When Second Place Makes You the Winner: Book of Ruth 4
“For the gospel does not address a faceless, nameless mob, but persons. The history of salvation is thick with names. The name is the form of speech by which a person is singled out for personal love, particular intimacy, and exact responsibilites.” --Eugene H. Peterson
“A genealogy is a striking way of bringing before us the continuity of God's purpose through the ages. The process of history is not haphazard. There is a purpose in it all. And the purpose is the purpose of God.” --Leon Morris
Names: Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, Elimelech, Kilion, Mahlon. ...Perez, Obed, Jesse, David. Amazingly, we do not know the name of the nearer kinsman who relinquishes his rights to Boaz in Ruth 4. He disappears anonymously in history.
Naomi, Ruth and Boaz with their child, Obed, get caught up into God's grand redemptive story. These ordinary people going obediently about their ordinary Bethlehem lives get scooped up into the lineage of Jesus himself.
"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. ... Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David." Matthew 1:1, 5-6
Did Naomi, Ruth and Boaz know what they were getting caught up into? Probably not. They did not know the whole Story. Neither do we. Like them, we must believe simply that there is a Story. We are invited to go about our lives, living obediently in light of the reality and revelation of God. We are to live and love compassionately with one another and with the alien and stranger. We are to believe that the "other" is welcomed by Israel's God, that an old woman embittered by life's struggles is still qualified to hold God's future in her arms, that a faithful farmer, who out of a gracious spirit that mirrors his gracious God, participates in purposes unimaginable in his day when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
Mr. No Name Guy gives up his shoe in a legal transaction before the city officials and steps out of history and out of the privilege of being in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Boaz, who came in second, becomes the winner. Matthew picks up his name and the name of his Moabite wife, Ruth, when he opens his Gospel centuries later.
We live by faith, not by only what we see. Our stories, too, change the world.