What is interesting in this text is that, after the birth of Ruth and Boaz’s son Obed, the women address Naomi. As they speak of the guardian-redeemer, our first thoughts may turn to Boaz, but no: the women speak of this guardian redeemer being born to Ruth.
Obed is placed in Naomi’s arms, and she cares for him. The prayers for fame for Obed echo those of the elders in 4:11. The women pray that Obed will be a source of renewal and sustenance of life. Naomi’s losses are addressed – her old age, her widowhood, the loss of her sons. Ruth is praised as “better to you than seven sons”, and of Obed, they say, “Naomi has a son!”
The shift of focus at the end of the story to Naomi is appropriate: the difficulties and tragedy that mark her life are the opening scenes of this story. At one point it looks as though she will return alone to Bethlehem: but Ruth stays with her. Her arrival back in Bethlehem “empty”, without family is a source of bitterness to her. Now here is Naomi, enveloped again within a family, and holding a “son” in her arms – as life once more overflows in her story. Once again it is in the words of the characters that God is revealed, “Praise to the Lord” say the women to Naomi, clearly identifying God as the one who has worked in and through the details of her life to bring about blessing.
Blessing and life will continue to overflow from this family: Obed becomes the father of great King David, and David’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, born in this same village of Bethlehem, comes as saviour of the world, to bring about the blessing to all peoples that God promised Abram.
And what of our stories? Do we believe that God is working amidst the losses and tragedies we endure? This story is a reminder that all of our stories – in all that is good and all this hard – are being woven into the greatest story of all, in which – because the grace of God in Christ – happy endings, finally, await all who trust in him.