As only one of 5 women that had her name in the genealogy of Jesus, Ruth begs us to examine her life further. Since her story is portrayed in the Book of Ruth it seems like God wants us to pay attention to what she did.
What is it that sets her apart from others? What is it that we can learn from her? How was her solitariness both a gift and a challenge? Let’s explore these ideas together.
A bit of a background on Ruth – she was a Moabite woman who lived in the time of the Judges. She had married Killion. Killion and his brother were both sons of Naomi an Ephratite from Bethlehem. (this is an important distinction- their backgrounds were very different) 10 years passed and Ruth was widowed along with her sister-in-law Orpah, as both of the brothers died. Their mother-in-law had already been widowed for ten years. Naomi had lost her husband when her family first arrived in Moab. So, not only was Ruth single now, but she had to make a choice: would she join her mother-in-law in going back to Naomi’s homeland in Judah or would she stay where she had her own family and was familiar with the culture and customs.
Perhaps Ruth thought Naomi could help her along in her grief process, perhaps she wanted to stay loyal to her deceased husband and his family, we aren’t told specifically. What we do know is that Ruth took a pledge of allegiance to Naomi. I love how selfless Ruth is – she looks to what is best for her mother-in-law. She refused to leave her mother-in-law and allow her to return to Judah alone. This is when her sister-in-law (Orpah) is determined to go back to her own family as it’s not like Naomi could bear another son in her old age.
Ruth was unwavering and courageous. She had made up her mind to follow Naomi and make a new home, following Naomi’s traditions and culture, and even her God. When I came to Canada at the age of 8 it was hard. I didn’t know a word of English, my extended family and my friends were back in Poland and the culture was very different from what I was used to. My supports were no longer there. I think this is how Ruth must have felt, a foreigner in a different country, unsure of what was ahead, unable to communicate with those in this new land. Something as simple as asking for everyday essentials is difficult when you can’t speak the same language.
When we experience change, many thoughts and ideas assail us: excitement at the possibilities that life could be better, challenges, and unknowns that would bring fear and insecurity. This is especially true because Ruth was a woman in a culture that didn’t support women, especially single women. It’s not like being single in the western world today: where it is seen as being brave, bold, and forward-thinking. Being a woman and not having anyone to vouch for you would be incredibly challenging in this particular part of the world. Women were deemed to be of a lower class during this period. They needed to rely on a man to take care of them. If they didn’t have this support, they would be homeless and/or need to depend on the goodness of others to take care of them. They would need a Kinsmen Redeemer. Another man that would take the pledge to take care of the woman as her husband.
Ruth’s story isn’t isolated. In fact, I think there are many “Ruth’s” even today. They are not all women who have been widowed and are now going with their mothers-in-law to new lands. But rather women who can relate to having to overcome hardships in their lives such as; learning a new language, taking a lower-paying job, and leaving all that is familiar. Perhaps like my mom who chose to leave Poland for a better life for her children. She had been widowed, had to leave her workplace at a doctor’s office to now find employment at a fruit market because she didn’t speak the language well enough. She was fighting a court system that left her overwhelmed and dejected – unable to find answers as to what happened to her husband! Perhaps it’s what enables women like Ruth, my mom, and others to follow their hearts, to reach for hope, and desire something more! They make these choices because they are single: in some ways, they have no options, and in other ways, they have all the options. They are able to do what they feel is right for them at the time as don’t have to worry about what everyone else expects of them. They have the freedom to make that choice for themselves based on the knowledge they have at the given time. So, if you are feeling dejected, whether you are single or married, know that there is hope for a better tomorrow!
I think Ruth was hoping the future would be easier, brighter, and less challenging. Perhaps she felt in her spirit that there was more waiting for her ahead. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Maybe she had an inkling that she would one day find her Kinsmen Redeemer. After all, she is in the lineage of Jesus!
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“Consequently, faith comes from hearing
the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
~ Romans 10:17