I did not think about this in my planning process, but I love the fact that as we begin our last three days studying an Old Testament woman, we will end up in Bethlehem: the hometown of Sarah and the setting for most of the events we’ve studied with Ruth and Naomi. But Bethlehem is also the place where a young woman and her promised husband travelled and delivered a baby that would one day save the world.
Don’t you love how God’s word does that? All of these beautiful ribbons of connection, woven together to form the story of Christ.
In days 13, 14, and 15, we’ll be reviewing the same book as days 10, 11, and 12, but observing a second, different woman named Ruth.
First, what do you remember about the character of Ruth from Days 10, 11, and 12?
What can you remember about Ruth’s birthplace, Moab?
Let’s review by reading Ruth 1:1-5.
A few things we know: Ruth was first known as a Moabite, but we also know her to be a risk-taker in that she married a foreign man. Upon her marriage, it would have been custom to claim his religion and God and to leave behind all the religious activities and practices of her childhood. Let’s not forget to give her husband, Mahlon a little credit, too. He chose Ruth, and he saw something special in her. Moabite people were long-term enemies of the Israelites, and while it wasn’t forbidden to marry Moabite women, it wasn’t exactly encouraged, either.
Ruth’s name means friendship, which we already know to be fitting. She formed a bond of friendship with her in-laws that changed her entire life. The cultural faith conversion Ruth wasn’t just for show. As we see in verses 1:14-18, Ruth clings to her mother-in-law rather than returning to the family Naomi mentioned she had. She chose to leave all that she knew and begin life again, but as a widow in a foreign land.
I wonder what her relationship with her family was like. We know that she believed in the God of her in-laws, but what about Ruth’s own family? When Mahlon died, Ruth would have had the right to go back to living with them. We remember that Naomi encouraged her to do so (1:8). While her sister in-law, Orpah, went back to what was familiar (1:14), Ruth did not. She chose the hard and narrow path.
Maybe it wasn’t about Ruth’s biological family at all, or maybe it was all about her family.
Ruth intentionally chose a hard life, with no prospects for re-marriage, status, or financial security. Her family was alive and well, just down the road, but Ruth chose Naomi, and Naomi’s God. Her incredible speech to Naomi in verses 1:16-17 was spoken to only one, yet has now been heard around the world.
Her loyalty and strength blow me away, but there are still a couple questions sitting on my heart today:
Could Naomi provide a relationship that Ruth’s own mother couldn't?
Is it possible Ruth was desperately hoping to have the mother-daughter bond that perhaps she hadn't yet known?
Was Naomi able to see and recognize this?
We may never know. I am so hoping that in Heaven, Ruth is available for coffee. That would be amazing.
Returning to the text: in verses 1:18-22, Naomi and Ruth travel a little over 60 miles to Bethlehem, and make some kind of entrance. We’ve already discussed how hard it must’ve been for Naomi to return to the place she left when she was still a mother and wife. But what about Ruth? She came quietly, and in the background. She came with grief, too—but these strangers couldn’t offer her the support an old friend or family member could. She came unknown, yet labeled: ‘foreign widow, connected to Naomi.’
This quote from A.W. Tozer wasn’t written about Ruth, but I think it describes her pretty perfectly:
“No matter how insignificant he may have been before, a man becomes significant the moment he has an encounter with the Son of God. When the Lord lays his hand upon a man, that man ceases at once to be ordinary. He immediately becomes extraordinary, and his life takes on cosmic significance... Though the man had before been only one of the faceless multitude... he now gets a face and a name and a place in the scheme of meaningful things. Christ knows his own sheep by name.”
Ruth may have entered Bethlehem unknown, yet labeled, but we are already sure that she did not end up that way. However, Ruth met Mahlon, and the two fell in love, she was seen by a Christian man, and picked-out by both him and his God. Her insignificant life before was gone, and as a new Christian, she began a very significant future.
How does this quote apply to what you already know about Ruth?
How does this quote also apply to you and your personal walk with the Lord?
We may not know the specifics about the ‘significant encounter with God’ that gave Ruth eternal significance, but it was real. Her God-inspired actions show us many things: loyalty, work ethic, and bravery.
When Ruth went out to glean in verse 2:2, she was taking a risk and stepping out in faith. Even though it was custom for the poor to glean as a type of ‘welfare’ system, it was also common for the singled-out women to be taken advantage of or turned away by the servants harvesting. Yet we see her proceed with her plan.
What does Ruth say to Naomi in 2:2?
So she works hard in one particular field for an entire day, and low-and-behold, who shows up as the field owner? Boaz. A man of status, reputation, and place in the community. He also happens to be somehow related to Elimelech, Mahlon’s deceased father.
Somewhat of a spoiler alert—but, in verse 4:21, who is listed as Boaz’s father?
What Salmon could we be talking about other than Rahab’s husband?! I absolutely love this. Even though sometimes in genealogy listings a generation or two could have been omitted, it’s definitely clear that Boaz was Rahab’s son or grandson. Seriously though, how cool?
Ribbons of connection, y’all.
This family connection meant that Boaz was familiar with risk-takers. He would have heard the stories of his mother’s past, and how his father took a risk on her. How God had come and rescued Rahab from a dangerous life.
How romantic to be a man taking notice of a risk-taking, hard-working foreigner, who claims the same all-knowing God as you do.
Ruth was unknown, but walking in faith and working hard to provide for Naomi and herself. In her place of humble submission to God and Naomi, is exactly when she is noticed by Boaz.
This line by Desiring God co-founder Jon Bloom, is so good: “Other men might have simply seen a foreign woman scrounging for food, like a parasite. But Boaz saw something familiar and dear in a woman who had left her family, her nation, and her gods, to embrace Naomi, her nation, and her God… It seems Boaz was uniquely prepared by God for Ruth and Ruth for Boaz.”
As Ruth and Boaz meet, his kindness to her is unmistakable. He isn’t forward—but he is very purposeful in his actions. Boaz makes it clear that her reputation has preceded her, and he finds it admirable. Maybe, at first, he is looking out for someone that reminds him of his own family’s foreigner, and wants to do for Ruth what was done for Rahab.
Ruth humbly and gratefully accepts Boaz’s instruction. This would have been a huge blessing from God to meet the field owner, and for him to give you clear direction of where to glean, and a promise of safety. Yet that doesn’t mean she could sit back and take a load off, girlfriend would have still been doing back-breaking work all day everyday to provide for herself and Naomi.
It wasn’t easy, but Ruth wasn’t called to easy. Neither are we. We are called to obey, to be humble, and often to be brave like Ruth, too.
- In the midst of her grief, what does Ruth do?
- Do you think Ruth had any packages? If yes, what were they?
- Is God calling you to step out in bravery? How can we trust God in these type of scenarios?
Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen