The story of Ruth takes places during the time of the judges. This time period occurred after the death of Moses and before Saul was chosen as King. The judges ruled the people according to the Law of God that was given to Moses.
There was a famine in the land of Bethlehem which seems ironic since Bethlehem actually means, House of Bread.
Famines were fairly common and they often resulted from lack of rain, fields and crops being taken by enemies or by farmers not rotating their crops and depleting the nutrients from the ground.
Elimalech and Naomi moved their family to Moab. It is a land directly east, across the Jordan River. Almost as soon as they arrive Elimalech dies and tragedy comes upon the family.
Both of Naomi's sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.
After 10 years the men died and left the women childless.
Now Naomi's situation is really dire. A widow is always dependent on her family and now since her sons are dead, it releases the women to return to their families which would leave Naomi truly alone.
Naomi has heard that Yahweh is once again showing favor to the Israelites in their land so she decides to return home. After coming to Moab and losing her husband and two sons to death, she is convinced that God may not favor her. So she tries to persuade her two daughters in law (which she refers to as "daughters") to return to their own families for their welfare. (Widows without children had to depend on relatives for their welfare.) The relationship between Naomi, Ruth and Orpah must have been really close.
Orpah says her goodbyes and goes back to her family.
Although Naomi is bitter in her situation (and who wouldn't be) she truly is looking out for the best interests of the two younger women. Families generally tried to care for their relatives that were widows. She wanted these younger women to be in the care of someone.
"Look," Naomi says. "Your sister in law is going back to her family and her gods."
Just previously Naomi had called Orpah daughter and now she is, "your sister in law." That is what is speaking to me in these few verses.
Next Ruth makes her incredible promises,
I will go where you go
I will stay where you stay
Your people will be my people
Your God will be my God
I will die where you die
And be buried there
Ruth is saying, I have spent 10 plus years with you. You are my mother. I am your daughter and not by law, but by love. I have seen your God take care of you and give you strength and comfort. He has not failed you and He won't fail us together. I am coming!
How wonderful it is to have those of your family also be your spiritual family. To me, my spiritual family is my true family and I will always turn to them.
What a beautiful declaration Ruth makes to her mother in law. What a wonderful declaration she makes to God. It is no wonder He thought her a good choice for the bloodline of Jesus. God wants us to leave behind the things that this world deems important and cling to the only thing that matters, our faith in Him.
I remember as a child having a neighbor that we called Blind Betty. Not to be mean but because there were two ladies named Betty and we had to differentiate between them and she was blind.
In later years, during my work at a hospital cafeteria we often described patients by their ailments rather than names because it was easier to remember than their names.
Very often we know people by something that has befallen them.
Is that how you want to be known? How do you want others to know you?
I was having a pity party the other night and feeling especially lonely and craving the voice of someone other than my husband. And I said to him, I don't think anyone likes me. And he in his infinite wisdom and compassion said to me, "Go eat worms."
But it helped. It made me chuckle. I don't want to be bitter or down-hearted. I know I have friends and people that care for me.
How does God know us? What is it that He sees when He looks at us?
Well He sees us as we can be. He sees us complete and whole.
Our circumstances are obstacles or challenges that sometimes get in the way, but we are meant to overcome them. How we deal with these things will shape us and build us or we can be bitter, give up and forever be described by what conquered us.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem she no longer was a wife and mother of two sons. No, now she can back poor and destitute with a Moabite daughter in law.
The women of the town asked, "Is this Naomi?" Naomi means pleasant.
"No." She said. "Don't call me Naomi, call me Mara." Mara means bitter. She felt like God had dealt unfairly with her. Self pity.
Have you ever felt that God had dealt unfairly with you? That just goes to show that we sometimes forget that God has a bigger plan, on a grand scale, that will result in His blessing.
Embrace your challenges. And be a conqueror!
Ruth tells Naomi that she is going to work the fields and gather left crops and grain that the harvesters leave behind. According to Jewish laws the workers were not to totally strip the fields but leave some for the widows and the poor.
Naomi goes and follows behind the workers but only after asking permission to do so.
As it turns out, she is in the field of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi's dead husband.
Boaz questions his workers to find out the identity of the new young woman.
He invites her to continue to work his fields and even goes so far as to instruct her to work only his fields. Then he instructs his harvesters to leave extra for her and to remove some that has already been harvested and leave for her.
Boaz takes the young woman under his wing and also invites her to eat with him.
When Ruth asks why, he said it is because of her kindness toward Naomi.
I love the words, 'as it turns out'. Yep, just a coincidence that she turns up in Boaz's fields. No, I don't believe so. It is God at work.
Ruth is not afraid to work long, hard hours to provide for herself and Naomi. What a beautiful character this woman displays.
After gleaning the fields from sunup to sundown, Ruth comes home with 5 gallons of barley. Wow, what an amount! This much could feed the two of them for weeks. Naomi then states that God has not withdrawn His kindness, but is blessing the living and the dead. In other words, by His care for Ruth and Naomi it brings honor to the dead men, in that no one would be burdened by having to feed these two mouths.
Naomi realizes that Ruth is being treated very well by the landowner so she again asks, whose fields she had worked. Upon finding out that it was Boaz she reminded Ruth that he is our close relative. He can redeem us from our hopeless state.
Ruth says that Boaz has not only given her continued permission to harvest his fields, but has instructed her to stay in his fields with the other women where she would be safe from harm that could come upon her if she went somewhere else.
