So far in this series, we’ve discussed two of the women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy at the beginning of Matthew. Tamar and Rahab, in a lot of ways, are quite alike: they were both foreigners, they both did some things that, to us today, are shocking. They both displayed immense faith in the face of terrible and terrifying circumstances. But in a lot of ways, they pale in comparison to the next woman mentioned: Ruth.
We all know the story: Ruth, a Moabite, refused to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi, when all the men in their family were dead and Naomi was heading back to her hometown of Bethlehem. She worked hard to provide food for Naomi, and through her work she met Boaz, who married her, lifting both her and Naomi from utter poverty and hopelessness into new life and hope. Ruth’s faith and courage is on display in full force in her book – her faithfulness and her loyalty.
Despite being a Gentile, with little knowledge of the God of Israel, Ruth dedicated herself to Naomi and to Naomi’s God. But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. – Ruth 1:16 Though her sexual purity had not been compromised (unlike Tamar and Rahab) she was still a widow with no children to support her and no hope for the future. She could have returned to her parents, but she chose to stay a widow, to stay with Naomi, to be destitute. The loyalty that she displayed to Naomi was unheard of, to the point that the women of Bethlehem praised her as “better to [Naomi] than seven sons”! – Ruth 4:15
What can we take from Ruth? There are a few things that stick out: her faith, her loyalty, and her joy. Ruth abandoned the gods of her people and wholeheartedly followed God, taking up a position of poverty and vulnerability in a land she didn’t know in order to serve her mother-in-law and her new God. How many of us would sacrifice comfort and security for someone else? How many would sacrifice those things to follow God? We can all be challenged by Ruth’s faithful loyalty seen so clearly. Ruth also bucked the system and her courage and boldness served Naomi well, saving her life, giving her hope and ultimately a blessed future.
The other thing that comes out of this story is Ruth’s joy. There is a constant, palpable joy radiating from Ruth herself, driving everything she does, even in the worst of circumstances – a joy born of her faith in the God of Israel, under whose wings she had come to take refuge. Like Boaz’ mother, Rahab, she belonged to a race excluded from the commonwealth of God under the Old Testament. And yet by faith, she became a woman of God whose character put most of the men in Israel to shame. Much like her loyalty and faith, Ruth’s joy despite her circumstances is a challenge to us today. Rarely will any of us experience the kind of destitution that Ruth willingly embraced, but regardless of what trials we face, we can, like Ruth, joyfully embrace any opportunity to be faithful.
Ruth’s faith, loyalty and joy were amply rewarded in her lifetime, through her marriage to Boaz and the birth of her son, Obed. But they were also rewarded beyond her lifetime, in ways she could not possibly have foreseen, since Obed was the grandfather of David, and David’s ultimate descendant was Jesus Christ, the son of God. We can be faithful and joyful in whatever circumstance, knowing from Ruth’s story that God rewards these things, even in ways we don’t see.
PRAYER: Lord God, May I like Ruth seek to follow you whatever the cost may be and may I like Naomi live out my faith in such a way that others would want to make you their God too. In Jesus Name, Amen
SONG: Through All of It, by Colton Dixon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEylvSLGRoA