By Bobby L. Graham
The Book of Ruth stands as a monumental reminder of the possibility of practicing goodness, even when most around us are doing evil. Set in the days of Israel’s judges (1:1) – a time when moral and spiritual degeneracy was the rule (Judg. 21:25) – the narrative depicts the contrasting virtues of moral uprightness, familial loyalty, and spiritual devotion.
During this checkered period of ancient history, a famine forced Naomi to go to Moab with her husband and two sons, where all of the males in the family died. Though she lost these loved ones, she gained the loyal attachment of two daughters-in-law from Moab, one of whom returned with her to Bethlehem. There Ruth attracted the attention of Boaz, a wealthy relation of her dead husband’s family, whom she ultimately married.
Woven into the fabric of this inspired narrative is the record of a simple, happy, godly life. Such life forever proclaims a forceful example and exhibits the benefits of life in which love for both God and man are mingled. Let us explore some of the virtues here depicted in the domestic life of this family.
Devotion to God
Ruth’s resolve to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem makes it clear that a godly influence had been an important part of their association. Read about the effect of such influence upon this Moabitess in Ruth 1:16,17. Study also Naomi’s prayer on behalf of the two daughters-in-law in 1:8,9. Such faith on the part of this godly mother-in-law, combined with her genuine concern shown in prayer to God, surely has an influence that abides in minds and lives for generations. We do not know the religious associations of Ruth in Moab, but it is reasonable to associate her with the influence of idolatry among the departed family of Lot.
After Boaz had begun to extend helpful kindness to Ruth and Naomi, Naomi prayed that God would bless Boaz and indicated that the kindnesses shown the two women were really a bestowal from God to “the living and the dead” (2:20).
Love of Family
Ruth’s kindness to Naomi after the death of Elimelech – coming to a strange land after leaving father and mother – were cited by Boaz as influences on his decision to treat Ruth in a similar fashion. He insisted that she eat at his table and glean in his fields (2:8-14).
Ruth and Naomi’s discussion of the day’s activities and Ruth’s willingness to receive counsel from her mother-inlaw provide cheerful glimpses into the loving life of this family. The filial piety, the loving constancy, and the human kindness in their dealings are today too often absent from family life (1:8, 16-18, 15-22). It is urgent that adults impress upon the younger ones their responsibilities to parents in later years. Such financial aid is good and acceptable in God’s sight and constitutes repayment, according to 1 Timothy 5:4. That natural affection that should be strong is frequently non-existent, as seen in the abortions taking place, older parents being neglected at home or in nursing homes, and parental abuse of children in various ways (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3).
Liberality to the Poor
Permission to glean in the fields of Boaz was a part of God’s provision for the poor under the Mosaic economy. In addition to granting such permission, Boaz also instructed his workers to drop additional grain for the benefit of Ruth (2:14-17). Oppression of the poor was forbidden in Deuteronomy 24:14,15, and definite provisions were made for them in Deuteronomy 24:19-22.
“Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed” (Psa. 41:1-3). “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Prov. 19:17). Both passages present principles that still operate today in a society of plenty.
The younger Ruth went to the grain fields and worked without complaint. It is too often the case that many think themselves superior to manual work, viewing such as undignified. The God of our being dignified such work at the time when He assigned man his work. Ruth was not the kind of woman who would have stood in line at the welfare office. This is not to say that none should ever do so. The willing work of the virtuous woman, in Proverbs 3 1, for the benefit of her family and the poor, is a model deserving current study and effort.
All of Bethlehem’s residents knew Ruth to be a virtuous woman (3:11). Such a reputation had been earned through her circumspect conduct in relation to young men (3:10). Youthfulness was not then a justification for unwise actions like careless familiarity, nor should it be so used today. Ruth followed the advice of Naomi in conforming to the custom of her day and place as he proposed to her goel (near kinsman) in keeping with Levirate Law in Deuteronomy 25:5. The near kinsman bore the responsibility to redeem the dead relative’s inheritance and to raise up seed for him. This proposal is chronicled in 3:3-9.
The simple, yet stablizing virtues of this lesson must be instilled in the minds of us all, lest we forget them and disregard them. When we earnestly practice them, we shall speak “with double sway.” In the closing verses of the Book of Ruth, we learn that Naomi held in her arms an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David . . . Jesus; 4:16,17). How inconsistent it is for one claiming to be Jesus’ spiritual follower and joint heir to be unconcerned about such matters as these!
Guardian of Truth XXX: 23, pp. 714-715
December 4, 1986