Boaz went to the city gate and sat there until the close relative he had mentioned passed by. Boaz called to him, “Come here, friend, and sit down.” So the man came over and sat down. Boaz gathered ten of the elders of the city and told them, “Sit down here!” So they sat down.
Then Boaz said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, wants to sell the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I decided to tell you about it: If you want to buy back the land, then buy it in front of the people who are sitting here and in front of the elders of my people. But if you don’t want to buy it, tell me, because you are the only one who can buy it, and I am next after you.”
The close relative answered, “I will buy back the land.”
Then Boaz explained, “When you buy the land from Naomi, you must also marry Ruth, the Moabite, the dead man’s wife. That way, the land will stay in the dead man’s name.”
The close relative answered, “I can’t buy back the land. If I did, I might harm what I can pass on to my own sons. I cannot buy the land back, so buy it yourself.”
Long ago in Israel when people traded or bought back something, one person took off his sandal and gave it to the other person. This was the proof of ownership in Israel.
So the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy the land yourself,” and he took off his sandal.
Then Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, “You are witnesses today. I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech and Kilion and Mahlon. I am also taking Ruth, the Moabite who was the wife of Mahlon, as my wife. I am doing this so her dead husband’s property will stay in his name and his name will not be separated from his family and his hometown. You are witnesses today.”
So all the people and elders who were at the city gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make this woman, who is coming into your home, like Rachel and Leah, who had many children and built up the people of Israel. May you become powerful in the district of Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem. As Tamar gave birth to Judah’s son Perez,[a] may the Lord give you many children through Ruth. May your family be great like his.”
So Boaz took Ruth home as his wife and had sexual relations with her. The Lord let her become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. The women told Naomi, “Praise the Lord who gave you this grandson. May he become famous in Israel. He will give you new life and will take care of you in your old age because of your daughter-in-law who loves you. She is better for you than seven sons, because she has given birth to your grandson.”
Naomi took the boy, held him in her arms, and cared for him. The neighbors gave the boy his name, saying, “This boy was born for Naomi.” They named him Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David.
This is the family history of Perez, the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram, who was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon, who was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz, who was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David.
Then Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, I must find a suitable home for you, one that will be good for you. Now Boaz, whose young women you worked with, is our close relative.[a] Tonight he will be working at the threshing floor. Wash yourself, put on perfume, change your clothes, and go down to the threshing floor. But don’t let him know you’re there until he has finished his dinner. Watch him so you will know where he lies down to sleep. When he lies down, go and lift the cover off his feet[b] and lie down. He will tell you what you should do.”
Then Ruth answered, “I will do everything you say.”
So Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did all her mother-in-law told her to do. After his evening meal, Boaz felt good and went to sleep lying beside the pile of grain. Ruth went to him quietly and lifted the cover from his feet and lay down.
About midnight Boaz was startled and rolled over. There was a woman lying near his feet! Boaz asked, “Who are you?”
She said, “I am Ruth, your servant girl. Spread your cover over me, because you are a relative who is supposed to take care of me.”[c]
Then Boaz said, “The Lord bless you, my daughter. This act of kindness is greater than the kindness you showed to Naomi in the beginning. You didn’t look for a young man to marry, either rich or poor. Now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do everything you ask, because all the people in our town know you are a good woman. It is true that I am a relative who is to take care of you, but you have a closer relative than I. Stay here tonight, and in the morning we will see if he will take care of you. If he decides to take care of you, that is fine. But if he refuses, I will take care of you myself, as surely as the Lord lives. So stay here until morning.”
So Ruth stayed near his feet until morning but got up while it was still too dark to recognize anyone. Boaz thought, “People in town must not know that the woman came here to the threshing floor.” So Boaz said to Ruth, “Bring me your shawl and hold it open.”
So Ruth held her shawl open, and Boaz poured six portions of barley into it. Boaz then put it on her head and went back to the city.
When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did you do, my daughter?”
