The Book of Ruth: So Much More Than a Love Story
- Paula Hendricks Marsteller paulawrites.com
- 2017 24 Jan
One of my all-time favorite promises for God’s people is found in Romans 8:28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I wonder if anyone has ever showed you how God faithfully kept this same promise to His people throughout Scripture, in history. There are so many stories I could point to, but we’ll just look at one today in the book of Ruth. (And no, I’m not ultimately talking about the love story between Ruth and Boaz—this book is about so much more than that!)
Rewind to the Beginning
Before we dive into the book of Ruth together, let me fill you in with what has been happening in the books leading up to Ruth, because the Bible is one, cohesive story.
- God had formed a great nation (see Genesis through Numbers). Check.
- He had brought His people into His place, the Promised Land, just as He had promised (see the book of Joshua). Check.
But God’s people weren’t living under His rule. In fact, since Moses’ death and then Caleb’s death at the end of the book of Joshua, there was no great leader to lead God’s people.
Repeat a Dark, Vicious Cycle
And things went south quick. When we open the book of Judges—the book just before Ruth—we see a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself:
- God’s people turn away from Him and sin.
- This makes God angry, so He gives them over to their enemies.
- Once they’re good and miserable, God’s people cry out to God for help.
- God sends them a deliverer, or a judge. (These “judges” didn’t wear black robes and hold gavels like we think of today. Back then, a judge was a warrior, a deliverer, a military leader.)
- Once God’s people have been saved, they once again turn away from Him, and the whole cycle is repeated.
All in all, God raises up twelve judges—eleven men and one woman—to deliver His people during this time. But even many of these judges are shady characters (think Samson.) I like the way Starr Meade puts it in her survey of the Bible:
In all the stories we see that the judges were not able to unite all of Israel, or lead the people in keeping the covenant, or even faithfully keep it themselves. So all the stories remind us that God’s people need a greater deliverer than any we see in this book of great deliverers.
Feel the Desperate Need for a King
Israel needed a king. See, a king was meant to help God’s people keep God’s law. In fact, God had promised kings to Abram when He made a covenant with him:
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Gen. 17:6, emphasis added).
But there was no king on the horizon. The author of Judges gives us clues as to this problem in Judges 17:6, 18:1, and 19:1:
In those days there was no king in Israel.
The book ends highlighting this problem, just in case we missed it:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (21:25).
Note Many Sinful Decisions
Enter the book of Ruth. It’s set during the dark time of the judges:
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi (1:1–2).
God had warned that if His people didn’t keep His covenant, He would send famine and drought. But rather than repenting of his sin and trusting God for provision, Elimelech took off for Moab—the home of Israel’s arch enemy.
Keep reading: We will see God providentially use Elimelech’s sin for good.
As if that’s not enough sin, Elimelech’s two sons decide to marry Moabite women, which was another big no-no because the Moabites did not worship the one true God. But in spite of their sin, we will see God providentially use it for good.
After Elimelech and his two sons die in the land of Moab, Naomi decides she’ll just go back to Israel to starve. Her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth insists on going with her.
See How Ruth Is Not About the Marriage; It’s About the Kiddo!
Back in Israel, Ruth goes to work to provide for her mother-in-law. She gleans in Boaz’s field, who sacrifices his financial future to play the role of “kinsman redeemer,” just as God had commanded faithful Israelites to do.
After Boaz marries Ruth, they have a baby: little Obed. As soon as his birth is announced, we fast forward through his life to the day when he gives birth to a son, to “Jesse, the father of David” (4:17).
Did you catch that?!
Bernie Elliott, an elder at the local church I attend, points out, “This is like dynamite at the end of the book. God did it! God used famine, sinful decisions, and death. Through all that He still raised up what His people needed: God provided the king.”
Watch for the Sinless King
As we read on in 1 and 2 Samuel, we see that while David was a good king, he still sinned. We still need a better king—a sinless king. And this king is coming. God promises King David in 2 Samuel 7:12–13:
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (emphasis added).”
While some of this promise was partially fulfilled through David’s son Solomon, we know that this promise was ultimately pointing to King Jesus, because after about 400 years passed, there was no more king in Israel . . . and there hasn’t been since.
Rejoice at the Sinless King Provided
But check out the first verse of the New Testament:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (emphasis added).
King Jesus was born . . . in order to die . . . for the sins of Elimelech and his sons and King David and all who would put their trust in Him. Nowhere do we see more clearly that no human evil can prevent God’s great purposes—He used the crucifixion of His Son to save a people for Himself.
If you have been saved by this King, God will do the same in your life, no matter what wrongs have been done by or to you. He will ensure that all the sinful, awful decisions and acts ultimately work together for good, accomplishing His grand designs. Of this you can be sure.
This article originally appeared on Revive Our Hearts and LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Used with permission.
Paula Hendricks Marsteller no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. Instead, she blogs for teen girls and women by day and journals her adventures by night. Her first book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, released September 2013, and she lives with her hubby (yes, hubby!) in Syracuse, New York. Visit PaulaWrites.com.
Image courtesy: Pexels.com
Publication date: January 24, 2017