It is harvest season here in the Midwest, and as you drive down almost any stretch of highway, combines can be seen working into the long hours of night, harvesting crops that have long been awaited. Each year at this time, I can’t help but think of the book of Ruth, and while this year is no different, I seem to connect with this story in a deeper way than ever before.
When we first begin the story of Ruth, we find Naomi, a Jewish woman, who due to a famine in their homeland, Bethlehem, moved to the land of Moab with her husband and two sons. Soon afterwards however, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, dies. Rather than seeing this as a warning sign, the family begins to assimilate into the Moabite culture, and the two sons take wives for themselves. Once again, Naomi witnesses tragedy, and both of her sons pass away as well—leaving her a destitute widow, with no one to provide for the family. Desperate, Naomi chooses to return to her homeland, Israel.
“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’”—Ruth 1.14-15
In comparison to the monotheism of Judaism, the Moabites worshiped many gods and their religious practices were barbaric, to say the least. Although both of her daughter-in-laws were willing to return to Israel with Naomi, when given the chance to stay behind in Moab, Orpah takes it. But Ruth chooses to leave behind the gods of her past in exchange for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’”—Ruth 1.16
I can’t imagine that this was an easy transition for Ruth. The Moabites were enemies of Israel, and their pagan practices were an abomination to the Hebrew people. If anything, Ruth was ostracized and possibly in danger at times, as she was seen as a second-class citizen at best.
“And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.’”—Ruth 2.22
Historically, when a woman was destitute in the land of Israel she was often allowed to “glean” what the reapers had left behind. This was a way in which the local farmers took care of the poor and needy. Naomi had no land in which to glean from, so she sent Ruth out in search of a compassionate farmer. God then directed Ruth’s steps to Boaz.
“Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be the of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!’ And Naomi said to her, ‘This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.’”—Ruth 2.20
Naomi’s family left the land that the Lord had given them in Bethlehem when times got tough. They chose to assimilate into a new culture, compromising their beliefs in exchange for their birthright. Still, despite the circumstances, God’s faithfulness prevailed.
“Then he said to the close relative, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I thought to inform you, saying, “Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it.’”—Ruth 3.3-4
Not only did Boaz redeem the land that once belonged to Naomi’s husband, which would in-turn provide finances for her to live on, but he also married the Moabite woman Ruth. This act of generosity, allowed Ruth and Naomi to start over again—new beginnings. It redeemed them from the past circumstances, and brought life, where once there was only death.
“Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.”—Mathew 1.5-6
The depth of this story is so powerful. It is a snapshot of the One New Man, where Jew (Boaz) and Gentile (Ruth), come together through the covenant act of marriage, bringing redemption to the house of Naomi. But it doesn’t stop there. Ruth, the Moabite—the outsider—has a son with Boaz. Through her simple act of obedience to follow the God of Israel, the lineage of Ruth would later birth the Yeshua, our Messiah—the kinsmen redeemer to the entire world. This is not only an epic and beautiful love story between a man and a woman, but even greater between the God of the universe and His people.
“In the year of this jubilee you shall return every man unto his possession.”—Leviticus 25.13
As we are walking through this Jubilee season, where God is redeeming the losses of the past, I encourage you to not lose heart. Some of you may be going through great transitions where the way in which you operated in the past is no longer possible. Just remember, that even in acts of obedience that may seem so very small at the time, God the Father is planning big things.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”—Psalm 37.23
We, at Curt Landry Ministries, are so excited to see all that God is preparing to pour out in and through each one of us. One day we will look back on this time, and say, “I never dreamed this is what you were planning all along Abba!”