Bitter to Blessed
Ruth 4:13-17- Bitter to Blessed
In the first five verses in the book of Ruth, we saw the loss of Naomi’s family. She went to the fields of Moab full and came back empty. In the first five verses, she goes through significant loss, which she explained is the Lord dealing with her bitterly (Ruth 1:20). This week, in these five verses, she goes from bitter to blessed. Naomi saw redemption from the hand of Boaz. Boaz was standing at the gate of Bethlehem in the presence of the elders, Mr. No-Name, and all the people redeemed all that belonged to Elimelech and his sons, including Ruth. The people and Elders rejoiced, pronouncing a blessing upon the household of Boaz.
I. The Wedding
Boaz had mentioned to Mr. No-Name, who was the closest redeemer to Naomi, that he would also acquire Ruth the Moabite, to perpetuate the name of the dead. Mr. No-Name passed his right to redeem them to Boaz, who told the witnesses that he had brought Ruth to be his wife and to perpetuate the name of the dead. Boaz as a man of his word, does as he says. He takes Ruth as his wife. Ruth becomes his wife. This is a monumental statement in the book of Ruth. When we first met Ruth, she was known as a foreigner (Ruth 2:10), then she was known as a lowly servant (Ruth 2:13), and last was a maidservant (Ruth 3:9). Now Ruth is called a wife of Boaz. She was a Moabite and a widow, two status’s that Naomi thought would be better to go back to Moab like her Sister-in-Law, Orpah. Naomi’s desire for Ruth had come true. Ruth has found rest in the house of her husband (Ruth 1:9).
Previously, the people and the elders had blessed them and explained that the Lord would give them offspring and that Boaz’s house would be built like Israel’s house as Rachel and Leah did. The Lord does bless Boaz and Ruth with a son. This is the second time in the book of Ruth that the Lord is the verb’s subject. In Ruth 1:6, “the Lord visited his people and gave them food.” Verse 13 explains that the Lord has acted again. He previously visited his people, and now this time, he gives conception to one of his people, Ruth the Moabite. Ruth was married to Malhon for ten years and did not have any children. The Lord gave her conception is the root word used to speak of Rebekah’s conception after Isaac’s prayer (Gen 25:21, and Hannah’s conception after Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam 1:20).
II. Women’s Praise
When Naomi and Ruth first arrived in Bethlehem, the women asked each other, “Is that Naomi?” Naomi then informed them that she shall be known as Mara because the Lord has dealt bitterly with me (Ruth 1:19-21). The women now speak to Naomi, stating a blessing to the Lord, a prayer for the child, and a declaration of Naomi’s blessedness.
a) Blessing to the Lord
The women are first to praise God for his faithfulness to Naomi. As we have noted in the past that the Lord does not take a predominant place in the narrative, it seems that Boaz is the one who has redeemed and saved Naomi and Ruth. Yet, the women praise the Lord for his faithfulness to Naomi. God did not leave Naomi, and he did not leave her without a redeemer. Exodus 22:21-22 shows God’s faithfulness to the sojourner, widow, and orphan. “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” He indeed heard the cry from Naomi, and he answered her cry. He has blessed her. The Lord watches over the sojourner and upholds the widow and fatherless (Ps 146:9). We need to note that Naomi said to the women that the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her, now the women attest to God’s faithfulness and explain that God has blessed Naomi.
We see God’s fatherly hand of providence in Naomi’s life. She thinks of burying her two sons and husband with great sorrow. However, now she has her grandchild upon her lap. The joy of the child does not cancel the grief of the loss. Like a great symphony, her life is filled with lines of deep notes of the bassoon or the slow french horn. However, her life has an extra sheet of music to add, filled with piccolos and harps. Naomi has gone from bitter to blessed. The Lord has brought her through tragedy with a purpose. I have noted that a theme verse for the book of Ruth would be Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God has worked all things together for good, Naomi’s life is a testimony of this.
b) Prayer for child
The second aspect of the women’s statement to Naomi is that his name may be renowned in Israel. Boaz had explained that he redeemed Ruth that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers. The line of Elimelech was dead, no one to carry on the name, yet now his name will continue. Their prayer is that the young boy would be known in Israel. Previously the elders at the gate said that his name would be known to Bethlehem (Ruth 4:11). However, his name would not only be known to Naomi, and even to Bethlehem. The women’s prayer is that his name would be known in Israel, not only in Bethlehem.
c) Declaration of Naomi’s blessedness
The women then explain how Naomi has gone from bitter to blessed. This young child will restore life to Naomi. Playing with a young child brings out the young child in us. The actual word used is return, which is commonly used throughout the book of Ruth. Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:22), this child will return life to Naomi. As Naomi came back empty, empty of food, faith and family. This child will make her full of life. This young child will nourish Naomi in her old age. We can picture the beautiful image of an aged widow who has traveled the roads of sorrow in her life. As we remember, somewhere on in the middle of the fields of Moab and the land of Judah, her weeping telling her two daughters-in-law to return to Moab, she would never have a son. Or returning to Bethlehem and explaining to the women the shame that she has nothing. Yet today, as her wrinkled face has a smile across her face holding her grandson, all because of Ruth, this foreigner who became a worshipper of Yahweh. The first five verses are filled with famine, barrenness, and death. These verses are filled with food, birth, and life, even for Naomi.
d) Naming the Child
Lastly, the women name the child. Before they name this child on Naomi’s lap, they explain, “a son had been born to Naomi.” This is a strange statement. You would imagine that they would say, a son has been born to Boaz, or even Ruth (Ruth 4:13). However, they state that a son has been born to Naomi. They make this statement because this child is the one whose redemption has come. This child’s birth preserves the line and inheritance of Elimelech.
Up to this point, the child has not been given a name, and as the townspeople, all witnessed this whole story from the return to Bethlehem, the court case, the wedding, and now this moment the people give the child a name. The background choruses echo out as they name this infant on Naomi’s lap. They name him Obed. Obed means, ‘One Serving.’ The tense of the name speaks of one who continually serves. Naomi’s line will continue to be in existence. This name has a sense of three levels; first, that of its immediate context that Naomi again is full, she has food, family, and faith. Obed’s life is serving to preserve the line of Elimelech.
The second level is found in the short genealogy at the end of verse 17, that Obed fathered Jesse and Jesse fathered David. Through the line of Obed is a man with God’s own heart, who serves as the shepherd-king over Israel.
The third level shows the one serving, who will serve forever, comes from the line of Obed. The Messiah will come from the stump of Jesse (Is 11:1), he will be the son of David (2 Sam 7). It makes you appreciate Jesus’ statement that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (redeemer) for many.” Jesus Christ comes as the one serving, the one who is to redeem his people. This is not a sweet love story about how two unlikely people fell in love and got married but God’s providence and sovereignty within history. This is not the book of Naomi, Boaz, or even Ruth, but like all the books of the Bible, it is His story.
Throughout the book of Ruth, we have seen God’s fatherly hand of providence in the life of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Nothing comes by chance or mere happenstance. We know the extent of God’s gracious discipline upon Naomi’s life. We see the regeneration of Ruth the Moabite, who goes from being a foreigner to one of God’s people, a worshipper of the true living God. We see the worthy man, Boaz, who serves the Lord through caring for the widow and the sojourner. These four chapters in the Bible-centered around the dark and depressing period of the Judges and the dark days of the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, with the priesthood of Eli and his worthless sons and the beginning of the rule of King Saul. Even in these times when the majority have turned away from serving God and doing what is right in their own eyes, God still has a faithful remnant. God always works and does so through his people.