Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Ruth 3:11 Now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do everything you ask, because all the people in our town know you are a good woman.
Are there people you feel drawn to? People you get excited to spend time with? Have you ever asked yourself what it is about them that makes you feel this way?
I started to ask myself these questions about the book of Ruth. I am drawn to this book. Each time I read it, I look forward to the time I'll spend there. So, the question for me became, "Why?"
Why have I read the book of Ruth so many times? Why am I drawn to it again and again?
The answer is the people; Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz have become like beloved friends.
You see, they've been with me through my most challenging times and my most joyous times. They are people I've gone back to over and over again like the comfort of my family and dearest friends. I've laughed with them and cried with them.
If I were able to meet with Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, I think these are the things I would want them to know:
Let me start with Naomi. In the beginning of the story she is a very strong woman. She has lost her husband and two sons and is left with her two daughters-in-law. She is living in the foreign land of Moab, which was only supposed to be temporary. She hears God has once again blessed Bethlehem, her former home, and delivered it from the famine. It sounds like she wasted no time to make a plan to travel back there and take her daughters-in-law with her. She is a picture of strength and perseverance at this point. Naomi didn't sit around feeling sorry for herself (although, that did come later), or remain somewhere she could have died herself, or waited for someone else to take care of her or tell her what to do. She was a woman with determination to continue on.
Naomi, when I was left alone on a night in October 2011, not knowing if it would be a temporary or permanent state, I was able to get myself out of bed the next day, take care of my children, and go to work. I did not do this in a "pull yourself up by your boot straps" sort of way. I wasn't trying to be tough or prove something. I just knew I had to live the next day God gave me and put one foot in front of the other. This is how I saw you handling your circumstances. I want you to know that you were my inspiration many times to persevere through adversity.
Let me talk about Boaz next. Boaz is a close relative of Naomi and Ruth. When Boaz first meets Ruth she is gathering the wheat that is left behind in his field. He not only allows her to continue to do this, but he tells her to remain in his fields and not go to any others and warns the young men not to bother her. An admirable picture of a man living out his role as protector. I could go on and on about Boaz's kindness and generosity toward Ruth, but you will have to read that for yourself. I do, however, want to quote the first compliment and prayer he spoke over her in chapter 2 verses 11-12:
Boaz answered her, "I know about all the help you have given your mother-in-law after your husband died. You left your father and mother and your own country to come to a nation where you did not know anyone. May the Lord reward you for all you have done. May your wages be paid in full by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for shelter."
Boaz, when I read your words to Ruth, my heart melts. I'm sure her's did too. As a divorced woman feeling tossed aside, I spent time with the Lord asking Him to heal my heart and to give me a different picture of what He intended marriage to be. My picture felt tainted and distorted and I longed for it not to remain that way. The way you acknowledged Ruth's life - her choices, her loyalty, her courage, her faith - spoke so deeply to my heart. You told her she was a woman who was seen and known. You respected her and valued her worth. And then you prayed over her ... and God began to paint me a different picture of marriage.
So, here's where I need to share a little bit of my redemption story and express my respect and gratitude for my Boaz. Never in my life have I had someone who supports, encourages, and acknowledges my worth more than my husband, Robert. I can't tell you what it has done for my woman's heart to be appreciated and seen as an important part of another person's life. When Robert experiences success in his job, he includes me in that celebration and tells me how much I was a part of it. He believes and tells me he is a better man because of me. Even more importantly, my husband prays for me and for us. He is a spiritual leader who loves the Lord and acknowledges Him above all else. God redeemed my picture of marriage and has also allowed me the blessing of living it.
Last, but certainly not least, is Ruth. Even saying her name brings tears to my eyes. Isn't that crazy? Actually, maybe not when we consider this lovely woman. She not only makes a decision to remain with her mother-in-law and leave her homeland, but to make a commitment to Naomi's God. These are two things Ruth made up her mind about (1:18). Throughout the book, Ruth captivates me by her ability to trust, humble herself, and obey. She listens to her mother-in-law and does everything she asks of her. She highly respects Boaz by her words and her actions, and when she goes to him on the threshing floor, she hears these words from him, "The Lord bless you, my daughter. This act of kindness is greater than the kindness you showed to Naomi in the beginning. You didn't look for a young man to marry, either rich or poor. Now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do everything you ask, because all the people in our town know you are a good woman." (3:10-11). ALL the people in our town know you are a good woman ... what an incredible statement. And, if we are being real honest here about Boaz's words, Ruth was not a widow who was running around trying to get her claws into the first young man she saw. Scripture never once tells us she was considering remarriage. It was Naomi who wanted to find her a new suitable home (3:1).
Ruth, you feel like a life saver. God used your story, your life, and your choices in so many amazing ways. Like you, I wanted to be a good woman when faced with the single life again after twenty years. I wanted to have the testimony of God's blessing when you wait on Him. There are also questions I would love to ask you. Did you go to the threshing floor with expectations that Boaz would take you as his wife? I wonder how you felt when Boaz told you there was a closer relative than him. Did you feel disappointed or like a fool? I have felt like a fool so many times and disappointed because of my expectations. Did you struggle with the past coming into your marriage with Boaz? I would love to hear your advice on that. But more than anything, I would love to hear the rest of your redemption story. How many years did you and Boaz have together? How many children did you end up having together? You have been a dear friend to me and someone I have always respected and admired. Thank you for allowing my tears to fall on the pages of your story.
Some of this dialogue may seem strange to you. God's Word changed for me when I asked Him to help me read it through different eyes. I must confess it oftentimes fell flat, and I struggled to relate it to my life and circumstances. I wanted to know the people in the Bible as "real" people - because they are after all.
The first thing God used surprised me, because it wasn't the Bible. He used fiction books by Francine Rivers. She wrote a set of novellas about the women in Jesus' genealogy - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The collection is called the Lineage of Grace Series. Not only were my eyes opened, but my heart was too. My heart broke for these women because suddenly they were alive and breathing. They were my mom, my sister, my friend ... they were me!
However God may do it, or whatever way He may use, I pray we'll all read His Word as the living, breathing, true love story that it is.
Dear Father, Thank you for rescuing me from the lie that I couldn't understand Your Word and that it wasn't meant for me. You answered my cry to You, and from that point on, Your Word has been a journey for me as the Beloved. The more time I spend with You in Your word, the deeper and more real it becomes. I'm so glad You're the God of ordinary people being used for Your glory in Your extraordinary story! Thank You for being relentless in Your pursuit. Amen