by Deborah Horscroft
The book of Ruth is a beautiful love story, not only of a man and a woman but of a foreigner from Moab and her Jewish mother-in-law, and of a woman stripped of everything who finds joy in the grandson who will be her “kinsman-redeemer”, continuing the family name and looking after her in her old age.
Many old church songs talk about being “Redeemed”, for instance “by the blood of the Lamb” but it is a word which has lost almost all meaning outside Christian circles, and perhaps some within them.
The concept is reasonably straightforward and was a common one in Biblical times. To redeem something is to buy back something which was rightfully yours in the first place, like going back to a pawn broker to get your grandmother’s antique brooch out of hock. In the Old Testament, portions of the Promised Land could be redeemed by the original owner’s family, people could be redeemed from slavery and God was frequently redeeming his people from the consequences of their sin: usually being captured by foreigners. One of the great acts of redemption in the Old Testament is celebrated in the Passover, when God redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt. The Jews were told by Moses to mark their homes with the blood of a slain lamb, so that the angel of the Lord would pass over their homes as he killed the first born in each home in Egypt.
In the New Testament, Jesus is revealed as the one who redeems God’s people from slavery to sin, paying with his own sacrificial death.
Ruth followed Naomi home to look after her, but also to cast herself upon the mercy of Naomi’s God. She followed Naomi’s advice, gained a real catch of a husband and went on to become an ancestress (foremother) of Jesus Christ.