Ruth told Naomi everything that Boaz did for her. She said, “Boaz gave me these six portions of barley, saying, ‘You must not go home without a gift for your mother-in-law.’”
Naomi answered, “Ruth, my daughter, wait here until you see what happens. Boaz will not rest until he has finished doing what he should do today.”
3:2close relatives In Bible times the closest relative could marry a widow without children so she could have children. He would care for this family, but they and their property would not belong to him. They would belong to the dead husband.
3:4lift . . . feet This showed Ruth was asking him to be her husband.
3:9Spread . . . me By this, Ruth was asking Boaz to marry her.
Now Naomi had a rich relative named Boaz, from Elimelech’s family.
One day Ruth, the Moabite, said to Naomi, “I am going to the fields. Maybe someone will be kind enough to let me gather the grain he leaves behind.”
Naomi said, “Go, my daughter.”
So Ruth went to the fields and gathered the grain that the workers cutting the grain had left behind. It just so happened that the field belonged to Boaz, from Elimelech’s family.
Soon Boaz came from Bethlehem and greeted his workers, “The Lord be with you!”
And the workers answered, “May the Lord bless you!”
Then Boaz asked his servant in charge of the workers, “Whose girl is that?”
The servant answered, “She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me follow the workers cutting grain and gather what they leave behind.’ She came and has remained here, from morning until just now. She has stopped only a few moments to rest in the shelter.”
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go to gather grain for yourself in another field. Don’t even leave this field at all, but continue following closely behind my women workers. Watch to see into which fields they go to cut grain and follow them. I have warned the young men not to bother you. When you are thirsty, you may go and drink from the water jugs that the young men have filled.”
Then Ruth bowed low with her face to the ground and said to him, “I am not an Israelite. Why have you been so kind to notice me?”
Boaz answered her, “I know about all the help you have given your mother-in-law after your husband died. You left your father and mother and your own country to come to a nation where you did not know anyone. May the Lord reward you for all you have done. May your wages be paid in full by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for shelter.”
Then Ruth said, “I hope I can continue to please you, sir. You have said kind and encouraging words to me, your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
At mealtime Boaz told Ruth, “Come here. Eat some of our bread and dip it in our sauce.”
So Ruth sat down beside the workers. Boaz handed her some roasted grain, and she ate until she was full; she even had some food left over. When Ruth rose and went back to work, Boaz commanded his workers, “Let her gather even around the piles of cut grain. Don’t tell her to go away. In fact, drop some full heads of grain for her from what you have in your hands, and let her gather them. Don’t tell her to stop.”
So Ruth gathered grain in the field until evening. Then she separated the grain from the chaff, and there was about one-half bushel of barley. Ruth carried the grain into town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also took out the food that was left over from lunch and gave it to Naomi.
Naomi asked her, “Where did you gather all this grain today? Where did you work? Blessed be whoever noticed you!”
Ruth told her mother-in-law whose field she had worked in. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”
Naomi told her daughter-in-law, “The Lord bless him! He continues to be kind to us—both the living and the dead!” Then Naomi told Ruth, “Boaz is one of our close relatives,[a] one who should take care of us.”
Then Ruth, the Moabite, said, “Boaz also told me, ‘Keep close to my workers until they have finished my whole harvest.’”
But Naomi said to her daughter-in-law Ruth, “It is better for you to continue working with his women workers. If you work in another field, someone might hurt you.” So Ruth continued working closely with the workers of Boaz, gathering grain until the barley harvest and the wheat harvest were finished. And she continued to live with Naomi, her mother-in-law.
2:20close relatives In Bible times the closest relative could marry a widow without children so she could have children. He would care for this family, but they and their property would not belong to him. They would belong to the dead husband.
Long ago when the judges[a] ruled Israel, there was a shortage of food in the land. So a man named Elimelech left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to live in the country of Moab with his wife and his two sons. His wife was named Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathahites from Bethlehem in Judah. When they came to Moab, they settled there.
