Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith