The story of deep devotion and heartfelt faithfulness stir us and cause us to want to have that same devotion in our lives. We want someone to love us so deeply, to be committed to us so strongly, and be willing to sacrifice everything for our happiness and well-being. Ruth is that kind of lady with that kind of story. As we read Ruth 1:15-18, the sense of deep devotion and determination to remain faithful to Naomi that Ruth shows is compelling and heart-warming.
As I read these verses I am stirred at the level of devotion that Ruth had for Naomi. How many of us would want this level of faithfulness from a friend or family member in our lives? How many of us would want this level of commitment from a fellow human being? As we continue reading this heart-warming story we will continue to see Ruth’s devotion for her mother-in-law. People are so important, and yet how many times do we cheapen a friend or an acquaintance by treating them poorly? I must say I am so guilty of this. The root cause of this is selfishness on our parts. The more selfish we are the more poorly we treat others. Ruth sacrificed everything about herself for the sake of her mother-in-law and for her God.
As we continue reading Ruth 1:19-22, we see Naomi having a pity party for herself. Instead of seeing the blessing in Ruth and praising Ruth’s devotion, Naomi wants everyone to feel sorry for her. Naomi means “amiable or pleasant one,” but she wanted to change her name to Mara which means “bitter.” Life is difficult and many times unfair, at least in our minds we think of life as being unfair, but God has a different plan in mind and we cannot always know the mind of God. God had ordained in the life of Ruth that she would be part of a genealogical line that would change the world. When God is working, we must be careful not to get in the way of what God is doing.
“And they came at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22) is a significant statement in this story and is the foundation for what is to come. The Israelites were farmers. They planted crops and raised animals (mostly sheep) in order to provide for their families. Naomi and Ruth had no way of providing for themselves and our account does not tell us where they lived, but we can assume they went back to Naomi’s house. With no men in their lives, their livelihood would depend upon what these two women could manage on their own. A common practice during this time was gleaning. As the fields were being harvested, those who were poor and destitute would go the fields and pick up the grain that was dropped during the harvest in order to provide for their families. These gleaners were commonly women.
Ruth goes out to glean and as God always directs our steps, He directed Ruth to a near relative of Naomi. When Boaz asks about Ruth he is informed she is the woman that returned with Naomi. There was no newspaper or TV, so through the grapevine everyone found out about Ruth. In a small village like Bethlehem, it was easy for news to spread, and like wildfire this news spread.
We see in Ruth a good work ethic, a sense of humility, and an attitude of respect. “She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers. So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” (Ruth 2:7) There is no sense of entitlement, but rather a willingness to work hard and follow the proper channels of reaping by asking permission first. Ruth does not act as if the Israelites owe her anything, but rather she treats these people with humble respect.
- Who is first introduced in Ruth 2:1?
- What kind of man is Boaz?
- Whose suggestion was it to glean in Ruth 2:2?
- We are introduced to Boaz in Ruth 2:1, 2 and see the story unfold in the rest of the chapter. What other things do we see about Boaz’s character in Ruth 2:4, 5, 8, 9?
- What else do we see about Ruth’s character in Ruth 2:10?
- As the exchange between Ruth and Boaz continues we continue to see their character. They continue to treat each other with respect and Ruth’s humility continues to shine through the pages of Scripture. As you read Ruth 2:10-13, think about our society today. Do we see this kind of respect and humility in most people we meet?
- Do you see this kind of respect and humility in yourself?
- Whether you do or you do not, what can you do to improve in this area?
- Read Philippians 2:3, 4 and write down some ideas in your everyday life that you can put this into practice.
- I do not enjoy being around selfish people; they talk about themselves and do all they can to satisfy their own desires. A person that is humble with respect for others is a much more pleasant person to be around. Why do we shy away from being this humble respectful person?