So I don’t have a great story today, just thoughts on what I have learned from Ruth, and I mean the book of Ruth in the Bible.
My daughter, Olivia, is really into Disney movies. Her favorites are Frozen, Frozen II, and recently Tangled. Now Disney movies are famous for the “happily ever after” themes. And granted, although the Frozen movies have more to do with the relationship between 2 sisters, Anna still gets a great guy at the end.
And I think in our culture, we are engrained to want the fairy tale/happy ending. We want the blessing, and want to be blessed. We want everything to work out in the end.
Do we desire God? Or do we just desire His blessing?
And I have to wonder that when considering how this coincides with our faith, if we desire God, because He is God, or because we want Him to favor us, and we want Him to bless us? We want Him to give us that fairy tale needing?
Is it possible that we are obedient because we want the blessings, and not solely because He is God?
In thinking of “happily ever after” stories, I can quickly be reminded of Ruth. She got Boaz in the end. She was blessed and got the blessings.
Ruth had no certainties in life, but as God would have it, Boaz took notice of Ruth and became her husband, and they are part of Jesus’ lineage.
But I have to wonder, would Ruth’s story be as impactful if she didn’t get the guy in the end? If she wasn’t part of Jesus’ lineage? Would her story matter as much, if what we know of her ended in her famous commitment to Naomi?
Don’t urge me to leave you or turn my back on 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.
Or when Ruth and Naomi get to Bethlehem and the whole town stirs about them, and she provided for them by gathering the grain missed by the reapers?
Would her story still matter? Would her story still be as impactful if that is the last we hear of her?
What would be so great about Ruth?
Here is what I have been considering lately, on the life of Ruth. It has less to do with what happened when she met Boaz, and more to do with who she is.
Ruth didn’t turn her back on Naomi, even as Naomi tried to let her go.
Ruth demonstrated agape love. This is the type of love that Jesus talks about. It is a love that is rare to see, and rare to find. It is the type of love that when you find it, you don’t want to let it go, and the type of love that would lay down a life for a friend. This is the type of love that wouldn’t forsake a friend, even when a friend believed that God had forsaken her.
But Naomi heard that the Lord had come to the aid of His people, so even though she believed His hand of protection had been removed from her, she had to have had enough faith that He would still somehow provide.
And He did. And one of the things He provided was the unexpected. A friend, a sister who wasn’t going to turn her back on her.
Ruth took refuge under the shelter of the wings of the God of Israel.
When I first read verse 2:12, I wondered what it would look like to “take refuge under His wings”. My only thought was that it looks like trust. Trusting in the God of Israel. And it is funny that was my thought, because of the Hebrew translation of “under whose wings you have come to seek refuge”. The Hebrew word for “to seek” is chacah, which means “to seek refuge, flee for protection”, but further translation means “to put trust in God”.
So this statement holds a lot of weight because when Ruth decided to return to Bethlehem with Naomi, there was no promise of protection there. As a foreigner Ruth would be at a great disadvantage. But Ruth had also heard that the Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them, and that is why Naomi had prepared to return to her land in the first place. Ruth could have returned to “her people” and “her gods”, like Naomi had urged. But even with the odds against her, Ruth trusted in Naomi’s God, even though Naomi believed He had removed His hand of protection from her life.
I learned that Ruth didn’t do what was popular, she did what was right.
Ruth didn’t have a ton of options in how to provide for her and Naomi. She could have sold herself into slavery, begged, become a prostitute, or during the short harvesting window, she could glean. I am going to take a wild guess (maybe not so wild) that the first 3 weren’t even options for her. So Ruth basically asks Naomi to let her go the fields to glean the leftover grains missed by the reapers.
And I have to wonder why she asked Naomi’s permission to do this. This was a system established in the Law of Moses, and I am sure that Naomi would have known about it (I mean maybe she didn’t, but I assume she did because the Law of Moses was recorded in Deuteronomy which was written like 300 years before the book of Ruth). It is written that when someone is harvesting grain and forgets a bundle, they are instructed to not go back and get it, but instead to leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows (Deuteronomy 24:19). God commanded this because they were once slaves in Egypt. It seemed to be partly set as a reminder to them that God had redeemed them, but it also provided honest work for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.
Naomi was a widow, and Ruth was a foreigner. So why wouldn’t Naomi have just told Ruth to do it? With no family, Ruth was in a vulnerable state. She didn’t have male relatives to protect her, and my best guess is that Naomi was worried that this would put Ruth at risk of being taken advantage of. Yet, despite what could happen, she trusted that God would be her shelter.
I learned that the best thing about Ruth is not her happy ending.
My favorite thing about Ruth is that if you walked past her on the street you probably wouldn’t notice her. Your eyes probably wouldn’t be drawn to her. She probably didn’t try to draw attention to herself, but honestly probably away from herself. However, if you looked at her you would notice who she really is. You would notice her pure heart. A heart that was more concerned about Naomi, than she was about her own self. She demonstrated agape love, despite the uncertainties. She sought shelter under the wings of the God of Israel. Out of all of her options, she chose the most honorable one, the one that was right in the eyes of God, the option that was put in place by God, Himself.
What I learned from Ruth.
So I am going to end with a few questions that I asked above. And I really want us to reflect on these questions, and do a heart check. These can be tough questions to reflect on honestly. But ones I know are important to show us the condition of our hearts. So here we go:
•Are we more concerned with ourselves or the good of others?
•Do we desire God, because He is God, or because we want Him to favor us, and bless us?
•Is your obedience dependent on the blessing, or solely out of trust in Him?
•Out of all the options this world has to offer, are we going to choose the option that that will get us ahead the quickest, or the one that is right in the eyes of God?