The Bold and the Brave: Ruth
We LOVE this next instalment in our Lent series! Have a read of how God used an ordinary woman called Ruth to play an extraordinary role in His redemption story.
“In the process, in the waiting, you’re making melodies over me” (Amanda Cook, Bethel – Shepherd)
I’m listening to this song as I write, because the album ‘Brave New World’ is the perfect background to our story.
Ruth is an ordinary woman whose life plays an extraordinary part in God’s redemption story.
I love where the book of Ruth is placed in the Bible: it is the bookend of two sides of Israel’s history, in between the covenant with Israel in Judges and the covenant with David in the book of Samuel. Ruth, the book, is a bridge between one covenant and the next. Ruth, the woman, bridges the gap between a lawless land (Judges 21:25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit”) and traces the genealogy of King David to that of our righteous ruler, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:16-22). Ruth was playing her. God used her obedience to write her frayed edges into a perfectly weaved story. There’s a lot to learn in that.
Ruth is here with us, waiting in the middle for the tides to meet. There are 3 lessons that the beautiful character of Ruth teaches me about God: that he is above all faithful, he is the ultimate provider, and he is our total redeemer.
1. God is above all faithful… so I must follow and obey.
“But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? … Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.” Ruth 1:13 (MSG version)
We all go through seasons of waiting. Sometimes the waiting makes the waited for worthwhile. Other times, it is just plain painful. Ruth’s story begins with a season of loss, a spiritual and emotional winter. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, loses her husband, and both Ruth and her sister are widowed too. Naomi (which means pleasantness) now prefers to be referred to as Mara, for her story seems to taste overwhelmingly bitter (Ruth 1:20-21). However, the final verses of the first chapter already reveal God’s faithful hand at work: turning the winter into spring as “the barley harvest was beginning” (v22). Barley, typically the first crop of spring.
“One day Ruth, the Moabite foreigner, said to Naomi, “I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.” Ruth 2:2 (MSG version, emphasis mine)
From the get go, Ruth obeys, uncomplaining, to the uncelebrated task of picking up the leftovers in the field. Gleaning was God’s law to provide for ‘the alien, the orphan and the widow’ (Deuteronomy 24:19-22), otherwise with no access to inheritance land. What a picture of God’s justice and providence!
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)
And sure enough, Ruth’s faithful obedience bears its first fruits. Imagine the scene, you have moved from your hometown, your parents and all your connections, to work in a foreign land where your race is unwelcome. Yet, out comes Boaz who notices Ruth, sees her faith and bravery, and unashamedly calls to the Lord, the God of Israel, to reward her faithfulness (Ruth 2:12). Integrating and welcoming the foreigner takes bold faith from both sides.
The God of Israel is both the God of Moab, and the God of Bethlehem. ‘Ruth the Moabite’ labelled unwelcome in the land, through Boaz’s kindness, can now truly claim that “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
God’s faithfulness in the past is the backbone to our faith in the present: follow and obey the faithful one.
2. God is the ultimate provider… so I need to learn to trust.
Perhaps, to truly know in the depths of your heart that God is Jehovah Jireh, your Provider, we need to have depended on Him during the desert. Think back to those desert times, and the manna God provided you with, or the people positioned on your path. For Ruth this was the unexpected kindness of Boaz, for me this has been the provision of hospitable people and homes wherever I travel. We must believe God is ultimate Provider, or nothing at all.
Reading Deuteronomy 7-9 reveals how the foundation of God’s provision rests on His faithfulness, not ours. His abundant provision depends on his love for us; the fact that He has chosen us rests on His character, not ours. Ruth wasn’t the one who ‘fixed’ the mess of her family or the uncertainty of her future. Ruth recognised the onus isn’t on us; Ruth leant on God’s understanding. God will provide, we are called to trust.
I hear an echo of Mary in Ruth’s humble response: “I will do whatever you say” (Ruth 3:5).
Ultimately, Ruth decided that God’s way is Higher, even when God’s way seemed unreasonable/terrifying/awkward/impossible. (Naomi’s plan for Ruth to sneak into Boaz’s home and sleep on the threshing floor is all of these things!) What I see in Ruth’s curled body on the grain specked floor is a position of trust and humility; helpless, yet totally reliant on God, her Ultimate Provider. It is a simple act, yet it held such ramifications: Ruth’s mustard seed of faith grew to become Christ’s everlasting ancestral tree.
3. God is our Total Redeemer… and requires our humble response
If you ever doubt that God can use you in your unstitched, threadbare messiness, then remember Ruth. Remember Ruth, and her acts of unwavering faith, Ruth who followed and trusted and waited (and waited again!), Ruth who braved and believed, Ruth who, in her heart, said ‘Yes’ and ‘Your will be done’. At the feet of our Redeemer, quivering and querying, waiting and wondering, broken, messy and scarred, He does not reject us.
Here I see our High and Humble King, the one who scarred and broken and bleeding, opens his arms in a redeeming embrace. This requires our response.
“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer” (Ruth 4:14).
The God we believe in is Ruth’s God: All Faithful, Ultimate Provider and Total Redeemer. Therefore, in whatever field we find our feet we know that this is the same God, yesterday, today and forever, in whom we put our faith. The Shepherd who provides all we need so that we lack nothing; who redeems our life from the pit and sets our feet upon a rock; who enables us to dance upon the heights. The Kinsman Redeemer who removed Ruth’s sackcloth and clothed her with joy.
And it is Him; it is the Lord who holds it all! Ruth’s future as the widowed, childless foreigner was utterly transformed through God’s outstretched arm. Yet it was her obedience, and humility to follow and to “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.” (Ruth 3:18)
Wherever your story sits now, cling onto the fact that God will not leave it unfinished. Wherever you are trusting, He will provide. Perhaps, not as you expect, or think it should happen, but He will be with you, leading. Be brave, and follow.
As with Ruth, he “has not left you this day without a redeemer”, and neither will he forsake us. We have this hope: God is working in our waiting, teaching us to trust, causing our faith to arise, to go where we must.
Abi has lived in 5 countries, and had the joy of calling them all home. She is also a Modern Languages student at Durham University and is currently on her year abroad in Italy. She’ll be going to the Middle East in March where she hopes to grasp some more Arabic, and learn how to cook tabbouleh and stuff vines leaves along the way (which she will most definitely take photos of).