1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Ruth is one of two books named after women, the other being Esther. This story takes place during a rough patch in the history of Israel. For a period of about 400 years, before Israel had a king, judges ruled. This period was a cycle of rebellion, remorse, peace, repeat. They would have incredible victories when they trusted God, followed by corruption and devastating defeat when they looked to the idols and customs of their neighbors. In one period of devastation and famine, Elimelek and Naomi, with their two sons, move to Moab. While there appears to be peace between the nations, the Moabites and Israelites were enemies.
Many times in the Book of Judges we hear that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). Do you sometimes feel like that is the world we are living in today? We sometimes cry out to God when we are desperate, but for the most part we want to do what we want to do how we want to do it. We turn away from God and then wonder why we are stuck in a famine of sorts. We leave the space God created for us and head to foreign territory to be filled with whatever we think is missing in our lives.
We are told that Elmelek and his wife Naomi made this foreign land home for over ten years. Though foreign, it probably became somewhat comfortable in a way. Their sons even got married to Moabite women. However, during this time Naomi’s husband and both of her sons died. How devastating to be in a foreign land during a time of deep sorrow and loss. In her culture, Naomi had nothing. No heirs to carry on the family, no one to take care of her, no extended family to comfort her.
This is where our story opens. Loss. Devastation. Isolation in a foreign land. Things aren’t looking good for Naomi.
Do you feel like everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes these days, rather than following God?
Do you ever feel like you are alone in a foreign land…like nothing is going your way…like one bad thing after another is happening in your life?
Take heart. This story will show us how God’s powerful hand is at work in all things if we follow His lead. Redemption is often born out of suffering.
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
The story takes a turn when word gets to Naomi that the Lord had come to the aid of his people, the Israelites. Remember the cycle the Israelites were in…rebellion, remorse, God’s hand/peace, repeat. The tide seems to have turned and there is peace in Israel now. With no family ties to Moab and nowhere to turn, Naomi decides to head home.
Notice how the text says that she “left the place where she had been living”. She doesn’t call where she has been for over ten years home. It isn’t home. Just a place to stay for a while. But now it is time to head home.
Do you ever feel like you are in a holding pattern? You are somewhere in your life…maybe even for a LONG time…but it just isn’t home. Maybe a place you just don’t seem to fit in. A time of waiting. Facing a hard unwanted circumstance.
If so, you aren’t alone. Sit tight. God has good plans for you. Sometimes the biggest redemption comes out of the biggest loss.
Naomi has nothing, but she hears things may be looking up back home. She doesn’t hesitate. She prepares to go.
How can we keep our eyes open to the next step God may be wanting us to take? Have you ever thought that sometimes God gets us to move out of necessity? That He gets us to a place where we feel like we have no other options?
Like Naomi we have to be ready to pack up and go. We may not know what lies ahead and we may feel like we literally have nothing, but we need to trust that God’s plans are good and he is always waiting to redeem and make things right if we are willing to turn to Him.
Where in your life do you feel like you aren’t “home”? You might not feel at “home” because you aren’t and God is wanting you to begin to move.
Pray that God will show you the next step to get there and then pack up and prepare to go. It may be a new group of friends God is telling you to reach out to. It may be a new opportunity or new location or even a new attitude towards something.
Lean into Him. Trust in His good plans.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
As the three girls - Naomi and her daughters-in-law - are preparing to leave, Naomi has second thoughts. Though she probably is scared to go alone and will miss the only family she has left, she urges her daughters-in-law to stay. This is their home and she knows all too well how hard it is to be away from home with no family and no husband.
How unselfish of Naomi to suggest they go back to their families. She prays the Lord show them kindness and even mentions how kind they have been to her and her sons. She wants them to get remarried and move on. She doesn’t want their story to end like she fears hers will…alone in a foreign land.
She kisses them goodbye and they weep aloud. Put yourself in their story. These are real people dealing with real loss and an uncertain future. What a heartbreaking goodbye. It must feel like being in a hole that you see no way out of. Utter devastation.
This passage ends with the girls saying that instead of staying they will go back with Naomi and her people. After all these years as a family, they must deeply love and care for one another. Each is willing to sacrifice what would make them most comfortable for the one they love.
Where in your life have you been willing to trade your comfort for the comfort of someone else?
Have you ever had to say a tearful goodbye to someone you love?
Have you ever been faced with going somewhere all alone, uncertain what will be on the other side?
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
Naomi continues to encourage her daughters in law to stay in Moab. She laments her circumstance and the lack of any sort of future she perceives exists in their coming along with her. She believes the Lord’s hand has turned against her. She is in a dark and lonely place.
