Ruth is a very short book – in fact, only three pages in my journal Bible. It is always a good idea to read the Bible in context … just to say at this point then, that the story of Ruth doesn’t occur just after Joseph and after my Genesis series! It takes place in a time before there were any kings in the Israelite nation, but instead, they were ruled and led by judges. This is a bit before Deborah and Gideon at about 1300BC. I chose this book next because I love the story, it was much shorter than Genesis short … and I wanted to read about a female!
I re-read the whole story before I began to journal this book and actually started journalling on page two (of which you can see a sneaky peek of the illustration). I wanted to get the overall feel for the story. What would make the author of this book want to write about a woman?
Ruth was remarkably unremarkable. She had married into an Israelite family, but she was a Moabite. She happened to be joined to this family because there was a famine and so the family had moved from Bethlehem to Moab.
In the first five verses you hear about Naomi and her husband and her sons, the text even names them … and then kills them off! This is vital for the story because given the option to stay in Moab and return to her people, or go with Naomi back to famine torn Bethlehem, Ruth chooses the latter.
So this book is the story of one family, one famine, one woman and one decision.
When Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to go home she paints a bleak picture of their future if they stay. There would be no positives with her, there would be no more sons to marry and they would be stuck with an old widow to care for. ‘Going where I go will not be fun!’ So one daughter-in-law leaves, with many tears. It is obvious that Naomi is, in fact, a really good mother in law and that these women love her. But I don’t think that it is just affection that causes Ruth to stay. Ruth sees even more than that.
To Ruth, she had seen something of the family and understood a little of what she had inherited when she married one of Naomi’s sons. She saw that what she had now gained was far superior, even if it meant going back to a land in famine, to what she used to have in Moab. It is so important to her that she urges (try earnestly or persistently to persuade (someone) to do something) Naomi to not turn her back, to not send her away, to not exclude her from this precious life. She sees the value of what she now has. She wants to be fully a part of Naomi’s family, she wants Naomi’s people and GOD to become her own. She rejects what she once knew and cuts off the option to duck out of her decision.
Ruth chooses Naomi. When given the option to return to her own people, traditions and gods, she chose to leave them behind. This sets Ruth up to become part of the most important family of all time, but she had no idea what her decision to stay with Naomi would lead to in the years to come.
She saw something so important, that she was willing to give up a more familiar and possibly secure future. We might consider that a brave thing to do, but realistically, if you see something better, the sacrifice you have to make is small. This reminds me of the collector of pearls that Jesus told the story of, when he found a pearl of great worth he sold all that he had, even the collection, so that he might secure the one pearl.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
This is such a challenge! Do we really see a life with relationship with Jesus as having great worth? Do we turn down all the other options?
Ruth is remarkably unremarkable … or at least she should be to us because we should have the same attitude. So perhaps one of the reasons the author wrote this three page book was because we need to know that the choice we make to have relationship with Jesus is of greater worth than any other choice we will ever make. It is the best choice to make today, tomorrow and next week. It is the right choice to make in this moment and the next.
The right choice is not always what appears to be the good choice – Ruth chose the place where there was a famine … but it is always the better choice – she gained a place in the family of GOD!