She was the royal great-grandmother of King David. But it was not always that way.
Ruth’s beginnings are pretty rough. Her husband is the son of Elimelech and Naomi, who moved their family out of Jerusalem to Moab during a famine around 1100BC. Shortly after, Elimelech dies leaving Naomi and their two sons alone in an unfamiliar and less than friendly land. Moab lies in a mountainous strip along the eastern shore of the Red Sea. And historically, the Moabites and Israelites are not fond of each other, which makes the union between a love struck Moabite woman and an Israeli man all the more uncommon.
But, to make matters worse, both of Naomi’s sons die, leaving only Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to fend for themselves.
No husbands. No male heirs. Being a widow without any sons to take care of her is hard on a woman in this patriarchal era. There are no hand outs. No welfare. No government subsidies. No food stamps. They’re completely on their own for survival.
Naomi announces she is moving back to the homeland. One daughter-in-law decides to stay put and take her chances of snagging another husband. But Ruth decides to roll the dice and accompany her MIL back to Judah.
They arrive in Judah without a penny to their name. Ruth searches a field gathering food that has fallen on the ground after the harvest. Jewish law prohibits farmers from picking up food that has fallen to the ground while they’re harvesting. This practice allows the poor to gather the leftovers so they can help feed their families. This field belongs to a Jewish man named Boaz, who is a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Coincidence or Providence. You can decide that on your own.
Ruth continues to *glean* the harvested fields and through some very skilled maneuvering on Naomi and Ruth’s part, Boaz notices Ruth. He is kind to her and allows her to *work* the field while providing water and the occasional roasted grain for her and Naomi. Further maneuvering results in Boaz taking a deeper interest in Ruth. Naomi sees an opportunity and encourages Ruth to seduce Boaz in an attempt to secure their future through becoming pregnant.
But Ruth wants more than just a fling. At just the right moment, she opts for a more permanent arrangement and proposes marriage to Boaz. Who accepts. They have a son who they name Obed. And Obed grows up strong and wise….marries and has a son named Jesse…who has a whole bunch of children, of which one eventually becomes the person we know as King David. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But why is Ruth so instrumental?
Ruth bucks tradition and takes risks throughout her life.
1. Instead of staying in Moab, she was loyal and chooses to relocate to a foreign land with Naomi…risking her security for a very uncertain future.
2. She adopts the Jewish faith and, in turn, becomes instrumental in helping Naomi overcome some major faith obstacles. Naomi probably felt abandoned by God after being relocated and losing her husband and sons. She fell away from her faith and felt God was not trustworthy in his promises. Ruth helped her overcome her bitterness.
3. She humbles herself and takes a lower social status by becoming a gleaner in another person’s field….taking what food is left behind on the ground. I’m sure Ruth felt she was better than this, but swallowed her her pride and did what needed to be done.
4. She walks away from Naomi’s more common *seduction for security* idea and opts to take the high-character road to success. There’s a difference between humbling and demeaning oneself to do what needs to be done. Ruth went against all cultural traditions and took a risk with her future….keeping an optimistic attitude that things would turn out for the best. And she is blessed for her noble character.
Ruth is one of only five women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus that we find in Matthew. Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary are the only other women listed in a predominantly male listing. All are noteworthy because of their faith and trust in God…not their social standing, accomplishments or, sometimes, questionable past.
God blesses us every day through ordinary situations and people. And through those ordinary situations and people, extraordinary things can happen….if we take the risk and have faith. If we learn faithfulness in the everyday, mundane events, we are more likely to keep faith during times of crisis.