Then Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, and she was left with her two sons. These sons married women from Moab. One was named Orpah, and the other was named Ruth. Naomi and her sons had lived in Moab about ten years when Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left alone without her husband or her two sons.
While Naomi was in Moab, she heard that the Lord had come to help his people and had given them food again. So she and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab and return home. Naomi and her daughters-in-law left the place where they had lived and started back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back home, each of you to your own mother’s house. May the Lord be as kind to you as you have been to me and my sons who are now dead. May the Lord give you another happy home and a new husband.”
When Naomi kissed the women good-bye, they began to cry out loud. They said to her, “No, we want to go with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “My daughters, return to your own homes. Why do you want to go with me? I cannot give birth to more sons to give you new husbands;go back, my daughters, to your own homes. I am too old to have another husband. Even if I told myself, ‘I still have hope’ and had another husband tonight, and even if I had more sons, should you wait until they were grown into men? Should you live for so many years without husbands? Don’t do that, my daughters. My life is much too sad for you to share, because the Lord has been against me!”
The women cried together out loud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law Naomi good-bye, but Ruth held on to her tightly.
Naomi said to Ruth, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her own people and her own gods. Go back with her.”
Ruth Stays with Naomi
But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.”
When Naomi saw that Ruth had firmly made up her mind to go with her, she stopped arguing with her. So Naomi and Ruth went on until they came to the town of Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, all the people became very excited. The women of the town said, “Is this really Naomi?”
Naomi answered the people, “Don’t call me Naomi.[b] Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty has made my life very sad. When I left, I had all I wanted, but now, the Lord has brought me home with nothing. Why should you call me Naomi when the Lord has spoken against me and the Almighty has given me so much trouble?”
So Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, the Moabite, returned from Moab and arrived at Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
1:1judges They were not judges in courts of law, but leaders of the people in times of emergency.
Thanks for asking! It’s the one month of the year with no holiday other than my birthday. 🙂 It’s not my favorite simply because I’ve learned to pamper myself, but because it’s a dedicated period of refocusing for me. Let’s just say that this is the month I usually recalibrate myself. It’s the time I get super reflective and do life evaluations. I think about the calendar year: Where am I in the process of goals I set for myself? What can I do to close things out before year-end? I think about what has been accomplished or fallen to the wayside since my last birthday: What have I paid off? What needs paying off? And I think about my over-all life: Where am I? What’s next? What can I do today to get to where I want to be tomorrow?
This August, however, I am not going to focus on all that so much because this year (and last year – since my last birthday) I’ve experienced so much change and have had major adjustments (still ongoing) that thinking about it all again will just exhaust me!
What I do want to focus on is Spirit Harvest. My life business that just won’t take flight.
I want to get back to feeding myself spiritually. I want to get back to overflowing joy and sharing my bounty through my writing. Over the last couple of weeks, I have returned to the most basic element for everyone’s faith walk: I opened my Bible (went to a Bible app on my phone during my morning commute) and just started reading wherever my mind took me.
I don’t remember what the first chapters were, but I do know I needed the messages I received. This week I was lead to Romans. And I felt an overwhelming desire to share the verses that were speaking to me as soon as I could get free of the subway. After a couple of commutes reading, it crossed my mind that it would be great to just share the Word with no commentary. I have nothing to say right now, anyway. I feel as if my wisdom has turned to ashes. But even with this dryness of spirit, I am refreshed and watered by God’s Word. Straight. No fillers. No chasers.
So my challenge to myself for the month of August 2014, is to post a chapter a day. To share with you whatever God leads me to in my musings.
I’m so delighted that Ruth will kick off A Chapter of Day series. It’s fitting since I, too, am a woman looking to exit her desert and enter into a space covered by love.
I would love to hear what your experiences are with the readings this month. Please share and comment.
“God is not ashamed to be called their God.” This profound statement is found in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible. Can you imagine your name being listed along with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and Moses in God’s list of the faithful?
