The book of Ruth, however, tells a different story. Ruth loved her mother-in-law, Naomi. Recently widowed, Ruth begged to stay with Naomi wherever she went, even though it would mean leaving her homeland. In heartfelt words, Ruth said, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (1:16). Naomi agreed, and Ruth traveled with her to Bethlehem.
Not much is said about Naomi except that she loved and cared for Ruth. Obviously, Naomi’s life was a powerful witness to the reality of God. Ruth was drawn to her—and to the God she worshiped. In the succeeding months, God led this young Moabite widow to a man named Boaz, whom she eventually married. As a result, she became the great-grandmother of David and an ancestor in the line of the Messiah. What a profound impact Naomi’s life made!
The book of Ruth is also the story of God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ruth’s story occurred during the time of the judges—a period of disobedience, idolatry, and violence. Even in times of crisis and deepest despair, there are those who follow God and through whom God works. No matter how discouraging or antagonistic the world may seem, there are always people who follow God. He will use anyone who is open to him to achieve his purposes. Ruth was a Moabite, and Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, a former prostitute from Jericho. Nevertheless, their offspring continued the family line through which the Messiah came into our world.
The messages of Ruth transcend the immediately obvious purpose of providing the Davidic genealogy. Ruth presents several grand themes, each of which merit exploration and elaboration.
1) The Book of Ruth introduces the universal scope of redemption’s purposes. The inclusion of the Moabitess, Ruth, as a Gentile participant in Israel’s kingly line, pictures God’s love as it reaches out to all the nations of the world. He not only incorporates Gentiles in His salvation, but employs non-Jewish people as instruments in His redemptive program. Ruth’s message dissolves tendencies toward exclusivism, whether potential in Israel at that time or realized in any group’s traditions in our time.
2) The Book of Ruth ennobles the beauty of commitment and friendship and underscores the values of family commitment. Both values are obviously important and desirably reinforced in our time. Ruth’s prioritizing her daughter-servant role to the aging Naomi, Naomi’s preoccupation with Ruth’s best interest, and Boaz’s self-effacing will to see the endowment of a foreign maid with what will bring her a promising future, are all worthy of examination in this regard.
3) Ruth is a book of glorious redemptive imagery. The principle God proposed through the tradition of the levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5–10) dramatically reveals His will that human loss always be recoverable and that we work with Him in extending such possibilities to those in need. While technically speaking no levirate marriage occurs in the Book of Ruth, it is this principle from which Boaz’s actions spring and by which the spirit of God’s redemptive ways is illustrated.
Read this book and be encouraged. God is at work in the world, and he wants to use you. God could use you, as he used Naomi, to bring family and friends to him.