Meet Ruth. She is one of the few women we meet in the Old Testament who was a Gentile. She was not known for who she married but for who her mother-in-law was. Her name was Naomi. She was a Jewish woman who married a Jewish man. They had two sons. But when a famine hit their country, they moved to Moab where their sons grew up.
The sons married two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband (Elimelech) died, then the sons died as well. Neither of the women had children. They lived in Moab about 10 years. After the last son died, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to stay in their home country but they refused. As they were on their way, she encouraged them to return to their home once more.
The women say good-bye to Orpah with tears
This time, Orpah decided to return home. But Ruth refused to leave Naomi. She stayed with her. You are probably familiar with the often quoted words…frequently out of context at weddings:
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.
For where you go I will go, and where 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.
May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth 1:16-17 ESV
So Ruth was committing herself to the people of Naomi as well as the GOD of Naomi. She was also committing herself to live and die with these people. It was quite a commitment for her to make. There was nothing for her to gain from it. Two widows were not going to be wealthy and these two were no exception.
As time went on, she and Naomi settled in but Naomi admitted her losses had made her bitter. She was definitely grieving the losses of her husband and sons. Ruth was going out each day and gathering extra sheaves of wheat that were required to be left for the poor and those who were traveling through town. As time went on, she found hospitality at the fields of Boaz. He had noticed her too. She worked hard.
Boaz and his workers were very kind to Ruth. They left extra wheat for her so she didn’t have to work as hard.
After Ruth told her mother-in-law about the kindness of Boaz’ workers, Naomi told her that their family was related to him. From there Ruth learned about a Jewish tradition/law that made provision for a family’s name to pass on through the nearest relative of the husband who takes the widow as his wife to raise up a child in the name of the dead father.
This man is called a kinsman-redeemer. There is a special way that a person asks for a kinsman-redeemer to help her. From our perspective, it seems a bit odd. But Ruth did as Naomi told her and made her request. As it turned out, there was a closer relative, but he had too many other obligations and couldn’t help. So Boaz married Ruth and welcomed Naomi into his home as well.
The son of Boaz and Ruth was Obed, King David’s grandfather
They had a son named Obed who was the father of Jesse (the father of King David.) Now Naomi was happy with a baby to care for and of coarse Ruth had a husband, family and a new life. She was one of about 4 gentiles in the genealogy of Jesus.
Action Step: Ruth was admired for her commitment and care for Naomi. She truly loved her and worked hare to provide for her. From the book of Ruth, I don’t get the impression that Ruth was busy wringing her hands over finding a husband. It ended up happening and GOD provided well for her, but her focus was on caring for Naomi and herself and doing the things that needed to be done. In the process of that, she came across Boaz and learned about the custom that applied to her. Where do you need GOD’s provision? Do you find yourself struggling over how and when GOD is going to provide for you? Or do you find yourself going about your days doing your work responsibly and trusting Him to take care of you in the way He sees fit?