But, wait, before we go any further, let’s look at that list a little more closely. Faith is not only a masculine virtue, we see. Sarah and Rahab and the women who received their dead raised to life again are also listed. And those courageous nameless people who “were tortured, not accepting deliverance.”
Let us take a new look at faith—from the point of view of women. Let us see how women of the Bible also used faith in their walk with God.
Deborah, the only recorded female judge of ancient Israel, is described in Judges 4 and 5 as the deliverer of Israel for 40 years from Canaanite oppression. Before we analyze how this extraordinary woman did this, think about what it might take for a female to become the spiritual, judicial and military leader of Israel. It was a time of anarchy. The Hebrew tribes had settled among the Canaanites and began to worship their gods. Israel failed to stand apart from its pagan neighbors, as God commanded them. Instead of being righteous examples to the surrounding cultures, they took part in customs loathsome to their God.
Though God made it plain that both mothers and fathers—women and men—are to be treated with equal respect (Exodus 20:12), in this degenerate disunited society, the rights of women were often overlooked. Women today complain about rights, but what do you think it took for a woman of that age to achieve what Deborah did? It took one major ingredient—a strong belief and faith in God.
God chose a faithful woman as Israel’s judge and prophetess. It was a woman who encouraged Barak, the son of Abinoam, to heed God’s call to duty and lead Israel’s army against Sisera’s 900 iron chariots. It was a woman who accompanied the troops to the battleground at Mount Tabor to fortify Barak’s wavering courage (Judges 4:8-9).
To be fair to Barak, when he looked at the odds against him, he clearly saw that unless God was on Israel’s side, he and his troops would be massacred. Being a practical man, he made sure God’s prophetess would be at the battle scene to provide divine insight. Barak is also on God’s list of the faithful (Hebrews 11:32).
Deborah knew, in spite of the circumstances of her time and culture, that in God’s sight, women were not second-class citizens, that God was not a respecter of persons. Her strong abiding faith gave this woman the conviction and courage to allow God to use her in a most unusual way.
How satisfying it must have been for Deborah to look down on the Plain of Megiddo, 20 miles of battleground, and see God miraculously deliver Israel’s army. “So let all your enemies perish, O Lord,” was Deborah’s battle cry. You can read in Judges 5 a stirring description of ancient Israel’s deliverance from Sisera’s oppression.
May You Be Like Ruth…
An Old Testament book with her name tells the remarkable story of Ruth, a woman of Moab. After the death of the husbands of both Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah, their mother-in-law, Naomi, entreated them to go back to their families in Moab. Orpah tearfully did, but Ruth’s deep love for Naomi is reflected in her often-quoted words: “Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16, New King James). It was a statement of loyalty and faith. In the years of living with her husband and being near her mother-in-law, Ruth grew in understanding of God’s way of life. She forsook her former Moabite rituals as she saw the benefits of worshiping the true God. Ruth’s relocation from Moab to Bethlehem took great faith. It shows us that sometimes we must also leave old ways behind to follow God. It did not take long for Boaz, a well-to-do landowner and kinsman, to become aware of Ruth’s sterling characteristics. Her faithfulness to God caused her to benefit from an ancient custom—one that was to shape her future. In Israel, when a man died childless, his brother or nearest kinsman was expected to marry the widow. Their firstborn child was considered to be of the dead husband and inherited his property. Boaz, being a just man, considered it an honor to fulfill his responsibilities. And, he was also greatly blessed by this union. Ruth brought much additional praise to him and his family, for all time to come. It wasn’t long before Naomi was also given new life and security in her latter years, as her daughter-in-law presented her with a grandson they named Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David—Israel’s greatest king. Ruth, a woman of faithful dedication to God, to her mother-in-law, Naomi, to her husband and to a long family line, is worthy of praise. May we, as we follow God’s ways in our lives, also be.
