Today we are going to look at the life of Ruth; how she showed love, how love was shown to her, and how God has shown his love to us through her life. It’s a lot to take in, but it is so worth it!
We start out with Naomi. She, her husband, and two sons left Bethlehem because of a famine. They went to a country called Moab. This was not a Jewish country. It was a Gentile country. Gentiles are non-Jews. So this Jewish family left their country and went to a Gentile country. While there, Naomi’s husband died. Her sons also got married to Orpah and Ruth, Moabite women. Ten years passed and both of Naomi’s sons died. Neither of the women had had any children.
At this point, Naomi heard that Israel had food again. She and her daughters-in-law prepared to go back to Israel. However, shortly after leaving, Naomi told both of them to go back to their homes in Moab.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
Ruth 1:6-13 NIV
This is the first act of love that we see in the life of Ruth. To be a widow was a hard life during these times. You lived in poverty and had to live off the kindness of others. I think we all know how far that can go. Naomi did not want that for her daughters-in-law. She knew that she had no other sons for them to marry and she also knew that they could remarry in their own country. Despite needing their assistance, she told them to go back to their home country. Naomi’s selflessness cannot be understated here. She was unmarried, had no income, had no place to stay, and had no prospects of any of that getting any better. She was destined to be poor, possibly starving, and miserable. Naomi needed their help desperately. Any help anyone could give would be of the upmost importance. However, she overlooked her own needs and focused on their needs.
We also see the love that the daughters-in-law had for Naomi. They had stayed with Naomi, despite their husbands having died. They had packed and prepared to go with Naomi to Israel. And when Naomi told them to go home, they both protested. Their loyalty to Naomi was deep.
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from 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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Ruth 1:14-18 NIV
Through urging, Orpah went back home. However, Ruth refused to go. We don’t know why Ruth was so adamant about staying with Naomi, but we do know that Ruth understood what she was doing. She was turning away from her gods in her homeland and embracing the one true God. She was leaving her blood family to join Naomi. She was leaving her homeland to go to Naomi’s homeland. She was resigning herself to poverty. She was promising to be with Naomi until death. That is love.
This doesn’t mean that Orpah did not love Naomi. However, her love was not as deep as the love Ruth had. This could’ve been because Ruth had come to know the Lord. We don’t know why. But what we can see is that Ruth was sacrificing her future, her home, and her family in order to stay at Naomi’s side.
While in Bethlehem, the women had to find a way to feed themselves. So Ruth went out to glean barley from the fields. In this day, the workers harvesting in the field, would allow the poor to come in behind them and pick up anything that was dropped or left behind. So this is what Ruth set out to do. She ended up doing this in Boaz’s field. Now Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s and he noticed a new woman out in the fields.
Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”
The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Ruth 2:5-12 NIV
This is the first act of love that Boaz shows Ruth. You see, when he learned who she was and what she had done for the widow Naomi, he decided to try and protect her. He made sure that she was safe while harvesting. He wanted to make sure that the person who had shown love to Naomi was shown a little herself. He even got a little sneaky about it!
As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
Ruth 2:15-16 NIV
When Ruth went back to Naomi, Naomi couldn’t believe how much Ruth had!
Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”
Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Ruth 2:19-23 NIV
It is unclear if Boaz knew, at this time, that he was their kinsmen redeemer. However, what is clear is that he was taking care of these women. He was showing God’s love to them. He did know that his relatives had come on hard times and he was willing to lose a little harvest in order to make sure they had what they needed.
Some time later, Naomi decided that she needed to help Ruth get married. She knew that should she die, Ruth would have absolutely no one. That was a bad and dangerous place for a woman to be in these times. So she set about matchmaking Ruth and Boaz.
Naomi had Ruth go lay at the feet of Boaz as he slept by the grain. This may seem odd to us, but it was the way Ruth was showing that she would like Boaz to marry her. Ruth barely knew this man, but she did as Naomi asked.
When Ruth went to lay at Boaz’s feet, he awoke.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
Ruth 3:9-13 NIV
Ruth showed her love for Naomi by trusting her wisdom. Trust is not necessarily part of loving someone, but relationships that are long-lasting and deep will have it. Ruth had also acted in such a manner that all the people in town knew she had noble character. Ruth cared enough about Naomi to make sure that she did not bring any dishonor to Naomi.
Boaz was so impressed with Ruth’s character that he was more than happy to oblige in her request. But he was also a noble man and knew that another relative had first say in the matter. So he promised that as long as the other relative did not make a claim, he would fulfill his role. Boaz did not have to do this. In fact, it would come at great cost. He was sacrificing a lot to fulfill his role of kinsmen redeemer.
Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
Ruth 4:1-6 NIV
Boaz took care of the matter straight away. We can see from the text that becoming the kinsmen redeemer was a costly matter. First, one had to buy the land that belonged to the dead relative. Secondly, you had to marry the widow, in this case, Ruth. But that was not the end of it. Notice it says “in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” This is an important thing for the people of this day. If you had no children, your name died out. In order to keep Elimilek’s name alive, he needed a child or grandchild. So that meant that Ruth’s first son would not be an heir to Boaz. He would not carry Boaz’s name or inherit his possessions. The first son would legally be Elimilek’s grandson. He would carry Elimilek’s name and inherit his property. It would be Boaz’s responsibility to keep up Elimilek’s inheritance alongside his own. That is a lot to pay! The actual purchase, the upkeep and investment, and the requirement to have more than one son and all the inheritances that go with that.
In fact, this was such a hefty price that once the first in line realized he would have to do the wife/child part, he couldn’t do it. It would endanger his own estate. He wanted the land, but he just didn’t have the capability of maintaining two families. So he passed.
So Boaz immediately made good on his promise to Ruth.
Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
Ruth 4: 9-10 NIV
Notice that Boaz didn’t wait around to do the things he promised. Someone who is showing love make the things that are of importance to his/her loved one a priority. Although Ruth and Boaz did not have romantic love yet, they each showed love through their loyalty, their honor, their character, and their actions. Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth all showed what selfless love looks like. It looks after others, even if it means sacrificing.
Jesus does this for us. In fact, the theology of Ruth is very deep and more than we can go into in one devotional. The word “redeem” means to “buy back, to free from what distresses or harms, to change for the better.” This word is all throughout the book of Ruth and is something we readily associate with Jesus. Boaz’s redemption of Ruth is akin to Jesus’ redemption of sinners. Boaz, being debt free, was able to sacrifice in order to save Ruth and Naomi from their troubles. Jesus, being free of sin, sacrificed himself so that we can be freed from sin. Just as Boaz sacrificed and saved Ruth, Jesus sacrificed and saved us.
Did you know that God continued to bless Ruth? She had a son. That son’s name was Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered David. Yep, that’s the King David of the Bible and the ancestor to Jesus. In fact, Ruth is later named in Jesus’ genealogy. God allowed hardship in Naomi and Ruth’s life in order to bring about events they couldn’t have even fathomed. And it all happened with lives of love.
Thank you for showing your love to us. Thank you for including Ruth’s life into scripture so that I can see how you take care of people and how you move their lives in ways that seem strange and bitter to us, but actually work to fulfill so much of your word. Thank you for taking care of me. Help me to trust in you to move my life in accordance with your will. Help me to be selfless in my love toward others.
In Jesus’ Name,
- How can you show selfless love to others?
- Is God asking you to take a big step into the unknown? If so, how can you obey him?
- Are there people in your life that need your love? If so, how can you show it to them?