This week, we kick off a brand-new series titled Faith Heroes. For the next few weeks, I will introduce you to some of the heroes of the faith that you might not realize are heroes.
For some of you, you might be well acquainted with these heroes, but for others, you might be new to their story. This series could be endless, but I assure you, it will be dolled out in small chunks.
The best way to engage a hero story is to jump in and out of the narrative. This week, we take a look at our first faith hero – Ruth.
The book of Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is four short chapters, and it’s found between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. Let’s begin the journey and learn why Ruth is a faith hero.
Ruth was living during the time of the judges in the Old Testament. Israel did not have a king like some of the neighboring nations.
We are still a bit of time away from Israel’s first king, so God put the judges in place to guide and lead the people.
Samson, Gideon, and Deborah were some of the judges during this time.
When the judges ruled, a man named Elimelek, Naomi, and their two sons fled the famine and settled in the land of Moab.
Here the sons met and married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth.
For ten years, Naomi’s husband and sons died, causing Naomi to make a change.
Naomi encouraged her daughter-in-law to head back to their homeland and find new husbands because they were still young.
Ruth, however, told Naomi – I will go where you go. So, Naomi and Ruth packed their bags and headed to Bethlehem.
When they arrived, Naomi changed her name due to the hardship she had suffered.
The passage concludes with,
“So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” – Ruth 1:22
As the passage concludes, a bit of foreshadowing takes place regarding the harvest.
Ruth did the honorable thing and stayed with her mother-in-law, even though she did not need to.
What can we learn from this part of the journey?
For us, when we are faced with a challenge that requires us to choose between disrespect and respect (honor), we should choose to honor the person or situation as hard as it may be.
We should be truthful in our interactions, and that will help lead to an honorable decision. During these interactions, let your words be sprinkled with grace and respect.
You Are Safe Here
It’s Harvest Time – let’s head to the fields!
We are introduced to another key figure in Ruth’s story during the harvest time – a man named Boaz, a man of good standing in the clan of Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelek.
Ruth headed out to the fields to pick up any grain left behind by the harvesters.
The field she was working in was owned by a man named Boaz. He asked the people who worked for him who the young woman was.
Boaz engaged Ruth in conversation, asking her who she was. She explained her relationship to Naomi and how she happened in his field.
“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 2:11-12
Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem must have been the talk of the town. Since Boaz was part of Elimelek’s clan, the buzz must have been around Naomi and what Ruth had done for her.
When Ruth needed encouragement, the Lord provided it through Boaz.
The Lord encourages us when we least expect it, and in ways we may not understand.
Boaz’s words to Ruth in verse 12 encourage us as they did here:
“May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” – Ruth 2:12
There is no doubt that our hearts are broken and hurting after so much pain over the last 18 months.
When the world feels like it’s crashing down around us or we don’t understand what’s transpiring, we can rest in the assurance “God’s Got This”1 – we do not have to fear.
Ruth must have been scared working in the fields, wondering if men might try to take advantage of her, but the Lord protected her.
It’s no accident that she ended up in Boaz’s field – it was divine. The workers were caring – it was divine.
Boaz provided a safe place for her to work, and who knew her story – it was divine.
Even in the smallest moments of life, God reminds us that He is in control. If He knows the number of hairs on our head or the grains of sand on the seashore, indeed, you are more precious to Him than anything else.
Just like Ruth, He is watching over you. You are safe in His field.
Ruth’s story is getting exciting. What will happen next?
The harvest is nearing its end, and it seems like there might be a little spark between Boaz and Ruth. So, Naomi goes to work.
She guides Ruth in the ways of courtship. She tells Ruth, it is time; I found you a new and permanent home.
Here’s what you need to do. Get dressed up and head down to the threshing floor where Boaz will be working late.
This has to be one of the most interesting beginnings of a courtship I have read.
End side note
Naomi instructs Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet and lay there. Boaz wakes up at some point in the night and is surprised to find a woman sleeping at this feet. I would probably have the same reaction.
He asks, who is there, and Ruth acknowledges it is her. She then replies, “you are my family redeemer.”2
“The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman.” – Ruth 3:10-11
Boaz calls Ruth a virtuous woman, and her character and reputation paved the way for this compliment.
Boaz is one of Ruth’s family redeemers; however, another man in town is in line ahead of Boaz. He wants to do what is right. You can see he cares for her, and I would say he even loves her.
It is clear that Boaz knew the laws of his time and his role as a family redeemer, but there was a slight wrinkle. According to scholars, he had fallen for Ruth, and that was not typically part of the family redeemer role.3
Today, we don’t have family redeemers as they had in the Old Testament; however, we can learn a couple of things from Ruth in this passage.
- Ruth had character. The town knew what she gave up to be with Naomi. She sacrificed, and it did not go unnoticed.
- She was loyal. She supported the family and stayed with Naomi even though she had a choice to return to her homeland.
What will we do when faced with our crossroads?
