Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth is a beautiful theological Story of love and loyalty helping us to see and know that God is working and active in our daily joys and hardships we face everyday. At the time we may not see it, but we can rest assured his plan is great and rewarding.

The book of Ruth is located in the bible after the book of Judges and before the book of 1 Samuel. With Some scholars believing it may have been written by the prophet Samuel, who was an advocate that obedience to Gods word must always be our priority. A common theme of Samuel being, that God alone should receive our glory and honour.

The story itself, is set in the time of Judges in the Old testament. A time as understood by the last sentence in the book of Judges, v21:25, As days, where Israel had no king and everyone did what that saw fit. A time of dark and bloody days.

Safe to say, in those days, the majority put their own self-interests first and did things for their Glory. The book of Judges is a record of the moral corruption and failure of Israel being obedient to God. It tells us God was taken for granted generation after generation and as such Israel became disobedient and idolatrous, which brought Gods judgement upon them and after saving them, from Egypt and giving them the promised land.

During this time, Israel had a love hate relationship with its neighbours with periods of both war, and rest.   

However, like a silent rose amongst thorns, the book of Ruth stands out, captivating us by its compact beauty, vividness and wonder at Gods marvellous plans at work even in times of despair.

The Story begins in Bethlehem at the time of a great famine with a husband and wife, Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons Mahon and kilion relocating to the country of Moab.

Not only leaving their hometown, but also leaving the land of God. This decision would not have been taking lightly and deciding to move to Moab would have been one of great deliberation.

However, through the pressures of the current famine, they decided to move to Moab in the hope of a better lifestyle, taking matters into their own hands you could say. I wonder if you could say they turned their back on God? Physically they did, as they left the Bethlehem.

 I guess, with the current corrupt ruling environment in the lands of Judah, a lot of people at this time would have felt hopelessness, doubt and abandonment and bore witness to human acts of selfishness, greed and self-preservation around them. This I have no doubt would have made the decision easier. However, their leaving shows us, they effectively gave up on waiting for God to act and they left to fulfil what their human concerns and what they considered most important. Prosperity. As Jewish, they would have known full well of the Loyalty God shows to his people, the miracles, providence and love God has for them. But the time it was taking was not part of their plan for themselves. I wonder if this is reflected in us, with the amount of debt we accumulate to purchase things we want now. Then blame God for the depressed financial situation we find our selves in months or years later, Asking Why me? Why did you do this to me? God didn’t do it. Our human concerns succumbed to the temptation, making the bed for the future trouble state. 

Now the Moabites were similar speaking people to the Israelites and were linked to the Hebrews, through Lot, the nephew of Abraham. They worshiped Chemosh, a God believed to be similar to Baal and also to be a kind of fish God, with the name meaning destroyer/subduer. The country of Moab was seen by the Hebrews as a heathen country due to it being birthed by the incest son of Lot and his daughter.

The relations of Moab and Israel were of a mixed character, sometimes warlike and sometimes peaceful. However, we see that by Elimelech and Naomi moving to Moab, shows friendly relations between Moab and Bethlehem at this time.  

They settled here for several years before Elimelech died leaving Naomi a widow. After the death of Elimelech, the two sons married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other named Ruth. However, Mahlon and Kilion also died. Some Jewish writers say, the family’s action was a violation of the Mosaic law and the early deaths of both the young men and Elimelech were divine judgements inflicted on them for those unlawful actions.  Regardless whether you agree or disagree, it was part of Gods plan and the fact is now, Naomi is left with only her daughter in laws Orpah and Naomi in a foreign land, craving rest and redemption, Gods saving Grace.

Naomi, feels like a failure, she has lost hope. The dreams and plans she had with Elimelech gone. Imagine you being Naomi. How would you feel? What would you Do?

Naomi had little options now. She was alone in a land away from her home, with nothing but her thoughts. She would not have seen Ruth and Orpah as company, they were her responsibilities. More worry and stress. This would have been a tough time for Naomi, Orpah and Ruth.

Being a child of God, Naomi I believe would have prayed. Even it was simply just, “lord, Help me? The reason I believe this, is by the sign Naomi received which initiates her minds action towards God.

We don’t see things we are not looking for. But we find the things we are. Not always straight away, but, with patience and perseverance, we do. How many times have you lost and found the car keys or your phone? how long did it take you? what were you saying while looking frantically as most time you lose something it is when we are occupied with other thoughts, running late for example?

