If you’ve not read the book of Ruth in the Bible, here’s your opportunity. Four short chapters and we are given a shining example of how our God wants us to live and love. We hear so much about the Proverbs 31 woman, and I believe Ruth is that woman. I know a Ruth, and she’s my favorite Ruth of all (of course, I call her Maw Maw), but more on that in a little bit.
First, a little background: Ruth had married Naomi’s son. We read that Naomi and her family weren’t from “these parts,” as it were because Naomi's family had left famine in Israel. When the menfolk died, Naomi and Ruth (and Orpah, the other daughter-in-law) are left widows. In that day and time, this could have been a death sentence. But Naomi released the young women, so they could go back to their families and hopefully marry again. Ruth REFUSED. She refused.
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth had committed to be a part of Naomi’s family and she intended to follow-through. She is faithful to that vow and devoted to her widowed mother-in-law, including accepting God, our Almighty Father, as her God, casting off the vestiges of her life, forsaking the culture and her raisin’ in Moab. This is all Jesus asks from us: forsake your old ways and your old gods, devote yourself to Him. So, the women traveled back to Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland, and Ruth goes straight to work in the fields (not an easy job as you can imagine), to support them, further solidifying her commitment.
As it turns out, God blesses Ruth by putting her in the right place at the right time, when we learn that she had gone into Boaz’s field to work. Boaz happens to be a relative of Naomi. He says to Ruth:
“I’ve heard how you’ve helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign land among people you don’t know. I pray that the Lord God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now that you have come to him for protection, I pray that he will bless you” (Ruth 2:11-12).
God uses the relationship between Boaz and Ruth to redeem her, and Naomi. We see from this that He notices people of good character. God was certainly aware of her devotion and faithfulness. Ruth put others’ needs before her own, even at a time when it would have been far easier to simply go back home.
Is God Almighty himself watching the 2016 election year unfold? Sure. Does He know what all Bill Gates has going for him? I have no doubt He does. God sees those in power, and those whom society deems “important,” and I’m sure He’s blessed those in powerful and important positions. But the real message here is that he also sees the humble in heart, the hard and quiet workers, those with decency and empathy, those full of love.
“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
We can take away from Ruth’s story that if we commit ourselves to do what is right in the eyes of God, and if we are patient (how many times have I scolded myself with “in His time…”?), all that is good and right will come to us from our Heavenly Father. This "instant gratification" kick we find ourselves on as a culture does not reap the rewards our God offers. Ruth could have gone back home and landed another husband; she could have gone after work to make money simply for herself and left Naomi to find her way back home; she could have turned her back on the tough journey ahead and, as a consequence, the God of her husband's people - a God who loves her dearly and blesses her. She could have focused on self or easy or quick solutions. But she didn't. She was faithful and she was true to her word, and she wasn't afraid of putting forth some effort, even if it wasn't her ideal scenario to be dropped into -homeless, husband-less, resource-less. Paul reminded the early church of this as well when he wrote to the Galatians, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9).
So, what reward did Ruth receive for her patience, diligence, hard work and commitment? *SPOILERS* Boaz did marry her, bringing her out of widow-hood and the eminent poverty lurking in short course. This meant Naomi, too, would be taken care of. Boaz and Ruth were then blessed with a son…and that son would be the granddaddy of the famed King David, and then on down the line straight to Jesus. Ruth’s legacy is the bloodline of Jesus, but it’s also the message to you and me today about what’s really important in this life we’ve been given. Love God, love people.
I told you earlier that my Maw Maw’s name is Ruth, and she has lived up to her name. Like Ruth of the Bible, Maw Maw only knows how to work hard. From a young age, she worked near constantly. Born the third oldest of sixteen (yes, one-six) to a coal miner and his wife in the hollers of eastern Kentucky, my Maw Maw helped raise siblings, farmed, mended clothes, cooked, and all kinds of other things out of the basic need to survive. Like Ruth of the Bible, Maw Maw lived in poverty conditions. At 16 or so, she found herself nannying for the only doctor in the nearby town (a good long walk from the holler), whose wife was the only nurse in the town. When she’d squirreled away enough money, she bought a one-way bus ticket to Liberty, North Carolina where an aunt happened to live, and sent a telegram just before departure asking the aunt to pick her up at the bus station, not knowing for sure if she’d received it and would be there. She went into the unknown, relocating to a strange land and living among strangers, embracing this new life nonetheless.
Like Ruth of the Bible, she would not be defeated, and would dig deep to make her way (blue collar jobs, but good jobs nonetheless with steady work) and take care of her own. She eventually met my Paw Paw and they made a life together. Both working hard every single day, raising my mama and a garden and sometimes some chickens. Like Ruth of the Bible, my Maw Maw remained devoted to family, making a way, with the help and support of my Paw Paw, for some of those 16 siblings to come to North Carolina where there was opportunity and good living. Like Ruth of the Bible, she is humble and committed. Who knows what that legacy will lead to down the line…those 5 great-grandsons she has hang the moon as far as she’s concerned. Maybe they will be world leaders or successful business tycoons or royalty, even (HA!) - or maybe, just maybe, and it is my sincerest prayer - they will simply be good and faithful servants of the Lord Almighty and they will work hard like her, be kind, and stay committed to loving Jesus.
Who’s the Ruth in your life? How can we be more like the Ruth of the Bible? May Ruth’s example of faithfulness encourage you today and always.