It’s glorious, wonderful Sabbath!
First full week of school accomplished (woohoo!), and I am ready for a nice day of rest. My daughter and I read a chapter of the Bible each week, and our morning Bible study this week took us through the book of Ruth.
One of the shortest books, this simple story took place during the time of the Judges, and is one of my all-time favorite passages of historical scripture. Not only does it show us a snapshot of life in the Promised Land before a traditional “kingdom” had been established, but it is a beautiful example of our Savior’s mercy and eternal loving-kindness.
I’m not what you would call a biblical scholar, but I have studied the Word of God, every day, for over 25 years. My impressions reflect a variety of sources, including, I believe, the Holy Spirit.* However, I also know that we each view God’s word differently, and may have convictions (not necessarily beliefs) that are different. And, I think that’s great. For example, I have never felt the call to go to the mission field, but have many times felt the need to support those who do… personal convictions regarding the Living Word of God are what help us form a unique part of the Body, I think.
These are my thoughts on our reading this week:
The Back Story
I think it’s important to put the scriptures in perspective very often, that way we can understand the motives, desires, and catalysts that effected and influenced the people’s decisions.
Seventy members of Jacob’s family moved from the land of Canaan to settle in Goshen, while Joseph ruled in Egypt (See Gen. 46:27). However, by the time they left (most gloriously) they had become huge tribes (see Numbers). We all know what happened while they wandered in the wilderness, and many of the subsequent battles that were fought to inhabit the Land. Joshua at Jericho is almost part of our common culture.
Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges, when Israel had not yet rejected God as their King, and everyone was pretty much doing “as he saw fit” (see the last verse of Judges).
Interestingly, I don’t think that Ruth simply celebrates the special bond between mother and daughter (even though Ruth wasn’t Naomi’s biological child), nor do I think that it is simply a story of obedience (although it is).
To me, the book of Ruth beautifully foreshadows Christ, and how he would eventually deliver all of mankind from the burden of separation from God.
Frank would tell you that I am extremely quick at perceiving Jesus in every scripture, and maybe I am. But, this love story is fairly straightforward, and I think that inclusion in the ancestry of Christ himself is a pretty big honor… one that naturally points our thoughts in that direction, right? (Ruth 4, Matthew 1)
Overview and Comments
We know the story. Living in the land of a people beget through incestuous rebellion, Ruth, a native descendant of Lot marries the son of Elimelech, of the Tribe of Judah, in Bethlehem. Ruth is a foreigner, cut off from the assembly God ordained, but she will be graciously included in that communion, despite her “natural” shortcomings.
I’m not sure how to feel about Elimelech. I certainly understand the need to avoid famine, but so often, one compromise leads to others. In fact, both his sons marry foreign women while living in exile, and normally, that doesn’t bode well. Indeed, all three men die, leaving the widows. I explained to our daughter that at that time, with no male protector (brother, father, husband), women were extremely vulnerable, and subject to all sorts of wicked persecution.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and her daughter-in-law(s) start back with her; but although Orpah is persuaded to remain in Moab, Ruth will not be parted from her mother-in-law. The bible doesn’t mention why she so vehemently clings to Naomi, but it does suitably convey her earnest fervency in one of the most beautiful, heartfelt passages I have ever read.
I believe that growing up in a land so devoid of true Light, Ruth recognized something different about the Hebrews. She was determined to remain with the people she had joined though marriage, and especially with Naomi, who had apparently shown her much love, support, and kindness. God’s Law is abounding with mercy and commands for compassion, and Naomi seems like a true follower.
Once they had made the very perilous journey, they were poor. God had made provisions in the Law for widows and orphans, and the poor. If you were willing to work, you could glean the fields and not starve. Ruth, much younger than Naomi, found herself in a field belonging to Boaz.
–God’s guidance is constant, even before we believe, I think.
Boaz was also an Ephrathite like Elimelech, and therefore a close relative of Naomi. Ruth’s diligence, modesty, faithfulness, and humility impressed him right away, and he instructed his workers to surreptitiously leave full stalks behind for her to gather. He also verbally blessed her (a subject I will write about in future), and shielded her from even having her feelings injured (2:15-16).
This is beautiful to me… and, I think, much like how our Lord constantly pours out abundance and protection on us, even if we don’t always recognize it. Also, I think that it is sad that more people don’t possess the qualities which used to be respected, like honesty, diligence, humility, and faithfulness.
Later, when Ruth appeals to Boaz (as instructed by her mother-in-law) to become her protector, he is astonished and delighted by her, and quickly redeems her. By phrasing her request as she does, Ruth still shows an endearing humility. “The corner of your garment” she asks for, not boldly provocative, but beseechingly. In that one phrase she says, Boaz, you are so blessed and honorable and good and merciful, that even if you only sheltered me a little, it would be plenty for me. But, he did, in fact, spread his entire garment over her when they were married.
Our daughter thought the part about the sandal particularly disgusting, thinking that a “stinky shoe” was a weird way to solidify a transaction. 😀
These are the truths I explained to our daughter:
- The way Boaz rescues Ruth is like what Christ does for us. We are unworthy of His notice, but He does notice us. We are unworthy of His mercy, but He gives it freely. And what is even more amazing, He’s delighted to give it!
- Because Ruth was honorable, her actions were honored by God immeasurably.
- Cut off from His presence, she was grafted in because she had a heart dedicated to serving those who she loved. That is exactly what Christ did, and what we are supposed to do.
- The word kinsman-redeemer appears in my NIV eight times. I think that’s interesting. The number eight often signifies the world to come, and Christ is called our Redeemer in countless places in the Bible. One day, He will gather us all to Him and we will have eternal Shalom!
The happy ending is a celebration, and Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of Israel’s most famous warrior king, David, and subsequently. in the genealogy of Christ Jesus.
-Francine Rivers has written a wonderful (fictional) embellishment to the story of Ruth. Like all her books, it’s definitely worth reading.
Why Read This Book?
This story is about more than just a woman who honored her commitments. This is a story of our salvation, and how our loving Father pours out mercy and blessings on those who “have come to take refuge” in Him.
May you be blessed this Sabbath day, and receive the true rest that comes through Jesus Christ, our Savior, Son of the Living God.
*If any of my facts are incorrect, I apologize for the mistake. These are just my personal convictions.