Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ruth

Ruth.  The Holy Bible.  New King James Version.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Ruth is a short book with many lessons.  It takes place in the time of the judges, and in most Bibles will appear between Judges and First Samuel.  This is appropriate placement, because Ruth is an important part of the lineage of the kings who will supplant the rule of judges in the time of Samuel.

Ruth isn’t even an Israelite.  She is from Moab.  Her husband’s parents move their family to escape a famine in Israel.  The find plenty of hardship in Moab.  Ruth’s husband dies, along with her father-in-law and brother-in-law.


Her mother-in-law, Naomi, decides to move back to Israel, where she might find help from family.  She tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families.  Ruth decides to stay with Naomi.

In Israel, Ruth cares for Naomi.  She gathers dropped grain in the fields.  (It is the law that grain the falls in the field during the harvest must be left for the poor to gather.)  In the field of one of Naomi’s relatives, she is noticed by the owner, Boaz.

Boaz notices Ruth and inquires about who she is.  He is moved by the story of how she left her homeland and family to take care of her destitute mother-in-law.  He tells her to stay in his fields and follow his workers.  He even tells her to drink the water and eat the food he provided for his workers.  He makes sure she won’t be harassed and instructs his harvesters to leave behind extra handfuls of grain for her to gather.

It was the law in Israel that if a man died without children, a near relative should take her as a wife and have children with her.  This was a way of ensuring that the woman was cared for and that her husband would continue to have heirs.  After some subtle and direct negotiation, Boaz takes that role, redeeming and marrying Ruth.  It may be seen as a duty someone should have undertaken, but I think the story shows Boaz has affection for Ruth and respect for the way she stepped up to do things she was not obligated to do, even while others ignored those obligations.

This summary does not do this beautiful story justice.  I recommend reading it.  It is a short book and can be read in one setting.

It is full of lessons, too.  First, trouble falls into every life, even good people.  Ruth and Naomi aren’t presented as deserving of famine and widowhood; they are simply people who suffer hardship like all of us.

Next, God provides and has a plan.  We see God’s provision through the laws regulating harvest, marriage and inheritance that allow Ruth and Naomi to find food and eventually a place in Boaz’s household.  That God plans for these things to happen is not explicitly stated by the author, but the implication of God’s working can be found throughout the story.

Finally, God’s plans are bigger than we can expect.  The end of the tale reveals that Boaz and Ruth are great-grandparents of David.  Generations before Israel clamors for a king, God is arranging for a great one, and eventually an ultimate king who will be a savior of His people.

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