Summary: It all comes down to a moment at midnight on a particular threshing floor in the valley below Bethlehem.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
The structure of the Book of Ruth is interesting. It begins in the time of the Judges, and ends with a genealogy that runs on to King David, thus justifying the book’s canonical position between Judges and 1 Samuel.
The whole story pivots on a time and place in which one woman's bold act, and one man's honourable decision has a definitive effect on that genealogy. It all comes down to a moment at midnight on a particular threshing floor in the valley below Bethlehem.
Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz, and desired to be covered by his cloak. Such a gesture in that culture at that time was indicative of the sealing of a marriage contract. No wonder that in the short term Boaz was anxious that no-one should know that a woman had been there until he had sorted things out!
We see something of the faith of those brought up in the faith, like Naomi and Boaz, and the faith of a convert like Ruth.
Naomi in particular seems to be of the mind to ‘let go and let God’. She is extremely offended that the LORD has treated her so unkindly, and responds to those who welcome her back to Bethlehem with bitterness. She only begins to become more active in relation to her faith under the influence of Ruth. She devises the plan which brings her out of the passive acceptance of her desolation, into the place of protection by the godly Boaz.
Ruth takes all the risks. Unlike her sister-in-law Orpah, and despite the discouragements of her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth insists on going with Naomi to Bethlehem. We hear no more of Orpah, who opted to return to Moab. Jesus warns us, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62).
In Bethlehem Ruth is a foreigner, an outsider - at best only a proselyte, a convert to Judaism. She counts herself less than a slave in the field of Boaz, then a servant as he accepts her, and lastly as wife when Naomi's scheme pays off. Metaphorically speaking, she had to strip herself of her self before she would be elevated. How Christ-like is that!
Ruth's famous words to Naomi about not turning back, and cleaving to Naomi, her people, her place, and her God - “Your God shall be my God” (Ruth 1:16) - is a pattern of devotion. It is echoed in Jesus' words to Mary of Magdala outside the empty tomb: ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’ (John 20:17).
Ruth was active in going out to the fields to work, whilst Naomi sat at home.
Ruth was obedient to Naomi, and active, in sneaking down to the threshing floor in order to alert Boaz to his potential as a kinsman-redeemer for both herself and Naomi. This status involved Boaz buying back the land of Naomi's dead husband so it did not permanently pass out of the clan, but only with the hand of Ruth in marriage so that children might be raised on that land. Naomi was presumably past the age of child-bearing.
Boaz was at first passive in his faith. Boaz was nearer Naomi’s age than Ruth’s, and indicated his devotion to the LORD in accepted formulas. Ruth arriving on the scene changed all that.
Ruth came and stood in Boaz’s field waiting to glean, and once the Master knew who she was he wanted to stretch out the hand of benevolence. It is well when we have the means to help, that we are not slack in remembering the poor and the widow.
The threshing floor incident drove Boaz into frenetic activity so that the matter was settled within a day!
We have a kinsman-redeemer in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though equal with God the Father, He humbled Himself, and became man - and did not shrink from the cost of our redemption! Then He was exalted to the right hand of His Father. The path of obedience is costly, but that is nothing in comparison with what God has laid up for His faithful people.
Ruth finally earns herself a place of honour in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5 - one of just a few women to be mentioned there.