Have you ever felt closer to an extended family member more so than anyone from your nuclear family? Do you have friends at church; spiritual family members that are more committed to you than your physical family? God brings amazing people into our lives to build us, encourage us and support us that may not be related to us by blood. Even though we may share genetic bonds with certain people, God often allows some relational bonds and spiritual bonds to be stronger. This was the bond of Ruth and Naomi. Would you like to have stronger family bonds? Do you want to feel closer to the people in your life and closer to God? We learn how to have strong family and spiritual bonds from Ruth and Naomi.
When someone says, “Let me tell you about my mother-in-law,” we often expect a criticism or humorous story because the mother-in-law caricature has been a standard centerpiece of ridicule or comedy. 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 blood family and 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. Ruth was fully committed to Naomi, Naomi’s people(God’s people) and Naomi’s God.
The first conviction I see in Ruth that moved her words into action is that;
Family is worth working for. Family is worth our time, effort, blood, sweat and tears.
How many sleepless nights, diapers changed, loads of laundry, doctors’ appointments, meals cooked have there been for those we love? It’s not worth counting, because we do those things for people we love.
Ruth 2: 2-3 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.”
Ruth puts words into action and takes initiative to support her mother in law in spite of the fact that she is a foreigner. Ruth had great determination to work and improve her condition and not just stay in bed with self-pity. For a poor widow like Ruth working in the field in the heat of the sun and picking up the leftover grains behind the workers to support herself and her mother-in-law gives us insight of the people of Israel at that time. From the law (Lev. 19:9-10 & Deut. 24-19-22) farmers in Israel were instructed to cut corners in harvesting and always leave some behind so that the poor and the needy can come and glean for themselves.
This was the social assistance program in Israel so that the poor can provide for their needs as they work with dignity. This shows us that hard work is important rather than merely relying on government welfare. God rewards diligence and industry.
The godly character traits of service, loyalty and hard work that Ruth had were significant in God lifting her up and blessing her life. These are the same qualities that God is looking at our hearts as we serve Him and the families He has given us. As we serve our families, we are serving God. God takes notice which leads us to our next truth about family,
Family support is rewarded by God.
Ruth showed great commitment and willingness to serve Naomi. In turn we will see that Boaz showed great commitment kindness to Ruth, a foreigner, a despised Moabite woman with no money.
When we show commitment and support to our families, both our earthly and spiritual families, God brings great blessings and rewards into our lives. Like Ruth, God changes our circumstances as we trust Him.
Our identity of ourselves changes as God blesses us. Ruth was first called a Moabitess, a foreigner but now notice how she was addressed in Ruth 2:8, “So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me….” Boaz didn’t receive her as a foreigner, but as family. He called her “my daughter,” not a Moabitess. The law rejected her, but Boaz received her.
Is this not the story of us all as believers? We were outsiders, condemned and without hope, but by God’s amazing grace, we have been accepted and brought into His family by Christ.
When Ruth set out that morning to glean in the fields, she was looking for someone who would show her grace or favor: (v. 2, and see v. 10 and 13). Grace is favor bestowed on someone who doesn’t deserve it and can’t earn it. As a woman, a poor widow, and an alien, Ruth could have no claims on anyone. She was at the lowest rung of the social ladder.
The channel of that grace was Boaz. Commentators have pointed out in Boaz a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ in His relationship to His bride, the church. Like Ruth, the lost sinner is outside the covenant family of God, bankrupt, with no claim on God’s mercy. But God took the initiative and provided a way for us to enter His family through faith in Jesus Christ. We will look at this relationship more in the next two chapters.
Notice the grace or favor that Ruth receives from Boaz is just like the grace we receive in Jesus Christ.
- Direction In Our Life
Notice in verses 8-9, that Boaz said to Ruth, “Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. .” She receives words of guidance and direction from Boaz. Like Boaz, Jesus brings into our life the blessing of guidance and direction. Jesus says that “He is the Good Shepherd. He leads us, He speaks to us and we follow Him for abundant life.”
- Protection For Our Life
Notice verse 9, “I have told the men not to lay a hand on you.” Boaz was concerned that others might take advantage of Ruth. From what we know of Ruth, she was a very attractive woman. But Boaz made sure that she would be safe. Jesus is also watching over our lives, in John 10 Jesus shares that when the wolf or the enemy comes, Jesus protects the flock even laying down his life.
- Satisfaction To Our Life
Notice again in verse 9, “And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars.” Under God’s welfare program she could glean in the field, but that was about it. Yet, Boaz told her that she could drink of the water that was provided for his workers when she was thirsty. The grace of God through Jesus Christ will bring satisfaction to our life. Jesus says that he has come that we might not just have life, but a full, abundant and satisfying life!
In Christ we find direction in life, protection for life, and satisfaction in life just as Ruth experienced from Boaz.
Our Family Relationships Teach Us about God
Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem as poor widows, but they would soon become prosperous through Ruth’s marriage to Boaz. Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David. Yet the greatest blessing was not the money, the marriage, or the child; it was the work of God in their lives. These relationships of family that they experienced foreshadowed the relationships that we find in God.
We tend to think of blessings in terms of prosperity rather than the high-quality relationships God makes possible for us. No matter what our economic situation, we can love and respect the people God has brought into our lives. In so doing, we give and receive blessings. Love is the greatest blessing, grace is the greatest blessing, and relationships are the greatest blessings. God uses our family relationships to teach us about the relationships we have in Him. God is our Father; our fellow believers in Christ are our brothers and sisters. Christ is our redeemer, we are his bride.
Thank you Lord for showing us that family matters. We are thankful for our families that you have given us; both earthly and spiritual. You use them teach us, bless and show us more about you.
Sources: Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 396.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.