by Steven Chan
13 March 2011
We have just studied very briefly the book of Ruth last Friday. What a wonderful blessing for us all that God chose to inspire the writing of the book of Ruth. While the lessons are still fresh in our minds, it may be good to just pen down here a few lessons that we should keep in our mind.
The book of Ruth tells the story of how a family within God’s chosen people struggled with the challenges of life without any direct revelation or intervention by God but with the evident providential working of God in their lives – in that sense, very much akin to our own lives today. We should therefore be able to identify with the main characters in the book such as Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
Faced with the famine that had befallen the people who had inherited the promised land which once flowed with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8), Elimelech left the promised land for the land of Moab together with his wife and two sons, most probably in search of relief from the famine (Ruth 1:1). During their ten years in Moab (Ruth
1:4), Naomi lost her husband, and then lost her two sons; she
was left with two daughters in law who were Moabitess – a people that were not allowed to enter into assembly of God (Deut 23:3,4). As Naomi, the longsuffering widow described it in Ruth 1:20-21: “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” She felt that God had afflicted her because of all the events that had befallen her. It appears that she had jumped from the frying pan into the fire when she left the land of famine for Moab in search of a better life. Don’t we feel the same at various times in our lives? Felt as if God has abandoned us.
One incredible quality of Naomi was her selflessness that was evident when she asked her two daughters in law to return to their own families as she had nothing to offer them. Although she was left alone in the world, she did not think of herself; she still thought of the well-being and future of her two daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth: “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”( Ruth 1:8-9). “Turn back, my daughters, go–for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!”( Ruth 1:12-13). Naomi did not blame the daughters in law or others for her misfortune. She took responsibility for the situation that the family was in; she reckoned that “the hand of the Lord had gone out against her”. In respond to her concern of the well-being of her daughters in law, Ruth responded with her own selfless love and concern for her mother in law – she would not leave her alone – she pledged her allegiance to her – “till death do us part” (Ruth 1:17). This reminds us of what the apostle Paul wrote in Phil 2:4-5: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… Both Naomi and Ruth had the same mind of looking out for the interests of each other – and that’s why they were used mightily by God through His providential working that eventually through Ruth, David would be born and subsequently through her lineage, Jesus Christ was also born (Ruth 4:21-22; Matt 1:5-15). Boaz described Ruth’s outstanding virtue as that of kindness: “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.(Ruth 3:10-11). “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:11-12). Naomi’s concern for Ruth was also evident by what she said to her in Ruth 3:1: “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you that it may be well with you?” Naomi knew that every woman would be concerned with their security for the future – and she helped her to secure her future; not being pre-occupied with her own predicament but always thinking of the well-being of her daughter in law! Both are incredible ladies! They took care of each other. Isn’t that the same way of life that God’s desire for His children?
Although feeling that God had dealt bitterly with her, Naomi never forsook God. She continued to acknowledge the presence and working of God in her life. This was evident when Ruth told her about gleaning in the field belonging to Boaz – to which Naomi said:
“Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” (Ruth 2:20). Do we share the same firmness of faith in God in our own struggles? Rom 15:2: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”
Boaz demonstrated the characteristics and uprightness of a man who lived with continual awareness of the presence of God in his life. He always acknowledges God’s will and work: Ruth 2:12: “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Although Boaz was the one providing refuge for Ruth, he gave glory to God! What a great attitude! Again in Ruth 3:10, Boaz said to Ruth, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning…” He again affirm God’s blessings on Ruth. And in promising Ruth in Ruth 3:13, he said: “I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives!”
Boaz’ uprightness and integrity among God’s people was demonstrated in how we convened the meeting of 10 elders and complied with the biblical rule of redemption and perpetuating the name of the dead through his inheritance.” (Ruth 4:5-6). Boaz truly was a righteous man.
There are so many wonderful lessons that God has stored up for us in the book of Ruth. I certainly hope that we will all read and learn from this inspired Word of God.