Weeping aloud, the two girls listen to her hopeless words.
Naomi believes she is unworthy; she has nothing to give these girls she loves – the remnants of her broken family.
Ruth and Orpah seem to have an easy choice. They can stay in Moab with their support system and a hope for a better future…or they can go with their mother in law to an unknown place with absolutely nothing; no money, no husband, no child, no heritage, and no idea what will happen.
Full of tears, Orpah chose to stay. The sacrifice is too much. She loves Naomi, but she isn’t willing to follow her. Perhaps this is exactly where God wanted her to be. Perhaps God’s plans for Orpah are in Moab. We never hear where her story goes.
Ruth, on the other hand, decides to stick with Naomi. She simply can’t leave her. She chooses not to take the easy route, but instead risk the familiar of home to remain side-by-side, hand-in-hand with her mother-in-law. Ruth loved her for more than what was taken from her, and saw that she was in a despairing place and needed comfort.
Ruth doesn’t know it yet – we never really know what the future will hold – but God has plans for Ruth in a little town called Bethlehem. Plans that will blow her away and surpass anything she could have hoped for back in Moab.
Loyal, compassionate, and full of sorrow, Ruth clings to Naomi.
What do you think made Orpah stay and Ruth decide to go?
How do you generally decide when to stay or when to go?
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
Naomi is now urging Ruth to go back to the people she knows and grew up with, as well as the gods her fellow Moabites worship. Going with Naomi would mean a huge change in Ruth’s lifestyle and culture. It would mean worshiping the God of Naomi’s religion and living the lifestyle of a poor widow.
Naomi assumes Ruth likes the idea of showing kindness towards her, but will not be up to the sacrifices of following through. But this isn’t the case at all.
Ruth is set on traveling with Naomi and comforting her in this time of loss and need. She knows what the right thing to do is and she does it!
Ruth is determined to leave her home, people, gods, and lifestyle to comfort and serve Naomi. Even in Ruth’s current environment steeped in false gods, she knows of the Israelite God. I wonder what her father-in-law spoke about Him; what her husband spoke about Him. I wonder if she participated in worship of the One true God during happier times when the much larger family of six gathered together. I wonder if there was laughter and joy. I wonder if she memorized Scripture about God along with her new Israelite family. I wonder if she saw something special in this God Naomi’s family prayed to. A seed was planted. Perhaps deep down, God was giving her a peace about stepping out in this new territory with Naomi. I wonder if He was wooing her to Himself. Ruth doesn’t have all the answers, but she believes Naomi’s God – our God – is BETTER than anything she would leave behind.
With nothing but each other and an unknown future, Ruth joins Naomi on the journey back home. She is in through the bitter end…whatever that might look like.
Has anyone ever stuck with you during a hard time in your life, even when it required a sacrifice on their part?
Do you think that Ruth, living with her husband’s family, was introduced to their God (the God of Israel…our God)?
Do you think God has the power to draw people to Him, even in the “foreign” lands of difficult circumstances, a culture and world that tends to reject Him, a time when following the One True God is not very popular?
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
It seems like things may be looking up a bit for Naomi. Her daughter-in-law has shown incredible loyalty and love to follow her back to her homeland. A new, fresh start. But the despair is deep.
The women arrive home…Bethlehem. The whole town is in a stir. Imagine a life with no tv, cell phones, 24/7 news, Facebook updates and Instagram stories. The return of Naomi was BIG news. Can’t you hear the whispers and questions.
When we imagine our homecoming, we want to come back looking good, with sweet reports of the great life we left and exciting stories of our adventures away. Verse 21 tells us she left Bethlehem full. There may have been a famine they were escaping, but things were good. The last thing we want to do is crawl back home heartbroken with nothing. Worse off than when we left.
Naomi’s reaction quickly reveals her state of mind. She tells them to change her name to Mara…bitter. Names had much meaning in her culture. Naomi is placing her identity in her current circumstances. She recounts that she left full and returned empty. She recognizes God’s sovereignty, but feels He has afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. She is basically having a pity party, but who can really blame her. In her narrow view of her life at this point, things are bleak.
This passage ends letting us know that the barley harvest was beginning. Recall that Naomi’s family initially left Bethlehem because of a drought and famine. No crops were being produced and people were starving. Upon her return, the barley harvest is beginning. Crops are growing again. New life. Perhaps this is a hint of what is to come for Naomi. God is so big, so good, so present… and has so much yet to show Naomi. Her identity isn’t based on her marital status, number of children, wealth or social status. Her true identity in the One who provides and redeems.
Do you often find you have a narrow view of your life based on your immediate circumstances? Do you have a hard time looking forward or trusting that God has good plans when you are in the thick of a rough patch of life? Do you tend to plant your identity in your circumstances?
