Have you ever heard or read the story about Ruth the Moabitess? Perhaps you’ve heard it referred to as the Love story between Boaz and Ruth? Well, this is one of my favorites! I’ve always been passionate about studying the women of the Bible because there are so many valuable things to learn from their character, their passion, their faith, their devotion. One might think, “How can a story from so long ago, possibly relate to me now?” Let’s open the Book of Ruth together and find out. You’ll see that…yeah maybe they rode Donkeys instead of cars, but the situations are the same. The struggles, the joys, the battles and the victories are the same. By placing ourselves in Ruth’s shoes (or sandals) and walking in them, we will discover how she became such a virtuous woman. So much so, that she is one of only four Gentile women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ! (The other four being: Tamar, Rahab – Boaz mom, Ruth and Bathsheba – Uriah’s wife) Also the Book of Ruth is the first of only two books in the entire Bible to be named after a woman. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth learning a thing or two from her 😉
The Book of Ruth begins with stating some facts about the times. This is crucial to understanding what the world around Ruth looks like.
In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. Ruth 1:1
I know I have not experienced a famine and I can’t say I understand it, but I can only try to imagine how challenging that may be; experiencing hunger; the worry and stress of where and how to provide for your family; the pain of seeing your loved ones sick; the need of having to find a form a survival to the point of leaving your home and everything else behind. This is the background that sets up the story of Ruth.
The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They arrived in Moab and settled there. Although they were able to escape the famine, hardship continued to press on this family. Naomi lost her husband. Was the famine the cause? It doesn’t say, but already we see a family that is definitely going through the fire. Mahlon and Kilion ended up marring Moabite women; Ruth being one of them. The scriptures read that about 10 years later, both Mahlon and Kilion passed away. Sickness seemed more likely to be the cause.
My heart goes out to Naomi. First, she experienced a severe famine that forced her family to leave their home, their friends. Then she experiences the loss of her husband, followed by the loss of her only two sons. Naomi was broken. All she had left were her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi decides its best for her to return to her home land since she now has nothing to offer her daughters. Orpah agrees to return to her family and start a new life on her own, Ruth however, clung to Naomi.
Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Ruth 1:16
Conference speaker and Bible teacher June Hesterly, beautifully described what verse 1:16 revealed about this young Moabitess: “Ruth’s wonderful profession of commitment and faith shows us the true heart of devotion.” – Ordinary Women Extraordinary God
Before praising Ruth for her wonderful spirit of devotion, we must not overlook the fact that Naomi was the woman who set the example for Ruth. Lets recall that Naomi, a Jew from Bethlehem, relocated to Moab, a pagan land. Ruth did not know about this Jewish God, until he was introduced to her by Naomi. Naomi must have taken that place in Ruth’s life that she so desperately longed to fill. Perhaps Naomi was a real mother to Ruth or for the first time Ruth experienced family, devotion to one True God. She also must have seen Naomi’s strength as she went through the tragedies in her life. Because of the example Naomi set, now Ruth, was nurturing and developing those same qualities. Ruth was willing to leave it all for the sake of being with her mother-in-law.
As I read the story of Ruth, I am reminded to look at the bigger picture. All those events that occurred in Naomi and Ruth’s life were for a reason and purpose. God is preparing them both for something far beyond what they could imagine. Although everything things seems so negative and hopeless, God had them in the right place.
So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barely harvest. Ruth 1:22
I love how specific the Word is about the timing Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem; spring time and at the beginning of the barley harvest. Not only was this literally the beginning of harvest, but figuratively it was also the beginning of God’s redemption in the life of both of them. God’s timing is perfect. He is never too late or too early. He is always on time.
There is a reason why YOU are living in this generation and there is a reason why YOU are where you are today.
Take some time to reflect on where you are. Think on all the things you have experienced whether hardships or times of joy, and try to see the bigger picture. What is God showing you? Where is he leading you? What can you learn from Ruth and Naomi?