from God’s redemptive action in delivering the newly emerging nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage
and bringing her into the Promised Land. It was an expression of his great love towards his chosen people, part of his covenant relationship. God had put it like this: "And I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people" (Lev 26: 12). That was God’s plan and purpose for mankind, but sin entered the world bringing with it separation from God and the desperate need for a kinsman-redeemer. Thank God he made provision for one in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ: "in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph 1:6). He is our redeemer; in him is our redemption.