While living in the land of the Maobites, Elimelek and Naomi married off their sons to the girls of the land. One of those girls was Ruth, who married their elder son Mahlon. Her life never even remotely resembled something that we would associate with a blessed life.
Her husband died at a young age along with all the other males in her family, leaving her childless and destitute. If we thought the present world was tough on women, imagine the life of a widow three thousand years ago without any sons to help her claim a stake on her husband’s possessions.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”Ruth 1:15-16
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.
She never had the support of her family but clung to her mother-in-law Naomi and gave complete devotion to her.
Return to Bethlehem
The pair returned to their hometown in the heart of Israel, Bethlehem. Women of the town speculated if one of them was Naomi, but Naomi instantly told the women to call her ‘Mara’, as she felt God had made her life bitter. On the other hand, Ruth had no complaints, she had accepted Naomi’s God as her own God. Even in a foreign land where they were starting from the bottom, Ruth had no qualms about the selfless decision she took to follow Naomi.
Right when the duo returned to Bethlehem, the barley harvest was just beginning. Naomi had a relative named Boaz in whose field Ruth had been picking up leftover grain for their survival. Boaz was a good man and he told Ruth to stay in his field and glean. He provided for her and her mother-in-law and also took care of her safety.
When Naomi came to know of Boaz’s kindness, she told Ruth that he was one of their guardian redeemers. Naomi coached Ruth on how to proceed with Boaz and Ruth was completely obedient to her mother-in-law and did all that she was told. She never questioned the intentions of her mother-in-law and never voiced her opinion on who she should marry next. But God was gracious to Ruth and provided her with Boaz as a companion rather than someone looking to take advantage of the situation. Boaz commended Ruth for her kindness and did what he was supposed to do as their guardian redeemer and married her and brought back honour to Naomi’s family.
Being Part of Jesus’s Genealogy
Ruth is one of only four women included by name in the genealogy of Jesus. The world might have ridiculed her commitment to her mother-in-law and tried to convince her to return to her parents but her loyalty was rewarded by God. Just like in the life of Job everything was seemingly taken away from him but returned later, similarly Ruth now had a husband who loved her and a son to take away her shame. She became the great-grandmother of king David and thus the obscure Moabite immigrant now lives in Jewish infamy.
Response to a Tragedy
Some might question the purpose of the story of Ruth in the Bible, but her response to tragedy in her life is something we can learn a lot from. There were two women who were dealt the same hand in Naomi and Ruth. Both responded to it in different ways and Ruth left her comfort zone and moved to Bethlehem to be a comfort for her mother-in-law.
How often do we step out of our comfort zones to be there for someone else? If we don’t think of the needs of others before our own, how will we ever understand the sacrifice Jesus had to make in leaving His comfort zone to save us from our own declines. Just as Boaz was the kinsman redeemer for Ruth, Jesus is the one redeems us from the clutches of death.
Like Orpah, Ruth could have taken the easy way out and stayed in Moab and remarried and lived happily ever after. But she kept Naomi’s needs before her own and selflessly sacrificed her desires to be there for her mother-in-law. Likewise, Jesus could have watched us burn in the fire because of what we have done to ourselves, but He selflessly came down to bring us out of the furnace.
Christian life is all about sacrificing our lives for the sake of our brethren and not looking for opportunities of how best we can derive benefits from our fellowships. Let us learn from this humble and virtuous woman and understand, what she was given when she was added to Jesus’s lineage was greater than all the blessings of this world.