When asked about the women God used in the Word, few people could list a large grouping of names… let alone provide information as to their lives. However, God used these women for a reason. They each served a purpose as they lived their lives, and they continue to serve a purpose as we explore their stories today.
But who are these women, and why do their stories continue to matter?
Join us as we discover the life and calling of one of these women of God, Ruth.
Kingdom Advancing Women:
While at first it may seem as if God used only a few women in the Word, this was not the case. Their stories might rarely span great lengths of pages. Their purposes might at first appear small. But this is only what a glancing examination reveals…
From Rahab to Ruth, from Deborah to Esther/Hadassah, these women were used mightily of God. They walked in paths of Godly obedience, courage, and love. They stood strong in their God, in their faith in Him, through often difficult and dangerous times. And as a result, He used them to advance His Kingdom. He blessed them richly, both in their lives, and in their descendants.
“And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’”—Luke 1:28
Woman of the Word, Ruth:
Oral tradition says that Ruth was far from starting out as a woman of God. She is said to have been a high ranking Moabitess—the granddaughter of Eglon, king of Moab, and great-great-granddaughter of King Balak, who had bad dealings with Moses. Some people even believe that Ruth may have been a priestess to the false god, Chemosh…
The simple fact that Ruth grew up with the teachings of a false god in a land typically against Judah and Israel means that she should not have been an easy convert to the I AM. But add in her probable family history and position, and she never should have chosen or been allowed to marry a Jew, let alone choose to leave Moab to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Yet, that is exactly what Ruth did. She acted out of love and faith, choosing to leave her old god, the home of her birth, and the comforts available there. Comforts that would have been great indeed, if she were the high ranking Moabitess many say.
When Ruth’s new husband Mahlon died, it would have been easy for her to return to her family and old home. Easy for her to find another husband in her youth, and forget her mother-in-law who had virtually nothing. Yet, something moved Ruth to action. A love for her mother-in-law Naomi and a love for God.
This love, this faith and obedience to follow her mother-in-law and God into a foreign land, surely was great. For Naomi had no wealth to speak of after her husband and two sons died… and little to return to…
But off the two women went. Not without Naomi trying to convince Ruth and her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, to not follow her… to return to their families.
Orpah at first was willing to go, she even went so far as to ignore Naomi’s initial pleas, but the call of the old and familiar, combined with the entreaties of Naomi, soon led Orpah back to her family’s house. Back to her old ways…
Not so with Ruth.
Ruth was steadfast in her decision to stay with Naomi, determined to help her and to serve her God.
“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.
Where you die, I will die,
and there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
if anything but death parts you and me.’”—Ruth 1:16-17
There is something beautiful in this declaration Ruth makes. Yes, it is a declaration made out of love. It is a pledge to follow the Lord. A pledge even to remain always with Naomi. But it is also a declaration, a pledge that would not have been easy. Because it was not just a choice to love Naomi and to serve God. Ruth was deciding to leave everything she knew behind; her family, the heritage she once had, her old beliefs, old behaviors. From the things she would wear, to the food she would eat, nothing would be the same.
A New Life:
Traveling from Moab to Bethlehem potentially was a short trip, taking 1-2 weeks, but due to the poverty of Naomi, and Ruth’s choice to follow her, this trip may well have been on foot. Everything they owned, if they had no animal, would have been upon their backs. Should Ruth have wanted to, even after her declaration, she could have turned back. After all, this may well have been Ruth’s first true taste of the life she had accepted… a widow’s poverty.
But Naomi and Ruth made it to Bethlehem despite these difficulties, taking up residence on Naomi’s old property. A property presumably neglected from Naomi’s approximately ten year absence. Add to that the need for Ruth to glean to feed herself and her mother-in-law, and the probable suspicion Ruth met with being born and raised a Moabitess, and the position of Ruth was hardly favorable.
Still, despite Ruth’s ability to return to Moab, she stayed. Not only that, but she went continually to glean. She did not falter in her love for her mother-in-law Naomi or God… and that is what caught the attention of Boaz.
“So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’
“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’”—Ruth 2:10-12
Boaz, having noted Ruth’s kindness, blessed her greatly. He provided a safe place for her to glean, he ordered his men to leave grain in her path beyond what the law commanded. He even had his men provide her with water, and when he and his paid workers sat to eat, he allowed her to sit with them, giving her an equivalent meal…
Join us in part two to discover how the obedience, faith, and love of Ruth not only served as a catalyst to her own redemption and Naomi’s, but was also used by the Lord to create a lineage of One New Man!