It is hardly an exaggeration to describe Ruth as a love story that changed the world. Strategically placed in the biblical timeline during the era of the Judges when 'there was no king ...and everyone did what was right in their own eyes,' this story marks the transition from anarchy to monarchy: the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz was David, the multi-talented shepherd-boy, musician, poet and warrior who became king.
But the story's greater significance is in the line of descent to a completely different sort of king - 'great David's greater Son.' In the prologue to his account of the life Jesus, the gospel-writer Matthew highlights four marginalised women who were forbears of the Anointed King (the 'Christ') of this different sort of kingdom - among them, Ruth, a foreigner and like Jesus himself, a refugee. As the story of Ruth and Boaz unfolds, there are many such pre-echoes of the story of Jesus to be heard - not least, Boaz's role in redeeming his bride.
Many of our most pressing contemporary challenges are there in the story of Ruth: famine, refugees, bereavement, family break-up, unequal distribution of wealth, social upheaval - and even bureaucracy! Some of the remedies are there too: personal loyalty, welcoming foreigners, protecting vulnerable people, generosity, self-sacrifice and integrity.