I feel like there are a few stories in the bible that we know of, because we've heard references to it over and over again, even though we may not personally have read the entire book in detail. For me the book of Ruth was one of those. I often heard of the friendship between Ruth and Naomi, and of course people constantly make reference to getting a good husband like Boaz! So I decided to find out the exact facts for myself and read the entire book of Ruth, which I now absolutely love and just had to share!
First off, am I the only one who still doesn't know the order of the biblical books. I still always have to use the table of contents.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had just four chapters. The key characters are Ruth, Naomi and Boaz and the central setting is Moab, Bethlehem. The book is believed to have been in the years 1375 - 1050 BC.
Essentially, Naomi was a widow (her husband had been Elimelech) who had two sons Mahlon and Kilion - married to Orpha and Ruth. Sadly, both sons later died. Orpha returned to her family and the story talks about Ruth's devotion and loyalty to Naomi and their eventual relationship with Boaz whom Ruth later married.
Ok on to the lessons.
1. Some mothers-in- law are the real deal:
My husband stumbled on my draft notes on this and perhaps he couldn't clearly read my hand writing and he said "some mother in laws are awful"? Only God knows what he was thinking at that moment. Fret not. I had actually written awesome.
In today's world the fear of the monster mother in law is real. But we see from Ruth and Naomi's relationship that genuine friendship (ok ok at the worst a cordial relationship) can exist. Naomi offered both her daughters-in-law the opportunity to go back to their family rather than remain stuck with her. Ruth refused to go back to her family choosing to stick it out with Naomi for good or for bad, and until death! (Ehm quite deep eh?).
In verse 16 She says:
Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Wherever you die I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us.
In return Naomi loves Ruth so much that she happily gives her tips on her relationship with Boaz! I mean, helping your daughter-in-law to get married to another man! See chapter 3 for all the juicy details. There's so much to say about their relationship. Their ages, background and cultures were different. And of course being mother-in-law and daughter-in-law was the perfect breeding ground for friction and tension. But theirs was the complete opposite and Ruth even came to learn of the God of Israel through Naomi!
2. The Need for Social Welfare Programmes:
In Chapter 2:2, Ruth says to Naomi - 'Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalls of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it'.
For a bit of back ground, Naomi and Ruth were poor. And with their husbands gone you can imagine their hardship. In verse 20, Naomi laments that the Lord has made life very bitter for her, and she sort of changed her name from Naomi which meant 'pleasant' to Mara which meant 'bitter'.
So basically, they had to find food how they could. And this system of social welfare allowed for that. The laws of Israel demanded that when harvesters had to harvest the wheat and barley, the corners of the fields were not to be harvested. And any grain dropped to the floor was to be left for poor people who picked it up. This was called gleaning and so Ruth went into the field to glean the grain.
Doesn't this make you think? The poor will always be around us, and there will always be social classes. But do we make an effort to contribute to their welfare? How can we do better? Donate clothes, money, food, time?
3. A Positive Attitude to Menial Tasks!
I don't know about you, but I'm very much a bigger picture kind of person. Which is great. But the consequence of that, is that I dislike menial tasks or administrative boring matters. In an examination, I want to write up all my answers and don't want to proof read for any errors . I love to cook, but would rather not clean up. I want to organise an event but would rather not deal with administrative filling of forms and excel spreadsheets. I just want to jump to the main thing. And this is one area, I've been called to check myself. Because we must first be faithful in little things for us to be faithful in larger things.
Ruth's attitude to the menial task of harvesting grains made Boaz notice her, and opened the door of opportunity - that eventually led to their marriage. The task may have been degrading for Ruth but she did it faithfully, and because of this we can see the larger purpose. In case you didn't know, Ruth went on to have a son with Boaz - named Obed. Now Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of David. And we all know how Jesus is from the line of David.
So in our everyday life when we find ourselves stuck at a task seemingly beneath us or what we would rather not do, let the story of Ruth inspire us!
4. Can we have Boaz-like Men?
I know. This was written about 3000 or more ago. But there were horrible men then too. And yet, Boaz stood out. He was kind to Ruth and Naomi - allowing them to glean his field, and even going the extra mile. He demonstrated a high level of responsibility choosing to marry Ruth and take care of Naomi when he realised he was their closest relative. And he chose to do this the right way, (Chapter 4) also oblivious to the fact that he would become an ancestor of Jesus! There's definitely so much the men of today can learn from him.
In all, I think it's such a beautiful story. Of friendship and God's faithfulness! And there are so many lessons to be learnt. Plus who doesn't love a good romance story!
Oh can I just chip in how God can absolutely use anyone irrespective of your past? FYI - Ruth was a descendant of Rahab the prostitute. Look how the tables turned and she became the ancestor of Jesus!
What are your thoughts on the book of Ruth? Please share with us!
pS: Pentheraphobia is the fear of your mother-in-law! Do you have this phobia? What sort of relationship do you have with your mother-in-law or what sort do you hope to have in future?
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