How can we keep our eyes up and ahead, toward God, trusting that He has it all under control and His plans are bigger and better than anything we can imagine? How can we remember our true identity in God and who He says we are?
2 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines wallowing in self-pity about their horrible circumstances, Ruth is anxiously waiting to get to work. She asks Naomi about going into the fields to pick up the leftover grain left behind. The Israelites were commanded to leave behind some of the grain during the harvest for the widows and less fortunate. They certainly qualified!
When you are dealt a bad hand in life how do you typically respond? Do you complain and feel sorry for yourself or do you get to work, doing what you can to make things better?
The pity party route is usually the easy road to take. But it generally does nothing to change our circumstances. Ruth doesn’t wait for someone to fix things for her, or even tell her what to do. She looks for opportunities and makes a plan. She gets to work.
At the end of the passage we see that “as it turned out” she was working in the field of someone from the family of her deceased father-in-law. At first pass that may seem she lucked out with that one. But as we study the Bible, we learn more and more that God’s hand is on everything.
It is an incredible encouragement – and relief – to recognize and trust that God is in control. But we must also remember that we have parts to play. We aren’t supposed to just sit on the sidelines. We are supposed to be in the game. Looking for opportunities and taking steps…even if baby steps…to make the changes we need to make in our lives and circumstances.
Powerful things can happen when we combine God’s incredible plans – putting people in our path, opening doors, and nudging us toward His purposes – and our stepping out and doing our parts. God can’t wait to team up with us for things beyond our imagination.
Looking back can you think of a time when God has opened a door or put someone in your path for a special purpose?
Do you believe God is working in all things at all times?
How does Ruth inspire you to do take action when life gets tough?
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”
Enter Boaz, who appears to own the wheat farm Ruth has stumbled upon for survival. He looks to be a follower of God, for he greets his farm hands by saying, “the Lord be with you.” He then asks them about the woman, whom we know as Ruth, that was gathering wheat from the fields.
Boaz seems to be interested in this “new girl” and wants to know who she “belongs to.” The overseer replies that she has traveled from Moab with Naomi and has been working very hard since then to provide for her.
Twice the overseer labels Ruth according to where she is from – the Moabite from Moab.
Ruth comes to her new “home” and she comes with a label. And one not highly looked upon at that. An enemy of the land of the Israelites. Lesser people in their eyes. As if her circumstances weren’t bad enough, she is burdened with an unfavorable societal label.
But here is a truth you can count on: God doesn’t look at outside appearances, circumstances, or human labels. He looks at our heart. He sees us…REALLY SEES US. He know it all. The heartbreak, the hidden tears, the unmet expectations, the hard hard work we are doing to overcome. He sees and He loves us. He sees and He is working things all around us.
Do you ever feel like labels are placed upon you – accurate or not?
Do you feel like the labels keep you from doing things you want to do?
Have you ever labeled someone, rather than really getting to know them?
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
Gleaning was a part of Jewish law mentioned several places in the Old Testament. One is Deuteronomy 24:19-22…
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.
God made a way for the poor to support themselves and the more fortunate to be generous to those in need. It was an opportunity for dignity and productive work for those who otherwise would have to depend on begging, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. God put laws in place to protect and provide for His people.
Are there times in your life when you were really in need (financially, socially, physically, emotionally) and someone came along side you and helped make things better?
Where in your life do you have abundance that you can share with someone in desperate need? Think outside of the financial needs. Have you gotten through a rough experience that you can share with someone in the middle of it now? Have you overcome obstacles in areas you can help others in the midst of them? Are you a good listener and can sit and just listen to someone who is hurting? Are you a natural encourager who can provide that extra bit of support someone may be needing?
God intended us to share our gifts. And God sends people to come alongside us to share their gifts with us. Sometimes we will be the ones in need and sometimes we will be the ones with abundance to share.
Let’s always have the courage and conviction to step into these roles when the opportunities present themselves.
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Ruth’s reputation as loyal is spreading. What a wonderful thing to be known for in your new homeland. She came to town as a foreigner and widow with nothing. And not just any foreigner, a Moabite. The Moabites descended from deep sin and were looked down upon by Israelites. Despite all of this going against her, it didn’t take long for her to be known for her love of her mother-in-law and work ethic. Her character was outshining her background and circumstances.
What would you say you are known for? What traits would people list about you if asked?
What we do and how we live matters. Not only for making things happen in our lives, but in how people see us and interact with us. And as Christians we are told that people will know the love of God by seeing how we live life and love people.
