Profiles of the Bible: Ruth
How far would you go to care for someone? Would you be willing to spend several hours a day with them? Move in with them? How about leave the country? Leave your people? Leave your identity? The story of Ruth is a powerful story of loyalty, love and care. But it’s not a love between a husband and wife. It’s a love between a daughter and her mother in law. This fidelity is ultimately a reflection of God’s faithfulness to us.
The story of Ruth starts off with a woman named Naomi and her husband leaving the town of Bethlehem and moving to a neighboring country of Moab. There, Naomi’s two sons married local Moabite women. To many this would be offensive. The Moabites were rivals to Israel and had their own gods. For Naomi’s family to leave Israel, live among the Moabites and have their sons marry Moabite women would have led to a loss of face. In time, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Widows with two daughters-in-law would have a tough time fending for themselves. As a result, Naomi decided to go back to her hometown. She urged her two daughters to find new husbands and go back to their people. But in a great act of love and fidelity, Ruth insisted and declared to her mother-in-law, “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) Ruth declared her love for Naomi, but not only for Naomi alone, but she desired to identify herself with the people of God and with the God of Israel.
One of the things that people have observed is that the story of Ruth doesn’t really directly discuss God. However, God is still present. We see God’s presence in seeing how God leads Ruth and Naomi. But we also see God’s presence in the blessings. The book of Ruth has the most number of blessings. Many of the blessings are in greetings or people blessing others. Although God is not explicitly in the scenes, he is the main driving force in the story.
After Ruth’s arrival, she integrates herself into the life of the community. She plays her role as the main breadwinner of the home by gleaning wheat in a field from a man named Boaz. It turns out that Boaz is a distant relative of Naomi’s. In order to carry out the family line Boaz has the right to purchase the land from Naomi and marry Ruth. What is interesting is that Boaz is playing the role of what is known as “the kinsmen redeemer”. It is a relative who has the power to buy back, or “redeem” what was lost.
Ruth and Boaz eventually marry and the story of Ruth ends with an interesting post-script. Boaz and Ruth have a child whose name was Obed. Obed became the father of a man named Jesse. Jesse had a son whose name was David. David became Israel’s greatest king and the ancestor of Jesus. God’s hand was in this situation and through the act of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, and the God of Israel, blessing came to the world.
There are several themes at play in the story of Ruth: blessing, covenant faithfulness, identity, and a redeemer. It is telling that the story of Ruth was part of David’s lineage. Through Christ, anyone can become part of God’s people. It is no longer limited to culture or race, but anyone can have faith in Christ. We see also from this story a faint glimpse of Jesus. Jesus is known as our Redeemer. He buys back his people and makes them his own. Additionally, we see God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises and care for the needs of widows.
As Christians we are capable of Ruth’s loyalty and Boaz’s generosity. But the power does not come from us. It is Christ’s working through the Holy Spirit that is making us more and more like Jesus. May the blessing of Christ continue to shape and guide you to become more and more like Him.