Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth and Naomi
We begin this lesson with another poem, a poem written from a grandma to her granddaughters:
The Value of Virtue
Eva Nell Narramore
To me, you’re each, a morning star.
A sunburst in my thoughts you are.
Your happiness with love that shows,
Is like the beauty of a rose.
With pretty eyes, dark, or blonde hair,
My jewels rare in youth so fair,
You’re like a butterfly in space,
You’re learning how to take your place.
Learning how to live, from others,
Brides to be and later mothers.
Life’s adorning for a lady,
Is for real, there is no maybe.
To venture through the realm of chance,
Dare not my child! Take not a glance.
Your first for your wedding keep.
For some young gentleman you meet.
Each trace of caution is for good,
‘Cause we grandmothers think we should.
To help you understand in time,
Good living gives you peace of mind.
Please, listen, dear! Because I care,
I take the time these words to share.
Wherever life may carry you,
What you are, is what you do. (My emphasis)
To be a lady is the name,
That’s better chosen than great fame.
Remember words like modest, chaste,
Attractive, charming, poise, and grace.
These give flavor for life to taste,
When used in time is never waste.
Delightful is this given task;
To understand just read or ask.
May the joy of love and laughter
Be with you forever after,
Youth has vanished into memories,
Shining still like glowing embers.
Mrs. Narramore’s poem, is inspired by the words of King Lemuel in Proverbs 31. Would you take a moment to look at Proverbs 31:10…
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” That phrase “an excellent wife” - or it could be translated an “excellent woman” since “wife” and “woman” translate the same Hebrew word, is found only twice more in the Bible. Once is in Proverbs 12:4: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”
And one time outside of the book of Proverbs, in Ruth 3:11, Boaz says of Ruth, “I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.” The word translated “excellence” means power, wealth, property, capable. This word is used in Ruth two more times. In 2:1, it is translated wealth and refers to Boaz. And in 4:11, it is also translated “wealth” in the good wishes of the elders of Bethlehem over Boaz and Ruth in their marriage and home.
Here’s an interesting point… In the Hebrew Bible, in the Jewish Bible, the book of Ruth comes right behind the book of Proverbs as the Jews believed that with Proverbs ending with a description of the “excellent woman,” it should be followed with a real-live example of an “excellent woman,” the woman Ruth.
Let’s take some time this morning to study the person of Ruth and observe the qualities that she had that made her a woman of “wealth,” even when she was poor materially. She was wealthy in spiritual attributes.
RUTH, THE MOABITESS:
We begin with the most obvious point… Ruth was not an Israelite. She was outside of the family of Abraham. She was from the people of Moab who were distant cousins of the Israelites through Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Chemosh was the primary idol of the Moabites. We don’t know much about how worship was done to Chemosh and we certainly do not know how dedicated Ruth was to her religion.
But it was important to the author of Ruth that we know that Ruth was a Moabitess woman. She is referred to that way five times. Two more times, she is referred to as a “Moabite” woman.
Then in 1:16-17, we see Ruth’s expression of faith and trust in Naomi and Ruth’s desire to leave her own religion, the religion of her parents, her family, and her neighbors. I direct your attention to the name for God, “LORD,” in verse 17 - the specific name for God among the Israelites. Ruth is willing to leave being a servant of Chemosh in order to be a servant of Jehovah God.
So, Ruth illustrates a quality important to being a “woman of excellence” or a “virtuous man” for that matter: God’s religion is the superior religion. Ruth saw something in Naomi, despite Naomi’s mixed messages about the nature of Naomi’s faith, Ruth saw worthing in Naomi’s religion that was worth leaving her old religion and embracing something new.
In fact, as I mentioned last week, Boaz praises Ruth at 2:12 because she was willing to seek refuge under the wings of the God of Israel.
If we want to be virtuous, we need to be willing to give up false beliefs, false practices, to make our faith and our Christianity conform to the word of God.
RUTH, THE GLEANER:
At 2:2, Ruth first suggests to her mother-in-law that she go work in the field. We are told at 1:22 that it was the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth believes that perhaps she’ll find favor, or grace, in the eyes of someone. Verse 3 tells us that Ruth “happened to come” to the field owned by Boaz, whom we have already been told is a close family member of Naomi’s husband.
Notice in verse 5 that Boaz asks, “Whose woman is this?” In other words, to whom does she belong? Whose wife is she? Boaz did not recognize her. We’ll save a study of Boaz for this afternoon (Facebook) but he clearly is a strong, thoughtful manager and he knows his workers and Ruth was not one of them. Notice also in verse 7 that the one to whom Boaz asks the question says that Ruth showed up in the morning and she “has remained until now.” So Ruth did not just work an hour and go home. She was working all day. At 2:17, we are told that she gleaned until evening. Because she worked all day, she was able to take home an ephah of barley, about 6 gallons or two weeks’ worth of grain.
An excellent wife, or a man of virtue, is one who has a strong work ethic. When Lemuel wrote of the excellent wife back in Proverbs 31:13, he says, “she works with her hands in delight.” That’s who Ruth was. She was a gleaner, a worker.
RUTH, THE HUMBLE SERVANT:
Boaz goes to speak to Ruth, sitting in the house, probably taking a drink of water and resting in the heat of the sun. In that conversation, we notice in 2:10 that Ruth fell on her face, bowing to the ground in front of Boaz. This was an act of respect for Boaz as the owner of the field. This is not the posture of a beggar; it is the action of someone with humility who recognizes their humble state in relationship to the wealthy landowner.
She is thankful, verse 10, that she has found “favor” or “grace” in Boaz’s eyes, that he allowed her to work in his field. She was a foreigner, an immigrant, and at the mercy of the Israelite nation. By God’s providence, she came under the influence of a godly man.
It was work that Ruth needed. It was work that would provide her a sense of fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment, and provide for her needs and the needs of her mother-in-law. In verse 13, she says to Boaz that in providing her the opportunity to work, he has comforted her and he has spoken kindly to her (literally, “spoken to her heart”), even though she is not even one of his maidservants, not one of his servants who was on his payroll,, so to speak.
I don’t know if it would have been possible under the circumstances for Ruth to have kept the grain she harvested and not shared with her mother-in-law but we do know that she did (2:18). She was an humble servant.
The virtuous woman “extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy” (Prov. 31:20).
To be an excellent wife or a virtuous husband is to be an humble servant.
RUTH, A SMPLE FAITH:
We spoke last week about Naomi’s faith in crisis and how she thought that God was against her. Yet, she did not wallow in self-pity but turned to focus on the well-being of her daughter-in-law. In 3:1-4, Naomi decides on the plan for Ruth was to present herself to Boaz as an eligible wife. The statement about Ruth’s simple faith is in verse 5: Ruth said to Naomi, “All that you say I will do.”
Naomi struggled in her faith early in the story but she did express a strong, biblical faith in Jehovah God: 1:8-9 (“rest” is the word “security” in 3:1, so Naomi anticipates Boaz providing the rest for Ruth that Naomi had prayed for in 1:8-9); 2:20.
We believe and it seems to be true that Ruth was growing in her simple faith in Jehovah God. We don’t have any statement about God from the mouth of Ruth after 1:17 but everyone around her is expressing faith in Jehovah God: Boaz, Naomi, the women of Bethlehem. Ruth is growing in her understanding of the God of Israel, Jehovah God, Maker of Heaven and Earth. Ruth trusts the faith of her mother-in-law and Ruth obeys.
In 3:9, Ruth reminds Boaz of the law of Moses from Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Now, in that text, if a widow needs someone to provide for her and the next-of-kin refuses to fulfill his responsibility, then in front of the elders of Israel, the man is supposed to remove his sandal and someone, either the widow or the elders, spit in his face to show how shameful he is behaving in refusing to support a widow. From that point on, that man is known as “Him whose shoe was removed!”
Naomi has informed Ruth of the law. Ruth has reminded Boaz of the law. Boaz is the next-of-kin, as far as Naomi knows. Boaz recognizes his responsibility and praises Ruth for not going after a younger man, but following thorough with the law of Moses. Ruth has a simple faith. But, of course, there is someone who is closer than Boaz but that issue gets resolved before the sun sets the next day. Incidentally, by this point, Ruth is probably around 25 years old; Boaz is around the age of Naomi, maybe mid-40s or so.
If we desire to be an excellent woman or a virtuous man, we will cultivate a simple faith. Do what God says do and trust God to bless as He has promised.
RUTH, A BLESSED DISCIPLE:
Because Ruth offered herself as a servant of the God of heaven, because she was a tireless worker, because she was a humble servant, because she had a simple faith, she becomes a blessed disciple.
Chapter 4 tells the story of Boaz finding the nearest relative and giving him the opportunity to fulfill his responsibility under the law. He chooses not to. He becomes one of those “whose sand was removed.” So, Boaz buys the land of Naomi and, in the process, gets Ruth as a wife.
Notice after the announcement by Boaz (4:11) in the city gate where court was held, that the elders of Bethlehem pronounce a blessing on Boaz and Ruth. They wish for Ruth to become “famous” in Bethlehem. Little did they know just how famous Ruth would become! They also wish for Ruth to become as fruitful as the matriarchs of Israel, Rachel and Leah. Little did they know that through the descendant of Ruth’s son, Obed, many would become children of God through Jesus Christ!
As I mentioned last week, the power of the story at verse 13 shifts back to Naomi but the last thing we see in Ruth is expressed in verse 15: she loved her mother-in-law. This is the only time in the OT, maybe in the Bible, where the word “love” is used between two women. Ruth loved her mother-in-law. “Ruth” is King David’s great-grandmother. She is not mentioned in the OT anywhere else outside of her book. But, she is found in the lineage of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:5: Salmon married Rahab and their son’s name was Boaz, who married Ruth and their son was Obed, the grandfather of King David, the ancestor of King Jesus.
Ruth was an excellent, virtuous woman and because of that, she became a blessed disciple.
Take home message: Be a servant of the God of heaven. Be a tireless worker. Be an humble servant. Have a simple faith. You will be a blessed disciple.