Boaz gives Ruth a blessing…that the Lord repay her for what she has done and for her to be richly rewarded. Boaz recognizes that she has come under the wings of the Lord to take refuge from her circumstances and loss.
Ruth replies with humility, thanking Boaz for his favor and putting her at ease. With every action Ruth is proving to be a woman of strong character.
In a small way she is beginning to see some light in her dark situation. All because she came under the wings of the Lord for refuge. While Ruth didn’t stand by and wait for others to fix things for her, she did crawl into the wings of the Lord for refuge. She stepped into the opportunities He laid before her. And things are about to take a turn.
How can we take refuge in the wings of the Lord? What does this look like in our lives?
Do you ever think about the impact your actions – big or small – have on others?
What can you do to live a life that demonstrates God’s love?
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
Ruth continues to work hard for her family. Boaz is behind the scenes trying to make it easier for her and providing for her. Similarly, God is always behind the scenes orchestrating things for His perfect purposes. It doesn’t let us off the hook though. We still need to get up and take part in it. And often we don’t even think much about the doors that open in front of us. We think we just got lucky or were at the right place at the right time. How would your vision of things change if you always had in your mind that God was working…for you, for Him?
We begin to see the strong character of Boaz here as well. He makes sure Ruth has food to eat…even leftovers for Naomi. He shares a meal with her. He tells his men to even pull out some of what they gathered and leave it behind for her to pick up.
Ruth worked until evening and then threshed the barley she had gathered. It was a long full day of hard work. She brings it home to Naomi, her beloved mother-in-law. And did you notice she even stashed the leftovers from the meal for Naomi! What a picture of loyalty and doing the hard things for those you love.
When you evaluate your daily activities, how would you classify your work ethic? Are there areas you can improve upon?
Several times in the New Testament we are given instructions about how we should work…
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23, NIV)
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Ephesians 6:7, NLT)
Let Ruth – and God’s Word – inspire you to work hard at all you do, even if it seems like a menial, thankless task at the time. Often times the seemingly small tasks that no one wants to do can turn into the biggest blessings in ways we never expected.
Have you ever experienced obedience in a small (or even big) task turning into a bigger blessing than you ever could have imagined?
19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
Naomi, who not too long ago, wanted to changer her name to Bitter, is now starting to see glimpses of the goodness and provision of God. Here we are first introduced to the idea of a guardian-redeemer as Naomi tells Ruth this is what Boaz is.
The guardian-redeemer is a male relative who has the privilege and responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble or in need. The Hebrew term translates to one who delivers, rescues or redeems property or a person. Again, we see God in advance of all things making a way to protect and provide for His children.
In his commentary, David Guzik summarizes several roles of the guardian-redeemer…
Naomi comments about the kindness of Boaz, a guardian-redeemer.
Jesus is our ultimate guardian-redeemer. He comes to us in our utter poverty and despair. He rescues us from the slavery of sin. He pays the price for our sin and exchanges our sin for His righteousness. He redeems and restores what sin steals from us. He gives us a new name and new home. He doesn’t leave us alone.
Look at the descriptions of the guardian-redeemer. Where do you see Jesus in this role?
Describe the kindness Jesus has shown you in your life.
21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
Ruth recounts Boaz’s advice and Naomi repeats it…stay close to the workers in Boaz’s field. While gleaning was a Jewish law, it could also be dangerous. Not everyone had the best intentions and Ruth was a foreigner in their land. By staying close to those who could be trusted, she had a better chance of being safe.
The same is true in our lives. There are people in our lives we should stay close to and those what we should probably put more distance between us and them.
Coach John Wooden once said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” And whether or not this is true, one thing is for certain…the people you hang out with impact and influence you.
We need to be careful and intentional about who we “stay close” to. People who lift us up instead of tear us down to make themselves look better. People who will tell us the truth, even when it is hard, rather than those who just say what we want to hear. People who will draw us close to God, rather than those that will pull us away. People who have our back and will help protect us, rather than those that will do us harm at the drop of a hat if it serves their purposes.
At the same time, we need to be these things to our friends. We need to be the kind of person people seek out to stay close to.
Are there people in your life that are doing more damage to your character and your walk with God than helping it? If so, how can you create some distance?
Are there people you want to seek out or get to know better that you would like to “stay close” to?
What steps can you take to have more people like this in your life?
3 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
We get a sense that despite God’s hand of protection and provision for Ruth and Naomi thus far, Naomi is eager to take control and seal the deal. She gives specific instructions to Ruth. She tells Ruth to freshen up…wash, splash perfume, get dolled up in your finest clothes. Not too bad so far. But then she tells her to go to the threshing floor without Boaz knowing and to wait until he has finished eating and drinking. She tells him to go where he lies down and uncover his feet and lie down. Then wait for Boaz to tell her what to do. It just doesn’t feel right, does it?
