“That We Might Have Hope ” (Rom. 15:4)
The Book Of Ruth
Obedient, Faithful, Loving Servants Of God
In the Old Testament book of Ruth we find a wonderful account of the power of God’s Word to direct the lives of His people. Set in the backdrop of the period of the judges, where human selfishness and lovelessness prevailed, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25), the book of Ruth provides a breath of fresh air.
The Holy Spirit’s work in the God-fearing characters of this story teaches us valuable lessons about trust, commitment, choices, and love. In this article we will examine the actions of three of the characters in Ruth: Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth. May we learn from their examples.
Naomi was the wife of Elimelech, a prosperous landowner from Bethlehem, and the mother of two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Because of a famine in her homeland, she traveled with her family to Moab.
While in Moab, her husband died and her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Then both her sons died. Within ten years she had lost the three most important people in her life.
When the famine in Canaan was over, she planned to return alone to her homeland. Concerned about the future welfare of her daughters-in-law, she urged them to remain in Moab and remarry. Orpah took her advice, but Ruth “clung to her” and returned to Bethlehem with her.
Upon her return she wished to be called “Mara,” which means “bitterness,” because the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her. These feelings of bitterness remind us of Job who too was allowed to experience great loss and sorrow. But like Job, Naomi remained faithful to her God in spite of trouble.
Naomi demonstrated her genuine concern for Ruth in trying to secure for her a husband and provider. She was obedient to God’s Old Testament laws regarding property and marriage. She later showed herself to be a loving grandmother to Obed, Ruth’s son.
From Naomi we learn faithfulness to God, even in times of earthly suffering. We learn obedience to God and His commands. We learn love and concern for those around us.
We also learn the power of a godly example. Why did Ruth cling to Naomi? The Holy Spirit used Naomi to bring the message of salvation to Ruth. She served as the connection between Ruth and the true God.
Boaz was a wealthy landowner from Bethlehem and a blood relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s late hsuband. Boaz owned the field in which the Lord directed Ruth to glean.
Boaz inquired about Ruth, and because of her kindness to her mother-in-law, Boaz granted extra privileges to her beyond what God’s law required. He welcomed her to glean with his female servants until the barley and wheat harvests were finished and instructed his men to leave behind plenty of grain for her.
When Ruth later expressed her desire to be his wife, he did not take advantage of her, but rather treated her with honesty and respect. Instead of manipulating the circumstances to his advantage, he publicly secured the legal right to marry Ruth and to purchase her family’s property from Naomi.
Boaz then married Ruth and they had a child named Obed, “the one who serves.”
From Boaz we learn of love and obedience. Because of his wealth and status in the community, Boaz could have either ignored Ruth as an undeserving foreigner or taken advantage of her. Instead, he loved her.
In everything he did, we see in Boaz a respect for God’s law and a desire to do that which is pleasing in the sight of God. He provides us with an example of what a boss, a citizen, a father, and a husband should be.
Ruth was raised in the land of Moab and taught to worship the god Chemosh. She married Elimelech’s son. After his death she faced a difficult choice.
The choice for most would be obvious. It was the choice her sister Orpah made. Why not return to the security of her Moabite family? Why not remarry one from her own land and raise a family? Why not say good-bye to Naomi, as even Naomi expected her to do? Why travel to a far-off land with a mother-in-law who painted a picture of a future full of uncertainty?
Ruth provides us with an answer in her memorable words to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth had her priorities straight. She was willing to leave her family and her country. She was willing to forfeit security and familiarity and perhaps the chance of marriage. She clung to Naomi because of the Savior she had come to know through her new family. Her family, her country, and her home were wherever the message of the Savior could be found.
The choice for her was obvious. What kind of life could she have in a pagan country hostile to the true God?
Once in Bethlehem, Ruth became the provider for the family. She faithfully worked long hours to secure food. She was obedient to her mother-in-law in all things. She, no doubt, sweetened the bitterness felt by Naomi. The Lord saw fit to bless her faithfulness by giving her a loving husband. He chose her to be the great-grandmother of David, an ancestor of the Savior, her Savior.
We live in a world today that is in many ways like the world of the judges of the Old Testament. In times of economic prosperity we often forget from whence our blessings come.
We live in a world that accepts and even promotes unfaithfulness. Many try to bend the laws of God and those of our country to make life a bit more convenient. Selfless love is hard to find. Most would choose the security of the unbelieving world rather than cling to the Savior.
Lord, grant that we may be more like Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth: obedient, faithful, loving servants of Yours.
Wilt Thou find this one thing needful, Turn from all created things Unto Jesus and be heedful Of the blessed joy He brings. For where God and Man both in one are united, With God's perfect fulness the heart is delighted; There, there is the worthiest lot and the best, My One and my All and my Joy and my Rest. (TLH 366:2)
–Prof. Joseph Lau