Nestling between the book of Judges and 1 Samuel is the iconic tale of Ruth. At 4 chapters long it is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament, yet it provides a compelling narrative of apparently ordinary people as they face the ebbs and flows of life. The story contains tragedy and hope, romance and pathos, a hero and a heroine – it would form a good basis for a film synopsis. However, as we shall see through March as we study this book in more detail, there is much more to it than meets the eye.
The background for the story is the ‘time when the Judges ruled’, a time when ‘there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’. Against this backdrop of ungodliness it is perhaps not surprising to see Elimelech attempt to save his family by fleeing the famine in Bethlehem in order to seek a better life away from God’s people in Moab. Sadly, far from improving, their situation actually gets worse and the womenfolk are left widowed, childless and destitute. Despite this chilling reminder that God brings judgement on those who wilfully disobey, we see hope for those who return humbly to him. We see God’s providential care for those who trust him. We see God’s care and interest for those who are weak and vulnerable: the widows, the homeless and the foreigners. We see a framework for society that catches God’s heart for the poor. We see bold faith being exercised by Naomi and Ruth. We see Boaz act with great dignity and compassion. This story is no primitive chick lit, or mere slushy romance but a powerful example of the difference between walking faithfully in God’s ways and doing things our own way.
Who will you identify with, Elimelech or Boaz? Naomi or Ruth? Primarily written to demonstrate God’s providential care for those in desperation, yet there is a twist in the tale that reverberates down to us 3,000 years later and means that you and I are part of this ancient but on-going narrative. Make time to read the whole book through before each meeting and allow God to change and shape your life as you trace the Road to Redemption.
This blog post featured in the March 2012 edition of Lifelines