Joan C. Bogdanchik
Hannah, the God-fearing mother of Samuel the prophet, displayed an extraordinary faith and courage during a time of spiritual laxity in Israel. Hannah, one of two wives of Elkanah, was unable to have children. Barrenness in a Hebrew woman disgraced both her family and nation. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had several children, and often scornfully reminded Hannah of her failure to fulfill her duty as a wife and an Israelite. As the years passed, Hannah’s apparently hopeless situation and Peninnah’s constant taunting caused Hannah increasing unhappiness and distress. During one of the family’s yearly visits to Shiloh (as was the custom), Hannah went to the temple and begged God to give her a child. In humble, fervent prayer, she faithfully pledged her child to God in lifelong service. Nine months later, Samuel was born. Despite having waited so long for this child, Hannah willingly gave her son, when he was three years old, to the service of God at the tabernacle. She provided him with clothing and visited him throughout his childhood. So what importance does the story of Hannah have for us today? We often find it difficult to see beyond our particular problems. Our difficulties can seem insurmountable, and our situation grossly unfair. Doesn’t that describe Hannah’s situation? Yet Hannah did not give up hope. In faith, she depended on God to change her circumstances. In faith, according to her word, she gave up her only child to him, and God rewarded her with five more children. Because of Hannah’s trust in and commitment to God, she was given a son, who eventually became the last and perhaps the greatest of the judges. When times are difficult and remaining faithful seems too hard, take a moment to think of the story of Hannah, a woman of great faith.
A Queen Risks Her Life
God’s unseen hand guides, directs and preserves his people by working out circumstances, often in the most unexpected ways. God gave Esther, a beautiful Jewish girl, special favor in the eyes of Ahasuerus, king of Persia, and the king chose Esther to become his queen in place of his previous wife, Vashti. You can read the story in the Bible in the book of Esther. Esther’s cousin and guardian, Mordecai, had a powerful enemy in the court—King Ahasuerus’ favorite prince, Haman. Mordecai wouldn’t bow to Haman each day at the city gate, and it made the prince furious. When Haman discovered that Mordecai was Jewish, he determined not only to destroy Mordecai but also his entire race along with him. As soon as Mordecai heard about Haman’s plans, he told Esther it was time to plead for the life of her people. She had not yet revealed to the king that she was Jewish. Esther said to her uncle, “Don’t you know that I’ve not been to the king for 30 days and those who approach the king without being called are executed unless he extends the golden scepter to them?” (See Esther 4:11.) Esther had reason to fear. The king was far from a model of virtue. Herodotus, a fifth-century B.C. Greek historian, says Ahasuerus was vain and sensual. Mordecai said to Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews…. Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (verses 13-14). Mordecai was beginning to realize that God had been working this out all along. Esther made a quick and brave decision: “Tell the people to fast three days and three nights and I shall go in to the king. If I live, I live and if I perish, I perish.” (See verse 16.) Then Esther put on her royal apparel and bravely went to the king’s throne room. As she entered the room, a hush fell over the royal court. They knew the king favored this woman above all others, but they also knew the king had not called for her. What mood would the king be in? As Esther began slowly to walk toward him, the king stretched out his scepter. It was a signal that her life was granted her. At that moment Esther doubtlessly said a silent thank-you prayer to God. To summarize the rest of the story, the king commanded that Haman be hanged for his presumptuousness. King Ahasuerus promoted Mordecai, and the Jews (including Queen Esther) were spared. God is always working behind the scenes. There are times when most of us have questioned events in our lives and wondered where God was. The story of Esther tells us he’s here for us. God’s hand is not only guiding his church, but also working out circumstances in our individual lives. So, when you get a little discouraged or you can’t understand why certain things happen to you, remember Esther.
Rahab saves her family
Back even before the time of Deborah and Barak, let’s look at another remarkable Old Testament example of feminine faith— that of the innkeeper Rabab. Some scholars believe she (like most female innkeepers) was a harlot, others deny the possibility. But one thing we do know: she is the only woman other than Sarah who is listed by name in God’s account of his faithful in Hebrews.
