The Book of Ruth: Bleh?

I’m convinced that I’m being stalked by Ruth.

Not in a literal sense where a biblical character is following me around Central London with a pair of binoculars, but I cannot stress how many times I have been in situations where the book of Ruth is being opened in the last two months.

It’s like she’s everywhere. I go to my weekly bible study and we’re looking Ruth’s and Boaz’s romance, I ended up going through the book of Ruth with my partner, and my pastor gave a sermon on the devotion that Ruth had to Naomi. We just finished this sermon series today. Oh yeah, I started a new devotional on the YouVersion bible app called Pray Your Way Through Uncertainty. Can you guess where the first day’s readings were from?

Having been a Christian for almost five years, I have had times where God refers me to a particular passage of scripture multiple times to really drive home a point. But this seems inescapable. Honestly, I was getting bored and trying to avoid talking about Ruth. It felt so bleh to me. I think the obsession with Ruth and Boaz put me off a little, because I grew up kind of put off by how such an ideal story could take place in such a messed up world.

But today, it occurred to me that I just didn’t grasp what God was trying to teach me.

Ruth is not admirable because she had attractive qualities that allowed her to bag herself another husband. Boaz is amazed by her kindness to Naomi, but it goes far beyond that.

Ruth is the blueprint for the current church.

Just look at what she says to Naomi when she is told to return to her people and her Gods:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

One interesting thing that my pastor said is that what Ruth says here is radical because she’s basically making wedding vows to Naomi. Naomi has lost so much, and being a widow with no sons in an ancient patriarchal society meant not only being ostracised, but having no welfare. On top of that, her age would make work hard. But Ruth, who has also lost her own husband and faces the same fate, places her own anxieties aside and chooses to be a support for Naomi, without a single clue if she’ll be accepted by Naomi’s people or be able to provide for herself. She has fulfilled the two greatest commandments in the start of her book and has displayed that her newfound religion is authentic in taking care of the widow in her immediate reach (James 1:27).

In becoming a Christian, many of us are like Ruth, growing up with foreign gods or no god. She has decided that God will be her top priority. She has removed all other things with can steal her affection away from God, and in return, God uses her and Boaz’s union in the bloodline for Jesus. It’s almost as if He’s saying it’s in Jesus’ genetic makeup to welcome those on the outside in.

The fact that Naomi’s people will be her own people is a foreshadowing of the body of Christ. And she does this very well, working in the fields with Naomi’s people.

Read this passage from the New Testament:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Not many choose to work for Christ. Referring back to Ruth, Orpah undoubtedly loved her mother-in-law and could’ve also followed her but went back to her homeland because it was easier. Alike the work Ruth did in the fields, it is not glamorous in the moment. In fact, not many even choose Christ at all. I think the love story of Ruth and Boaz teaches us this: Boaz acknowledges that alike Christ he is not as glamorous as her other options. Look at these two passages:

And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.” (Ruth 3:10)

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2)

Rich and handsome at all points in history has always been pretty sexy.

But one thing that is not sexy is Jesus. Being hated is not sexy. Having to die to yourself and follow the will of God is not sexy. Dying is not sexy. But it is a trajectory towards cosmic legacies. There are people who gave up sexy for Jesus and we still talk about them today. Yes, people who want sexy get remembered. But God remembers the ones who didn’t, and his memory is the only one that will live on forever. Ruth deserves her own book and is worth the praise she gets because she is what every believer should aspire to be like.

-Pepper

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