Question: "What should we learn from the life of Ruth?"
Answer: Ruth was “of the women of Moab” but was genetically linked to Israel through Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Ruth had married the son of an Israelite family while they were living in Moab, but at some point, her father-in-law, her husband, and her husband’s only brother passed away. So Ruth had to make a decision whether to stay in Moab, her home, or to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a land she had never known—Judah.
Ruth loved her mother-in-law, and had great compassion for her, seeing that she had lost not only her husband, but both of her sons. Ruth’s sister-in-law, Orpah, made the choice to go back to her people in Moab, but Ruth could not bear to part from Naomi or from the God of Israel that she had come to know. They made the journey back to Judah to the city of Bethlehem, where they decided to settle. Ruth’s testimony preceded her, for the owner of a nearby field, Boaz, had heard of her faithfulness, as recorded in Ruth 2:11: “Boaz replied, ‘I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.’”
The custom of Israel was that a man was to take his deceased brother’s wife in order to continue the family line. Since Ruth’s husband’s only brother had also died, and there was not an available male relative to claim her as a wife, she and Naomi would have to fend for themselves. Boaz not only noticed Ruth’s beauty, inside and out, but he saw to it that she had companionship of other females, that she was protected, and that she had times of refreshing from her labor (Ruth 2:8-9). Ruth reciprocated by displaying humility and appreciation (Ruth 2:10-13), which only ingratiated her more to Boaz. And he continued to show her every courtesy (Ruth 2:14-16).
Ruth and Boaz had come to know one another very well, but not in a romantic sense. They came to know each other’s good character, loyalty, faithfulness, and sense of commitment, all of which go into making a strong foundation on which to build lasting relationships and marriages. Naomi reminded Ruth that Boaz was a male relative, a kinsman of Elimilech, Naomi’s husband; therefore, Boaz was qualified to become Ruth’s husband. It was of the utmost importance in Israel to perpetuate the name of every family of Israel, so this gave Ruth the right to appeal to Boaz to fill that role. This is a custom that seems foreign to modern society; however, it goes to show just how important family ties and heritage are to God. This is why Satan continuously attacks the God-ordained family unit.
Ruth had an open mind and a teachable spirit, so she listened to her mother-in-law and took her advice (Ruth 3:2-5). Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions to the letter; she trusted the Lord, and He rewarded her faithfulness by giving her not only a husband, but a son (Obed), a grandson (Jesse), and a great-grandson named David, the king of Israel (Ruth 4:17). Besides these gifts (Psalm 127:3), God gave Ruth the blessing of being listed in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
Ruth is an example of how God can change a life and take it in a direction He has foreordained, and we see Him working out His perfect plan in Ruth’s life, just as He does with all His children (Romans 8:28). Although Ruth came from a pagan background in Moab, once she met the God of Israel, she became a living testimonial to Him by faith. Even though she lived in humble circumstances before marrying Boaz, she believed that God was faithful to care for His people. Also, Ruth is an example to us that God rewards faithfulness: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Even though these promises are recorded in the New Testament, long after Ruth lived on earth, God’s Word stands for all eternity.