The book of Ruth in the Bible tells the story of a young Moabite woman who followed her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem.
What does it take to be a woman of faith? What is the most important trait we need to be used by God? How do we acquire that trait?
Ruth was a simple woman from a pagan country and yet she’s honored with the distinction of having a book of the Bible named after her and being a part of the lineage of Christ. So what was it that God saw in Ruth that set her apart from other women?
Ruth in the Bible
In the All God’s Women Bible study group I asked each of the women to share their favorite woman of the Bible. At the top of the list was Ruth. Hers is a story that inspires women of all ages. But who was Ruth? What is it about her that distinguishes her and endears her to everyone.
I’ve got to admit, up until now, I never understood the appeal of Ruth. She seemed so simple and unexciting. I much preferred Naomi who had more spunk. But as I’ve delved into the story of Ruth, I realize it’s her simplicity that makes her so extraordinary.
The Bible tells us very little about Ruth. All we know about her past is that she was a Moabite woman who married Mahlon, one of Naomi’s sons. The name Mahlon means sickly, so most likely Ruth went into the marriage knowing that he had health issues and might require caregiving. She also likely knew that she could end up a young widow, which of course, turned out to be the case.
The Moabites were a rough group of people. They were the descendants of Lot’s oldest daughter through her incestuous relationship with Lot. Moabites worshipped a god called Chemosh as well as other false gods. Their worship was lewd and grotesque to the extent of even having human sacrifice. They detested Israelites.
And yet, in the midst of this corrupt environment arose a young Moabite woman with a pure heart who fell in love with a sickly Israelite.
We don’t know how long Ruth and Mahlon were married. The Bible tells us Naomi and her sons dwelt in Moab for ten years and during that time Elimelech died and the sons got married. So their marriage was short lived. But it was long enough for her to grow an attachment to Naomi, her mother-in-law.
Ruth and Naomi
The age-old question has always been, why would Ruth leave her family and friends, her own country, and the only life she knew, to go with her mother-in-law to a foreign country with a foreign God?
Judging from the fact that Ruth married a sickly foreigner and then gave such a beautiful commitment speech to Naomi, I think it’s safe to assume that Ruth was a romantic. She looked at life through a poet’s eyes. She saw the ugliness that was Moab and longed for beauty, goodness, and love. She found that in Mahlon and his mother Naomi and realized that that something special she saw in them came from the God they worshipped.
It wasn’t difficult for her to leave the vileness of Moab behind because in her youthful optimism, she knew that what the Israelites had was what she wanted. And with simple faith, she determined to follow Naomi in order to have for herself, the relationship with God that they had.
In her famous speech, Ruth made it clear that she was leaving behind the life she knew in order to create a new life with Naomi and her people. And with a servant’s heart, as soon as they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth set to work to provide for Naomi, showing her gratitude to Naomi for giving her a new life.
With no job skills or experience, Ruth found work doing the only thing she knew how to do, gleaning barley in the fields. It was a lowly job, basically a form of welfare, that the poorest of poor were allowed to follow behind the farm workers and gather any gleanings they left behind.
Ruth knew nothing about Bethlehem, so she chose a nearby field and asked permission from Naomi if she might go there to glean the field. Naomi agreed, having no clue that the field had been purchased by Boaz, her relative.
Ruth and Boaz
I love how the Bible introduces us to Boaz. He arrives at the fields and greets the reapers with, “The Lord be with you!” And they respond with, “The Lord bless you!” Immediately, we know that this is a man of God, or at least he talks the talk. But does his actions reflect his walk? We quickly see that they do.
He notices Ruth among the gleaners. He’s never seen her before. She stands out. He finds out who she is and that she made the ultimate sacrifice of leaving her country to take care of her mother-in-law. He’s impressed and takes measures to watch out for her and provide for her.
She’s touched and humbled by his kindness. Even though he’s considerably older than her, a special bond is formed.
For the rest of the barley season, Ruth works the fields and Boaz keeps an eye on her. Naomi notices the fondness they have for each other but realizes that while Boaz might care for Ruth, he won’t take the first step in advancing their relationship. So she encourages Ruth to take a most unorthodox step and propose to Boaz.
It’s hard for our minds to conceive why Naomi would have Ruth come to Boaz in the night and so brazenly approach him as he slept, but she knew they needed a time when no one else was around, and she trusted their virtue. She knew that neither would behave in a compromising manner.
And Ruth, with her simple faith, trusted Naomi’s judgement and did exactly as she was told. Boaz was pleasantly surprised that Ruth would choose him, and he wasted no time in meeting with the first kinsman redeemer as custom dictated and then when the other relative passed, immediately taking the step to redeem and marry Ruth.
Their love story ends with them having a baby who becomes the grandfather of David.
What Can We Learn From Ruth’s Story in the Bible?
The story of Ruth is such a refreshing story of the Bible. In the midst of times of violence and corruption, we have this sweet love story about an unpretentious pagan woman who takes care of her mother-in-law and ends up in the lineage of Jesus.
In today’s times of confusion and chaos, it’s easy to assume that God is looking for super heroes to perform magnificent tasks. But what if God just needs sincere women with servant hearts to take care of those around them?
Sounds easy enough, but it’s not without sacrifice. Ruth had to leave behind her old life to embark on a journey with an unforeseen future. The journey alone, two women traveling from Moah to Bethlehem was fraught with dangers. Settling in a foreign country with no guarantees that she’d ever be accepted by the Israelites. It was a risk that Ruth took. But it paid off.
If we truly want to be women of God, all we have to do is to leave behind our past life and follow Him and serve Him however He calls us. It may involve stepping out blindly in faith, knowing that danger will be lurking all around us. It could be staying where we’re at and listening to those who are spiritually wise and who can guide us on our walk.
Whoever we are and whatever God calls us to do, it will involve sacrifice and serving. But it’s through that sacrifice and serving that we find our place in God’s ultimate plan for our life.
Lord God, speak to us today. Show us what is is that You have for us to do. Provide for us godly men and women to guide us on our journey. Open our eyes to the wonderful truths you have waiting for us in your scripture.
Forgive us those times we fall short, failing to make the sacrifices or for when we forget the importance of serving with a humble heart. Thank you for loving each of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from. Thank you for blessing us in so many unexpected ways. We love you. Amen.
Ruth Bible Study
Bible Study Review
- What was the name of Ruth’s first husband? What was the meaning of his name?
- What kind of work did Ruth find to do when they arrived in Bethlehem?
- Who was Naomi and Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer?
- What was the name of Ruth’s son?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why might Ruth have wanted to leave her home country?
- What was it about Naomi that made Ruth want to follow her?
- Who all were affected by Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi to Bethlehem?
- What might have happened had Ruth not followed Naomi’s advice and proposed to Boaz?
- Would you be willing to leave where you’re at and start over in a new country?
- Are you willing to take advice from others, even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense to you?
- What do you think are the most important qualities to look for in a spouse?
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