“Your People Shall Be My People, And Your God, My God”
It was about 400 years from the time that Israel entered Canaan and received the land that God had promised them until the first king was anointed. This period of time was known as the time of the Judges, so called because the leaders of the people were called “Judges”. During the period of the judges Israel was steeped in sin, often degraded and immoral. The Scriptures describe the moral and behavioral standards of the times as "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Now, some folks have pretty high standards anyway, but others don't.
For example, the main characters followed in the book of Ruth are not like most of the people we find in the book of Judges, even though the time coincides with the latter years of the Judges. Ruth and Naomi displayed the characteristics of love, industry, generosity, chastity, and the desire to worship the God of Israel. Both women were blessed by God. If I were going to sum up the meaning and value of the book of Ruth, it would be that it shows us a wonderful example of righteous loyalty to a friend even in adverse circumstances. Later, in the New Testament, we would find that brothers and sisters in Christ are to have these same characteristics toward one another and toward God.
Self Sacrificing Love
Naomi's life would have been dark and solitary without Ruth. Naomi was widowed and had lost two sons. She was left with two daughters-in-law in a foreign land. She decided to return to Judah from Moab where she had been living (Ruth 1:6-7).
She was also concerned for her daughters-in-law. She did not want them to feel compelled to accompany her to her own country. Her concern for Ruth's happiness caused her to earnestly request she return to her mother's house, explaining that she had no more sons to give (Ruth 1:8-13).
But Naomi's concern for Ruth was equaled by Ruth's concern for Naomi. But more than that, Ruth, though from Moab, had come to the point where she desired very much to become a worshiper of Jehovah. Ruth was therefore willing to turn from known comforts to embrace the uncertainty of the unknown (Ruth 1:14-17).
God expects us to have concern and love for others. (Galatians 6:2,10). The book of Ruth shows us God has always highly valued selflessness, compassion and generosity, even in times where there was little of those characteristics to be found on the earth (see also Matthew 15:3-6; 22:37-39; 23:23).
Also, God expects us to care for family members. Men and women of faith have and understand these kinds of loyalties (1 Timothy 5:3,4; 16). We understand that Naomi and Ruth were related by marriage; but today Christians are related by blood (of Christ). Certainly we should care for one another (2 Corinthians 8:9; 9:6-8; 10,11).
We are expected to serve God before all else. We wonder what had Ruth seen in Naomi's character and her relationship with her God that caused her to be so loyal? She saw something in Naomi's God… not a God of wood/stone… and she was ready for that (for a description of Ruth's ex-god contrasted with Jehovah-see Jeremiah 10:3-3-6;10; 11-12). Think: what can people see in your relationship with God that might have a similar good effect on them?
Industry and Generosity
Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Judah destitute. Ruth requested she be allowed to go to the field and glean heads of grain (Ruth 2:1,2). The owner of the field, Boaz. took notice (Ruth 2:4,5; 8-12). Ruth shared the grain she gathered with Naomi (Ruth 2:17-18).
We are to be industrious and provide for our own needs (Proverbs 21:5; 31:30,31; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13) . But we are also to share our blessings with others (Ephesians 4:28; Acts 20:35; Matthew 6:33). Though they live over a thousand years before Christ comes and establishes His church, the account of Naomi and Ruth again provides solid good examples of living by faith and demonstrating so many of the qualities that it would one day take to become good Christians.
"So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son" (Ruth 4:13). Everyone expressed happiness for Naomi and Ruth. People tend to be for the underdog, and when valiant courage wins over great odds it is a thrilling thing (Ruth 4:14-16). Again, all this is another step toward the fulfilling of the final promise to Abraham to send One, a descendant of Abraham, who would bless all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). Ruth became the great-grandmother of David, through whom would come the Messiah Ruth 4:17).
Ruth's unselfishness had been rewarded by God, and so shall ours be (Hebrews 6:10-12; 19). Those pleasing in the sight of God are always a source of blessing to others (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12).
Ruth was dedicated as she followed Naomi (Ruth 1:16). It is this kind of loyalty that will make one a good disciple (follower) of Jesus. It is a loyalty that will assume any risks; accept whatever losses are called for, and steadfastly follow on (Matthew 16:24).
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.10; October 2004