People Of The Bible: Ruth

To see the figure of a sweet young woman working in a fresh barley field one sunny April morning outside Bethlehem in Israel, you might not think anything was wrong. But such an assumption could not be further from the truth.

Ruth's situation was difficult. She was gleaning in the field because she was poor, and she had no other source of support for herself and her mother-in-law Naomi who was originally from Bethlehem, but her family had moved to the foreign country of Moab years before. Ruth, a Moabitess, had married one of Naomi's sons. And then tragedy struck. All of the men in the family died, and the two women were left alone. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem.

Ruth had to make a crucial decision. In a moving demonstration of loyalty, Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi - even though it meant being a stranger in someone else's land. Ruth said, ". . . Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16). Her act was so remarkable that the story of her love and newfound faith in God traveled throughout Bethlehem. But all Ruth could do was take life one day at a time and trust God to meet their needs.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? You have no options, no freedom, no money, no power, and no resources to take care of yourself. Maybe you feel so alone you don't know where to go for help. It may seem hard to believe, but this is actually a positive place to be. Why? When you cannot help yourself, you are receptive to God's help. Ruth could do nothing to change her circumstances; she needed a deliverer, a savior, with nothing to offer in return.

What Ruth did not know was the field in which she was picking up barley belonged to a wealthy man named Boaz, who noticed her hard at work. He approached and graciously offered her a safe haven on his property, complete with all the food and water she desired.

You can imagine how stunned Ruth was. She was of less standing than one of his servant girls, and yet he had been kind. When she expressed her gratitude, Boaz responded: "May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (2:12). What Boaz did not know was that he was about to become the living representation of God's salvation, Ruth's kinsman redeemer.

According to Jewish law, when a woman's husband died, the closest male relative had the right and obligation to marry her and assume her late husband's name and property. Naomi knew Boaz was her next-of-kin. She gave Ruth careful instructions about how to approach him as her legal kinsman redeemer.

Can you sense God's good plan at work? Did you know that God is doing the same thing for you? Ruth could never have arranged such circumstances. What may seem senseless or hopeless is actually a part of the outworking of God's purpose for you. You cannot see the whole picture yet, just like Ruth, but you can wait in anticipation for His goodness to be revealed.

When Ruth in obedience laid herself at the feet of Boaz that night on the threshing floor, she asked him to spread the covering of his cloak over her, an act that signified his pledge of protection. He said to her, "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you what you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence" (3:11). The next morning, Boaz went to the city gate before the elders to settle all legal matters regarding his marriage to her.

Ruth was saved by her kinsman-redeemer. All the townspeople rejoiced with them in God's provision. They said: "May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your [Boaz's] home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel" (4:11). To Naomi, who also received a blessing through Boaz, the women said: "Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel."

And that is precisely what God had in mind. Ruth was the mother of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the father of King David. Do you remember what special child would one day be born in the line of David in that same city of Bethlehem? That's right - Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the world.

The story of Ruth teaches many things, especially the value of trusting God for your circumstances. But the story of Ruth is also a picture of God's redemptive love for you in Jesus Christ. Ruth was mighty in Spirit because she trusted in God for His redemption. The character of Boaz is a representation of Christ, the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer.

Isaiah 59:20 says: "'A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,' declares the Lord." The word "Redeemer" here is a translation of the Hebrew word for kinsman-redeemer, the one used in the book of Ruth.

Is the Redeemer born in Bethlehem your personal Savior? It's not enough to simply recognize that He exists. You must humble yourself at His feet, as Ruth did, and ask Him to be your Redeemer. When you do, He embraces you forever.

Copyright © 1997 DecemberIN TOUCH magazine
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