Naomi and her family introduced Ruth to the God of Israel. Upon returning to Beitlechem (Bethlehem), it was Ruth who had the relationship with Boaz. It was Ruth who told Naomi about Boaz and shared with her how Boaz was treating her with such loving-kindness. Notice that Boaz blessed Ruth with great favor and material goods. He gave her food to take back to Naomi. Ruth became the mediator who Boaz used to pass along material blessing to Naomi to help sustain her. Naomi, though she had been bitter and saw God as dealing bitterly with her, saw God's blessing coming to her through Ruth. Notice that it took some time for all this to happen. Ruth and Naomi returned at the time of the barley harvest, and it wasn't until the end of the wheat harvest that Ruth approached Boaz. This was probably a 6 to 7 week period. Over that time Naomi saw the continual flow of blessing through Ruth. Only after that time passed did Naomi ultimately direct Ruth to approach Boaz and ask for his covering as a redeemer, thus securing an inheritance for herself, but also interceding on Naomi's behalf to redeem her.
There are several key lessons in this for us as Gentile believers:
- We should recognize that the Lord will bless us for how we have treated unredeemed Israel and how we left our past to become part of His people and seek refuge in Him. This is a key part of the story of Ruth. The Scripture never tells us that Boaz blessed Ruth for any other reason than this:
Ruth 2:11-12—"All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."
It is not because we are special in and of ourselves. What makes us special in God's sight is that we have chosen to graft ourselves to His people and believe in Him as our refuge.
- When we receive the blessings, they are not just for us. We should be passing the blessings, spiritual and material, on to unredeemed Israel to sustain them and encourage them, by letting them see that the Lord is merciful and generous. We need to encourage those who are bitter with God, thinking that they have been dealt with harshly. We need to show them the blessings God has in store if we simply acknowledge Him and turn to Him, trusting in Him alone as our redeemer, as Ruth did by gleaning only in Boaz's field.
- Like Ruth, Gentiles have a great opportunity to be an encouragement to unredeemed Israel and a conduit by which God will bless unredeemed Israel and show them mercy. How would the story of Ruth have worked out if Ruth, after meeting Boaz, ignored Naomi and distanced herself from her? How would things have gone had Ruth, instead of encouraging Naomi and sharing the blessings with Naomi, reinforced Naomi's feelings that God was bitter with her, telling her that God was finished with her? It is not hard to see that if Ruth had turned from Naomi one bit, Boaz's favor would have also turned. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 11:17-21 when he says,
17 "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either."
Ruth was blessed for Naomi's sake; and through Ruth, Naomi was again blessed for the sake of fulfilling God's promises.
- It is only when Naomi decides it is time that she instructs Ruth to go to Boaz and start the redemption process. It was up to Naomi, just as it is up to unredeemed Israel, to say yes to God, to send His Son to finally redeem and restore them. Messiah will only come when Israel is redeemed. Just as Obed would only come in connection with the redemption, so too Messiah Yeshua will only return in connection with the redemption of Israel. Yeshua said to Israel, “You will not see Me again unto you say ‘Baruch ha ba b’shem Adonai’—that is, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.