Boaz: A Story of God’s Providence and Redemption
Aug, 9, 2018 · Christopher Hunt
In the book of Ruth, the character of Boaz represents the culmination of God’s providence for the two destitute widows at the center of the story. In Boaz, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth found a “kinsman redeemer,” one whose responsibility was to “act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need.” Boaz demonstrates, perhaps better than any other in the Old Testament, how God, and the law he established, expected a kinsman redeemer to respond to a relative’s need. Boaz responded to the women’s plight with compassion, generosity, and without delay. His integrity magnificently foreshadows how Jesus Christ would redeem all who trust in his name from the slavery of sin and death.
What can we in the modern era take away from the story of Boaz when customs are so different? No matter the age we live in, we can marvel at God’s providence and the sufficiency of the Redeemer he has sent.
God’s providence for redemption
Put simply, providence is God’s provision in the circumstances of our lives. It’s his assurance of his active and engaged presence in all matters in creation, particularly those that involve us personally (Matthew 6:25-34). Groundwork co-host, Scott Hoezee, beautifully addresses providence in his article “What is Providence?” In the story of Ruth, Boaz figures large in God’s provision for two women seemingly cut off from all hope. Naomi and her husband had fled to Moab to escape famine and there their sons married Moabite women. Then disaster struck. Naomi’s husband and her two sons all died, leaving Naomi and her childless daughters-in-law destitute and without male protection. Unable to see God’s providence, Naomi elected to return to Israel and her husband’s land. One of the daughters-in-law insisted she would go with her. This was Ruth.
God positioned Boaz to rescue the women from their trouble. In his obedient and upright character, Boaz not only met the requirements of the law, he embraced the spirit behind it. When Ruth came to glean from his fields, Boaz ensured there would be more than the usual harvest gleanings. He encouraged the young women of his household to show Ruth kindness and he dissuaded the young men from giving her any kind of hard time. He sent her home to Naomi with more than she’d expected. All this he did before he knew he was the kinsman redeemer. Ruth recognized God’s providence in Boaz, and stepped forward to receive it. When, at Naomi’s behest Ruth made her willingness to marry known to him, Boaz moved quickly to determine his right to do so.
The sufficiency of the Redeemer
The redemption of Ruth and Naomi through Boaz was God’s providence in action and was wholly sufficient to their need. Yet, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Boaz would be the redeemer in their story, despite his noble manner toward Ruth. In Hebrew culture, even before Mosaic law codified the practice, it was understood that if a man died leaving a widow without a son (to be his heir and provide for his mother) the man’s nearest male relative (usually a brother) would marry the widow to provide for her and produce an heir for his deceased relative. When Ruth approached Boaz, he revealed to her that another held precedence before him according to the law. Waiting to hear whether it would be Boaz or another man who would redeem her and Naomi must have been a time of agonizing suspense for Ruth. After all, these matters did not always end well. Ruth had probably heard the story of Tamar in Genesis 38.
But God’s provision for Ruth through Boaz was not misplaced. The other man declined to step forward as a redeemer when he realized he would have to marry Ruth and eventually divide his estate between two heirs. Boaz did not hesitate. He would become perhaps the best biblical example of a redeemer short of Jesus Christ himself, the Redeemer. He recognized his responsibility and did what he knew was right. After showing her great consideration as she gleaned from his field, he married Ruth, and in so doing provided for Naomi. Ruth and Boaz would have a son named Obed, who would be the grandfather of King David, the forefather of Jesus.
Like Naomi and Ruth, we are all in need of redemption. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10a). Just like them, we need a kinsman redeemer to purchase us out of our slavery to sin. And as foreshadowed by Boaz, Jesus stepped forward to pay our ransom and redeem us from death. As Ruth trusted God’s providence in Boaz, we need only trust that Christ’s death and resurrection washed us clean of sin and gave us eternal life. And, as his followers, we can stand confident in his faithfulness and trust his good providence in our day-to-day lives. After all, as God used Boaz's faithfulness to provide for Ruth and Naomi and redeem them from their misery, so too does he continue to use you and me to enact his will today.
If you’d like to learn more about God’s presence and provision in the lives of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, download Groundwork’s 4-part study “Ruth: Surprised by God’s Providence.”