Women in the Bible series: Ruth
“So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:13-15, ESV)
I’ve probably said this before, but Ruth is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Some people disagree. I’ve heard some people pull out some really questionable theology out of this book and completely twist it completely out of context. The truth is, at its heart, the Book of Ruth is a beautiful metaphor of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
You see, this story starts out with a family comprised of a husband and wife, and their two sons. These two sons take wives for themselves, one of them being Ruth. The first chapter says they all lived together for ten years. So although Ruth was still young when her husband, brother in law, and father in law died, the loss was no walk in the park for the widows left behind. Sure, they had no kids, but half of Ruth’s family died very suddenly, including her husband.
But in that day, a widow didn’t just lose her husband, she lost her security and her home, especially if she didn’t have sons to support her. So in Ruth’s time, the best option she had would be to return to her family and hope that they would be willing to take her in.
But we know from the story that Ruth didn’t choose that. Instead, she chose to pledge loyalty to her mother in law, Naomi, adopting Naomi’s God and people as her own. So Ruth left Moab, the only place she’d ever known and went back to Israel with Naomi, not knowing where they’d end up or what would become of them.
And if I’m putting myself in Ruth’s sandals for just a moment, Ruth’s resilience is something I admire so much. She went from a safe, secure, and maybe even a happy station in life to uncertainty everywhere. She chose to leave everyone and everything she’d ever known to honor the mother of her deceased husband. At that point in Ruth’s life, she truly had no idea who God was, let alone what He would do in her life, but she trusted Him as her own anyway.
Once in Israel, Ruth gleaned barley from the fields, picking up the pieces left behind from the field-hands harvesting the crop; which is not an easy task. She would get up early and follow behind the workers, bending over to sift and harvest the scraps so that she could provide a meager meal for her and Naomi.
Through every loss, Ruth persevered. Never once does scripture say she shook her fist at God. She didn’t ask why her husband was dead. She never asked why it was up to her to humble herself and provide for both herself and her mother in law. She never blamed God for her seemingly wasted youth, being neither a wife nor a mother and left with no hope to ever be one.
If I were in the same place, I can’t say my own heartbreak wouldn’t make me lash out at God somehow. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have at least one complaint. But Ruth adapted and kept going, even when it seemed God had taken away every opportunity of happiness from her.
You see, I don’t understand how some people think Ruth was this meek and passive damsel. She was hardworking, loyal, determined, and strong in a culture and a time period that didn’t really focus on feminine strength. Ruth wasn’t some Cinderella-type, waiting for a man to come and change her situation. She was a strong woman who tried to make the best of some really hard knocks.
And because of her hard-working and resilient nature, she caught the eye of a man who wanted her. He saw her working in his barley fields and wanted to know her better. He saw her providing for Naomi and admired her strength and character, enough to go and redeem her from her widowhood and take her as his wife.
You see, Ruth’s character and faith in God is ultimately what restored her, and because God was behind it, the family that God gives Ruth at the end of her story is far more complete than it had been at the beginning. And that revitalization doesn’t affect just Ruth. In our key verse, it says that the women of the town said that the Lord provided a redeemer, Boaz, and God restored life to Naomi and nourished her in her old age by allowing her to be a part in Ruth’s new family. Ultimately, Ruth becomes more to Naomi than either of her sons and gives her a grandson at a time when she thought happiness like that was over and done with.
So how is Ruth strong? Because she kept going through her personal tragedies. She never blamed God for the losses she sustained. Instead, she committed herself to God even more fully, and worked through her sorrows. She allowed her life to be a testimony to God’s goodness, even when there was nothing to praise Him for. I hope that I could be the same, if left in the same position. I pray that my faith could be so built on God that even if my everything ceases to be, I would still call God my God. I pray that even if I found myself on my hands and knees, gathering fragments of barley for food, I would still bless the Lord.
Even if my blessing never comes, I pray that I’d still call God my redeemer. Because even in my tragedies, God is still good; and even in my deepest sorrow, He is there. Ruth’s strength is subtle but so vitally important to weathering this life with a full understanding of grace.
Because when all else fails, and everyone lets me down, I can stand on the knowledge that Jesus is my redeemer, and that He has already claimed me as His own. And through that, I have been protected, taken care of, and deeply loved.