You see to find something you must have the desire and the will to start the search. When you stop and think about it, all of us have an inbuilt instinct to speak to God during times of turmoil. “God why?” is the most common conversation starter, yet the majority never bother to wait or seek the answer.

Here we see a desire in Naomi, reflected in the scripture by what we read, that one day Naomi heard news in Moab, that the lord had come to the aid of his people in Bethlehem. This news created immediate action in her, and she knew exactly what she no must do. Return home. This sign she heard would have been a moment of joy for her. A moment of understanding, clarity.  A light in dark lands.

We now see Naomi packing the family home up to leave Moab and return to Judah in the company of Orpah and Ruth. This was a decision made from her heart. It was a decision of faith and renewed hope. Trusting God would provide for them in Bethlehem, like he had broken the famine there for his people.

Yet as the three of them are leaving, Naomi stops, and tells Orpah and Naomi to return to Moab and go live with their mothers as was the Moab custom for widows, as a better life was not thought possible in Bethlehem with Naomi. Naomi knew she didn’t have a plan and that she was acting on faith alone, trusting that God would care for her. Even though she openly states, the Lords hand has turned against her.

So why do you think Naomi didn’t want the woman to come with her? I wonder was it because she doubted what she was doing? She did not know what would happen when she got to Bethlehem, where she would stay or how she would survive, she just felt like she had to go? She was effectively trusting her life with God.

We read that Orpah agrees and returns to Moab. However, Ruth choses to stay. Orpahs departure highlights the loyalty and love shown by Ruth. And I can’t help but see the words of Ruth as words from God to us in times when we think we are alone and cut off from Gods love, Ruth 1:16, Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back on you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.

I remember a conversation I had with my Dad once about God. He replied, Ash God gave up on me a long time ago. The Biggest shock I had was that I could not believe that he thought God gives up on us. It is the opposite, We give up on him, when he doesn’t do what we think is right for us.

How comforting are these words. Naomi listened and heard them. She obeyed and allowed Ruth to continue on with her. We too, should listen, obey and let God be with us, in all we do no matter the circumstances or current bitterness of life.

They set off together and arrived at Bethlehem. People recognise Naomi, however she declares that all should call now her Mara as the Lord has made her life very bitter, as she left Bethlehem full and returned empty.

The Barley harvest was on at this time, which meant many people were in the town, yet Naomi didn’t put on an act or lie about her circumstances. Self-pride is a big obstacle to overcome, we all naturally want people we have known previously when they see us again to acknowledge how successful we have become in future meetings. Solely because of our self pride.

Naomi teachers here, in this bit of scripture, to be honest and humble with each other. She effectively is declaring she left wanting more than God was providing, and as such God has made her see how blessed she was, by taking everything she had away and returning her. It is now, she realises how much she originally had. 

Chapter two begins with Ruth informing Naomi that she will go and work the barley fields. Ruth don’t forget is a Moabite and considered an alien to Bethlehem, yet her tenacity for action, in providing for her mother In-law, Naomi, is inspiring.

Ruth goes out to glean the fields, which is to pick up the left over barley grain. It was the custom that the harvesters would allow the poor, widowed, fatherless and foreign people to partake in this, so they could provide for their family needs.

Unbeknown to Ruth or Naomi, at the time, Ruth found her self working in the fields owned by Boaz. Now Boaz was from the clan of Elimelech and was a kinsman redeemer for the family of Elimelech. A redeemer was a Jewish custom to ensure the provision of God to save families from extinction and occurs in other parts of Scripture as saving grace.

 On seeing Ruth, Boas had taken an interest, asking his Forman about her. The Forman aware of the local rumours informed Boaz that Ruth was a Moab and had come to Bethlehem with Naomi and the accompanying sad story. He also informed BOAZ of her impressive strong work ethic.

What happens next is incredible for Ruth. Boaz calls her over and instructs her to take up a better position in the gleaning area up with his girl servants. But further Boaz has a conversation with Ruth mentioning how impressed he is with the actions of Ruth’s Loyalty to her mother in law and leaving her family, to stay and care for her in a foreign land under the eye of the God od Israel.

Boaz looked after Ruth ensuring she was at the best position to obtain the most profitable pieces of barley stalks. By the end of the day, through the generosity of Boaz, Ruth had collected an unusually large amount of barley for a gleaning person.

It’s hard not to see the kind actions of Boaz, being used to fulfil his wishes for Ruth that the God of Israel, richly rewards her for what she has done and seeking refuge under his wings as read in verse 12. Don’t forget Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. It is clear to us, now God is at work.

