When I attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I was blessed to have Dr. Dennis Magary for several of my Old Testament classes. His passion for the Old Testament was infectious. Following his class covering this diminutive book, I fell in love with it…so much so that when I became pastor of Amman International Church it was one of the first books I preached from was the book of Ruth. Recently I had the opportunity to do the part of the narrator for a “readers theater” through Ruth at our church. Reading and reflecting on the book reminded me why I love it…
1. The book of Ruth is about taking risks…
Ruth is a Moabite woman. She’s a gentile. She has no standing in Israel at all. But she leaves her people and her family who could provide for her and she goes with Naomi back to Bethlehem. She loves her mother-in-law and she loves the God of her mother-in-law. She knows that Naomi has no one and she will need someone to care for her. She is determined to be that person.
That sounds normal to us, but Ruth has no guarantee that she will be accepted by the Israelites in Bethlehem; no guarantee that a woman in a male-dominated society will be able to provide what they need to live on; no guarantee that anyone will let her glean in their field; no guarantee that she won’t face abuse, prejudice; violence; name-calling…who knows…But none of that stops Ruth from doing what’s right and seeking Naomi’s best.
Naomi takes a risk when she sends Ruth to the threshing floor. If Naomi marries, who will take care of her? There’s no guarantee that if Ruth marries Boaz they will continue to provide for her. But that doesn’t stop Naomi from doing what’s right and seeking Ruth’s best.
Boaz takes a risk when he agrees to both marry Ruth and redeem the land. To redeem the land, Boaz will have to pay a hefty sum. If he and Ruth have a son and he is considered Elimilech’s heir, he will have to pay the redemption price a second time. This is why the first kinsman-redeemer refuses to redeem. It really could bankrupt him and put his own estate at risk. Boaz has no guarantee it won’t be financially difficult for himself. But that doesn’t stop him from doing what’s right and seeking both Ruth and Naomi’s best.
2. The book of Ruth is about how infectious love and grace are…
Ruth shows loving-kindness to Naomi by returning with her to Bethlehem and going out to glean and provide food for them both. She brings all she gleans and even what she has left over from her own lunches back to Naomi.
Ruth really wasn’t required to do this. And Naomi’s bitter spirit certainly didn’t make her very lovable. But Ruth shows grace and love to her grieving mother-in-law.
While gleaning, Boaz notices Ruth. When he’s told who she is he blesses her verbally but also makes sure that she will be able to glean and gather more than what she needs. He has heard of her kindness – it’s the talk of the town – and now he has seen it. Ruth’s loving, gracious behavior moves him to show loving-kindness to her.
And then something happens…Naomi utters a prayer of blessing for Boaz. She begins to recognize that she hasn’t come back to Bethlehem as empty as she thought. God hasn’t been so hard on her after all. And then she sends Ruth off in the middle of the night to seek Boaz as a husband. She stops thinking only about herself and thinks of Ruth! She didn’t have to do that! But Ruth’s loving-kindness and Boaz’s generosity have infected her and she acts lovingly and gracefully too!
3. The book of Ruth is about how small choices can make a big difference…
Throughout the book, as we’ve already seen above, people make small choices that end up providing big blessing for others. But another way we see this truth is when we consider that Ruth is one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. Ruth, a gentile woman, becomes one of the great-grandmothers of the Messiah. King David was her great-grandson. She is, without a doubt, a woman worthy of such an honor! It is a reminder too that it isn’t where we’re from or what language we speak or what we look like that is most important, it’s our heart and our character and our love of God and others.
Even in this blog I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of the book of Ruth’s riches. It is a small but powerful book that speaks practically to how we live our lives daily. May we be the kind of people who live lives filled with grace and loving-kindness for God and his glory!