It was the moment of her own resurrection, in a way. She who had been named “my delight” at birth . . . but, crushed by life’s, or rather, death’s cruel blows, she instead had become “bitterness.” On this day, though, delight was restored. The God she thought had forsaken her by allowing her husband and two sons to die premature deaths (in her eyes, not God’s), had visited her with a grandson . . . born of a daughter-in-law who loved her dearly . . . redeemed by a near relative . . . the transaction consummated as was the custom of the day . . . by the passing of a sandal.
Kind of interesting how the book of Ruth winds up pretty much focused on her mother-in-law Naomi (lit. “my delight). While Ruth is the story’s heroine, Naomi is the benefactor. Ruth, a Moabitess, a foreigner, had married into the family . . . and then the family died off . . . her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, and her husband . . . all gone at what appear to be a young age. What to do? For Ruth, there was no going back. She was devoted to her mother-in-law and she determined to devote herself to her mother-in-law’s God . . . the God of Israel . . . the God of redemption . . . the God who takes dead things and makes them alive.
And Naomi, herself, was kind of dead. She returns to Israel, goes home to Bethlehem, with her daughter-in-law and seeks to change her name, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara [literally “bitterness”], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV) Heavy sigh!
But the Lord wasn’t done with “empty” Naomi. Enter Boaz . . . enter Ruth into Boaz’s field . . . and behold the unmerited favor shown to Ruth on Naomi’s behalf (2:10-11). The relative of Naomi was qualified to be her redeemer . . . to purchase the rights to her husband’s inheritance that it might not leave the tribe . . . to take as a bride her daughter-in-law, that through her he might perpetuate the lineage . . . to pay the price to show God’s abiding care . . . and the deal was sealed with the passing of a sandal.
There was a closer relative who had “first dibs” on purchasing the rights to the land . . . but he wasn’t willing to compromise his own inheritance by taking on the additional responsibilities of extending the family line. Taking Ruth as another wife was a deal breaker. “Pass,” he says, “Boaz, it’s all yours to take on.” And, as “was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel” (4:7). And so, Boaz took the sandal . . . paid the price . . . assumed title to the land . . . took Ruth in marriage . . . and redeemed Naomi.
“Bitterness” was again “delight”. Hopelessness had been crushed and joy restored. A “no future” had been replaced with unimaginable potential. An apparently dead bloodline had become an eternal lineage . . . Naomi’s grandson, Obed, eventually fathering a son named Jesse, who, in turn, would have a bunch of boys around his table, . . . one of them being an upstart shepherd kid named David who would eventually be king . . . through whom would be established an eternal kingdom . . . of his line another Son being born . . . another Redeemer coming on the scene . . . another who would take the sandal.
As we approach this weekend’s Easter celebration, I can’t help but see resurrection in this beautiful love story. I am Naomi . . . once without hope . . . no future beyond whatever was allotted me for “earth time”. In debt due to my sin . . . in certain danger of losing title to my soul . . . my goodness unable to redeem me . . . any attempt at following the law, useless in terms of eternal benefit. But God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son . . . to pay the price as the Lamb of God for the debt I could not pay . . . to redeem that which He had created . . . to give new life to those dead in trespass and sin. And to Him was given the sandal . . . no . . . He took the sandal . . . He took it by force of the cross . . . He wrestled it out of the hands of Satan and death by His resurrection from the dead.
He is alive! He holds the sandal! And I have been redeemed! Price paid in full. Delight restored. To God be the glory!
He is risen indeed!