In God’s sacred storybook, there is a bright spark of light shining on goodness and kindness in the book of Ruth, a story which takes about fifteen minutes to read. This book is probably one of the most favorite and noted stories. It is written during the same time as Judges and is attributed to the hand of Samuel.
The Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books. Ruth is found in one of their three sections called the Writings, the other two are Teaching (what we know as the Pentateuch) and the Prophets. The reason for the disparity in the numbering of books in the Hebrew Bible with the Christian one is because of their combining of Nehemiah and Ezra and grouping all the minor prophet books together as one. With Ruth is placed in the Writings section after Proverbs. It’s speculated that she is the Proverbs 31 woman.
Sweet, loyal Ruth is listed in the genealogy of King David and subsequently Jesus’. Ruth is the great great grandmother of David (Ru 4:16-17). According to Jewish legend, King David was born and died on the same day of the Jewish festival that is fifty days after Passover, near to the date of what Christians call Pentecost. Adherents to this read the book of Ruth on Pentecost.
The book of Ruth is about a practical life that points to Jesus as our kinsman, love, and redeemer. Boaz is the symbolic character representing Jesus (Ru 4:14 ESV), who redeems Ruth and Naomi. The themes of loyalty, love, kindness, the value of people and the need to understand one another is what stands out in this book. This story tells us that no matter how bad things may be, goodness can exist if we are willing to make an effort. It depicts Jesus’ guidance and providence (Ru 2:20).
Ruth is probably the most distinguished person of the Moab race because of this story. Ancient poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens sums up the book of Ruth:
“Behold herein a sign of our free will,
By which God wished to make us understand
The path we tread depends on us alone,
And we are free to follow either way.
Two were enjoined to flee from Sodom’s walls;
One goes with hast, the other hesitates;
Each has free will, but each diversely wills.
Each by (their) choice is drawn in opposite ways
Examples can be found in Holy Writ
Mark Ruth and Orpah of the Moab race!
One follows Naomi with trusting love,
The other leaves her. Then no longer bound
By wedlock and the Hebrew marriage rites,
They now were free, but Orpah’s ancient faith
Led her to choose a Gentile mate and rear
The stock from which the fierce Goliath sprang.
Ruth, gleaning in the sunny fields, the hand of Boaz won
And in a wedlock chaste
Brought forth the race of Christ, King David’s line
And linked her mortal progeny with God.”
I come from a military family background, and currently, one of my daughters is married to an Army officer. Ruth ’s declaration of devotion is part of my daughter’s mantra:.
“…Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay…” (Ru 1:16). My daughter has learned, like a perennial, to bloom then rebloom where she lands what with is assignments. It’s not because of luck as is so often attributed to by people when things turn out well. It’s because of her hard work and sacrifice.
The sacrifices a military family endures with the endless moves, separations, and deployments particularly when raising children is hard. My daughter and her family facing three overseas military deployments (a few less than a year but still to combat zones) during their first six years of marriage brought many back memories for me except my separations were due to his travels from work demands. Missionary Jim Elliot was killed while in ministry with a remote American tribe. His wife was with him. She, Elisabeth Elliot said, “The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be.”
This same daughter began her own life when her father’s work took him away from home for long periods. Ironically the same thing occurred to her during her high school years when not only did her father’s traveling increase but all her older sibs at this point were off in college or on military assignments. It was just she and me at home. She would joke about who was going to clean the house now that everyone was gone. I said we would get outside help. She then said for me not to worry about me becoming bored what with the other kids gone; she would keep me busy. I told her thanks but no thanks I had a life.
Many aspects in each of our lives shape us as we grow up. There are our education level and our health in developing our social makeup. If one person in the relationship is not as educated or has health issues that the other doesn’t have it takes adjustment. Or perhaps one is more traveled, having more experiences/exposure to different cultures than the other can also have an impact. Social interests could be different such as one prefers active outdoor pursuits and the other not so much. Another dimension needs to be taken into account, like spiritual beliefs. I group these kinds of things under being equally yoked. As my kids approached their marriages, I tried to help them consider these things about their future spouse to consider these differing circumstances beforehand as they will eventually surface in their marriages. I have observed that being when both partners are in the same spiritual circle (and good ongoing communication), it trumps all of these considerations.
As the 1960’s pop song “I got you Babe” goes “They say our love won’t pay the rent. Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent. I guess that’s, so we don’t have a plot. But at least I’m sure of all the things we got.” That could describe the start of my other daughter’s marriage. It is a pure testimony when love, believing in one another, and being in the same spiritual circle can carry a relationship through the hard times. They got married before things (completed education, economic means, even a job) were in place. As parents, we voiced our concern about not being able to support themselves, but they were determined and of legal age. It wasn’t the best of marriage celebration sendoff as I would have wanted for her from me. I think as parents we may have counseled with their officiating pastor more than they did. Then a baby was conceived at the end of that first year. Through their commitment and determination, all our fears were for naught. They look to have won the hard win with their marriage commitment and determination now over 13 years.
I had a concern (minor in the scheme of things) on how one daughter would adapt with common health issues (food allergies and asthma) that my bonus son has but not one ever associated with my family. My biological kids are a healthy bunch, so these issues didn’t surface while they were growing up. She adjusted what she cooked, and they adapted their lifestyles find a region to live more conducive to the enhanced proclivity of his health. Her example serves as a testimony of fulfilling her vows of “in sickness and in health.” It is disappointing and sad when one partner in a marriage is not able to handle that marital mandate and they leave (or run away).
In the book of Ruth, God shows He is not beyond making Himself intimately available in what may seem the small thing in ordinary lives compared to the big moments of history. God has the power to turn desperate situations around and use them for good.