The book of Ruth is a story of relationships, rescue, romance, love and ultimately faithfulness. Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, had a relationship of strong mutual commitment, striving to put the other first and where their greatest bond was, was their faith in God. Their story displays how God's living presence in a relationship can overcome differences that might otherwise create division and tension.
Ruth's life was far from easy. She grew up in a wicked pagan nation. She knew what it was like to suffer great loss - her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law all died. She left her home and went to a foreign land where she lived in poverty with Naomi, who for some time would not have been the best companion as she was bitter and angry with God due to the loss of her husband and sons. Her journey was difficult, the life she knew significantly changed, but God was at work the entire time.
After the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided she would leave Moab and go back to Bethlehem after hearing that God had provided bread for His people. At that time, both Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpha decided to go with Naomi, but when told to go back to their home in Moab so they could remarry, we can see the differences between them. Outwardly, they had made the same decisions and commitments, but their hearts were in different places. Both women had ultimately come to a crossroads in their walk of faith. Would they return to Moab, an ungodly nation, or would they choose the living God they had grown to know through Naomi, their Hebrew mother-in-law?
Orpha decided after a tearful goodbye to turn back home. However, Ruth refused; she loved Naomi and knew that she would need help - now having no breadwinners. She clung to Naomi in a pure and unselfish form of devotion; she would not be persuaded to return home and made a declaration of faith stating in chapter 1 v 16, "Wherever you go; I will go; wherever you live; I will live. Your people will be my people. And your God, my God." Ruth understood that moving to Bethlehem meant total abandonment of her heritage and a lifetime of living as a foreigner; however, her vow to Naomi shown in chapter 1, verse 16 and 17, is one of the most beautiful declarations of commitment made. She left her homeland of her own initiative, despite the protest of Naomi; offering herself firstly to Naomi is what ultimately brought her under the wings of God, "...the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge" - Ruth 2:12. This act of love, commitment and readily action sets Ruth apart from Orpha and her momentary emotion.
Once in Bethlehem, Ruth worked hard doing humble jobs, willing to cast herself onto the charity of others to provide for Naomi and herself. This love was recognised. It was the talk of the town; it was attractive and noticed, especially by Boaz. Boaz appreciated that Ruth had allowed her life experiences to bring her to God and not drive her away. Ruth made her choices with determination in committing herself till death to her late husband's mother and not letting devastation or disaster get in the way; she is a living example of 1 Corinthians 13v7, "love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance".
Ruth's story shows that, even in times of despair and crisis, God still blesses those who live according to His will. Some of the most important human values are love, faith, trust and goodness, all of which are continually displayed by Ruth. She is a shining example of how a child of God should show love to others by going above and beyond for people who need it, even if they do not always show it back to you, for standing by someone based on their character and not judging them on their behaviour due to situations out of their control.
Ruth was not a part of God's chosen people but, in choosing to follow God, He rewarded her faithfulness and kindness to Naomi by providing for her physical needs at the time. Ruth believed God would provide, and in that place of faith, God did a miraculous work to redeem her; this shows that God can and will use whosoever, no matter who you are or what your background is, if you have the right heart and strong faith in God, He will use you. God gave Ruth a lasting legacy of her place within the ancestry of King David and in later years of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Ruth is the perfect example of God using simple people and ordinary events to accomplish His plans.
Five important points to take away from Ruth's story:
- Do not let your past hold you back - You have a purpose despite what lies behind you
- Have faith - You might not be able to see what God is doing but trust that He is moving
- Great character- Who you are when you think no one is watching.
- Redemption is possible- Against all odds, redemption is always possible.
- With God, you leave a great legacy- If you commit your life to God, and your calling is firm in Him, there is no limit to what God can do through you.
Remember, God is working in your life; it may get hard and the road steep, but He is still there, working in the background for your benefit. Think of it this way - God is weaving a beautiful tapestry, it's not finished, it's a work in progress, it may look messy at times, but the finished product will be beautiful.
If you ever feel discouraged or at a loss in your journey, take another look at Ruth and remember God always works for the good of His people!