The book of Ruth was written in the time of the judges. When corruption and moral perversion prevailed in Israel (10th century BC), a man named Elimelech lived in Bethlehem, Judea went to Moab with his wife and two sons during the Israel famine. In Moab his sons married Moabite women and after 10 years both of his sons died. He died too.
After the death of Al-Malik and his sons, his wife Naomi, decided to return to Bethlehem so that she could live a better life there and be able to worship the true God because there was so much idolatry in Moab. His daughters in law went with her partly because of Naomi ‘s love for them, but Naomi encouraged them to return to their families because she could not promise to provide them with a husband or to provide for them financially (Ruth 1: 11-13) One of his daughters in-laws, Orpah, listened to her advice and went back to her family, but Ruth clung to Naomi. She was determined to return to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law.
Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. The barley harvest was beginning in Bethlehem. Ruth went off to the farm of a wealthy man called Boaz (who happened to be a relative of Naomi) to collect leftover grains behind the harvesters. Her aim was to make ends meet. She eventually got to know Boaz and found favour in his eyes. He looked after Ruth well because he realized how well she had served her mother-in-law. She eventually got married to Boaz as per Naomi’s guidance. They had a son called Obed.
There are a few lessons we can learn from the life of Ruth:
1. Ruth was determined to enter into an unknown adventure in her life, surrendering to God’s will and providence
It did not appear to be a humanly speaking wise decision for Ruth to stay away from her family and join her mother-in-law. As a widow in the culture of Israel of that time being away from her family could potentially make her more prone to being abused by some men or she would be neglected as a widow in the new land. But she seemed to have great peace of mind to join Naomi at this unknown journey. She was even willing to join her spiritually making her God as her own God. We can read Ruth 1: 16- 17
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. Ruth 1: 16
She surrendered herself to the true God Naomi believed in. There was something about Naomi’s God that drew Ruth to it. She by faith set her eyes on something bigger than she could see. I believe she took this journey believing that God will guide them and provide for them.
Michael and I got to know each other over 20 years ago in Iran. Michael was working for a charity assisting Afghan, Kurdish and Iraqi refugees and I was heavily involved in church ministries. After we got engaged, we rented a place and furnished it. We were hoping to get married and live in Iran for many years. We eventually managed to have our church wedding. However, the authorities did not register our marriage legally for an unknown reason. Unless our marriage was registered according to the Law of Iran, we could not live there legally. We had no choice but to leave the country.
When we registered our marriage in the Iranian embassy in UK, we happily returned to Iran but the authorities stopped Michael from entering the country and he was deported back to UK. I knocked at any possible governmental doors as I could hoping to resolve the situation, but it was all in vain. I had to join him 3 months later.
We both thought it’s a logical decision for us to live in Iran and to serve there, but like Ruth, God had a different plan for us. In our case we had to make the decision that did not seem sensible to us but we were forced to make. We had to stay in UK as a couple and start from scratch. As difficult as it was, we learnt to trust God knowing he would take care of our needs. In Ruth’s case, she made a choice to enter an unknown journey, however in our case, we were forced to make the decision. What is common in our and Ruth’s story is that both journeys initially sounded illogical humanly speaking but God’s providence and guidance was there all through the stories when both parties surrendered to God’s will.
2. Ruth used the opportunities she had in the new land to serve others, in this case her mother in law (2:2-3)
Ruth did not become negative or complain about the new condition she was facing in the new land as difficult as it might have been. It says in verses 2- 3:
Ruth said to Namoi: Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftovers grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.
She served humbly in Boaz’s filed. I believe many times she would be tempted to have regretful thoughts like: if I was in Moab, I would have an easier life next to my parents and in my home lands etc.. She was not like the Israelites that when they were in Egypt, they were complaining to Moses saying, we would have a better life and better food there, why did you bring us here? Instead of nagging about her new potentially difficult condition, she chose to serve. She was meantime aware of the talents and abilities and limitations she had as a foreigner in the land. She did what she was able to do.
Many of us here like Ruth have had to move away from our homelands for various reasons and we are in this country and in this church. Are we grateful for where we are or we keep regretting why are we in this land? Are we like Ruth aware of the talents God has given us to use in order to serve others. Do we recognize the right place God has put us to serve others. It can be this church. It can be the workplace we are at. Wherever we believe God has placed us to be at, lets take the best opportunity to serve others. sometimes focusing on others and their needs makes us less focused on our own pain. It is important not to dwell on the sad events of our lives that might hinder us from serving God and his people effectively. If we want God to open more doors of blessings in our spiritual and ministry lives, we should take the best from what we have right now!!
The bible encourages us to serve others. It says in Philippians 2:4 that we should look at the interests of others not at ours. Or in 1st Peter 4: 10 it says…..
3. Ruth highly regarded the advice of a mentor in her life who in her case was Naomi.
Naomi gave wise advice to Ruth and Ruth listened to her advice. For example, she advised Ruth that it would be good for her to remain at Boaz’s filed and work alongside other women instead of going to a different filed where it would be harmed (2: 17). Or another important piece of advice she gave to her was in regards to her marriage to Boaz. As a result of receiving wise advice from her mentor, she progressed much in her life. A spiritual mentor is someone who gives you advice and helps you to grow in your spiritual life.
4. Ruth chose to enter into an intimate relationship with her future redeemer, Boaz from which point her life was tremendously transformed.
We mentioned that Nami asked Ruth to get ready to enter a new relationship with Boaz. I will read chapter 3:1-5, 7- 8)
Ruth had to get rid of her old mourning clothes completely and had to put on new ones to enter a new phase of her life with Boaz. Later in the story, we see how Boaz was willing to get married to Ruth, but he had to act as the guardian-redeemer for Nami. Naomi’s husband had a piece of land that Naomi was going to sell. According to the law that is mentioned in Leviticus 25 to the land had to be sold to the closest relative and in response that person had to marry the widow of the household to maintain the name of the dead with his property. The problem was that there was a closer relative to Naomi than Boaz. So, Boaz approached the closest relative to Naomi and gave him the chance to buy Naomi’s land and get married to Ruth. He was happy to buy the land, but he was not willing to marry Ruth. Therefore, Boaz was the one who was entitled to redeem the land and made Ruth her bride.
In our spiritual lives, Jesus is our guardian-redeemer. He has redeemed us by the blood of Jesus. we belong to him after we give our lives to him. However, like Ruth, we have stuff that happened to us at our past. We keep going back and wearing the same stuff. God is telling us to cast off that stuff and put on who we are in him and enjoy a very intimate relationship with him. Are we willing to get rid of the effects of the past and enjoy a new and deep relationship with our Lord?
What was the outcome of Ruth’s story?
We see how God blessed Ruth’s life after marrying Boaz. And the fruit of this marriage was the birth of their son, Obed who became the grandfather of King David. Jesus was born from King David’s descendants.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the same way that God blessed the life of this poor and simple widow, he can bless our lives and makes us a blessing to others. Let’s quickly review the main points from this message:
- Bing sensitive to God’s guidance in our lives as Ruth was even if it sounds illogical humanly speaking. When we respond to God’s call, he will take care of the rest.
- Finding opportunities to serve others when we can, as it’s commanded in the bible and this is how we can forward God’s love and grace to others for which we will be accountable to God.
- Having spiritual mentors in our live. In our spiritual journey we need the help and support of others.
- Putting things of the past behind and entering a deeper and more intimate relationship with our Lord.
Boaz is introduced as Naomi’s guardian-redeemer in the book of Ruth. The Hebrew word for guardian-redeemer is a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty when needed.