Life Lessons from the Book of Ruth
I love all of the books of the Bible, and one of my favorite stories to read in it is the story of Ruth. I am always amazed at the loyalty and kindness that defined Ruth’s personality, and how she put the needs of others before herself. These Godly traits not only made her name famous as the title of the book of the Bible in which her story is told, but she also has the distinction of being in the physical genealogy of Christ, through his earthly father, Josepth. Ruth’s story is full of lessons on how to live a godly life, and the events that took place in her life are proof that God’s Will always prevails.
Who was Ruth? Ruth was a Moabite, and a descendant of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. The Moabites’ came from Moab, a son born to Lot by his eldest daughter after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his daughters were hiding in a mountain after they had to flee from Sodom and Gomorrah due to God destroying the cities for their wickedness.
“And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same isthe father of the Moabites unto this day” (Genesis 19:30-37).
It was through sin that the Moabites came into being, and being Gentiles, they were not the chosen people of God as the Hebrews were in the Old Testament. It is through this group that Ruth emerges, however, her character proves to be much different than that of her people.
We first hear about Ruth in Ruth chapter 1, where it is said that the Hebrew family consisting of Elimeleck, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion move from their home in Bethlehemjudah to the land of Moab due to there being a famine (Ruth 1:1-2). While in Moab, Elimeleck dies, and his sons marry two women of Moab, Ruth and Orpah. Marriage between Jews and Gentiles was a practice often seen in the Old Testament and it continued after the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, especially after failing to destroy the inhabitants there as God commanded.
After the deaths of Mahlon and Chilion, we see Ruth’s true colors for the first time. Naomi, who has been bereft of not only her husband but her two children as well, puts her daughters in law’s well being before her own and pleads with them to go on with their lives in their homeland and start new families. She tells them that she cannot bear more sons for them to marry, and she plans to live the rest of her life alone in her homeland. Orpah, who is visibly distraught over parting ways with her beloved mother in law, clings to her, but decides nonetheless to heed Naomi’s advice as she returns to her family in Moab. Ruth, on the other hand, utters some of the most loving and well known words in the Bible to show that she does not want to leave her mother in law’s side.
"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me" (Ruth 1:16-17). 
These words have been uttered at many weddings over the years, although they were said by a daughter in law to a mother in law. The level of commitment that Ruth shows to Naomi can be applied to married couples as well. A wife should always be willing to follow her husband anywhere as long as he is leading his household according to God’s Will. Spouses should have a commitment to one another until death, just as Ruth committed to stay with Naomi until death parted them also.
Once Ruth and Naomi reach Naomi’s homeland of Bethlehemjudah, Naomi instructs Ruth the work in the fields owned by a wealthy relative of Elimeleck, named Boaz. Boaz is the son of Salmon, a Hebrew, and Rahab the Canaanite harlot, or prostitute who helped the two Israelite spies who were ordered by Joshua to spy out the area of Canaan (Joshua 2:1-7). In return, Rahab asked the two spies to spare she and her family from being killed in the Israelite invasion. The two spies vowed to save Rahab and her family on the condition that she and her family all stay under the same roof during the invasion, and that Rahab hang a scarlet thread in her window so they Israelites would know not to harm those in her house (Joshua 2:17-24). Rahab does so, and she is allowed to live out her days among the Israelites, which is how she came to be the mother of Boaz.
Ruth draws Boaz’s attention, and he appoints her a place among his maidens. He also allows her to glean as much as she wants in the fields and drink water from the same pots as the male workers do. He also instructs his male workers to not lay a hand upon her (Ruth 2:8-11).
Seeing the kindness that Boaz is has shown to Ruth, Naomi instructs her daughter in law to be even more forward to Boaz in that she tells Ruth to wait until everyone in Boaz’s house goes to sleep and to lay at his feet during the night (Ruth 3:1-6). Ruth does so, and in return, Boaz sees her to be a virtuous woman (v. 11).