Ruth is such a beautiful young woman. Not only has she shared in grief with Naomi, she then left the familiar homeland to be a daughter in a land where she is a foreigner. Her mother in law is a bitter, sad companion that feels that God has turned away from her. Ruth seeks work. She strives to make their situation better. Through her hard work, and her inner strength and beauty, God favors her. By God's will she ends up in the fields of a wealthy relative. He notices her. She stands out from the other women. Boaz is kind to her and she obediently obeys Naomi and keeps going back to Boaz's fields. Then she submits to his offer to come only to his fields and work alongside the other women.
Ruth is a beautiful, caring, compassionate, hard-working, obedient, submissive, woman.
Naomi wants Ruth to be cared for and loved, yet at the same time she, too, will benefit if her plot works.
First, she tells Ruth to wash and put on perfume. This is indicating that it is time to stop mourning their dead husbands.
Then she tells Ruth to go to the threshing floor to Boaz.
He is here after the long harvest. Now he is crushing the grain to get the seed to release from the shaft and then it is tossed into the air (winnowing) to remove the chaff.
It is a time of cheer and celebration. All the workers eat, drink and celebrate.
Naomi tells Ruth to wait until after Boaz eats and drinks and then goes to lay down. Once he is asleep she is to go to him and uncover his feet and lay down. And wait for him to tell her what to do.
Boaz eats and drinks, but probably isn't drunk, because he retires at an early hour, which indicates that he is likely to work again the next morning.
Uncovering his feet would no doubt wake him as the colder air hits his feet which then would make him aware of Naomi being there.
And this is exactly as it happens.
He awakes and is startled.
She asks him to cover her, this is an implication to marriage and being taken care of.
Boaz tells her that he is honored and will definitely be her kinsman redeemer but there was one that is a closer relative. He should be considered first. But he asked her to stay the night out of concern for her safety and promises to redeem her if the other man does not.
There are references in the scripture (Hosea) where women coming to the threshing room floor were prostitutes, women in search of the money that flows from celebration. So when Ruth woke up early, in the dark, and prepared to leave it was because neither she nor Boaz wanted anyone to think that way of her.
All through this book we see that it is her integrity, and high character that Boaz admires most about her.
He measures out six measures of barley and pours into her cloak, which was an outer garment, either for additional warmth or worn (like an apron) to protect the garments underneath. The grain was not a payment of any kind but yet another act of his generosity and kindness toward the women. And she returns to the city and back to Naomi.
Now, Naomi, the match maker, tells Ruth that she must wait on him to see how it turns out.
These are the hard words. Clearly, Naomi wants and desires that Boaz will marry Ruth. It would greatly benefit them both. But it never states Ruth's desires in this matter, other than she was obedient to do what Naomi wants and expects.
Surely she must have had feelings of her own, but that is left to our romantic imaginings.
In any case, she is anxious to know the outcome of her and Boaz.
It is hard to wait. Especially when, in our minds, we have the plan all figured out.
Soon and very soon, Ruth and Naomi will be lawfully redeemed, either by Boaz or this other relative. But Naomi and Ruth, both, have put themselves in a position to be redeemed by Boaz.
Have you acted accordingly? Have you done all that you can with all humbleness, placed yourself at the Redeemer's feet?
We don't have to wait on His acceptance and there is no other than can redeem us. Yet, sometimes we do find ourselves having to WAIT on Him and His timing.
How hard is it for you to wait? Do you try desperately to lay the groundwork for your wants and desires?
Boaz goes to the city gates, the social epicenter of the city. The markets are there. The prophets spoke there. Business was done there. And legal matters were dealt with there.
Boaz, after rounding up the town leaders, speaks with the closer relative and inquires as to whether he is interested in redeeming the land of Naomi's dead husband. He says that he will buy it, until he hears of the stipulation. He must marry Ruth, the Moabite.
He then says that he cannot because it might put strain on his own estate.
So Boaz then states that he will marry Ruth and redeem the land and the women and it is agreed upon, using the sandal as their "handshake."
The leaders then pronounce a blessing upon Boaz in his decision.
Boaz marries Ruth and she conceives and bears a son. After 10 years of marriage she had no children and now, just like that, she is a mother.
Why did God wait? Maybe life as a young widow and caretaker to Naomi, and working long hard hours in the grain fields would have been too much if she was also a mother at the time. Maybe if she had borne children to her first husband she would have chosen to stay behind in Moab with her family. We don't know. But God's timing is always right.
Very often the sweetest blessings come after the most bitter of circumstances.
There are a list of names. Boaz's name is on that list. Jesus' name is on that list. Would Jesus have been born if Boaz had not married Ruth?
Isn't it wonderful when you finally see a reason for God saying, wait? We may not always get to. There might come a time or two when God's designs do not seem to ever become clear to us. But we know and trust that He knows the outcome of everything.
We just need to pray, act, wait and trust, just like Ruth did.
Do you think that God had designed for Ruth and Boaz to be together and bear a son? Do you think that it was His plan all along to place Ruth into the lineage of Jesus?
If so then it seems that much time, heartache, poverty, being in the right place at the right time, and overcoming had to be done to get her where He wanted her to be.
What were the unwritten details of her meeting and marrying her foreign husband? How many tears had she cried in the 10 years of no children? How much did it hurt when she lost her husband, brother in law and father in law? In what ways might the wrenching pulls of the decision to stay or go place on her? How do you think it felt to be living in a land as a hated foreigner? What burden did she bear as she went to work each day at dawn to gather leftover grain to feed her and Naomi? How tired do you think she was at the end of each day? What words do you think she might have prayed?
Through it all----God had a plan.
It took every, single one of those minute details to get her where she needed to be to fulfill her place in God's design.
Imagine if she had refused or become disobedient? But she hadn't!!!! She endured. She was a scrapper. She was an overcomer. And she was blessed.
God is at work in the details of your life too. Every time you struggle and overcome, you grow. Keep going. I am praying for you.