“Could this be Naomi?” my old friends asked on the day I returned to Bethlehem. Years had passed since we’d last met.
“I’m not the Naomi you remember. Call me Mara (bitter). For sorrow has overwhelmed me. I left with arms full and return empty.”
My trials began when the famine struck Israel. As food grew scarce, my husband Elimelech learned of a plentiful harvest in Moab. So, we moved there with our two sons. We prospered at first. But within a decade, all three of my men had perished. Oh, Elimelech, why did we think God would bless us in this pagan land? I longed for the comfort of home, family, and friends in Bethlehem. So, I began packing.
My sons’ widows, Orpah and Ruth, initially planned to accompany me. But what future could I offer them as an elderly widow? I insisted they remain in Moab with their families. Ruth, however, clung to me. She had been the curious one, “Why paint blood on the doorposts?” “What’s wrong with pork chops?” “Why is Israel the Promised Land?” It wasn’t long before Ruth had embraced our faith. “Where you go, I go. Your people will be my people and your God my God,” she vowed.
When Ruth and I returned to Bethlehem, we carried little besides our grief. We arrived during barley harvest. Ruth offered to glean leftover grain behind the reapers to provide our sustenance. That first evening, she returned with a full basket!
“Praise Jehovah! Where did you glean, my daughter?” I asked.
“In the field of Boaz,” Ruth replied.
“Surely the Lord guided you! Boaz is a close relative and kinsman-redeemer.” Something long dormant stirred within me—hope. Kinsman-redeemers protect the interests of relatives in need. Boaz had learned of Ruth’s kindness towards me and blessed her with extra grain.
While Ruth was out gleaning, I sat home pondering and praying. I was too old and weary to marry again, but not Ruth. Though her hands were now calloused, her heart was tender, and her smile refreshed like a summer rain. Though Boaz was neither young nor handsome, he was good, kind, and generous. Whenever I mentioned his name, Ruth beamed.
As I prayed, a plan took shape. At the close of harvest, Boaz slept on the threshing floor to guard his grain. I approached Ruth with this suggestion, “Late tonight, go to the threshing floor when Boaz is asleep. Uncover his feet and lie down nearby. When he awakens, say, ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me. For you are my kinsman-redeemer.’” Ruth blushed, but nodded in agreement. After she left, I knelt in prayer.
That night when Boaz awoke, he was delighted to find Ruth. “The Lord bless you for your kindness and family loyalty. Instead of chasing younger men, you came to me!” he exclaimed.
The two married. The following year, the fruit of my hope arrived in a tiny bundle. Ruth bore a son. When she laid little Obed in my lap, my friends proclaimed, “Naomi has a son! She’s Mara no more.” If this were not blessing enough, Obed grew up to become the grandfather of David—the most beloved King of Israel!
To study or ponder:
- Read Ruth (four short chapters). Why is this book called Ruth, and not Naomi or Boaz?
- Though Ruth was a woman, foreigner, and widow, Christ honored her by naming her in his genealogy (Matthew 1:5). Why do you think he included Ruth?
- The book of Ruth points to Jesus Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer. Only a close relative (a human) could redeem (pay the ransom for) the sin of mankind. Therefore, God put on flesh. Boaz foreshadows Christ’s redeeming love.
Like Ruth, before we knew Christ, we were spiritually destitute and foreigners far from God. He betrothed us, gave us his name (Christian), a home (heaven), and a life (eternal)! As the Bride of Christ, what other gifts are ours?
- Something about Naomi’s faith, made Ruth cling to her. What do you think it was? What aspects of your faith and/or character might draw others to Christ?