Rahab lived in the age-old city of Jericho during the time that Joshua was leading the Israelites out of the desert into the promised land. According to archaeologists, a double wall of brick protected the city. Rahab’s house was probably built over the 12-to-15-foot space that separated Jericho’s 12-foot-thick inner wall from its 6-foot-thick outer wall.
The city of Jericho was the most important city in the Jordan Valley. The Canaanites of Rahab’s time excelled in the arts and sciences. Morally, however, they were perverse. Their pagan religions were lewd and base, their civilization was decadent. Even though Jericho was heavily fortified, the Canaanite inhabitants of Jericho were understandably nervous about the Israelite hordes camped close by on the plains of Moab.
As they walked toward Jericho, two Hebrew spies sent by Joshua, Israel’s military leader, may have noticed Rahab’s house, with its window on the side of the massive outer wall of the city. When they entered the city, they were no doubt pleased to learn that this particular house on the wall was a place where two strangers would be accepted.
Rahab had heard about the miracles God had performed to rescue Israel from the Egyptians. She knew that the Amorites across the Jordan had been conquered. When the Israelite spies came to her house, she seized on the chance to save her family from what she saw as certain destruction.
Her neighbors had heard the stories, too. But, unlike her, they trusted in the thick walls of Jericho. Somehow, out of all these people, Rahab could see beyond the brick and stone of her familiar world and trust in the Hebrews’ God. It must have been difficult to decide to forsake all that she knew and was comfortable with.
Following the spies’ instruction, she acted on her faith and marked her home with a sign—a red rope. God respected her trust in him, and she and her family were spared when Jericho’s walls fell. One woman of faith out of a whole city. You can read the account of Rahab’s deliverance in Joshua 2-6.
Jesus and women
Jesus Christ constantly surprised his followers by the way he treated women. Women were real people to Jesus. Ignoring local custom, Jesus expected women as well as men to listen to and follow his teachings. Remember the account of Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha for criticizing her sister Mary because she chose to listen to Jesus rather than help serve the male guests?
“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Jesus revealed the marvelous truth of his messiahship to, of all people, a Samaritan woman (John 4:21-26). The Jews despised the Samaritans and their religion. For a Jewish man to speak to a woman in public, especially a Samaritan woman, was unheard of at the time. Jesus’ disciples were astonished when they saw him so at ease with women, talking to them, teaching them and admonishing them, as he did men. Women were amazed as well—and appreciated his concern for them, expressed so openly.
The multiple hundreds of thousands of women of faith over the centuries go unrecorded for the most part. Whatever our backgrounds, wherever we live, we all, no doubt, have our personal Joan of Arcs to add to the list.
About 100 years ago, women weren’t satisfied with the world they saw around them and began to complain. Women campaigned against war, alcoholism, long work hours, low wages, child labor, high infant death rate, and filthy living conditions.
In the United States in 1909, Nannie Helen Burroughs gave her National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C., the motto: “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible.” The National Training School, a model for many others, “offered young African American women a liberal-arts education and more….
“Mary Breckenridge of the Frontier Nursing Service sent nurse midwives riding on horseback through the woods of Kentucky in the 1920s. Jane Addams founded Chicago’s Hull House, one of the first and most important of the establishments of the settlement house movement, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931” (“Smithsonian News Service,” Mary Combs).
Edie Mayo, curator in the Division of Political History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington,D.C., adds, “What is truly astonishing is the fact that they accomplished most of it without the power to vote.”
These few and far between examples from the past are fine, you may think, but what about now? Can today’s women expect God to answer their prayers? Can they have faith? Does God discriminate against women today?
God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). He expects women, as well as men, to faithfully believe in him. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, New King James). God expects both men and women to actively express that faith by following him.
Why is active faith in God so important? To answer that question, we must first understand what faith is— and what it isn’t.
