Are your tired? I mean really tired. Not the I haven’t slept tired, but the deep tiredness – the kind that affects the deepest part of your soul. I have experienced this type of deep tiredness lately, but I was reminded this week of a great story. The book of Ruth is very short, only 4 chapters, yet it speaks volumes. I encourage you to read it this week. It probably would only take you about 15 minutes, but I encourage you to take your time. Read it slowly and deliberately, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak the great principles that line the pages of this inspiring story into the deepest part of you.
What does Ruth tell us? I always remember the famous words that you often hear at weddings. The great love that Ruth proclaims for Naomi, her mother-in-law.
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
After a famine hit, Naomi and her family left Bethlehem and went to Moab. After 10 years, her husband and two sons died. Ruth, a Moabitess, had married one of Naomi’s sons who died. After this Naomi realized she must return to Bethlehem, but encourages her daughters-in-law to stay in their homeland. And this is where you find the above scripture. Ruth is absolutely determined to stay with Naomi.
Consider it: Naomi’s family was only in Moab for ten years, so Ruth is still very young. Her husband died – and in that day and culture this likely meant she would be scraping by until she remarried. Ruth’s options for remarrying were very good in Moab. But she clings to Naomi and determines never to leave her. This means she was willing to go to foreign land (reducing her chances of getting remarried) where she knew no one and had to leave her culture, family and friends. It sounds easy on paper, but she had to have a severe case of determination to do what she did.
I think it also important to consider Ruth’s motivation. She clearly loved Naomi deeply, but I also think Ruth knew Naomi would not remarry and was vowing not to leave her no matter her circumstances. So Ruth was moved to do what no other young woman would do out of love and compassion – but what was required was not soft, it was a determined spirit. She knew this was the right thing to do and would not be swayed from it, even by Naomi (vs. 11-18).
Although Ruth was determined to do what was right, she did not know the end of the story like we do, she had no guarantees. This decision would likely cost her everything – provision, ability to remarry, and happiness. It was one thing to marry a Jew in Moab, but quite another to marry one in Bethlehem. Ruth counted the cost and said, “I will never leave you”.
In chapter two, we find again some great character in Ruth. After they arrive in Bethlehem, listen to what Ruth does?
“And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Don’t let this slip by you; there is much in this statement. Ruth does not, I repeat does not wait for an opportunity (waiting around for someone to bring her food). She takes the initiative and asks Naomi if she can go and find work. It was not Naomi’s idea. Ruth is not waiting around for her prince, she figures out how to find work so the two of them can eat. There is also a great element of faith in her statement. She does not say, I hope to find grain or I hope to find favor. She says “in whose eyes I find favor”. It was the custom that the poor could pick up the left over grain behind the harvesters; they would actually leave some grain behind for them to pick up. Even so, her statement is one of faith, not doubt or shaky hope. We also see from reading the chapter that not all fields were safe. So Ruth took initiative, had faith for it, and yet it was not without risk.
So what happens? God takes notice. In whose field does she happen to work in – the field of Boaz. Notice how he responds to her:
“At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, ‘Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?’ Boaz replied, ‘I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.’” Ruth 2:10-12
Notice he talks about what she had done for Naomi (little did Ruth know at the time Boaz was her relative), and then he asks that God would reward her. If you continue to read the story you realize that this was only the beginning of God’s blessings. We find out that not only is Ruth able to find work, under Naomi’s guidance Ruth later marries Boaz! And it doesn’t stop there; at the end of the book we discover that Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David. She and Boaz have a son, who is David’s grandfather – which means Ruth was in the royal blood line of our Savior!
The book of Ruth is amazing – it reminded me of four things God wants from me, and four things that He will reward. No matter how tired I find myself in life, I must do these things to please God and live an abundant life in Christ.
1) Be determined – no matter the circumstance, determine that you will not let anything stop you from showing love and compassion through your words and actions.
2) Count the cost of doing what is right – we need to consider the cost so we have a deep understanding of how great our God is. We count the cost and then proceed to do what is right no matter that cost.
3) Take initiative – look for opportunities and make opportunities. Come up with ideas on how to work and bless others. Do not wait for it, go get it!
4) Believe in God’s faithfulness in spite of circumstances – Do not look at your current situation, look at God’s faithfulness and believe in Him.
Ruth demonstrated all of these attributes in her life – thus she transitions from being surrounded by death to being married with a child and literally grafted in to the line of Christ. Don’t ever think or say it can’t happen to me. It happened to Ruth!