How many times are we walking obediently in God’s will, watching God provide for us, but we want to speed things up or hurry an outcome along?
We see this many times in the Bible and there are often devastating consequences (some seen immediately and some seen further down the line). We never want to get ahead of God to pursue our own plans. We want to trust in His good plans and be obedient to His will. Above all we never want to go in a direction that isn’t pleasing to God, even if it is for an outcome we think will be pleasing to God. While God can use all things for His purposes, He does not approve of ungodly ways of accomplishing them. EVER. It is never right to do the wrong thing to try to accomplish the right thing. We must be discerning and prayerful.
Sometimes we are called to act and other times we are called to wait on God. His timing alone is the perfect timing. But let’s be honest, it is a tricky balance. Many commentaries point out that though it seems forward to us, it was regarded as proper in the day (David Guzik).
How do we know when to act and when to wait? How do we know when we are doing the will of God or taking things into our own hands?
Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek FIRST God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and essentially everything else will follow as it should. In all things, pray. Ask God for wisdom over decisions. Look for scripture regarding your decision. Seek wise and Godly council from those you trust. If we earnestly seek God, He will show us the path to take.
Have you ever acted impulsively in a way that was probably not the best, or even in a way you knew was wrong, to try to control a situation or get something you wanted? What was the outcome?
How can you make a habit of going to God first when there is something you really want to happen?
5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
Ruth is obedient. She submits to Naomi’s authority. She loves Naomi and trusts that Naomi has her best interests in mind. Ruth makes herself know to Boaz and tells him that he is a guardian-redeemer of their family. She follows Naomi’s general command, but doesn’t act deceptively.
Who in your life do you trust to say, “I will do whatever you say”? Maybe a parent, maybe a good friend. The problem is that as humans we are all flawed and we all make mistakes. But God is perfect, and always has our best interests in mind. His character never changes. We can submit to authority and maintain our character.
We should take the attitude of “I will do whatever you say” and apply it to God’s Word. That is the only way to live a full life in who we were created from the beginning to be.
The instructions Naomi gives Ruth are in essence to let Boaz know she is interested and that he is a guardian-redeemer. She is basically asking him to marry her. Like the laws God gave the Jews about gleaning in the fields to provide food for the less fortunate, He also put in place a way for widows to be taken care of and the family name to be preserved where there were no heirs through the guardian-redeemer.
As you read through the book of Ruth, think about the idea of a redeemer. Think about how this is a foreshadowing of Jesus, our ultimate redeemer.
Where in the story so far have you seen glimpses of Jesus?
How much do you long for a redeemer to deliver, rescue, protect and provide for you? Who do you usually turn to for this (friends, self-help resources, guys, parents, God)?
Have you ever encountered a time where obedience to authority clashed with what God tells you to do? How did you handle the situation?
10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
It becomes clear that Boaz is interested in Ruth, but true to the character of Boaz, he wants to do the right thing. He doesn’t want to shortcut God’s way to get his way. He doesn’t take advantage of the position he is in.
Boaz reminds us again of the noble character of Ruth…something that now the entire town also recognizes.
Though we may feel out of place where we find ourselves, our character can outshine our circumstances. How we live and what we do makes a difference. Stepping into God’s open doors and walking through them – doing the work – makes a difference.
But we discover what feels like a little kink in this perfectly ordained plan. There is another relative closer than Boaz. This closer relative has the first opportunity to step up as guardian-redeemer to marry Ruth.
Just as things seem to be going smoothly according to plan, now Ruth and Naomi must wait for the decision of another. God’s ways and God’s timing are different than ours. The trajectory of how we want things to go doesn’t always line up with God’s more perfect path.
For now, they must wait.
How hard is it for you to wait? To trust God’s plan and timing?
What do you do when your plans seem like they are falling apart or obstacles are getting in the way?
14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
At this point, Naomi is probably freaking out, anxiously awaiting Ruth’s return and the direction of the future for both of them. Will her plan work?
How hard is it for you to wait for something you really want? How long can you go waiting before you start to scheme plans to move things along quicker?
Meanwhile, back at the threshing floor Boaz continues to protect Ruth with dignity and respect. He wants to make sure no one misinterprets her presence to protect her reputation. He makes sure Ruth leaves with provisions for her and her mother-in-law. He sends her off with more barley…more meals. They won’t be going hungry on his watch. He may not be the official redeemer yet, but he intends to take care of them.
Naomi is encouraged. Things just may indeed change for this bitter woman trying to heal from a devastating set of circumstances.
She is confident Boaz won’t just let it lie. He will not rest until the matter is settled. And settled immediately.
How about you? Are you a procrastinator or do you work diligently and without haste?
Do you know people who you trust will take action to do the right thing?
Are you the kind of person friends can trust to promptly do the right thing?
Ruth didn’t sit around and wait for things to happen, and neither will Boaz. Both maintained strong, Godly character throughout.
I don’t know about you but I am seriously cheering them on.
The tension is building. How will it all play out?
4 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
Boaz goes to the place of business…the town gate. He sits, waiting for his competition for Ruth. He motions him to come over. To sit with him and hear what he has to say. He brings elders to do the same. I’m nervous for him. Did he plan out his words? What he would say, how he would say it? Did he run a million scenarios in his mind? Did he pray to God for the outcome he desired?
Boaz presents the facts to the closer relative.
“I will redeem it,” the man says.
Oh no! Wait a minute. How can it end like this? Everything has fallen into place so perfectly up to this point. Boaz is trying to do right thing, the right way. We want Boaz and Ruth to be together.
But the nearest relative is agreeing to be the redeemer. It is looking like Ruth’s future husband will not be Boaz after all.
What do you think is going through the mind of Boaz? Do you think he is discouraged at this point?
Are you quick to get discouraged when something doesn’t go your way?
Have you ever had to gracefully watch someone get something that you really wanted (a spot on the team, the job, the part, the accolades and attention, the guy, the winning ticket)? How did you handle it?
Perhaps Boaz isn’t yet discouraged. Perhaps he knows exactly what he is doing and how he is going about it. Look closely at the description given by Boaz. He mentions only the land that belonged to Elimelek. There is no mention at all of Ruth.
The whole story has yet to be told.
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
Boaz had a bit of information he was holding back. With redeeming the land comes Ruth, who Boaz points out is a Moabite. Not only does he have to take this Moabite woman, he will have to share the inheritance.
The closest relative declines, more concerned with the impact to his own estate than with helping his family... or obeying God. How often do we follow God’s commands…until they cost us something? But in doing so, we are the ones who miss out on God’s gifts bloomed in obedience.
However, as we have seen from the beginning, God has a better plan. Boaz is free to be the guardian redeemer. To marry Ruth.
What one man sees as a burden and liability, another man sees as a treasure. Nearness and obedience to God clears our vision.
Have you ever done something or taken something that other people turned down or didn’t see any value in and it became a great blessing or treasure to you?
The man (not even named in the book of Ruth) did not have the vision to see what was available to him. He was an Israelite. Like all of the Israelites, he too was studying and waiting for the Messiah…the ultimate redeemer. Little did he know that he had a chance at becoming part of the story, but turned it down for the treasures he currently had. He didn’t want to risk losing some of his current estate.
How often we can cling to things that keep us from having even more of what God has in store for us. I love the end of TobyMac’s song Lose My Soul where he says, “Lord forgive us when we get consumed by the things of this world that fight for our love and our passion. As our eyes are open wide and on You, grant us the privilege of Your world view, and let Your Kingdom be what wakes us up and lays us down.”
How can you continually be open to God’s bigger plans instead of clinging to lesser plans?
Pray to see people and circumstances through God’s eyes. That you will not miss out on bigger things of God by holding on to what you think you want and need to make you happy.
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
Three times the word “witness” is used in this passage. Let there be no mistake among anyone that Ruth is now with Boaz.
Not only do the elders and others at the gate declare they are witnesses, they speak a blessing. A blessing that reaches back into stories passed on among Israelite families. Of Rachael & Leah, two wives of Jacob (whose name was later changed by God to Israel) that gave birth to the sons that would later make up the Israel nation – the 12 tribes of Israel. Also mentioned is Perez, Tamar, and Judah (one of the sons of Leah). Later in Ruth we see that Perez is the great great great great grandfather of Boaz (Ruth 4:18-22). Just as they carried on the family line of Boaz to this point, the blessing is for the lineage to continue through the union of Ruth and Boaz.
But remember the beginning of our story. We learn that Ruth is barren, which is why she and Naomi have no heirs. However, as we well know at this point, all things are possible with God.
Interestingly both of these family examples were not stories of devoted loving relationships and smooth sailing. These historical families referenced as part of the blessing were from broken, deceiving, hurtful relationships. Jacob was in love with Leah’s sister and was tricked into marrying her. Jacob later married Rachael, whom he loved, and Leah lived heartbroken, very aware of Jacob’s devotion to Rachael. It was a messy family to say the least. If you think that is bad, Perez, who was born from Tamar and Judah (Leah and Jacob’s son) is a thousand times worse (trust me for now and sit tight on this one…we will study it more on day 23).