Here’s one definition of faith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is absolute confidence in God’s will, God’s purpose, and absolute belief that God through his Son Jesus Christ will answer your prayers –all this before you see any physical proof.
Deborah knew before she called for Barak that God would grant Israel the victory. But how? Everything she could see and hear seemed to point toward Israel’s defeat. Sisera had 900 chariots; he had thousands of well-trained and well-armed troops. Barak had neither. From what could be physically detected, it was not logical (in human terms) for Deborah to expect to win. But Deborah had faith in God, and knew that he would help Israel overpower the mighty Canaanites.
Deborah’s faith was not an emotion. It wasn’t some kind of feeling she had worked up over several hours or days. Her faith was not just hope, either. Wishful thinking does not win battles against iron-tipped chariots and battle-hardened troops.
Deborah’s faith was the unwavering belief in the face of overwhelming odds that God exists and that he will do what he promises he will. This faith is based on experience of what God has done, knowing he will not change his great purpose for humans. It is the kind of faith that wins wars and, in Rahab’s case, saves lives.
The kind of faith that leads us to believe in and obey God is the only kind that pleases him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, New King James).
Those who believe don’t let circumstances cause them to doubt God. And God answers their prayers. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
Is faith out-of-date?
How strong is your faith? Can God look down at you as one he could add to his list of faithful servants? Or does faith seem to be an old-fashioned virtue, not as necessary in our modem technological world? Jesus wondered whether in the latter days of our civilization faith would be a scarce commodity. “Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Does having faith still matter? Yes, it certainly does. The gift of faith—true godly faith—is needed for our salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, New King James). To learn more about this kind of faith, click here.
God does not discriminate. Whether Abraham or Sarah, Barak or Deborah, Hebrews says that the world was not worthy of those faithful people. Male or female, let’s be sure we have the faith to make his list as well.
Faith, Hope and BBQ Sauce
In 1991, if you took Route 98 west through Columbus, Mississippi, crossed the Pearl River, continued to the second bridge over the railroad tracks, drove up the dirt road until you passed the Highway Department’s garage, and asked someone where Leatha’s is, then you could have found one of the best restaurants in the United States. There were no signs; it was nothing fancy. A ramshackle house, rickety tables and chairs, and an assortment of old plates, cups and flatware. But the steaks were thick, the chicken tender and cooked just right. And the barbecue sauce was prepared from a formula that only Leatha knew. You’d never forget it, nor Leatha herself. (The restaurant has moved to Hattiesburg, and as of 2003, 80-year-old Leatha still works there). Leatha Jackson is a grandmother with a simple formula for success—her secret recipe for BBQ sauce and an ironclad faith that God helps those who help themselves. She was raised in poverty. From age 5 to 25 she picked cotton. But her dream was to own and operate a restaurant. “In those days, a poor black girl in rural Mississippi with a third-grade education didn’t have too much chance,” she said. “But my father taught me to trust in God. When I got my first job in a restaurant, I didn’t even know how to split a hot dog bun and put a wienie on it,” she remembered. She learned cooking and food management by watching others. Then she took the plunge and opened a small restaurant in her home far off the beaten track. There was no money for advertising. “We couldn’t even afford a sign,” she said. “So I asked God for customers, and they began coming.” When her husband became ill, Leatha, who had always refused welfare and never owed anything, was forced to mortgage the property to meet the unexpected medical expenses. “We were $100,000 in debt. But I knew God would not put on us more than we could bear.” And she paid the debt off. Leatha has personal interest in each of her customers. In fact, she provided a service that few other restaurants could match. “When I have done all I can to serve them, I sometimes go to my room and pray for them. I thank God for each one. I ask him to help me give them good food, and to treat them right. Then I pray for their spiritual and financial welfare. I want them to be happy.” Leatha’s is a family business. There are jobs for her children and their families—”if they are willing to work,” she adds. She sees the business as a way to keep the family together. “It’s like a bundle of sticks,” she explains. “Separate us and we are easily broken. Together, we’re strong.” In a world of ruthless greed and cutthroat competition, Leatha’s decent, hard-working little enterprise is a reminder that “old-fashioned” values still work. Be fair, treat people right, give good value for a fair price, work hard, share with others and don’t be greedy. And above all, trust God to look after you.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (Ruth 1:8-18 NIV)
Ruth is the leading character in this book, which is named after her. The name Ruth means “mercy.” The story shows that God’s grace and mercy extend beyond Israel to include all peoples.
