||Introduction: This Ruth
The title "This Ruth" is based on the question of Boaz, "Whose damsel is this?" Ruth is the name of one of the most delightful books in the Old Testament. Remarkable for its brevity, its eighty-five verses are easily read in twenty minutes. Precious for its deep unfolding of the Person of Christ, the mysteries of redemption, and the future of Israel, the charming and beautifully written story is both simple and sublime - a gem of literature and a veritable wonder of language.
The great Benjamin Franklin, though not a professing Christian, recognized the literary excellence of the book of Ruth. It is recorded that when representing the newborn republic of America at the French capital, he was indignant when he heard learned and polished men ridiculing the Bible and expressing surprise that any one should ever spend time reading it.
Franklin one day announced to them that he had a copy of a very ancient manuscript, and invited them to his apartments on a certain evening to hear it read. At the time appointed, his literary friends were all present and he had an accomplished elocutionist read to them his copy of the manuscript. They were loud in their praise of it, and the most critical of them pronounced it to be superior to anything they had ever read or listened to, and asked if they might have copies. Imagine their astonishment when the ingenious American informed them, with a twinkle in his eye, that they had been listening to one of the sixty-six books of that collection called the Bible for which they had affected such contempt. It was the book of Ruth, with the name of God omitted, and a few other slight alterations made by Franklin, so that the infidel Frenchmen might not suspect it was the Bible that was being read to them.
There is great value in the historical information contained in Ruth. Life is described in a provincial town in Israel in the days of the judges. Aspects of kinship, marriage, local customs and the institution of redemption form the background to the book. The responsibility of the go'el (kinsman-redeemer) is illustrated more fully in the book of Ruth than anywhere in scripture. Here we have a key to a knowledge of the go'el. He was the redeemer. If one had to sell property, the go'el could buy it to protect the elimination of a family heritage. This book also gives an example of the law of liverate marriage recorded in Deuteronomy, chapter twenty-five, verses five to ten. A widow without a child should be taken by her next of kin to wife, so that the firstborn which she bore would succeed in the name of the dead husband, that his name would not be blotted out of Israel. The law of liverate is so called from "liver" which means brother-in-law. If any brother-in-law failed to act as a kinsman-redeemer in a case of this kind, the woman could bring him to the elders of the land. If he still refused to perform the action of a go'el, then the widow should loose his shoe from his foot and spit in his face. His name shall be called in Israel: The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. In this delightful book the go'el performed fully the kinsman's part by redeeming the property and taking the widow as his bride.
Another beautiful feature of the book is the record of the compassionate provision of God for Gentiles. This fact is also one of the leading themes of another little book of four chapters - Jonah. The story of Ruth unfolds the wonder of God's generous love for the homeless, lonely and hungry. Ruth, without a husband, without a home, without adequate food, found a kinsman-redeemer - a man named Boaz who provided her with bread enough and to spare and a home in his house at Bethlehem to share his love. In this the story speaks to all who were strangers afar off, lonely, homeless, and starving until we were found of the Redeemer.
Ruth is rich in dispensational, doctrinal, devotional and didactic pictures. Its interest touches aged and youthful, rich and poor, master and servant, husband and wife, widow and fatherless, believer and unbeliever. One can learn the value of the little books of the Bible which often yield bread to the eater, seed to the sower and a full basket for the worshipper.
It is interesting to note that only two books in the Old Testament have as their title the name of a woman. One was a Gentile (Ruth) and the other a Jew (Esther). Ruth became the bride of the wealthy kinsman-redeemer, a man who feared God. Esther became the queen of one of the world's greatest empires and was the wife of the heathen monarch. Both became a source of great blessing to the world. God has distinguished them by placing their names at the head of two inspired books of the Bible. Thousands of baby girls have been named after both Ruth and Esther. The holy influence of Ruth has endured centuries of time, and has been known around the world.
In the marriage of these two women, God has given two great tokens that Gentiles were to be blessed only through Abraham's seed (Genesis 12:3, 22:18; Psalm 72:17; Acts 3:25).
The book of Ruth has been described as a cameo of love and a key to the doctrine of redemption. Apart from its literary excellence, historical importance, typical import, prophetic pictures and doctrinal shadows, the story of Ruth is rich in moral and spiritual lessons. The faithful yet gracious ways of God are evident with spiritual dealings with souls. His judgment in government, grace in restoration, sovereignty in purpose, provision in redemption and glory in kinship, are pictured in the book. The Holy Spirit reveals to those who meditate upon Ruth, wondrous things from this delightful part of the Word of God.
If there is one lesson above another in the spiritual life that the book of Ruth teaches, it is the emphasis placed upon the results of placing full confidence and trust in God. When life's greatest choice came to Ruth, she abandoned all past interests, choosing God as her God, and His people as her people. From that time of trust and confession, on the Bethlehem road, she went on steadily and humbly in the path of devotion and faith. The results of her leaving Moab's idolatry neither she nor Boaz lived to see, but we know, for out of their union there came the continuation of the line of the Messiah.
"Remember that of the work you do today you cannot see the issue. It is wrought through faith in God. It may be in some great city, or a hidden village among the hills, that your life may be lived, small, unknown, never published, yet you may be God's foothold for things to come, which if told you now you would not possibly believe." (Campbell Morgan)
The "Gleanings" in this field of scripture is with one vital end in view, that with the writer, each reader may be more devoted to Christ, in order that, by our loyalty, He may win the victories of His Royalty.