Naomi spoke the truth. Boaz would not rest until he should have completed the work that he in his kindness and energy had undertaken. He wanted the one he loved to find rest and that it might be well with her (Ruth 3: 1), and he knew that this could only be possible when united with himself. So it is with the Lord and us. His life on earth was a life of toil for our sakes crowned by the unspeakable "travail of His soul" on the cross. Thus He has fulfilled His promise, "I will give you rest." We already possess rest of conscience in the knowledge of His work and rest of heart in the knowledge of His adorable Person. But the Lord continues to work today to bring us into the future rest remaining for the people of God, satisfied love's rest where all will correspond to the thoughts of His heart eternally.
Boaz was also determined to give rest to his well-beloved because she had toiled and suffered with the people of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit tells us: "It is a righteous thing with God to render tribulation to those that trouble you, and to you that are troubled repose with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven" (2 Thess. 1: 6-7). "God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which ye have shown to His name, having ministered to the saints, and still ministering" (Heb. 6: 10).
This Book of Ruth speaks much of work and rest: of work and rest in service, the work and rest of faith, and the work and rest of grace. The reapers work and rest; so does the lord of the harvest; so does Ruth, the bride of his choosing. How peacefully she rests at Boaz's feet during the hours of the night! And how she rests afterwards while waiting for her redeemer's efforts to prepare for her the rest of which our chapter speaks!
According to the custom in Israel it was a question of raising up the name of the dead and of re-establishing his inheritance. This duty fell to the nearest relative. Now there was a man there who had closer rights than Boaz over Elimelech's inheritance. Boaz speaks to him in the presence of numerous witnesses. Indeed, this man would like to have had the inheritance, but knowing that "the seed would not be his own" he does not consent to take Ruth to himself. Had he done so he would have impoverished himself and marred his own inheritance, for Ruth's children's possessions would not have returned to him nor to his family.
This close relative is a graphic type of the law. Indeed, like this man, the law which had prior rights over Israel demands; it takes, and it gives nothing. It would just no longer be the law if it could undertake the work of grace. Nevertheless, its weakness does not come from itself, but from those to whom it is addressed. The law expects something from man; but man shows that he is incapable of pleasing God. It promises life on condition of obedience, but since man is a sinner and disobedient the law can only condemn him. The law is a minister of death and cannot give life to the dead. Barren as it is, the law will never produce a posterity and cannot give birth to sons as divine progeny of the Messiah.
Grace alone can undertake such a task. Declaring man to be lost and expecting nothing of him, grace imposes no condition on him, makes no promise to him, but gives to him liberally, unceasingly, and eternally. Grace begets through an incorruptible seed and communicates life; grace puts man into relationship with God, produces fruit in him that God can acknowledge, and introduces him into glory.
Thus the law declares that it is powerless in the presence of the "Second man" who comes after the law, that is, in the presence of our Boaz in whom is strength. He will resurrect His people Israel and "He shall see a seed," as Isaiah says, but only, as we know, after having "poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53). In the meanwhile all the result of his work at the cross applies to us Christians. As for our souls, we are already raised together with Him; as for our bodies, we will soon be raised just as certainly as He has been. For us, Boaz is a type of the resurrected Christ.
The nearest relative removes his sandal-the law cedes its rights to Christ: rights that are acknowledged by the witnesses brought together for this very purpose. Boaz redeems the inheritance in order to possess Ruth, for he has more interest in this stranger's well-being than in all that belongs to her. Christ has done even more for the Church. He surrendered all that was His in order to purchase her. The poor remnant of Israel will also recognize this with joy when they shall see their Messiah who was once rejected return in glory.
The witnesses of this scene, the people and the elders, acclaim and bless mighty Boaz, for such kindness is worthy of all praise. The Holy Spirit places prophetic words in their mouths: "Jehovah make the woman that cometh into thy house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel!" (v. 11). The history of the people will begin once again, so to speak, with this poor Moabite. It will recommence on the basis of grace. Here it is not Leah but Rachel, the beloved wife, the wife of Jacob's free choice, the one for whom he had served so long, who comes first. In every respect and detail the Book of Ruth fixes our gaze on grace. "And acquire power in Ephratah, and make thyself a name in Bethlehem!" These cities, the witnesses of grace, will also be the witnesses of Boaz's power: "And let thy house become like the house of Pherez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the seed which Jehovah shall give thee of this young woman!" May his seed, like Pherez, be established according to the election of grace!
"And Jehovah gave [Ruth] conception." In the presence of this heir whom grace has given, the women again take up the people's prophetic line of thought. To Naomi they say, "Blessed be Jehovah who hath not left thee this day without one that has the right of redemption!" They transfer the right of redemption that Boaz had exercised to the head of his son, and thus foresee the future redemption to be accomplished by the man born of Ruth. In Him, they add, the old age of the people will find a nourisher, their weakness will find a restorer, and His name will be associated with that of Ruth-this poor remnant with her affections set on Naomi, the much afflicted people of God, to whom she is worth more than a perfect number of sons (v. 15).
Naomi nurses Obed in her bosom; he comes forth, like the Messiah, from this barren people. Then the neighbor women also raise their prophetic praise: "There is a son born to Naomi!" The circle becomes more intimate and along with this comes an increasing measure of intelligence. The nearer one is to God's people the more one appreciates Christ and His grace. If one is content with the relationship of "the elders and all the people" one will not go beyond their level of spiritual intelligence; whereas the heart that is attached to the Church will have a more intimate and more personal knowledge of Christ. "There is a son born to Naomi!" Just so the Israel to come will rejoice before Him as in the joy of harvest and as when one divides the spoil, and they will say: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9: 6).
"And they called his name Obed." Obed means "He who serves." This is the Lord's title of glory before all His other marvelous titles. This Servant is the Root and Offspring of David, the bearer of royal grace. Do not all our hearts beat with joy when we call Him by this name? He the Counselor, the Mighty God, has served, is now serving, and will remain a Servant for ever for the benefit of those whom He loves! Our highest blessings are comprehended in this title of Servant: His devotion to God, His love for us, His entire work even to the sacrifice of His own life, His present grace which condescends to wash our feet, and His eternal service of love when one day we shall be with Him in the glory of the Father's house!