After hearing about this, and seeing the gifts that Boaz sent back with Ruth, Naomi understands that Boaz’s intentions are to marry Ruth. However, in order to have clearance to marry Ruth, Boaz has to have Elimileck’s nearest relative turn down the purchase of Elimileck’s land and to not want possession of Ruth. When Boaz asks the relative about purchasing the land, the relative is eager to do so, until he hears that he would have to marry Ruth in order to have the
land. At this point, the relative decides to not make the purchase and takes off his shoe as a pledge to allow Boaz to purchase the land, and thus marry Ruth (Ruth 4:2-10). It is through this marriage union that Ruth becomes the great grandmother of King David, and also part of the physical genealogy of Jesus, through His earthly father, Joseph;
“ And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:5-17).
It is amazing to read the book of Ruth and to see God’s Plan unfold. Ruth, who was born and raised to worship idols in an idolatrous nation, became an earthly ancestor of Jesus Christ. Ruth, through her display of love toward her mother-in-law and her virtuous spirit, was given her not only a place in the most important Book of all, but even a section in the Bible in her own name. This shows how God rewards those who repent and do His Will, no matter who they are or what they have done in the past.
There are several lessons that can be learned from the book of Ruth. One is that God loved the Gentiles, even at a time when the Jews were His chosen people. Ruth was a descendant of Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew, which made her a Gentile. Although she was not a Jew, God still loved Ruth and wanted her to have a place in the genealogy of our Savior, Jesus Christ, even over the many Israelite women who could have taken her place at this critical point in history.
God’s Providence is also shown through Ruth. When Ruth went to the field to glean grain, she just happened to end up in Boaz’s field (Ruth 2:3). Of course, this was not an accident, as God had big plans for Ruth when it came to her association with Boaz. It is also noteworthy how God set the stage for the Jewish Boaz to not be opposed to marrying the Gentile Ruth, as his own mother was a Gentile.
Finally, it is also important to note Ruth’s attitude of a servant. When Ruth came back with Naomi to Naomi’s home country, she did not seek to gain notoriety and power among her new neighbors. Instead, she took the role of a servant, quietly and meekly gleaning grain in the fields. Her humble attitude caught the attention of Boaz, and he knew her to be a virtuous woman because of her actions (Ruth 3:11). This is a lesson to us as Christians to not seek the spotlight in our service to the Lord. We are to focus on being faithful and obedient servants with the goal of being pleasing to God, rather than pleasing to men. If we seek to be exalted by men, then we will not be exalted by God.
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:1-6).
There are many examples in the Bible of the importance of being a servant. One of the greatest examples comes from Jesus Himself in John chapter 13, where He exemplifies the importance of being a servant by washing the disciples’ feet;
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also myhands and my head.Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash hisfeet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (John 13:4-20). 
Likewise, the apostle, Paul, stressed the importance of having the humble mindset of a servant by using Jesus as an example.
‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:” (Philippians 2:3-9)
It is through the examples of Jesus, Ruth and others that we can learn the importance of having a humble and meek spirit. Had Ruth not exhibited this feature in her personality, things would have possibly gone very differently for her. Instead, Ruth was able to carve her name in history by being one of the many great people who made up the family tree of Jesus, and she was chosen above all of the young Israelite women of her time to fulfill this role.
Ruth is a very inspirational woman due to her dedication to those she loved, and to her will to serve God. We can learn a lot from Ruth about how to treat others, and how to rely on God for all of our needs. Ruth had enough faith in God and love for her mother in law to forsake her own country and to face the unknown, at a pivotal point in her life when she could just as easily went back to the idolatrous land and customs that she was familiar with. The story of Ruth is proof that God has a plan for all of us, and if we work each day in faith and obedience, then His Plan will ultimately be fulfilled in each one of us, as it was in Ruth.
Holy Bible. King James ed. Nashville: Holman, 1998.
Jackson, Wayne, “Lessons From the Book of Ruth.” The Christian Courier; Accessed November 7, 2018:www.christiancourier.com.
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