Here are two bereaved women, Naomi and Ruth, a struggle to rebuild life, and a struggle to build faith in this tough life. Then there is a ‘chance’ meeting of Ruth and Boaz, with the wonderful provision which that brings about, followed by Naomi’s plan that the younger woman, Ruth, should aim for Boaz as her husband. This man, who maybe feels that marriage has passed him by, is a man of such godly integrity that when this woman turns up by his bed one night, he has his mind on just one thing – and that’s not taking her into his bed, it’s making sure that he can conduct a marriage in the eyes of the law. And then, least romantic of all, to our eyes, we see Ruth being talked over like a piece of property! The book reads like two women’s struggle for survival, and one man’s sense of obligation, rather than the loud beating of two hearts coming together. Not a fine romance, surely?
But you don’t need to look too deeply to appreciate that this is a profoundly romantic story. The chance meeting is the sort of encounter which has filled great works of literature which have explored love. The needs of each party, struggling with both destitution on the one hand, and maybe mid-life loneliness on the other, tug at our hearts. We want to know if they can meet each other’s needs, and find real peace and happiness in each other. And then, in the uncertain course of the final chapter, as we’re with Boaz at the city gates, we see a man who will have and hold his love. He will negotiate the course of true love, will skill and guile, in order to secure the woman he wants. The famous Bible Commentator Matthew Henry once said, ‘choose your love, and love your choice.’ I’m not sure if we could really say that Boaz chose his love – it was more of the other way round! But Boaz stood up and loved his choice, and loved her with courage, and commitment.
And in all of this we see the love of the ultimate Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. I’ve often pondered the fact that Boaz, so clearly a type of the great Redeemer, should have been given that name. The Hebrew means ‘in him is strength.’ In Boaz the man we see great strength, as a man of faith. In Lord Jesus and in His sacrificial love we see the greatest power of courageous love. He chose His love, unlovely, sinful, wretched us, ‘chosen before the creation of the world’, as Ephesians 1.4 says. Having chosen us, He loved us, even to the giving up of reputation, respectability, rights, comforts, life itself. As last Lord’s Day was Ascension Sunday we remember how the Enthroned Lord Jesus loves His choice, living in us by His Holy Spirit. He loves us with an everlasting love, moment by moment, year by year, and so into all eternity. Our experience of His grace is that we find our hearts slowly weaned from their fears, and their false loves. We see in His Word, and know by His Spirit’s stirring, just how treasured we are. Our hearts are amazed, and moved to love, too. ‘Why, O Lord, such love to me?’ This is the deepest romance of grace. And its glory is that it will never end.