Ruth can be read as a drama in four acts, with a prologue and epilogue attached. The prologue tells us how Naomi, her husband and two sons went to Moab, where her sons married. Eventually, Naomi’s husband and sons died, and she decided to return to Bethlehem in Judea (1:1-7).
In the first act, Naomi tells her Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to stay in Moab. Orpah eventually agreed, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi and accompanied her to Bethlehem (1:8-22). The next act sees Ruth gathering barley in the fields of Naomi’s relative, Boaz, who showed special concern for Ruth (2:1-23).
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The third act takes place at the threshing floor where, at Naomi’s instigation, Ruth hides until Boaz falls asleep and then quietly lies down by his feet. When Boaz awakes, Ruth expresses her desire to marry him according to the custom of the kinsman-redeemer. But Boaz tells her that another man has a prior claim (3:1-18). Finally, at the city gate, the other relative renounces his claim, and Boaz marries Ruth (4:1-12). The epilogue relates Naomi’s joy at this turn of events and then lists some of Ruth’s descendants, including David (4:13-18).
How to read this book
In stark contrast to Judges, the book of Ruth shows us a community that did what was right in God’s eyes. It is “the story of God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ruth’s story occurred during the time of the judges — a period of disobedience, idolatry, and violence. Even in times of crisis and deepest despair, there are those who follow God and through whom God works. No matter how discouraging or antagonistic the world may seem, there are always people who follow God. He will use anyone who is open to him to achieve his purposes” (Life Application Bible, NIV, Introduction to Ruth).
Learning about God
Our fascination with the characters of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz notwithstanding, “God is the primary actor in the drama” (Edward F. Campbell, Jr., Ruth, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 7, p. 29). Even though human beings are free moral agents, God’s unseen hand directs events to accomplish his purpose, transforming Naomi’s sorrow into exultant joy and rewarding Ruth’s commitment to Israel’s God and community with an enduring place of honor in its heritage.
In Boaz, we see a foreshadowing of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. “Ruth’s inability to do anything to alter her estate typifies absolute human helplessness (Rom. 5:6); and Boaz’s willingness to pay the complete price (4:9) foreshadows Christ’s full payment for our salvation (1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19)” (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible, NKJV, Introduction to Ruth).
steadfast love: According to rabbinic tradition, the main theme of Ruth is steadfast love (Hebrew: chesed, meaning “faithfulness born out of a sense of caring and commitment”). All the main characters in the book — Ruth, Naomi and Boaz — acted with chesed.
salvation: The story of Ruth takes place between the seasons of Passover and Pentecost. (Pentecost came at the end of the grain harvest season.) In the Hebrew Bible, Ruth is one of the Megilloth (Festival Scrolls) and is read during Pentecost. In accepting the God of Israel, Ruth foreshadows the gentiles becoming a part of spiritual Israel, the church. This became possible only after the Pentecost that followed Christ’s ascension (Acts 2)
What this book means for you
If the most effective teaching is by example, this book can teach us much about how to live:
The religious truths found in this book relate more to practical life than to abstract theology. Loyalty, love, kindness, the value of persons, and the need to understand one another stand out. In the midst of the chaos then in the land, meaning could be found by returning to the first principles of simple truth. The book of Ruth tells us that no matter how bad things may be, goodness can exist, if we are willing to make the effort. (Walter A. Elwell, ed., Baker’s Bible Handbook, p. 166)