Hope was planted in a heart. It would not be denied. The heart belonged to Ruth. That hope that took root in her must be classified as a true work of God, for she had many reasons to be hopeless.
Her husband was dead, so were her father-in-law and her brother-in-law. A woman of Moab, she married into a family from Israel, from the tribe of Judah that occupied the territory just across the Dead Sea from her country. Her connections had died off. She had to have wondered what shape her life would take on once she returned to her people. Would she be welcomed “home” in the old neighborhood?
This was not an option in her mind. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was going back to Bethlehem. And Ruth was determined to go with her.
Naomi fiercely discouraged her. Seized with pain at the loss of her husband and sons, she poured forth bitter complaints. It could be said that she presented an evil report about her God and her homeland.
“Go back to your land and to your gods,” Naomi told her widowed daughters-in-law (see Ruth 1:15). One of the primary idols of Moab was Chemosh, a bull-headed idol to which children were sacrificed. Such was the hurt in Naomi that she figured Ruth would be better off worshipping that manner of deity than the One she knew.
Ruth knew better, it seems. She saw through Naomi’s cloud of dark sayings. She would go to Bethlehem. Even with what she was hearing at that point, Ruth remembered something deep and powerful about the Lord. She was going to cast her cares upon Him.
Back to Bethlehem
The troubles that came to Naomi were real. There was great pain in what she suffered. Still in her was this thought of home and of the family of God. And Ruth came to understand this.
We really don’t know just what influence we have on people for God. It is easy to think that it’s all on us to get out the Gospel. The fact of the matter is that the Holy Spirit is the responsible party in the spreading of the message.
Naomi chose to make a right decision and set her weeping eyes on Bethlehem. She was like the prodigal son in Jesus’ story. Mired in despair, she hungered for the right place. Moab, as a country, was not a far away country, but the decisions Naomi and her husband had made to leave the Promised Land and seek provision elsewhere did set their hearts apart from the Lord.
Home – Bethlehem — it was all she knew to think of at that time. She came to herself a little bit, as the prodigal did in that pig pen, as related in the gospel of Luke (see Luke 15). The son just wanted a bed in the servants’ quarters and some food to fill his belly.
What was it that Naomi wanted? The story tells us something about it. I think she wanted a place where she could tell the truth out loud and know that she would be heard. She was welcomed in Bethlehem.
“Is this Naomi?” They exclaimed as she arrived. Her name meant “pleasant,” but she wanted a name change, she told the people to call her “Mara” — bitter (see Ruth 1:19-22). They refused her request and let Naomi settle down in town. And that moment may have been the moment she really began to heal.
Naomi was never alone. God was always with her and she also had the heart of Ruth with her. The presence of the one who shared her grief and served to push her back to hope made a difference.
Grace at the Edges of a Field
In Bethlehem, Ruth continued to serve her mother-in-law. She, a foreigner, a stranger in Israel, found grace at the edges of a field. This field belonged to a man of the Word, a man of conviction who followed the commands of the Lord.
Boaz was the man and he refused to reap his field in selfishness so as to hoard the fruit of his harvest. He did as God prescribed and left the edges alone so the poor and needy could glean and live. This practice was best defined in Leviticus 23:22:
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
Ruth came boldly, a Moabitess, as an outsider she made herself at home. She was noticed. She was welcomed. She was blessed.
This pointed precisely to what God has always planned for His people. He wanted Israel to care for the whole world. Through Israel, the Lord would reveal His love and purpose. He desires the same for us as believers. He wants us to love every one of our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Naomi soon saw the whole picture. She reconnected with the truth of her people. Ruth belonged to her family and to her people and so this mother counseled Ruth on how to trigger the rule of redemption.
The whole scene played out marvelously in Ruth 3 and 4, as Ruth got dressed up and met this man in the middle of the night by a pile of barley. He responded in love and honor.
Boaz was kin to Ruth and his standing and action would establish a covenant in marriage to her. She actually married into the line of the throne. David himself would be her great grandson. Ruth’s hope in God and His people found a profound fulfillment.
Let us see this about ourselves. We have Christ. We are in Christ. And where Christ is, there is always hope.Even in our troubles, God can put someone with us. He can move us to get back to where we belong. With friends and neighbors and church life, we can rediscover the promises and enter into His purpose. Click To Tweet
Even in our troubles, God can put someone with us. He can move us to get back to where we belong. With friends and neighbors and church life, we can rediscover the promises and enter into His purpose.
We are never left behind. We are never forsaken. Even in the bitterest times, the lines of our lives fall into pleasant places (see Psalm 16:6).
Ruth caught wind of the hope of the God who cares, the God who knows, the God who provides, the God who is Love. Ruth let the Spirit touch her, and by this, she was saved and gladly became part of the family of God. In doing so, she helped Naomi through her hurt and back home to her people and to her God.
This can happen anywhere at any time with any one of us.
For more about Ruth, Naomi, bitterness, and hope, watch this message “What’s Grinding in Your Mind?” preached by Thomas Schaller, Pastor of the Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.