Growing up, Ruth was always one of my favorite books of the Bible. I think I always thought of her as a real-life Cinderella story. It was a shining example of loyalty, fidelity, true love, coming up from nothing into a loving relationship that eventually became part of the lineage of Jesus. Boaz picked her, a lowly worker in his field, and it became a love story for the ages.
Our ladies group at church is finishing up a Bible study on Ruth, and now I’m looking at the story again with adult eyes. And yes, that romantic love story is still there, even though the very brief, four whole chapters of the Book is short on emotion and more of a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of read. We’ve been working through Ruth: Living in God’s unfailing faithfulness by my good friend Naomi Schmidt, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good Bible study on Ruth. It’s well researched, and does an excellent job explaining things from both a historical and theological context. She draws from the original Hebrew text as well as several English translations of the Bible to really dig in and explore the story of the Ruth. (She recently finished a study on Philippians, which we’re eager to start. Once it’s available to the public, I’ll try to remember to update this post with a link to it! It should be available on NPH soon.)
One thing that escaped me as a child but has hit me powerfully as an adult is the overwhelming faith Ruth had. Everyone points to the steadfast faith of Abraham, but I look at Ruth’s story, and I see a woman whose faith never wavered. She never questions; she never lost hope. She seized every moment given to her and never doubted that the Lord was with her. He gave her faith, and she held on to it with fervent hope and joy her entire life.
The other thing that really stood out to me this time around was that Ruth was not a child of Israel, one of the chosen children of God. She was from Moab, at that time a place where they worshipped idols and were hated and feared and shunned. If you could be at the bottom of the ladder of redemption, a Moabitess widow was on it in the eyes of the Israelites of the time. And yet, the Lord lifted her up. He gave her faith and sustained her. He provided her with strength to help Naomi home, care for her mother-in-law, provide them both with food and shelter. He led her to the fields of Boaz, an upright and God-fearing man in a time when even Israel was not exactly in a high point in its history. And then of course we know how that story worked out. By the grace of God, Naomi directed Ruth to approach Boaz to redeem the family property, which came with redeeming the family name (ie: marrying Ruth to carry on Elimelech’s family line), and they lived happily ever after, the end. Okay, I left some details out, but you can read the story yourself. The point that was highlighted to me is that it doesn’t matter where you came from, God can and will call to faith even those who seem like they come from the drudges of society. He did it with Ruth the Moabitess, he did it with the Samaritan woman at the well in Jesus’ time, and he did it with countless others before and after. He can and has done it with me and with you.
So thinking about all of these things, and looking ahead to our final week of study on this book, I painted Ruth harvesting in the barley fields of Boaz. I showed off my work to my husband without saying anything, and he says, “Froggies!” …. So I gave Ruth a face.
Every morning that I wake up, I thank the Lord for giving me another beautiful day to share with my family and friends here in this life. Lately I’ve been asking him to give me faith like Ruth, that it may not be shaken. May I be steadfast and firm in that faith, determined, yet gentle and loving in my relationships, hard-working and honest, caring and providing. She is a wonderful role model to look up to.