With 4 intriguing lessons, the Book of Ruth is a deeply touching story in its movement from sadness and tragedy to heart-warming kindness, love, redemption and personal restoration. ♦
This story reads well with a hot cup of coffee on a rainy day. While there is no known author of the Book of Ruth, believed to have been written around 1000 BC during the days of King David, this hauntingly charming story offered generations of Israelites a view of true faith and piety during the days when judges ruled, a time of national disunity, foreign oppression and religious and moral degeneracy.
But that’s only part of it.
There are lessons for us today in considering our own problem-solving decisions, familial devotion, God’s solution for the poor, and the amazing use of ordinary human beings to fulfill His plans.
1. Running From Problems Solves Nothing
In the opening paragraph we learn of a man, his wife and two sons who move from Bethlehem in Judah to the country of Moab to temporarily avoid a famine. The decision proves to be disastrous as the man, Elimelek, dies. His two sons marry Moabite women and then, after 10 years, the sons both die leaving 3 woman, the Hebrew widow Naomi and her daughters-in-law alone.
These were Hebrews leaving their homeland to seek a better situation in the midst of their struggles. It’s clear their trust was in their own decision-making as there is no hint of prayer or consideration of God’s leading. In fact “When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.”
Never should have left.
Consider this: Elimelek left Judah because he felt he had to for his family’s sake. His faith was in his own plan vs. God’s provisioning as promised. They clearly had lost their way, though others remained and God provided. How like us to follow our hearts and minds and control our own destiny rather than seek direction from God.
2. We are All One People, United in Marriage and Faith
Seeking family support, Naomi decides to return to Israel and Ruth, one of the daughters-in-law, is determined to accompany her, leaving her homeland and embracing Naomi’s faith. The love between a mother-in-law and the wives of her deceased sons must have been strong and sweet. In tears Naomi releases Orpah to stay in Moab and relents to Ruth’s plea to follow her to Bethlehem. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”
Orpah, Ruth and Naomi all acted well in good faith and love toward each other, united in familial love if not by nationality and religion. Ruth converted and was used by God in mighty ways as we see the story plays out.
3. God’s Ways Are Designed for All Human Situations
Naomi and Ruth arrive in Judah during the barley harvest. Ruth is directed to glean grain from the field of the wealthy man Boaz, a relative of Elimelek. Gleaning (Deuteronomy 24:19-22) was the practice of collecting leftover crops from the farmer’s harvest. This was a principle taught by God to the Hebrews as a provisioning method “for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” In God’s economy there is a naturally managed welfare system that directs the producers to leave a portion of the yield for the poor and unfortunate, yet requires the recipient to work for the collection. Incidentally, the expectation to glean rather than beg, steal, or covet is a basis for Paul’s seemingly harsh injunction: “Whoever does not work, neither shall he eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
Additionally, God’s Law to the Hebrews provides for the ongoing care of relatives in trouble, danger or need. A kinsman redeemer, in Hebrew, designates one who delivers or rescues. As specified in Leviticus 25:47-55, it is a male relative who redeems property or person. In this case, Boaz is the kinsmen redeemer. Through a series of divinely appointed circumstances, Boaz steps up to this role and willingly takes Ruth as his wife.
At a broader level, Jehovah God is Israel’s Redeemer, the one who promises to defend and vindicate them. And as Boaz saved Ruth, in the same way Jesus Christ redeemed us for Himself, out of our destitution made us His own beloved bride and blessed us for all generations. He is the true kinsman redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.
4. God’s Plans are Never Thwarted
Finally, the Book of Ruth has an aftermath that is startling. Not only does this strangely beautiful love story end with a noble and happy marriage, but their union produces an offspring, Obed, a great joy to Ruth and Boaz and a restored and happy Naomi. This same Obed is later to become the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David, the future king of Israel and forefather in the human hereditary line of Jesus.
God’s plans are not thwarted, despite our sins, missteps and even side-trips to Moab. It’s so much like God to use ordinary lives in human history, like a foreign woman from Moab, to bring about His purposes, even the saving of the world.
Have you ever taken a side-trip to Moab? Do you know Christ as your Kinsman Redeemer?
The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer….” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. – Ruth 4:14. 16-17