Who was Ruth?
If pressed, most of us would probably offer Ruth’s name as one of the first five or ten women of the Word whose name and story we remember. Yes, there was Deborah, a fierce judge of Israel before the kings; there was Hadassah, renamed Esther who became queen and saved her people; Mary, the mother of Jesus; and dozens of other important women. Yet, somehow, Ruth’s story is unique.
Ruth, unlike the other women mentioned above, was not Jewish. In earthly terms she was not even what we might consider a candidate for the genealogy of Jesus. After all, she was from Moab. She served the god of Moab, Chemosh, for many years of her life… possibly until near the time she traveled with Naomi as it was Ruth’s entreaty to Naomi that Jewish tradition holds as Ruth’s conversion.
Furthermore, it is believed by many, through oral tradition, that Ruth was a high ranking Moabitess; granddaughter of Eglon, king of Moab, great-great-granddaughter of King Balak, who had unpleasant dealings with Moses. Some even believe she may have been a priestess to the false god, Chemosh, yet, the simple knowledge that she grew up in the world of a false god means that she should not have been an easy covert to the I AM. Though, marrying and living with a Benjamite and his family, as well as remaining with her mother-in-law after his death, would have paved the way for her new beliefs…
Ruth chose to follow her mother-in-law out of her country—knowing she would almost certainly never see her own family again. While Ruth’s decision may have indeed been based on her love for Naomi, it was surely in part because she had come to love the God of the Israelites.
The Journey of Ruth:
Ruth’s story begins after she was widowed, when her security and hope were well-tested…
Having buried her husband, Mahlon… Ruth followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, despite Naomi’s repeated attempts to have her turn back; to return to her family.
With this initial meeting, with the first words Ruth speaks, we learn of her determination, her love for Naomi, and of course, her love for God. This love created within Ruth a hope for the future, even when things appeared hopeless to Naomi.
No longer wishing to serve the false god she once did, and wanting to care for Naomi, Ruth followed Naomi for what, in the natural, was likely only a week or two’s journey. However, in her heart the journey would have been long, firm in the knowledge that she would never likely see her friends or family again.
This one decision, to let love guide her actions, meant she left everything, but her hope was not diminished. Her heart knew the glory of following God and of doing right by her mother-in-law who had lost her own family. As far as we know, Ruth never regretted this decision. She never second guessed it…
The thought that Ruth did not complain or second guess her decision, even upon arriving in Bethlehem where she likely faced many hardships along with Naomi’s poverty, is beyond what our flesh-filled logic might deem wise. Even Naomi’s own bitterness was not enough to dampen Ruth’s hope and faith…
Ruth took everything in stride. She did not try to get Naomi to work, or even call upon her old friends and relatives for food. Instead, she eagerly went out into the fields to glean. She supported Naomi without ridicule or pride, working for the majority of every day in the hot sun.
It was Ruth’s heart of love and hope that first caught the attention of Boaz. Ruth did not shout what she was doing for her mother-in-law, yet the tale of kindness still reached Boaz. Her heart commanded attention.
Thus, Ruth found favor in the eyes of Boaz. He ordered his men to leave extra for her as they gathered and to give her water. And Boaz himself saw to it that she was fed and well while in his fields, and that no one chastised her.
Yet, further still, as the harvests neared their ends, when Naomi told Ruth to go to the threshing floor at the end of Shavuot, Ruth found favor again. For Ruth listened to her mother-in-law and went to Boaz on the threshing floor after he ate and drank his fill, lying at his feet as he slept. Thus, when he awoke and asked who was there, Ruth replied that it was his maidservant, Ruth. Moreover, she asked him to take her under his wing—she asked him to redeem her! She had hope for a favorable outcome!
Yes, her mother-in-law had told her to go lay at Boaz’s feet, and Ruth would have likely understood what that implied… yet, Ruth used the language of the Israelites. Ruth spoke so that Boaz might understand; choosing to honor Naomi by doing her will, rather than trying to seek a younger, wealthier husband. Because of Ruth’s obedience she found favor in the sight of Boaz… so while Boaz had to give another relative first choice, Boaz still knew how it would end. He knew what the answer would be and did not shy away from Ruth’s request, not merely because of Ruth’s relationship to Naomi, but because Ruth was a woman of character.
Boaz did not try to make Ruth sound more enticing. He did not try to sway his relative to take her, gladly doing so himself because of her character—because her hope was secured in God. Therefore, Boaz redeemed Ruth, and she became his wife, and together they had a son named Obed, who would become the grandfather of King David. Ruth being in the lineage of Jesus! Completing a story that in the natural would have felt a fairy tale if told beforehand, yet was a Godly design of faith, hope, and love.
Ruth’s Hope Examined:
- Ruth had enough hope in Naomi and God to not return home as soon as her husband died.
- Ruth had continued hope in Naomi and God. Enough to follow her far from her home and family to lands she knew not; enough to conquer Naomi’s hopelessness.
- Ruth had enough hope in Naomi and God to live what should have been hand to mouth. She had enough hope to go to the fields to glean for herself and her mother-in-law, instead of gathering enough for a journey back to Moab.
- Ruth had enough hope in Naomi and God to go to Boaz. Enough hope to listen to the words of those she trusted and ask a difficult thing of Boaz… to do what in earthly eyes was desperate and unlikely to succeed.
- Ruth had enough hope to accept a destiny of favor—a new life.
Because of Ruth’s hope she found that in the end she was given great favor—indeed, greater favor than she likely ever imagined. She went from gleaning the fields to feed herself and her mother-in-law to being redeemed!
Redeemed not only of man, but of God.
What Can We Learn from Ruth?
Without hope, we cannot persevere or have faith, because hope is the evidence of things not yet seen. It is the cornerstone of our faith— even our love. These traits: faith, hope, love, and perseverance, are ones Ruth displayed… yet what is the base of hope? How do we find hope?
If we do not hope—but instead focus on hopelessness—then we soon doubt, eventually giving up. This is not what God desires for us! After all, Jesus said that the three greatest things are faith, hope, and love. It was out of Ruth’s love that hope flowed, and out of that hope that faith flowed.
Love is the basis of all these, so if we desire to place our hope in the Lord, we have to love Him.