I awoke this morning, knowing that I must write about Ruth. I will explain why later.
I have read, over and over, the account of Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi. It is a beautiful account of one young woman’s faith in a God she did not grow up knowing, for she was a Moabitess, and the people of Moab worshipped false gods.
It overwhelms me that the Book of Ruth is even in The Bible. First, it tells of the life of a woman. There are only two biblical books specifically about women, the other being the Book of Esther. Few women are even mentioned in the genealogy studies by name, comparatively speaking, and many of the women in The Bible are simply referred to by their gender, (even though they were important enough to mention).
Even the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume before his crucifixion is only called “a woman” or “this woman,” while the man who owned the house in Bethany where the anointing took place was specifically named. Even though Jesus states that “what she has done will also be told, in memory of her,” she is still only referred to by her gender. Women simply did not hold much worth in biblical times. (This is a topic for another day, and I will not get into its significance/relevance now.) Specific women are mentioned usually only in accordance with their male relations. Wife of, mother of, sister of, etc.
“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” (Matthew 26:6-7)
“Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. . . I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’” (Matthew 26:10, 13)
Secondly, it strikes me because, in The Old Testament, there are many admonitions against marrying foreign women, mostly for fear of falling under the curse of worshipping false gods. Yet, here in The Old Testament, is a story about a foreign-born woman, and she comes to marry a very important man. (I use the word “story” hesitantly because “story” usually indicates a work of fiction, whereas I firmly believe the Bible contains only God-breathed historical accounts, and as such, is the truth. The only real truth in this fallen world.)
However, Ruth was an extraordinary young woman.
Even though her husband (Naomi’s son) had died and she had not bore him any sons, she clung to Naomi and vowed to return to Naomi’s homeland with her. In all customary rights in her country, she very well could have returned to her own parents’ home and taken another husband, as it indicates Orpah (the other sister-in-law) did. (See Ruth 1:8-14)
She was a very loyal daughter-in-law. Her actions showed selflessness. She had taken her husband’s God as her own. This is one biblical example where it shows honor in a woman, where she actually obeys her husband and his religion, instead of her influencing her husband away from The One True God. To me, this also says she was very intelligent and able to discern the truth from all the lies she had most likely heard while growing up (through the worship of her people’s false gods). In much of The Bible, women are depicted as conniving and deceptive, finding their power only in their feminine, deceptive ways.
“I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare.” (Ecclesiastes 7:26)
But Ruth was different. She was intelligent, as I mentioned. She recognized her standing as a foreigner, and she knew that she had no right to ask for favors when it came to following the harvesters in the barley fields of Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz. When she met Boaz, she humbled herself and told the truth, instead of trying to be deceptive or running away and hiding her shame of being, essentially, a beggar.
“At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes that you would notice me—a foreigner?’. . . ‘May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,’ she said. ‘You have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.’” (Ruth 2:10, 13)
What happened next is even more amazing.
When I first studied Ruth, I did not understand why she would lie, like a dog, at the feet of Boaz. Was she showing submissiveness by keeping his feet warm? She was a noble woman. The Bible says as much. So the gesture was not an offer to pay back his kindness sexually. When Boaz discovered her at his feet, he kept her honor intact. She returned to Naomi before anyone could recognize her. (See Ruth, chapter 3) So, what then?
I studied the kinsmanship-redeemer obligations to find the answers.
It was indeed a noble thing she did. She had prepared herself as a bride and offered herself in marriage to Boaz, as per the kinsmanship-redeemer law that upheld the family obligation to help a dead brother (or nephew in this case) carry on his name. Knowing full well this law, Boaz knew exactly what her intentions were and that Naomi had put her up to it.
Naomi could have released Ruth to chase after younger men, but both women were known to be noble, and Ruth had vowed (in verses 1:16-17) to stay with Naomi until death, and therefore, I interpret the decision also as mature, most likely beyond her years. As such, she would not allow herself to be given to her own wanton desires and whims of lust. I imagine many young women of that day were much like the young women of today: Flighty, self-seeking, immature. I do not mean for this to demean young women; however, wisdom in relationships, as in any other area of life, comes with experience and age, i.e. maturity. And I myself have been an immature young woman, tempted by my own wanton flights of fancy.
This was the best option, not only for the family but also for Ruth. It was a win-win, and we all benefited from the integrity of that noble young woman, as I will show next.
From the union between Ruth and Boaz, Obed was born. Obed was the grandfather of David. Through King David’s lineage, we also find the greatest Man to ever walk the earth—Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. (For a full listing of the genealogy of Jesus, please see Luke 3:23-38)
And this brings me to this morning, when I awoke sermonizing the Book of Ruth. This often happens to me, waking up spouting biblical truths. This happens usually in answer to my pleading prayers to Our Lord.
My prayers in the wee hours of this morning, after being unable to sleep most of the night, were rather pitiful. It was self pity, through and through.
“Lord,” I cried, “I study and I pray and I study and pray some more. I seek to know and do Your will. But how can I know for sure that I am doing the right things, the proper things You want, when I do not come from a strong Christian family?”
I cried out to Our Lord in self pity about my past. I will not go into detail, but I did not learn right from wrong early in life. I made mistake after mistake, not having a strong, supportive family to guide me. I have paid dearly for those mistakes I made. And I still make mistakes. I still sin, but then again, everyone sins in one way or another, and it is up to us to recognize when we have sinned and to ask for forgiveness when we do.
However, Our God is a faithful God. He answers my prayers. He hears my cries in the night and He gives me wisdom and blessings beyond what I deserve.
Like Ruth, I was “foreign” to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I did not know Christ. I knew “of” Him in my childhood and I tried to please Him, but I did not know how. My sense of loyalty, honor, and respect had become skewed, distorted. I did not come to know Him until later in my years.
I read recently how once we give up a virtue (such as virginity) we can never get it back. We are marred, disfigured at that point, so it seemed to be saying to me. My self pity ran to how disfigured I must be at this point in my life, having given my virginity before marriage, having broken trusts and lied habitually in my early years, having shop lifted, as well as other sins. “How ugly must I be to You, God?” I cried.
His answer to me, through The Book of Ruth is thus: Even though I came from a questionable background, I am still beautiful in His sight for how I try to live my life now. Ruth’s sin was idolatry, as her parents most likely practiced. Even so, Ruth was given the noble position of being in the lineage of Jesus. Our God forgives our past mistakes. Our God overlooks our sins, if we repent and seek to live an honorable, God-honoring life.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
Our God is an awesome God.
Maybe that’s why I love Him so.
My prayer for you today is twofold: May you know discernment in your own decision-making and may you know how wonderfully beautiful you are to Our Lord and Savior.
In His Grace,