The Story of Ruth

This has been called one of the loveliest stories in Hebrew history. We must remember that this was also the dark ages of Hebrew history. In Judges 17:6 it says “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Therefore, it would be dangerous for two women with no protection to be travelling to such a place.  But there was at least one man living there who was good and honourable. He did what was right in the eyes of the law of Moses – his name was Boaz.  However, he is not the only hero in this story and it is not difficult to realize who is the real hero. Before I go into this story, I would like to share a relevant story of devotion and commitment. 

It was based on Mount Helvellyn in the North of England Lake District.  I am going to use the words that the travel industry and travel planners use to describe this place – ‘an area of outstanding natural beauty’.  I have been to the Lake District quite a few times and enjoyed the walks in the valley, the lakeside and bed and breakfast in the surrounding villages but have never climbed a mountain. One of the big favourites is Mount Helvellyn – this is the third highest mountain in the area.  Because it is so popular with hikers it is climbed every day to the peak by a team to assess the walking, hiking, climbing conditions on the mountain.  This is posted into a report which can be accessed by anyone wanting to venture up.  If you ask them why they do this, they will say, “because we are devoted to climbing the mountain and helping people to stay safe”. Pastor Dave used another word to describe this mountain and that was commitment. So, this mountain speaks of devotion and commitment.

These two words, devotion and commitment can be used to describe Ruth’s attitude to her mother-in-law. Boaz himself said so.  In chapter 2:10-11 Ruth says “why have I found favour in your eyes that you would take notice of me since I am a foreigner.”  Boaz answered and said to her “it has been fully reported to me of all that you have done for your mother-in-law Naomi, since the death of your husband and how you have left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to a land and people that you did not know before”. In chapter 3:10-11 Boaz said to Ruth “blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter for you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning in that you did not go after young men whether poor or rich, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman”

Going in the right direction

Last month Pastor Jess spoke on Israel in the wilderness who insisted on facing the wrong way and for them it was going back to Egypt.  Ruth could have turned and gone back to her homeland.  Naomi insisted on it to no avail. Her sister-in-law did return, back to familiar things, her own people, her own things, her own god. Then we have those most famous words of Ruth in chapter 1:16-17 – “entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you, for where you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God. Where you die, I will die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me if anything but death shall part you and me”.  Where was she going – she did not know? This is how God leads. The Bible says about Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.

The space shuttle guidance system only kicked in when it was several miles up in space.  “So, what is the point you ask”? As long as a space shuttle was on the launch pad it did not need guidance.  This means that we ourselves have to get off the launching pad and make a move for God to guide us. God says “you will hear from me once you make a move as to what I have put before you”. Just like your car’s headlights show you the corner or hill ahead, it does not show you what is round the corner or over the next hill until you get there.  That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7 we walk by faith and not by sight. Ruth could have used Paul’s words from Philippians 3:13 – forgetting those things which are behind I reach forward to those things which are ahead.  But of course, Ruth did not have the same revelation which Paul had.  Elbert Hubbard wrote: a retentive memory may be a good thing but the ability to forget is the mark of greatness.  Successful people forget – they cannot afford to look behind.

Arrival in Bethlehem

In Ruth 1:19, now the two of them, Naomi and Ruth, went up until they came to Bethlehem. It happened that when they came, all the people of the city were excited because of them and the women said “is this Naomi?”. So, she said to them “do not call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord has brought me home empty, why do you call me Naomi since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me.”  

So maybe travelling with Naomi was not easy for Ruth but she loved her and was committed to her.  

Naomi felt like a loser, she said so herself, but she was only looking at the lower story. Jacob felt that way in Genesis 42:36 when he says to his sons, “you have bereaved me of my children – Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more and you want to take Benjamin away – all these things are against me”. Jacob was looking at the lower story not realizing that actually things were working out for him.  This is the upper story. So, in our story of Ruth, things were working out for Naomi, even though she did not realize it. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the thoughts I have towards you says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

Nothing shocks God or catches him off guard in our lives. That is because God always has a plan and He has one for your life too. At the end of this story, Ruth marries Boaz and has a son. Ruth 4:14 says the women in Bethlehem said to Naomi, “blessed be the Lord who has not left you this day without a near kinsman and may his name be famous in Israel and may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher to you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law is better to you than seven sons”.  This is how much of a blessing Ruth was to Naomi. So, today remember that God always has a plan for us, so be encouraged.

We have a long way to go in ‘The Story’ – please join us in Church downtown or at one of our campuses.