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Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

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

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

Ruth 1

A Prodigal Family (Ruth 1:1-4)

The opening verses of Ruth introduce us to a family facing a faith crisis. We read, “There was a famine in the land.” The decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah) and travel to “the country of Moab” (Ruth 1:1).

To escape the famine, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab, where they lived for ten years (Ruth 1:4). Yet, calamity followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem for he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, with two sons (1:3). They continued to live in Moab and Naomi’s sons took Moabite wives. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (Ruth 4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Naomi’s Sorrows (Ruth 1:5-9)

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life when both of her sons died. Now she and her daughters-in-law were widows (Ruth 1:5). Understanding the day’s culture, and that widows had no social welfare, the three women faced a desperate, uncertain future.

When Naomi heard the famine was passed, she set her heart to return home to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:6). She urged her daughters-in-law to return to their parents and hoped they might marry Moabite men (Ruth 1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah refused and set their hearts on accompanying Naomi to Israel. Nevertheless, she blessed and encouraged them to go home and seek a husband (Ruth 1:9).

The Bond of Love Between Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:10-17)

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted, “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (Ruth 1:10-14). We read that “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:14-15). Ruth, however, 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: 17) Where 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” (Ruth 1:16-17).

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

The Toll of Sorrows and the Sovereignty of God (Ruth 1:20-22)

Ten years of sorrow had taken their toll, and Naomi’s physical appearance undoubtedly revealed her hardships and disappointments. Naomi, evincing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries and confessed, “Call me not Naomi [i.e., 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?” (Ruth 1:20b-21)

Providentially, notice how Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with “the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22).

Ruth 2

The Providence of God (Ruth 2:1-3)

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman and a stranger amid God’s people, the LORD used Naomi’s wisdom to sovereignly direct Ruth, her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (Ruth 2:1).

True to her faithful and industrious character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (Ruth 2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found an unfamiliar person among them and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (Ruth 2:5)

Ruth’s Industrious Character (Ruth 2:4-7)

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

Boaz’s Favor, a Model of God’s Grace (Ruth 2:8-23)

Understanding Ruth was a widow of Naomi’s kindred, Boaz demonstrated God’s grace and love for sinners. He spoke kindly to Ruth and insisted that she labor only in his field and among his maidens, where she would find both provision and safety (Ruth 2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth then 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?” (Ruth 2:10)

Boaz then 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 (Ruth 2:11). He realized Ruth was a woman of faith and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (Ruth 2:12).

Ruth then accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (Ruth 2:13). In a display of affection for Ruth, Boaz invited her to his table (Ruth 2:14). She, however, took her place with the “reapers” who were hired servants and ate enough to satisfy her hunger and left some leftovers to bring home to Naomi.

Closing thoughts:

A Display of Grace (Ruth 2:9, 14-16)

In closing, I invite you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. First, he offered her protection and charged the men that they would not touch her (Ruth 2:9). He then made provision for her and her hands-full of grain (Ruth 2:15-16). Finally, she was promoted and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (Ruth 2:14).

Ruth’s Report to Naomi (Ruth 2:18-23)

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

As you will see, this book which began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, will become a remarkable story of hope, love, and redemption.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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