The story of Ruth in the Bible is one I know very well. Mostly the commentary I hear around this piece of scripture is often around the fact that Ruth and Boaz met, found love in each other and married, leading to the genealogy of Jesus. Whilst this is a very powerful way of looking at this story, I have recently re-read it and looked at it with different eyes.
The story is so much more than a story of love between a man and a woman. It is a powerful story of friendship, love and loyalty, even through adversity.
In the first chapter of Ruth, we are told that Naomi was married to Elimelech and they had two sons. Those two sons were married to Orpah and Ruth. Sadly, Elimelech and his sons died, leaving their three widows. Naomi wanted to return to Bethlehem, her home land, with her daughter-in-laws but on the journey, Naomi insisted that Ruth and Orpah return to Moab, their home land to find a husbands. Orpah did so, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi alone.
Loyalty to Others
Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV)
But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
Being married to one of Naomi’s sons, Ruth became very much part of Naomi’s family. We don’t know how long Ruth had been married into the family, but she had grown close enough to Naomi to choose to stay with her. It may have been easier for Ruth to return to her homeland, where there would have been familiarity and maybe even easier to find someone to marry due to family connections. Whatever the situation, Naomi said enough to convince Orpah to return, but Ruth was so loyal to Naomi that she would follow her whether she would go, that she would be her family.
The truth is, had it not been for Ruth, Naomi would have been alone. She may have even become destitute without a man of the house to support her. The Bible is clear that people need people. People need relationships. God never meant for us to be alone. In Genesis 2:18, God talks about it not good for man to be alone. Although God created a spouse for Adam in this instance, the essence of it is that God meant for people to have friendship and fellowship. There are many verses in Proverbs which speak of the importance of friendships. Even scientific research shows that those who are lonely are more likely to struggle with their health, compared to those who have close friendships.
We too have to understand the importance of people in our lives. For some, making friendships is not easy, but it’s integral to our health and our spiritual walk to have good and close friendships. Ruth saw the importance of not leaving Naomi alone. Like Ruth, we too need to be willing to be loyal to the people in our lives and to not leave people alone or to not allow ourselves to be alone.
Friendship Through the Hard Times
In the book of James, we are reminded to “consider pure joy” whenever we face trials of many kinds as the testing of our faith develops perseverance. We’re very fortunate to have that scripture as encouragement, but the book of James did not exist in Ruth and Naomi’s time. So when they went through trials, they relied on each other and their own personal relationship with God. It wasn’t all easy as we find in Ruth 1:20 (NKJV) when Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem:
“But she said to them, ‘do not call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has dealth very bitterly with me.’”
Here we find that Naomi is bitter towards God for the situation she found herself in. She blames God. We all have times like this where we blame God for our situation. We often ask, ‘why me?’ even though the Word of God promises that we will go through trials. It’s through them that our faith grows and our relationship with God strengthens as we depend on Him all the more.
Despite all of Naomi’s bitterness and grief over her situation, Ruth still stuck with her. We find in Ruth chapter two that she becomes the sole provider for herself and Naomi. Even though Naomi was at her lowest and feeling somewhat negative, Ruth – presumably despite her own pain of losing a husband – remains faithful to Naomi.
There are times in our lives where we may feel negative and a lot of what we say and do are from a place of feeling low from our situation. That may be due to situations in our relationships, finances or our job, but how great it would it be if through that season we had a friend who stuck by us? If we too would want someone to stick by us through these types of situations, then we should also look for opportunities where we may be able to do the same for others.
Who is your Naomi right now? How can you be a supportive friend to them in the season they are in?
Love Those Who Come into Your Life
The story of Ruth is full of examples of selfless love and I think it especially teaches us to love the people who come into our lives. Often this may be in practical ways to help them to be able to do things which they may not be in a position to make happen for themselves.
Ruth 2:7 (NKJV)
And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.
Although Ruth married into the family, she still had to make that decision to love Naomi in such a way that she would refuse to leave her, even though a life back in Moab may well have been easier. Once back in Naomi’s homeland, Ruth chose to be the main provider for the household. She chose to work hard throughout the day, even being willing to gather what was left behind by the workers who were collecting the harvest.
Later in Ruth Chapter 2, we discover that Boaz has noticed Ruth and asks his workers about her. He chose to show love and kindness towards a woman he didn’t know. He not only gave her food to eat (Ruth 2:14) but he secretly asked his workers to purposely drop extra so that Ruth could collect more. He saw Ruth’s heart; her hard work and her own love and kindness towards her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:11).
We may find people who equally find themselves cross the paths of our lives. Some people may be in situations where they genuinely need support. We can either chose to ignore them and get on with our busy lives, or we can choose to take time out for them and show that extra bit of kindness. Often a small act of kindness can turn a life around.
Has anyone recently crossed your path who you might be able to show love and kindness to? Perhaps they are someone who lives alone who might appreciate going out for a coffee. It could be someone who is a parent who may appreciate some time-out or even someone to run an errand for them. Maybe there is just someone who is going through a tough season in their life and a listening ear is all they need.
Take some time to look at your relationships. Where can you show your loyalty? Who can you support in in their very time of need? Who has come into your life recently who you can show love and care to?