Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ruth, A Story of Both Faith and Works

One of my favorite stories about women in the scriptures is the story of Ruth and Naomi. Their stories are so similarly intertwined in an instructive twist of fate. Naomi, who was a woman from Bethlehem-Judah, finds herself in a strange land in a peculiar predicament. She and her husband chose to leave their homeland and venture to the area of Moab because of a shortage of “bread” in their land. While in Moab, Naomi loses her husband to death. She also loses her only two sons to death, but not before they each had taken a Moabite woman as a wife. With no means of financial support, and upon hearing there was food to be found in her homeland of Bethlehem-Judah, Ruth decides to return home.

To understand the predicament that each of the three women were in, one must understand the conditions of the Levirate marriage. Under the law, if a man should die the dead man's brother should marry the widow and raise a family to the dead man, meaning all children born to this new union would be counted seed to the deceased brother. The firstborn son to this union would still be considered the birthright child of the dead husband and would inherit all the property and rights that should have been his dead fathers.

This custom insured the security and protection of the widow, who might have otherwise been left friendless and destitute. The law further stated that if there were no brothers to take upon themselves this widow a more distant male relative would be required to perform this duty of marriage and continuation of seed to that family. This was the responsibility of the closest blood relative, who actually became the widows "redeemer or protector" called a "Go'el."

For Naomi to have a continuation of seed, she must require her daughter-in-laws to marry her husbands nearest living relative. It is important to note that posterity was one of the ways in which a person was measured as far as worth. Naomi unselfishly allows her two daughter-in-laws their freedom and instructs them to return to their families and to their ways of worship. At this point Naomi also blesses them with the following petition to the Lord on their behalf:

Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

9 The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.

Orpah, one of the daughters, “kissed her mother in law” and left, but Ruth “clave unto her.” The true conversion that Ruth had to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the love she felt for her mother-in-law and her God is shown by her response.

Ruth 1:16 Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

They both return to Judah and it is there we see a twist of fate; Ruth is now the one in a strange land facing a peculiar predicament. This Moabite woman is now required to provide support for her mother-in-law, whom she loves. To do this she is forced to go to the field and “glean” for their food.

The Lord explained this process of gleaning,

Leviticus 19: 9 ¶ And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.

10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.

The “glean” was the food that was left for the poor, either on the vine or on the ground, after the harvest was gathered by the harvesters. Ruth had resolved to go into the field, for it was during the Barley harvest, and glean for food. As Ruth was gleaning in the field, the land owner who was called Boaz noticed her and found favor with her.

Ruth 2:11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.

12 The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Both the prayers of her mother-in-law Naomi, and of Boaz, who we ultimately find becomes her husband, desire for Ruth to be blessed because of her faith and her works. This faithful convert, does “find rest in the house of her husband” for his house is the House of David, which is the “house” Jesus Christ himself comes through. This “house” or family line is that of kings and priests, and would be considered a “full reward” for any righteous woman to have. Because of the faithful consecrated acts that Ruth performed, not only for her mother-in-law but for her God too, she received the blessings of redemption and eternal life.


Bob and Carol Norman said...

Good job!

Something Marvellous said...

I love this story, too. I had read Ruth many, many times, before. But it was last year for the first time - I understood it. Thank you sharing this - I learned some new things about Ruth from this informative post.

Heatherlady said...

Oh, I really love your perspective on Ruth and Naomi and think that you did a wonderful job of explaining why Ruth chose to stay with her mother in law and what was expected of her. I would love it if you would think about writing something like this (if you wanted you could even re-post this) for my blog on women in the scriptures. I'd like to have other women's perspective on women in the scriptures too. I think it would be beneficial, because there is so much to say about them and I don't know it all (gasp!). Or if there is someone else you'd like to write about I'd love to read it. Let me know. You write beautifully.