In life, we face crossroads, just like Ruth. She was given a choice to stay or follow Naomi. Had she returned to her homeland, she would have missed out on Boaz – her family redeemer.
Sometimes the challenges we face lead us to something unexpected and beautiful.
Time For a Wedding
Let’s re-join the story of Ruth and Boaz.
Boaz headed to the town gate to approach the man who was in line ahead of him to be the family redeemer for Ruth.
He gathered witnesses and asked if the other man would like to purchase or redeem the property Naomi was selling.
When the man indicated he would like to redeem the property, Boaz added one minor detail: he (the family redeemer) must also take Ruth.
Whoa…hold the hourglass.
Um…that is probably going to be a problem. The other redeemer did not want to jeopardize his family legacy.
Boaz does a little happy dance. As was the day's custom, the other redeemer passed Boaz his sandal in the elders’ presence.
“And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.” – Ruth 4:10
And, with the approval of the town elders, Boaz and Ruth were to be married.
Even though I am not married, I appreciate the love story we find in Ruth’s book. Like my parents and grandparents, some couples have been married for over fifty years, while others say goodbye after a few years.
God intended marriage to be for a lifetime, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
In the case of Ruth, she was a widow. When I was coaching high school girls cross country, my assistant coach was a young widow.
Her husband and his best friend were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Her story was tragic.
Then came a man that flipped her world upside-down. She found love for a second time, and they now have some beautiful kiddos.
The road to marriage looks different for each person. Some spend an entire lifetime together, and others are fortunate enough to find love a second time around.
God’s ways are not our ways.
We have reached the end of Ruth’s story, finding out why she is a faith hero.
After Boaz and Ruth were married, it wasn’t long before a little one came along. The women of the town told Naomi that it was great that a redeemer had saved her family.
Naomi was so happy to have a grandson, and she loved him as her own.
Here’s where it gets exciting,
“The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.” – Ruth 4:17
Christmas will be here before we know it, and the line of Jesus can be traced back to many people, including King David.
And who was the grandfather of King David?
Yep, you guessed it.
Obed – who was born to Boaz and Ruth. The line of Jesus passes through the broken and redeemed.
The application for us is that you never know the end of the story until it is written. When Ruth lost her husband, she thought her story was finished.
When she traveled back to a small town (Bethlehem) with her mother-in-law, she didn’t realize “God was preparing her for what He had prepared for her.”4
Her family would be part of a line to the King of Kings and the Savior of the world.
Ruth’s story appeared tragic (and it was in some cases), but just as she was redeemed, Christ came to redeem us all.
And that is the best part of our story. What’s exciting to me is without Ruth, we would never have Obed or King David or a line to Jesus. God would have chosen a different path to His Son coming to earth to redeem us, but He chose to go through Ruth.
This is why Ruth is a faith hero.
Lord, thank you for the blessing of Ruth and the story of redemption. Thank you for showing us how you love and how to be redeemed. Thank you for sending your Son to us so we can be saved. We are so grateful for your love and grace. Amen!
- The Book of Ruth in the Bible
- God Only Knows (Timbaland Remix)- for King & Country & Echosmith (song)
- Until Grace – Tauren Wells & Rascal Flatts (song)
- Redemption: A Study of Ruth (devotional)
- Fear Gone Wild – Kayla Stoecklein (book)
- A phrase coined by Kayla Stoecklein, who lost her husband to suicide, and the author of Fear Gone Wild. ↩︎
- Legal Redemption of Property and SlavesRedemption of property and slaves by a kinsman-redeemer (גֹּאֵל, go'el) was the most common form of redemption in the Old Testament. This kinsman-redeemer was a close male relative from the same clan. The closer the familial relation, the greater the obligation to redeem on behalf of the family member in need (Lev 25:25). The role was not restricted to immediate family (e.g., brother, father), as indicated by the inclusion of uncles and cousins in the potential list of kinsman-redeemers in Leviticus (Lev 25:49). Beyond this list, any blood relative from a person’s clan could redeem (Lev 25:49). Essentially, whoever could redeem a relative should, with the greater responsibility falling to nearer kin. If an Israelite did not have a kinsman-redeemer but acquired sufficient means, he could redeem his land or himself.Lau, P. (2016). Redemption. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. ↩
- Boaz’s marriage to the widow Ruth is often understood as a kinsman-redeemer act (Hubbard, “Redemption,” 717). However, according to the law, marriage was not a role for a kinsman-redeemer. A more likely explanation is that since there was no male heir for Elimelech’s land, the redemption of property triggered the levirate law (Deut 25:5–10) so that the name of Elimelech could be raised up on his property (Ruth 4:5, 10; see Lau, Identity and Ethics). The concept of redemption is understood in its broader sense of restoration of name on family property, along with restoration of Ruth and Naomi’s well-being.Lau, P. (2016). Redemption. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. ↩
- Quote by Ed Young Jr. ↩︎
Note: The material in this podcast was originally created for a small group devotional series on a sister site.
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