We are about to embark on a brand-new year. Some of us worry and are afraid because we face uncertainty and overwhelming helplessness. But let’s look at the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. Ruth was destitute. Her husband had died. She followed her mother-in-law to a foreign country. She was surrounded by people that were not her own. Yet let’s look at how she coped with this adversity.
We first see that Ruth made a commitment to her mother-in-law Naomi. She left her country, her family and her friends to follow Naomi.
Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For 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 made a commitment to follow Naomi wherever she went. But even more importantly, she committed to make Naomi’s God her God. Because of that commitment, God protected Ruth.
Boaz, a relative of Naomi, in whose field she was gleaning, told her this:
Ruth 2:12 The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
Boaz, a type or symbol of Jesus, provided for her safety. He fed her, and gave her water. She worked so hard the whole day gleaning the fields. For all that self-effort, she collected about an ephah of grain. An ephah has been said to be anywhere from 22 liters to about 35 liters. That was a lot more than most gleaners could gather. So, she felt good about her efforts.
Ruth 2:17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
But Naomi wanted a deeper relationship for Ruth with Boaz. She wanted her to be secure and cared for.
Ruth 3:1Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
According the standard custom of the day, Naomi proposed that Ruth uncover the feet of the sleeping Boaz and lay down at his feet. This was a symbolic way of telling Boaz Ruth desired to marry him to fulfill his role as a redeemer of the estate of Ruth’s deceased husband. This was a customary practice to demonstrate subjection and submission.
Ruth 3:7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
When she laid down at the feet of Boaz she was expressing her vulnerability to him and her desire for a closer relationship. Boaz accepted her offer.
Ruth 3:11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
Boaz gave her six ephahs of grain to take home to Naomi. By submitting herself to Boaz, she was rewarded greater than all her long hours of toil in gleaning the fields.
Ruth 3:15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.
Ruth went home to Naomi and Boaz went to work for her cause while she rested. Naomi told Ruth to wait on Boaz.
Ruth 3:18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
The near kinsmen-redeemer that Boaz went to talk with could not or would not redeem the inheritance from Naomi and Ruth. But Boaz did. He did all he said he would and more. Ruth became his wife and now she was no longer a beneficiary of Boaz, but she was now a co-owner of all his riches.
And further, she eventually became the grandmother of King David, who had a heart after God. The Bible does not tell us, but do you suppose the boy David, as he was growing up, learned something from his grandmother? Look what he wrote many years later:
Psalm 37:7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
So, what is the significance to us of these verses we just looked at?
We started out with Ruth working hard to glean the grain. She had made a commitment to her mother-in-law and to her mother-in-law’s God. And God protected her and allowed her to find favor with Boaz and all of Bethlehem. Through her self-effort, she was able to collect an ephah of grain. And she thought that was good.
That is just like us. When we make a commitment to follow Jesus, He will guide and protect us. And we will find favor with men, even though we work largely through our own self-effort.
Next we saw Ruth submitting fully to Boaz and lying at his feet. Boaz’s response was ready acceptance and a reward of six ephahs that she did not have to work hard for. She just had to accept them.
As it applies to us, when we progress in our commitment to Jesus, we desire more of Him. We come to sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him. We read and study His Word. We submit our will to Him and give the control of our lives to Him. We start seeing wonderful things happen in our lives as He works through us to accomplish His will. We just have to thank Him for working in us and through us.
And lastly, we saw that Ruth followed the advice of Naomi and rested. She was confident that Boaz would do all he had promised. His word to her was golden. He did just what he said he would do. He redeemed the debt that Ruth could not pay. And Ruth became his wife. Now she owned not only all the grain, but all of the grain fields as well. She was an owner of all his riches.
And for us, when we come to understand fully what it means to rest in Jesus’ finished work, we stop our self-effort. We realize God is in charge of our lives and we do not have to strive to be good. It is then that God goes to work for us. He positions people and things in our lives to accomplish His will and purpose. That is according to His riches, not according to our work. We respond by putting our trust fully in Him and do not rely on ourselves any more. We begin to understand and appreciate the love He has for us and how He shows it to us over and over again and again.
Ephesians 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
We have every blessing because He chose us as His sons and daughters. We are rich in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
So, let’s consider how we can apply this lesson about Ruth and how her obedience and submission led to security and riches without all the sweat and labor. She triumphed amid poverty and uncertainty. As long as we are resting in Jesus Christ, we are secure and blessed. There is no safer place to be.
And one day, when Jesus comes for His church, we will be taken home as the bride of Christ!