Many people have said that the book of Ruth is the most beautiful short story ever written. it’s an account of friendship, anxiety, fear, love and commitment that inflames the imagination and soothers the soul. It begins with despair and ends with wedding bells.
When Benjamin Franklin was the ambassador to France, he occasionally attended the Infidels Club – a group that spent most of its time searching for and reading great masterpieces.
On one occasion, Franklin read the book of Ruth to the club, but changed the names in it so it would not be recognized as a book of the Bible. When he finished, the listeners were unanimous in their praise.
They said it was one of the most beautiful short stories they had ever heard and demanded that he tell them where he run across such a remarkable work of art. He loved telling them that it came from the Bible!
The events take place during the time when the judges ruled from Israel. This was a period in which God’s people would move from disobedience to defeat to deliverance.
Because there was a bad famine in Bethlehem, a man Elimeleck, his wife and two sons traveled to live in the country of Moab. The famine was a consequence of the deliberate disobedience of God’s people.
Moab was an eternal enemy of Israel.
Deuteronomy 23:3 lays out some pretty strong words: “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the 10th generation.
Elimeleck is trying to flee the judgment of God on Israel and is really disobeying in a double fasion by going to live among the Moabites.
Ruth was from the nation of Moab. She was not originally an Isaraelite. Ruth was of that despised group of people.
Ruth 1:3-5 says, “Now Elimeleck, Naomi’s husband, died and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about 10 years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”
Widows in the ancient world had no social status and no economic means to survive. This would especially be true for Naomi, since she was an Israelite living in a foreign country.
There was no social security system and she had no male protector or provider. In such a situation, widows back then could be compared to the homeless in our society today.
Naomi decides to return to her homeland and tells Ruth and Orpah to stay in their native land. Orpah does go home, but Ruth doesn’t. At that point, Ruth’s involvement with the line of Christ could have ended, but because she chooses to remain with her mother-in-law, history changes.
Now that is odd, that Ruth would go home with Naomi.
But Naomi was a woman of every day faith, who even though she had lost her husband, and two sons, and had expressed some bitterness, she still had a strong relationship with God. Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem and they survive by gleaning the fields.
God has always made provision for the poor and destitute. Gleaning means to gather up the left overs, or remnant.
As Ruth is working the fields, she catches the attention of a wealthy landowner named Boaz who asks, “Who is this woman?” The foreman replies, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.”
God is impressed with Ruth. the fact that Ruth was a girl that worked hard, was very humble, was not self-centered and had a servant’s heart.
Ruth 2:11-12 says, “Boaz replied, ‘I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. How you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.’”
Well said Boaz!
One of the overriding themes of the book of Ruth is the sovereignty of God.
He is seen everywhere, weaving His purposes through events and circumstances. He uses a famine to bring a Jewish man a Moabite woman. Through the unexpected widowhood of both Naomi and Ruth, they end up in the promised land because they hear that the famine has ended. Naomi teaches Ruth about the things of God and Ruth makes a life-changing commitment.
We read that Ruth “just happened” to find herself in a field that belonged to Boaz. This was no coincidence!
God orchestrated or manipulated the events in order to accomplish His purposes. God’s invisible hand steered her to that particular field on that particular day.
Even when you are completely unaware of what is happening, or even why something is happening, God is guiding your decisions and actions. He is working or working everything together for your good. Be open to this.
I have heard it said that we find the beginning of God’s grace when we come to the end of ourselves. In other words, focus on your neighbor and get away from constant thoughts of self. Amen to that!
Our responsibility is to surrender to His sovereignty. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way, “I trust Him so much that I do not doubt that He will provide whatever I need for body and soul and He will turn to my good, whatever adversity He send me in this sad world. He is able to do this because He is almighty God; He desires to do this because He is a faithful father.”
Peace be with you.
Tom Thompson is the pastor of Russellville First Presbyterian Church. Service times are Sunday mornings at 11 a.m.