Ruth, Ruth … What do you hold in your hand?
Do you know more than you understand?
Is it the wheat the plains of Moab have yielded into your hands?
Or is it your life you cast up into the wind?
Ruth is the story of loyalty, hope, love and redemption.
When a severe famine hits the land of Israel, Elimelech takes his wife, Naomi, and two sons to the land of Moab. There, after both sons take Moabite wives, the father and the sons all die leaving a bitter Naomi to return to Israel with no husband and no heir. After insisting that her daughters-in-law stay in Moab where they belong, Ruth, instead, clings to Naomi, preferring to stake her claim as a foreigner in the land of Israel with her mother-in-law. This is where the famous lines that are quoted in many weddings come from: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” While beautifully suitable for a wedding, the original words were spoken by Ruth to Naomi.
Ruth has nothing to look forward to in accompanying Naomi. The redemptive events that later come out of that decision could not have been in her or Naomi’s mind even as a distant hope. Ruth stakes her future to her mother-in-law with no guarantee of what that would mean. Naomi tries to talk her out of it based on the hopelessness of her situation.
“Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me” (Ruth 1:11-13).
What Naomi doesn’t know is that God’s fist is really an open hand of mercy, and when they return to Israel, they will end up working in the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, and when Boaz meets Ruth and realizes that he can continue the line of Elimelech through marrying Ruth, he does so, and provides Naomi with a grandson and an heir.
Once again, the lineage of Christ the Messiah picks up all this drama in its inclusion of women in Matthew 1: “Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David.” (Matthew 1:5-6).
These women were not just “add-ons” to spice up the story. They were followers of God in their own right. Spies or no spies, Rahab embraced the God of Israel. And Ruth proclaimed that Naomi’s God was her God long before the redemptive part of the story took place. Regardless of what happened through the men in their lives, they knew where they stood. They knew the God of Israel was also the God of heaven and earth, and He was their God, too.
Notice how Ruth’s new mother-in-law through Boaz was Rahab. We don’t know for sure whether Rahab was still alive when Ruth came on the scene, but had she been, those two would have had a lot to talk about. God really knows how to weave a story, doesn’t He?
These women in the lineage of Christ show God’s heart toward outsiders. Yes, God has His chosen people in the Jews, but He also chooses many Gentiles as well. I, for one, am very grateful for that.