Faith of Women Series: Ruth

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Faith is not gendered specific. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that men can exclusively serve the Lord, pray, fast, or exude tremendous courage and trust in the Lord. In fact, women make many appearances throughout the story of the Bible in key roles. This series is devoted to the great women of faith, past, present, and future.

The last post began this series by looking at Rahab who makes her arrival in Joshua chapter two. Today, we look at Rahab’s daughter-in-law. Ruth is one of my favorite women of the Bible for several reasons which I’ll talk about in this post. Let’s talk about her story.

Ruth was a woman of Moab. This was land on the southeast border of Israel. It was a people often opposed to the people of Israel. Here again, we see God about to use a woman from a pagan people to fulfill His promises. Just like Rahab, she will be plucked out of a people for greater things.

Ruth was also a daughter of hardship. In the book of Ruth, we read that she left her family to be married and not long after, she lost her husband. She also lost her father in law and saw the death of her sister’s husband. Times were not favorable. Out of these conditions, Ruth will endure and go on to see greater days. She was not weak and did not succumb to hardship.

Ruth was extremely devoted. This is one of the character traits that I have been inspired by the most when it comes to her. In the wake of so much loss, Ruth’s mother in law Naomi decides to head back to Israel. Ruth can choose to either stay and start again with someone else in a land that she knew. Or she could follow Naomi. Option one is far easier. But anyone familiar with the story knows that she didn’t take the easy route.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17 NIV

In my opinion, this is one of the great expressions and statements of love in the Old Testament. If more of us were like Ruth, divorce would be demolished, businesses would not fracture, politics would not be plagued with scandals, and everything else rooted in self-interest would dissipate. This is a person emptying herself to care for another. Apart from Ruth, Naomi could have been destined to be destitute. Her love was the driving force of her life and it took tremendous faith to leave everything behind for what she knew mattered the most.

Ruth’s faith-driven obedience didn’t end here. As the story progresses, Ruth does all she can to uphold her promise to Naomi. That obedience eventually leads her to Boaz…the son of Rahab. The story made short, they fall in love and they marry. Naomi’s life is preserved, she is taken care of, her family’s land in Israel is redeemed by Boaz, and the happy couple eventually becomes the proud great grandparents of a king…King David. Her life is proof that our personal faith will have expanding influence and impact. A Moabite woman’s faith preserved the kingly lineage. A Moabite woman’s faith saved a life. A Moabite woman’s faith demonstrated love on a level that many of us only aspire to. Praise God for this Moabite woman’s faith.

 

 

 

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The Great Kinsman

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Once upon a time, there was a family. This was a beautiful family who fell upon hard times. Resources were scarce and money was tight. Due to the pressing circumstances, and facing few other choices, the family decided it was time to pack up and move. Not long after they arrived at their destination things started to look up. The two sons of this family found their future brides and soon married. But the joyous times were not meant to last. The father of the family passed away suddenly causing a shockwave of heartache to ripple through the family. Just when it seemed that life couldn’t get any harder, the two sons also passed away leaving the mom and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. In a time that was very man-dominant, women faced few options for income. Difficult choices lay ahead.

Some readers may be able to relate to this story so far. The situation is bleak, and hard, and desperate. Life seems like a roller coaster of hardship to joy, and back to hardship. For every step forward in life, it seems like they take one or two back. They just can’t get ahead. People who have faced difficulty such as this hesitate to ever utter the phrase, “it couldn’t get any worse than this.” That’s because they’ve tasted the “worse” that seems to lay right around the corner. But Jesus doesn’t want to leave anyone here. These are the circumstances that God’s grace shines the brightest. For the family in this story had a beautiful future ahead of them. Ask them at this juncture and they may have had their doubts. But God’s love and God’s plan is not contingent upon our strength or our certainty.

In various passages of the Bible, we see the concept of a kinsman redeemer. Passages like Genesis 38, Deuteronomy 25, and Leviticus 25 all address this role. It’s a role that reveals something about God’s heart for the hurting and the destitute. The basic idea is that the closest family member would step in to take care of those who found themselves in a situation like the family from the previous story…the family from the book of Ruth. Naomi (the mom), and Ruth and Orpah (the daughters-in-law) were in need of such a person.

As the story progressed, Naomi and Ruth journeyed back to Naomi’s former home – to the land of Israel. When they arrived in Bethlehem the reception was somewhat mixed. It would be as a soldier returning home after a terrible defeat. The shame and hurt were immense and Naomi was in no mood for a welcome home party.

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Ruth 1:19-21 ESV

Naomi’s heart would not remain in despair. In a short span of time, both her and Ruth would be rejoicing over the goodness of God. It is in our darkest times that we can experience His goodness the most. Naomi and Ruth are a testament to that. By the end of this story, Ruth meets the key character in the journey from ashes to beauty. His name – Boaz. The name means ‘strength is within him’. He is a successful landowner and farmer in Israel who had endured the famine which had motivated Naomi and her family to leave the land. Not only is he successful, but he is also compassionate and kind. He demonstrates this in the way that he tenderly cares for Ruth from the moment he laid eyes on her. The first time they met was when Ruth had gone out to glean scraps from the harvested fields so she and Naomi wouldn’t starve. Boaz doubled down and supplied for their every need. He didn’t stop here. Boaz would also restore the land back to Naomi from before she had left with her husband Elimelech. He was their kinsman redeemer.

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”

Ruth 4:9-10 ESV

The institution of the kinsman redeemer was not only a method of grace bestowed upon God’s children, but it also pointed to a much greater act of grace to come to the entire world. Even if life’s circumstances haven’t placed all of us in a disposition of empathy for Naomi and Ruth, the Bible describes all our spiritual circumstances as far more desperate.

According to the Bible, we were:

  • Dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13)
  • Sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10)
  • Far off from God (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Unrighteous, immoral, and idolators (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Homelessness does not compare. Being in need does not compare. Suffering tremendous does not compare. Humanity’s situation without Jesus is far more dire than anything we will ever face in our temporal lifetimes. But we have the Great Kinsman Redeemer – the Messiah. The Messiah of God was sent to buy us back with a far greater price than that of Boaz. Our Messiah paid with His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightmaking known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV

Peace in our Messiah, the Great Kinsman Redeemer!