Time and again we see God’s plans prevail despite our sinning, scheming and stepping all over ourselves. Not that God condones sinful behavior – in fact, the opposite is true…it causes separation from Him – but despite the state we are in, God can work all things for good and for His Glory.
Just as we see God at work despite our getting in the way, we also see God mightily at work among those who love Him, trust Him, and are obedient to Him. Ruth and Boaz show that our position in society or sinful behavior from generations past in our family lines will not thwart God’s good plans.
Do you ever feel like your past mistakes, or maybe even those of your family, keep God from working in your life?
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
The fairy tale ending…Ruth and Boaz together at last. A son. An heir.
Naomi, who left Bethlehem blessed, then came back bitter, is now full. Oh how our stories can change. We never know what lies ahead. No matter how bad things seem, nothing is beyond repair. Nothing is outside the loving arms and perfect plans of God.
The women say a blessing over Naomi. The Lord is praised. God’s provision of a guardian-redeemer has come through for Naomi.
From the beginning when sin first entered our lives through Adam and Eve, God had a redeemer in mind. And it is even better than Boaz, this character we have grown to love…this protector and man of honorable character.
God ultimately had in mind His one and only son. The only sinless person to enter the world. God in the flesh who took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross with them so we could be redeemed for eternity if we put our trust in Him.
The women tell Naomi that her daughter-in-law (Ruth) loves her and has proven better than any amount of sons…the one thing Naomi thought she needed for her future well-being.
Gods plans will also prove better than any we could imagine. God, whose creativity made all things, has things in store for our lives that are beyond our small scale thinking and imagination.
Do you believe this? Do you think God has good plans for you?
Have you ever prayed about a particular situation and followed where you felt God was leading you? What was the outcome?
Tell God that you want to surrender to His will and His plans. Pray to see people and situations and opportunities through His eyes. Seek His guidance in decisions. Do your part. And then watch God work.
16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
So just when you think the story couldn’t get any better, it is punctuated with the genealogy a few generations after Obed, this son born of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Yes, King David. The shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath everyone was afraid to fight. The one described as a man after God’s heart. The mighty warrior and renowned and beloved King of Israel. The writer of much of the book of Psalms. David, the great grandson of the once homeless and childless widow, Ruth. Let that soak in. A redemption story that has impact generations beyond its story.
Interestingly, it is Naomi who is mentioned as taking the child into her arms and caring for him. Naomi, whom the women say, “Naomi has a son!”. It is part of her redemption story too.
God makes provisions to care for His creation, enabling them to care for one another.
And while this is the end of the book of Ruth, it isn’t the end of God’s story. Over the next few devotionals we’ll look at the New Testament account of Jesus and the continuation of the story.
The entire Bible points to Jesus. Naomi, Ruth, Boaz were all part of the story…as are all of us. While there are ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, the story isn’t about us. It is God’s story and it is all about Jesus, the one who came to save us. To do what we couldn’t do as broken, sinful people. To take our sins and make us clean by His blood so the story can end with us, with Him, for all eternity.
Just as Ruth and Naomi needed a redeemer, we too need a redeemer. This life and fallible humans in it will always let us down. Trying to do things in our own power will always let us down. Trying to just be good will always let us down. And until we recognize our need for a redeemer, we won’t receive the power that comes from being redeemed. Let today be a day of reflection about what Jesus did for you.
Where are you growing weary trying to do things on your own?
Where in your life have you realized your desperate need for a redeemer?
Our story of Ruth has come to an end, but Matthew 1:1-16 contains the genealogy of Jesus where we see our beloved Ruth again…
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Whew…that is a lot of names. But each name represents a real family preserved in the lineage of Jesus. And while Jesus was perfect, His family line certainly was not. We just studied the story of Ruth, who was part of the family line of Jesus. She was a hated Moabite, a childless widow and foreigner with nothing. But God used her as part of the story of Jesus – God in the flesh – coming to earth to save us.
Let’s look at the times that a woman was mentioned in the family line (which was extremely unusual). There are four instances: Tamar (verse 3), Rahab (verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), Uriah’s wife (verse 6).
So who is Tamar? Her story is recorded in Genesis chapter 38 and it isn’t pretty. Tamar was married to Judah’s (the son of Jacob and Leah, the wife he was tricked into marrying) oldest son, Er, who the story tells us was wicked. When Er died, the Jewish custom would have been for one of Judah’s brothers to redeem her by caring for her, marrying her and having a child with her to preserve Er’s family name. The second oldest son was also wicked and died. Judah doesn’t keep his promises to Tamar to provide for her, so she takes matters into her own hand. She disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah takes the bait. She gets pregnant and has a child, Perez, who is in the family line of Jesus. Tamar is both the daughter-in-law of Judah and the mother of his child, Perez.