That evening Ruth returns home and Naomi is full of joy in seeing the great provision provided by Ruth, Giving God glory by blessing the man who she worked for. Ruth then relays the days events to Naomi and informs Naomi of the mans name, Boaz. Naomi again gives glory to God by blessing Boaz and recognising the Lords kindness on them. Naomi extremely encouraged by this news now informs Ruth that Boaz is a close relative of theirs and is in fact one of their kinsman redeemers.

This moment in the book is crucial as we recognise Ruth’s hope is now awaken and shining brightly and that Naomi and Ruth may yet be saved from their current situation.

Naomi and Ruth discuss what Ruth should do next and how to handle the situation. Imagine the excitement and anticipation of what tomorrow was going to bring for them. Remember the first moment you saw your wife/husband or current or former partner. I remember when I first met my beautiful wife. She worked at my favourite coffee shop. I like Boaz first noticed her working, I praised her work ethic admired her beauty from afar. The anticipation of seeing her the next day was one of joy, hope and happiness.

Ruth continued to return to the barley fields and work close to the servant girls of Boaz. The barley harvest was coming to an end and Naomi and Ruth decided that her hope now needed action.

As such, one evening, as it was tradition for the land owner to spend the night on the threshing room floor with his grain to protect it. Ruth agreed to visit Boaz during this time called Winnowing. It is no secret that we read Ruth was dressed up as if getting married and snuck into the threshing room floor where females were not normally present. 

Ruth when Boaz lied down and slept, went and laid down beside his feet. This action from Ruth was a clear display for her desire for Boaz to marry her as per his kinsman obligation. During the night], they both wake and talk to each other. Ruth asking Boaz to Spread the corner of your garment over me. This was a term used to request marriage. Boaz agrees and again praises Ruth’s kindness and loyalty. However, he realises anther kinsman has first right to marry Ruth and informs Ruth of this and that they will sort it the following day. Honesty and obedience clearly on show and a big part of Boaz.

Ruth leaves early the next morning and returns home to Naomi and tells her everything. Naomi encourages Ruth and tells her that Boaz is determined, and she can trust his word. The day I proposed to my wife, I was the most nervous I probably ever have been. I knew Leesh loved me. She told me often. We even had a child together already. Yet, the anticipation of not knowing created feelings of doubt and what if’s. Naomi at this time was keeping Ruth grounded through the hope in accepting Gods will.

Which is true as We read Boaz attends the town gate that morning and offers the kinsman in front of him to marry Ruth and acquire her lands. This unnamed man declines the option and as such Boaz is allowed to redeem Ruth, Naomi and her sons names and purchase the lands formerly held by Elimelech.  

The witnesses quite fittingly inform Boaz before leaving with his new assets and soon to be wife, “May the Lord, make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.” “Through the offspring the lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

If only these people knew what was to follow in the future. As the book of Ruth finished with a genealogy, which indicates Ruth as the great Grandmother of King David and in the family blood line of Jesus Christ.

Boaz and Ruth get married and celebrate the blessing of a son, Obed. Meaning servant.

The book of Ruth is more than a story worthy of a Hollywood Golden globe. The Story teaches us that when we have nothing, not even hope. We always have God in our lives. God is our Hope. Sometimes we get distracted by the concerns of the world, but he is always there, we just need to find him again and refocus on him.

It further confirms that God is always working in our lives and that we should trust him and with patience, strength and perseverance we will finish the race as descried by Paul, which is not a short distance run on flat ground in a straight line. It is an unpredictable marathon. Yet we take comfort and peace that in finishing, we achieve Gods blessings and the crown of righteousness purely through his will and saving grace he provides for us. God is our kinsman redeemer, saving us and our families from extinction Giving us the gift of eternal life even when we and him both know we are undeserving. It is because he like Boaz and Ruth, are loyal, obedient, honest and trusting, which are characterises that we too are to adopt in our journey of Christ and our faith in him. These traits in the time of Judges , like our modern world are not all that common.

It also highlights that Gods uses and blesses all people who turn to him. Don’t forget Ruth was a Moab, a heathen in the eyes of the Jews, yet God showed her love and compassion and used her to provide the future King David and also the blood line of Christ whose story also starts in Bethlehem and is also a story of redemption. Muse over that. Please.

It highlights that Genuine love at times, may require uncompromising sacrifice’s and regardless of the plans we have and implement, God is always in control. God has a plan for each of us, and if your willing to find him and trust in him, he will guide and provide for you.

Genuine love and kindness is rewarded by God. Be that Love to others. As love is GOD.