Ruth- The Book for 2018

But Ruth replied:

Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
-Ruth 1:16

Is Ruth the book of the Bible for 2018?  Let's see.  What is the book of Ruth about?  What's the message?

Ruth is about salvation history. 

We have the book of Judges, that is a wild west, tumultuous time.  In the midst of that time, Ruth traces the family line of king David.

It is the backstory to the story of david.  We see in Ruth, God working among people to save them, individually and collectively.  God works in lives for lives.  Our stories of salvation are connected, in and by God.

Mother, grandmother, widow, field, gate, harvest, inheritance, covenant, promotion, and new beginnings; are some of the topics in Ruth.

The key lesson of Ruth is that God blesses faithfulness. 

Ruth means friendship, comfort, and refreshment.

Kindness, honor, safekeeping, and redemption are also themes of Ruth.

Ruth demonstrates that during the darkest times, we can make the choice to live in God's story.

A remarkable and unexpected lesson from Ruth is God's guidance: God working 'behind the scenes', to bless covenant keepers for His ultimate glory.  The characters in the story make choices, based on covenant, and kindness; which God orchestrates into a plan for His purpose, blessing, and glory.

Ruth illustrates redemption and reveals God's providence. 

Ruth is a story of God's faithfulness of people who were themselves faithful in an unfaithful culture.

Ruth is a book of 'full circles':
  • Leadership vacuum to David's grandpa.
  • Childless to child.
  • Famine to harvest.
  • Bitter to pleasant.
  • Leaving to arriving.
  • Exiting one gate and entering a new gate.
  • Loss in motherhood to new life in grandmotherhood.
  • Blessing given and blessing received.
  • Redemption requested and redemption received.
Ruth is a story of hope and a way out, for dark times.  Ruth teaches that there is always hope and a way out.

Redemption is always possible, because of God.

Ruth is a story about transformed or renewed identity. 

Two widows become a bride and a grandmother.  The grief stricken person becomes joyful through new life, new friends and new family. 

Ruth happens during the time of the Judges.  Some scholars think that it was around the time of Gideon.  Famine is the backdrop and the characters begin in Moab.  The husbands are dead and the ladies are left destitute.

Ruth, chapter 1.

During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to stay in the territory of Moab for a while. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the fields of Moab and settled there. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons. Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband.

Naomi's husband, Elimelech, may have been unfaithful to God, moving from Bethlehem to Moab.  But he may also have thought there was no other choice, seeing life there; because of the famine in Israel.

She and her daughters-in-law set out to return from the territory of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to his people’s need by providing them food. She left the place where she had been living, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, and traveled along the road leading back to the land of Judah.

Whatever the case, he died and his two sons died as well, leaving three women.  Naomi had losses and was far from home.  She decided to go home and Ruth decided to follow her.

Naomi said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.

They said to her, “We insist on returning with you to your people.”

Naomi tried to talk Ruth out of following her, but Ruth decided her destiny was with her mother-in-law.

Her tie to her was more important to her than her homeland.  Her home was with Naomi, wherever she was.

But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.”

Ruth is faithful.  She committed her future onto and into life with Naomi. 

But Ruth replied:

Don’t plead with me to abandon you
or to return and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go,
and wherever you live, I will live;
your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.

Where you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord punish me,
and do so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me.

When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.

Everything began to change for both ladies, when they got back to Israel.  They changed locations and then their lives began to change.  They were encouraged and became inspired with plans.

The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

With everything that the two ladies went through, the author tells us that "they arrived at Bethlehem, at the beginning of the barley harvest."  Bethlehem, means 'house of bread' and became David's city.  You can see the timing is right and that the macro theme of the whole story is David, then Jesus.

They decided to try certain things and exercise faith in honest risk taking.  These two widows found Boaz, who took Ruth as his wife after the first in line guy passed, and Ruth had a baby, who finished the renewal of joy for Naomi.  And that baby, with faithful Moabites Ruth as his mom, became the exponential great grandfather of Jesus.

This lady who was not of Israel by birth, through life's circumstances that no one could predict, became an Israelite.  Why and how?  Because of her faithfulness to a person and to the God of that person who became her God.

What kind of evangelism would you call Naomi's towards Ruth?  Did Ruth find out about God through her first husband or her first father-in-law?  We don't know.  What we do know is that Ruth expressed covenant faithfulness and kindness, mercy towards a widow who was her mom-in-law.

Ruth's conversion was when she left her homeland to follow Naomi to hers.  Due to Ruth's faithfulness and covenant love, gracious blessings came into her life.  Naomi was inspired to be kind and helpful back to Ruth, by guiding her to Boaz.

In turn, Boaz was kind to Ruth and the end result was blessing flowing back to Naomi of a new and renewed family life.  And this all happened during the 'wild west', dark period in Israel, between Joshua and Samuel.

Ruth is a book about new beginnings.

 This is 2018.  Eight is the number of new beginnings and Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible.

Ruth is a story of salvation. 

It illustrates how God saves us in our story.  Our story becomes God's story as we become saved.

Ruth is a story about immigration.

 Some preachers might say that it was a big mistake for Elimelech to take his family to live in an enemy country.  They might reason that only bad can happen there, pointing to the man's death, the death of his two sons, and the lack of grandchildren.

But Ruth, born a Moabitess, decides to immigrate to Israel with her mother-in-law.  What do we have here?  Tender loving care.  Ruth says in a sense, "My story is with your story now.  I will go where you go.  Your people are my people.  And your God will be my God."

This is the foundation of everything that happens.  The lesson might be something like this:  Good things happen when we decide to follow with the one we love.

Ruth was a good person, kind and faithful, caring and unselfish.  But, her story only takes off when she completely hitches her destiny to Naomi's.  In other words, her faith was fully acted upon.

It would have been nice if she hugged Naomi goodbye and wept.  It would have been caring if she tried to talk her out of leaving and permanently kept Naomi with her in Moab.

But, when Naomi became convicted that it was time now to go back to her homeland, and reconnect with her roots, and by faith, look for a place to live and finish her life that she was filled with sorrow about; Ruth let her caring of and love for this lady, take her into uncharted territory of faith.

Blessings were released into Ruth's life because she hitched her destiny to Naomi and her God.  And this is how life has been for many of us.  We love someone and we step into their story, including their walk with God.

I have been like Ruth and had several Naomi's in my life.  I loved them and they loved me and I made a decision to follow them and their faith in God, together.  And very good things happened, from God.  An adventure I would never have had, if I did not commit myself to each one of those persons, in seasons of my life.

The normal approach was the one taken by Ruth's sister-in-law, Orpah.  She stayed in Moab and sought her own destiny there.  The normal method of life is that we go it alone and hitch ourselves to others (join them and work with them) only out of self-interest.

Ruth lived her life for the sake of someone else.  She took who she was, a kind person, and offered it to the most important person in her life.  This took her on a path of redemption, new identity, and profound destiny.

Bibliography and for further study:

Winn Griffin, God's Epic Adventure; pp. 103-104
John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume One: Israel's Gospel; p. 601
LaSor, et al.; Old Testament Survey; p. 820
Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Ruth, NET Bible on-line
Jodi Hooper, Ruth, on-line
Younger and Philips (cited), Book of Ruth Bible Survey (article, notes) at
Thomas B. Clarke, What is a Chiasm?
Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament)
Tim Hughes, For whom the Baby Ruth candy bar was named...