Have you ever been in a place of deep and desperate need? Stunted by physical or emotional pain. Stymied by what life has handed you, and it looks like there’s now way out. Is this how your story will end? Not a great feeling, huh?
Here’s another question. Have you ever experienced someone reaching out to you in the depths of your pain, and pulling you up out of your pit? To have another human being reach out when you’re at your weakest and give your life new meaning, brings an indescribable sense of gratitude worthy of tears. If you’ve ever been there, you know the feeling I’m describing.
This is the essence of Ruth’s story.
Although this Bible book bears Ruth’s name, I think the story is not only hers. Ruth is neither the one who is truly at the bottom of the pit in this story, nor is she the one with the greatest ability and heart to redeem. Ruth is, well, mostly a middle (wo)man, between the story of Naomi and Boaz.
A Picture of Great Need
We meet Naomi in the first chapter of Ruth. Naomi, whose name means “joy” or “bliss,” or some even translate it “the pleasantness of Yahweh,” has fallen on some seriously hard times as the story begins.
“In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab…The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion…They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” Ruth 1:1-2 (emphasis added)
Poor Naomi. Fleeing her homeland in search of food and a better life, and then losing her husband and both of her sons. I know I would be thinking, “Really?? Why?”
It seems this was Naomi’s reaction too. When she finally returns home to Bethlehem (with sweet and loyal Ruth by her side) she is a desperate, broken, and bitter woman.
“When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’” Ruth 1:19-21
This broken and battered woman changes from Naomi—“joy”—to Mara—“bitterness.” Life had not dealt with her kindly, and she blamed it on God. No husband, no children, no home, no one to provide for her, and now…no hope in her God. Naomi is in great need.
Our REAL GOD Has a Plan
As if life had not dealt enough tragedy and hardship to Naomi (and Ruth), now the two must live as widows in Israel—probably the worst life could give a woman in ancient Israel. She couldn’t own land, she had no way to earn money or provide food for herself. And any limited options she could come up with for provision would be dangerous at best, deadly at worst.
Naomi had lost hope in her REAL GOD’s ability to provide and care for her. Yet, centuries before, God had made plans.
In His Law
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deut. 24:19
Plans for the lowly, the outcasts, and the widows…
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” Deut. 25:5-6
For Naomi & For Ruth
Our REAL GOD’s heart was for Naomi, even if she didn’t realize it—as it is for us, even when we don’t realize it. The trouble was, Naomi and Ruth were living “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1), which we know as a time when “Israel had no king, and everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25).
“Everyone did as they saw fit” sounds like no one is fit to take care of poor Naomi and Ruth and God Himself must intervene. And He does…through a man named Boaz.
As chapter 2 begins, Ruth takes it upon herself to become the provider for herself and Naomi by collecting bits of grain from the edges of nearby fields. This is where she meets Boaz.
“Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.’” Ruth 2:8-9
Sound familiar? This man is a real, live example of God’s heart that is expressed in Deuteronomy 24:19. In a time when everyone is looking out for themselves and taking advantage of others, Boaz looks outside of himself. He sees a person in need…and he responds with God’s heart.
Boaz is living and breathing God’s heart and even draws a reaction out of poor, bitter Naomi.
“And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he [Boaz] be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’” Ruth 2:20
An encounter with God’s kindness through Boaz seems to change Naomi, and it doesn’t end there. Boaz goes on to marry Ruth, becoming her “kinsman redeemer,” and eventually, Ruth conceives and bears a son. But it seems the greatest joy in this blessed event belongs to Naomi.
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’” Ruth 4:14-15
Our REAL GOD not only took care of Naomi’s needs but also completely, wonderfully, and beautifully took care of her heart.
To Give or To Receive
Are You a Naomi?
What about you? Has life dealt with you so harshly that you feel you’re in an unredeemable position? Take heart, our REAL GOD’s heart is for you, and He has a plan to take care of not just your needs but your broken heart. In fact, He has already taken care of your greatest need through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ!
At this time of year, we celebrate God’s greatest Gift, but sometimes we forget how very personal that gift is. Whatever your need is today, Jesus—through His indwelling Holy Spirit—can provide for it perfectly. Perhaps He is sending someone your way right now, who can live out His heart to you.
Are You a Boaz?
Or maybe, you have an opportunity to be like Boaz today, extending the kindness and care of our REAL GOD to someone who’s stuck in a pit. The holiday season is so difficult for some folks—especially widows, singles, or those who have lost someone close at this time of year.
Is there someone you know that could use an extra measure of kindness today? Someone who has no family to celebrate Christmas with this year? I think we all feel like Naomi sometimes. Praise God for sending us His love and care through REAL PEOPLE who are His hands and His feet.
May we each seek our REAL GOD’s heart more and more each day, so that we might be able to live it out to those who are in great need among us.
- God’s heart is for us even when we don’t realize it.
- Ruth is, well, mostly a middle (wo)man, between the story of Naomi and Boaz.
- Let us strive to seek out and pour out God’s heart to those in need around us.
- Have you ever witnessed God meeting needs in unpredictable and unbelievable ways?
- How might you get to be a part of God’s unexpected plans coming to light in someone’s life this Christmas?