What Can We Learn from Ruth?
- Heidi Vegh Contributing Writer
- Updated Jan 28, 2022
The name Ruth means "companion, friend, woman of beauty," but it can also mean "a feeling of pity, distress of grief." As we will learn as we begin to study Ruth, she lives up to all these meanings. Ruth was an extraordinary woman in the Bible. So much so that she has her own book in the Bible, right between Judges and 1 Samuel. Ruth lived in the time of the judges when everyone did as they saw fit (Judges 17:6, 21:25), similar to our culture today.
In the dark days of the Judges, there was strong oppression on the land of Israel. There was a severe famine, and Naomi and Elimelech made the difficult decision to move their family, including their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. When they arrived in Moab, their sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. This was looked down upon as friendly relations with Moabites were discouraged.
After ten years, the Moab also experienced a great famine. Elimelech died, and then later, both of Naomi's sons died, leaving her widowed and childless. She decided to go back to Israel to be with her people.
She heard that God had shown favor on Israel's land and that they were no longer in a famine. She packed up her things, and both of her daughters-in-law began to follow her. While on the road, she told the girls not to follow her but to stay with their own people. Orpah decided to stay in her own land, but Ruth insisted that she go with Naomi. Naomi had shown such love and compassion to Ruth. Ruth desired to go with Naomi and make her home her own "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 anything but death separates you and me (Ruth 1:16-17)
After arriving in Israel, the two women struggled to survive, and Naomi urged Ruth to find work gleaning in the fields. Ruth began working the field and gleaning the wheat, which was essentially picking up the leftovers after the wheat had been harvested. She began working in the field of a man named Boaz, who turned out to be a relative on Elimelech's side who had the power to redeem their family. Boaz took a liking to Ruth and began to bless her with extra work and extra grain. He didn't want her to work in any other field. She found favor in his eyes because of her commitment to her mother-in-law.
After some time, Naomi encouraged Ruth to pursue Boaz, and in time the two fell in love. In this culture, when a man dies, leaving a widow, his next of kin can redeem the family. In this case, Boaz was not the next of kin to Naomi's late husband Elimelech but was able to usurp the man who was. The man gave Boaz his shoe, representing his release of the family. Boaz and Ruth married and gave birth to a son, Oman. Oman became father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David, thus starting the lineage to Jesus!
Ruth's willingness to cling to Naomi and call Naomi's God her own was all in God's plan to redeem humanity. The story of Ruth is rich with meaning and guidance for our lives. So, what can we learn from her?
1. Don't get caught up in the familiar
A widow in this ancient culture was the worst status you could have. Widows were ignored and taken advantage of. They were usually poor and could not support themselves. Naomi didn't have any close relatives to care for her, so she decided to go home. Ruth could have stayed behind in Moab, where it was comfortable. But she decided to stretch herself and climb out of her comfort zone. She was committed to taking care of Naomi. Ruth didn't let the familiarity of her home stop her from her commitment. When we move out in God's will, even if it's uncomfortable, we allow space for God to do a mighty work if only we are willing.
2. God can always bring blessings out of hardship
We can see the redemptive power of God in Ruth's story. She was widowed and in an unfamiliar place. Her future was bleak. She chose to trust in Naomi's God, and He came through for her. She remarried and had a son. New life blossomed and not only blessed Ruth but also blessed Naomi. When we trust in the Lord as we walk through difficulty, we can trust that He is in control. He promises in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. If we love God and are willing to look for the blessings in trials, God will always do what he promises.
3. We, as Christians, should be Standing Out for Jesus
Ruth showed great integrity through her loyalty to Naomi, leaving everything she had ever known and through her laborious work gleaning in the fields. God's faithfulness and kindness toward us should encourage us to show integrity in all we do. Ruth lived in contrast to her culture, and so should we. We live in a world where following God is not popular and is portrayed as a weakness. We need to stand up for the Lord and live in a way that shines brighter than anything in the world. Our lives should stand out for Jesus, going against the cultural norms.
4. Kindness leads people to Jesus
Both Ruth and Boaz are excellent examples of what it looks like to put others before ourselves. Ruth sacrificed her entire future for the well-being of Naomi. She left everything she had ever known to stand by her side and fulfill her commitment to the family. Boaz showed great kindness to all people. He was always willing to help and never complained. Boaz eventually bought back the land that belonged to Naomi's husband and, in doing so, guaranteed Ruth and Naomi's inheritance. This is a perfect picture of Christ showing kindness to us by sacrificing His life so that we may live in eternity with Him. The compassion that God has shown us should press us to love and honor Him with our lives.
5. Contentment No Matter what
Ruth portrays a life lived for the Lord, despite her circumstances. She held her head high and didn't let her difficult circumstances shift her trust in God. Often, we feel like our joy, or lack thereof, is determined by what is going on in our lives. If we are going through something difficult, we feel down and unhappy, but when things are looking good, we walk taller and have a smile on our faces. Paul reminds us in Philippians that we can have joy and contentment despite our circumstances. Remember that people are watching us and when we stand firm in Jesus when we experience hardship that shines bright for all who are watching us.
"I have learned the secret of being content in any and all situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12
Let's remember Ruth's dedication to Naomi and the Lord. She is a woman to be admired, and we would do well to follow her example.
Heidi Vegh is a writer, speaker, and ministry leader living in Gig Harbor, WA. She is a remarried mother of four, navigating the blended family life after the loss of her first husband to cancer in 2013. She longs to use her writing as a way to encourage others who have experienced loss and guide them on the road to healing. She contributes to her blog found at www.mrsheidivegh.com , sharing stories and devotionals of faith stemming from her loss and healing, mothering, and her blended and complex family. She graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a degree in Creative Writing and English and is working on her first book. Heidi is the Women’s Ministry Director at Gig Harbor Foursquare and has a deep heart for sharing Jesus with women and encouraging them in their faith walk. When she is not writing she loves to travel, read, craft, and experiment in the kitchen. Visit her Facebook and Instagram (@mrsheidivegh) to learn more.
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