Today is the commemoration of Ruth, King David’s great grandmother and ancestress of Jesus. She is arguably one of the most well-known women of the Old Testament, a Gentile who abandoned her own land and family after the death of her husband to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi, famously declaring in Ruth 1:16:
“For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Ruth, in fact, makes it into the New Testament, listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ as laid out in the first five verses of Matthew:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
Ruth’s story of redemption (to “redeem” a widow at that time was an act that preserved the widow’s husband’s family line, should he have died before they had children) is one of God working through the laws He established in the Old Testament to continue the line that would lead to Christ. The genealogy as laid out by Matthew would have been a very compelling read – an apologetics lesson, in many ways – for the Jews raised on the Old Testament. You can see God’s hand in the words of the well-wishers upon Boaz’s declaration that he would take Ruth as his wife:
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.