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Ruth

TIME PERIOD:

The story of Ruth tells about events that happened somewhere during the time of the Judges (1380-1080 B.C). This is the time period between the death of Joshua and the completion of the conquest of the land of Israel.

LOCATIONS:

  • Birthplace: Moab
  • Lived in Moab whilst married to first husband.
  • After his death, moved to Bethlehem with mother-in-law.
  • Continued to live in Bethlehem with second husband.

LIFE SUMMARY:

Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion live in Bethlehem. They decide to move to Moab because there is a famine in Bethlehem. Mahlon and Chilion marry Moabite women called Ruth and Orpah.

After ten years, Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion all die. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem, and Ruth and Orpah initially go with her. Naomi persuades Orpah to return to Moab, but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi and going to Bethlehem.

Ruth tells Naomi that, "your people will be my people, and your God will be my God".

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest. Ruth goes to glean corn in the field of a man named Boaz, who is a relative of Naomi.

Boaz shows kindness to Ruth, and tells her to stay gleaning in his field. He allows her to eat with his servants, and tells them to let her glean as much as she wants. He tells Ruth he has heard how she left her family in Moab to come back to Bethlehem with Naomi.

Naomi is delighted to hear of Boaz' kindness to Ruth, and informs Ruth that Boaz is a relation of hers. She tells Ruth to continue to glean in Boaz' field.

Naomi suggests to Ruth that Boaz may be able to marry Ruth. Ruth goes to see Boaz at the threshing floor at night and lies down by his feet. Boaz notices her and asks what she is doing. Ruth asks Boaz if he will redeem her. Boaz says that there is a relation closer to Naomi who is entitled to redeem before he does, and that he will talk to him in the morning.

In the morning Boaz sends Ruth home with some barley, and she recounts the events to Naomi.

Boaz goes to the town gate to speak to the other relation. He asks him if he wants to redeem some land that belonged to Elimelech, and tells him that Ruth must be redeemed at the same time. The other relation declines to redeem Ruth in the presence of the elders of the city. To seal the transaction the relation removes his sandal and gives it to Boaz.

Boaz and Ruth therefore get married, and have a son, Obed. Obed became the grandfather of King David.

CHARACTERISTICS:

Loyalty - Ruth shows devotion and commitment to Naomi, following the death of both their husbands. Boaz comments on her kindness to Naomi, and notes that she is motivated by love and compassion when falling in with Naomi's request to ask Boaz to marry her, as he is much older than she.

Righteousness - Ruth has converted from following the gods of Moab to following the true God of Israel. Her profession of faith to Naomi shows that she now puts her trust in God. This is in contrast to a lot of Israelites at the time of the judges who continually turned their back on God.

Humility - Ruth is a humble person, shown by her repeated gratitude to Boaz, when he speaks to her. She has a meek spirit, one of the characteristics mentioned by Jesus in the Beatitudes.

Industriousness - The first task Ruth does on arrival in Bethlehem is finding a means to provide food for her and Naomi. She was willing to work hard to provide that which was necessary for them both. Boaz also notes how hard she works.

KEY BIBLE VERSES:

Ruth 1: 16-17

But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." (ESV)

OTHER BIBLE REFERENCES:

Ruth 1-4

Matthew 1:5 (Genealogy of Jesus)

LESSONS:

God directs our path - Naomi recognised that God had dictated the circumstances of their lives. It was not just by chance that Ruth happened to choose the field of Boaz to work in. We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).

God is full of grace - Ruth was a Moabitess and yet God chose her to be the grandmother of King David, and thus in the ancestral line of Jesus. God can save anyone he chooses.

God can make good out of bad situations - Naomi and Ruth could easily have headed for disaster given their circumstances, but God ensured that they were provided for and changed their lives for the better.

Our actions can impact future generations - The godly lives of Ruth and Boaz were a blessing, not only to Naomi, but to all subsequent generations. We do not realise at the time what effect our actions will have in the future, but they could reach further than we think.

God has a plan for your life - Naomi was bitter after the death of her husband and sons, and changed her name to reflect her grief. She did not understand God's purpose until much later. We must try and respond to challenges in our lives with faith and patience instead of bitterness and anger.

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