Why was Boaz so attracted to Ruth? That is a question I pondered as I was reading the family tree in Matthew (for me a constant source of fruit)!
...And Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king - Matthew 1:5
Weighty factors must have drawn affection from this man of gravitas: let me suggest some reasons why Ruth tugged on the heartstrings of the 'Laird of Bethlehem':
Just like Rahab, the wife of Salmon, Ruth also was a God-fearing, converted, pagan outcast under the threat of exclusion and judgment (see Joshua 2:1-21).
When Rahab sheltered the spies before sending them on their way from Jericho, she made them promise that they would return the favor, by showing covenant fidelity and loyalty or hesed by sparing her from among the holy war casualties (Joshua 2:12-14): this hesed trait and conduct was just oozing out of Ruth, and her track record with mother-in-law Naomi, and now-deceased husband Mahlon, and the family reputation and name of Elimelech, in loving-kindness was second-to-none.
a. She cared for the lonely, foreign, widow Elimelech as a model daughter-in-law, before Mahlon's death, Ruth 1:3.
b. She refused to go back to her father's house, when Naomi returned home to her own native land of Israel, Ruth 1:14.
c. She embraced the one, true, revealed, religion which was quite different from her own - what was implicit by remaining in her husband's home now was expressed in true covenantally-loyal hesed faith, Ruth 1:16.
d. She refused to abandon the widow but would cling to her no-matter-what, Ruth 1:17.
e. She subjected herself obediently to her mother-in-law at every point, providing for her needs and heeding her wise-old-head advice, Ruth 2:2 & 22-23.
f. Her work rate and industrious attitude stood out among all the other poor ladies who came to glean in the fields, Ruth 2:7.
g. Her level of care was outstanding - all borne from a debt of gratitude, being included among God's people, and of joining the covenant family - and did not escape the notice of the landowner, Ruth 2:11-14.
h. Her attitude throughout was marked by humility and grace - her manners and words were perfumed with the heavenly savor of hesed, Ruth 2:10 & 13.
It was not the looks but the lifestyle in Ruth that so appealed to Boaz: of course we have no idea of her appearance, but the beauty that all saw was that which flowed from a heart infused with, and pulsating in-time to, the rhythm of hesed.
Boaz, for his part, bore the fragrance of loving-kindness: the harvesters in the fields, of whom this master was carefully fond, were happy to exchange greetings and warm wishes of covenant blessings - these were more than pleasantries, Ruth 2:4. All this is more remarkable given the fact that this romance began to blossom in the wild-west days of the Judges, Ruth 1:1, when hesed was at a discount.
Boaz, of course, in union with Christ (whose power flowed back to Him spiritually and retrospectively from the Cross), shared the mind of the Savior, the ultimate kinsman-redeemer - Jesus is the ultimate, archetypal, Goel upon whom the office and function of ransoming near-relatives was modeled in the Old Testament. This man saw the need - a shelter and sire for a believing, outcast, impoverished, helpless, Moabitess, gentile convert who had come to take refuge in the household of a covenant family of the LORD Yahweh of Israel, Ruth 2:12. It broke the heart of Boaz heart to see Ruth and Naomi in such a state and plight - these ladies were without an heir, reliable household income, or future inheritance, for the clan of Elimelech. It warmed and stirred his compassion to see this family who had been through all the stages of grief - and resulting penury. He shared their flesh and blood - there was a tie of covenant and kinsman loyalty. And being so, dutiful, godly, generous, faithful and kind, by grace, loving Boaz was determined to help and redeem what had been lost while the opportunity still remained, Ruth 3:8-13. There was no attempt to prevaricate, renege or reconsider his Word - the following morning he arose with purpose, determining to pay the ransom price, collect the title deeds (and marriage certificate) and prove true to his word, 4:1-10.
This brings us back to the genealogy in Matthew: perhaps, a bit like Wesley in Aldersgate Street, the heart of Boaz 'strangely warmed' to Ruth: yes, he wanted to do his duty, and, of course, he believed it was necessary and needed - but this was more than a matter of mind and duty: Boaz was being compelled and moved to Ruth by a hidden, secret, hand filled with divinely sovereign power. The irresistible urge produced by the Spirit, worked in Boaz, to marry his bride Ruth, not only to function as a type of Christ's love for the Church, but also to sire the seed Obed, from whom will come the man-child David, and eventually his Seed, and serpent-crusher Christ, Matthew 1:1, 5-6 & 16. How thrilled and glad we are that Boaz took a shine to Ruth, for without this kinsman there is no hope. It is the secret hand of providence by which events, lives and paths just seem to coincide or 'happen by chance' that is noted by the author of this lovely little romance, Ruth 2:3 & 20.
This is a little bonus thought which my original post left out: when we look at the characters of Ruth and Boaz, which developed under the watchful gaze of God, these two loving hearts, which met in golden barley fields, were quite evidently soul mates - in other words, according to the divine council, Ruth and Boaz were a perfect match made in heaven.
Now I am not suggesting it would be a good idea to choose a husband or wife based on the relationship that blossomed at barley-harvest in the fields of Bethlehem - there were special spiritual duties incumbent upon Boaz, and particular extreme circumstances that befell Ruth and Naomi which culturally are quite different from today.
Of course, the kind of attitudes displayed in Ruth and Boaz, are exemplary and Christlike - this faithful, gracious, loving-kindness hesed flows from the heart of God and appears in the saints in both testaments and today. This is the lifestyle the gratitude of the Gospel ought to and does produces in those walking closely with the LORD - faithfulness is the hallmark that we are in tune with the Gospel of free grace and know what it is to be pardoned our sins and debts. To the extent that a young man or woman displays hesed they are shouting out to the church they would make ideal husbands and wives - submissive and servant-hearted, committed to Christ, and determined to honor God, throughout all 7 days of the week, regardless of personal cost, with the power to crucify self. Who wouldn't want to be married to someone like that or proven hesed character traits?
Beyond that, of course, there are applications for all of the church - we are surrounded on every side by pagans in terrible need: the Gospel is for all, even harlots like Rahab who repent, and for Ruths in terrible need, and for Naomis and Elimelechs who have need of an inheritance in the heavenly Canaan above. If we have received grace, and to the extent we apply the Gospel, our hearts should ache, and be attracted to need, as we seize the opportunities to demonstrate hesed. We are to kindly love the sinner and extra-specially all saints - regardless of the cost - for Christ was crucified for us. Only when we see the depth to which he stooped - and there was nothing at all that was attractive about us - and the infinite price he paid, will we be moved to live like the Kinsman Goel who took upon Himself our flesh, to redeem us and give us life.