Don’t be afraid to say it or think it…this is a terrible story. None of this behavior is directed or approved of by God. It is evil in His eyes. But despite unholy people, God’s forward-looking plan continues.
Through imperfect, sinful people, God can bring about redemption. As generations come and go, we see the preservation of good amid great evil and sin. It is never too late to step into God’s plan…the way He intended, not in our own sinful ways.
From pain, abandonment, and sin, God still makes a beautiful pathway to our salvation.
Let this provide encouragement that we don’t have to be perfect to be part of God’s plan. Jesus was the only perfect person and His perfect sacrifice, along with our acceptance of it, is the only thing we need to be right with God.
Do you believe that God can use you in His holy plans despite your flaws, struggles, and mistakes by you personally or in your family background?
We pick up with the messy family tree that brought in our perfect Savior, Jesus. From Matthew 1:5-6…
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
We see that the mother of Boaz, our hero in the story of Ruth, was Rahab. The story of Rahab is told in the book of Joshua. Like Ruth, Rahab lived in a foreign land…Jericho, the first city God calls the Israelites to conquer as they begin their entry into the Promised Land. Prior to the conquest, Joshua sends spies into the land and they encounter Rahab. A prostitute. She has heard of the Israelite God and hid the men to keep them safe. As a result, the Israelites spared her and her family when they ultimately destroyed Jericho. Like Ruth, Rahab made a decision to turn from the gods of her city and follow the God of the Israelites – our God, the one true God – and live among them. Like Ruth, she believed and followed. Rahab was the mother of Boaz! Think of the lessons she taught him as a child, recounting her redemption story and all that God had done for her.
Though not mentioned by name, we also see Bathsheba (cited here as “Uriah’s wife”), the mother of King Solomon. Her story is told in 2 Samuel. She is listed in this passage as “Uriah’s wife” because while married to Uriah she commits adultery with King David (who pursued and called on her). Their little encounter can’t be covered up when she becomes pregnant, but her husband is away at battle. David devises a plan to cover his sin by bringing Uriah home to spend time with his wife and hopefully make it seem as if the child is his. Uriah is a man of honor and refuses to go to the comfort of his home while his colleagues are in battle. David’s plan backfires so he comes up with plan b…a way for Uriah to get killed in battle. Bathsheba gives birth to a son who God causes to die shortly after birth. They marry and their second son is Solomon, listed in this passage. He becomes a great king of Israel…from a broken and messy union.
A foreigner, a prostitute, adultery, tragedy, pain…all part of the family line of Jesus. If you ever think God only uses perfect people and clean circumstances to carry out His plans, let this remind you that is not the case at all.
David sought after God, he begged forgiveness from God, He repented and turned his life around. We are never too far gone to be redeemed.
Take some time to read over Psalm 51, David’s prayer after he was confronted by a good friend following the adultery with Bathsheba. Spend time reflecting on God’s power, mercy and grace. Like David, pray to God. Seek forgiveness and a pure heart to be used in a mighty way in God’s mighty plans.
The entire Bible, from the beginning to the end, points to Jesus. The life and story of Ruth is no different.
Not only do we see the story of Ruth as a redemption story for Naomi and Ruth, we can see it as a foreshadowing and glimpse into the redemption that will come for all of us. And as God would perfectly ordain it, through this family line.
In what ways do you see parallels of Jesus as our redeemer?
Most of us are not Israelites, but like Ruth, we have chosen to follow God, the Creator and orchestrator of all things. Like Naomi, without God and the gift of His Son Jesus whom He sent, we will live a lonely, bitter, helpless life. We need a redeemer to save us and bring new life.
We don’t need to be born into the “right” family, fully understand all of the laws and customs, or even be “good enough.” We only need to step into the arms, under the wings, of the Redeemer.
It is almost like God goes out of His way to use imperfect, deeply flawed people who stumble and doubt and sometimes just take a chance to fulfill His purposes.
Understand this, we are never too far away to be saved if we are willing. All things, even those not condoned by God, can be used by Him.
Write a prayer to God reflecting on the past…what He has done in your life and the lives of those before you, reflecting on the present…where you are, what circumstances you are going through, what sins you need to confess before Him, and reflecting on the future…what He will do, how your story will be redeemed, how God will use you to accomplish His purposes.
Stay in the Word. Seek wise council. Confess your sins. Soak in the love and redemption of Jesus. Step out and be a part of the story!