I had a conversation with a young man awhile ago and made the off-handed comment, “The book of Ruth doesn’t really unfold like we think it should.” Well, lo and behold, curiosity got the better of him and he went and read the book of Ruth. So recently he came back to me and said, “So, I read Ruth and I don’t understand. What did you mean?” What we talked about over coffee and bagels that morning really impacts all of us. Sometimes in life we look at what’s happening to us and we’re hurt, we’re mad, we’re bitter, we don’t understand why; in fact we’re just like Naomi and Ruth (that’s why I like the Bible so much. It tells the story of real people, with real struggles, real problems, and with major character flaws. It tells a story I can relate too).
Before we start into the details of Ruth and Naomi’s situation it’s important to understand why the book was written. If we don’t, then we won’t grasp how it relates to our lives. The book of Ruth was written to show how God was faithful and preserved the line of David which is ultimately the line of Jesus. We know this because the book ends in a genealogy. “Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” Well, eventually Jesus descends from the line of David. Through the life of a young helpless Ruth, God preserved the line of Jesus, who would bring about salvation to His people. But look at how God chose to preserve the line of Jesus. How he chose to work through Ruth and Naomi.
The book actually starts with Naomi and her family sinning. Sure it doesn’t say that, but look what they did. They leave the Promised Land, the land of the Living God, and they go to a pagan land. They leave God and His people to go find help from a people who believe in false gods. Eventually, Naomi’s husband dies, and if that weren’t bad enough, her sons eventually die too. She is left alone with no immediate descendants. She’s devastated. Things don’t make sense. She’s hurt, mad, bitter, angry, and honestly, I don’t blame her. “She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi (meaning pleasant), call me Mara (meaning bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.’” Do you hear the deep grief? She’s just like us. Well, to make a short story even shorter, Naomi eventually goes back to Israel and Ruth refuses to leave Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” It’s here I believe Ruth turns to the Living God as her savior.
So they get back home to the Promised Land, they no longer have land, and Ruth basically goes out each day as a beggar. She picks up the leftover grain from others’ fields to hopefully have enough to feed herself and Naomi. She doesn’t have a husband and she doesn’t have children. Things are fairly despondent for Ruth. Now we get the benefit of knowing the whole story. We know that Ruth eventually marries Boaz, has a child, and through that child the line of David would continue. But don’t jump the gun. As young Ruth is walking through those hot grain fields picking up leftovers, remembering her dead husband and worrying about feeding herself and Naomi, wondering if she would die a widow, she didn’t know what God was going to do. In fact, if we pause the story here things are pretty depressing. But notice, God chose to use those things that were depressing and hard to bring about good. From despair shines God’s faithfulness. God took a sinful decision to move, a foreign woman who used to worship false gods, a helpless situation with two ladies living as beggars with no children, and God brought about Jesus, the Savior of the World.
Don’t miss this fact. Naomi and Ruth never knew what was going to happen. They died not knowing that God used them to preserve the line of Jesus.
Sometimes in life we don’t know why things happen or even what’s happening. We just look at our lives and say, “This stinks.” God never promises us that He will tell us why, but He does promise us that He is in control. He does promise us that those things in life that are painful, He can use for good and for His glory. I don’t think for a moment that this will take the pain away but it does give us the long view. It gives us a heavenly perspective, knowing that our circumstances don’t determine the future. God does.
Your brother in Christ,