The last time we gathered together our protagonist had just begun her journey with Naomi, her dead husband’s mother, to live with her. We pinpointed some important lessons of singleness, following God with reckless abandonment, courage, and obedience. You can read that post here. I must encourage you all to delve into the wonderful story of Ruth on your own. There are so many lessons to learn, but I didn’t include every one in this blog post. Seek them out and share what the Lord reveals to you! Many weeks have gone by since our last session and we shan’t waste another second.Our story continues in chapter two, and the setting is Bethlehem.
Class is in Session!
“Ruth was a courageous woman! She was bold enough to follow God in the midst of not knowing… She was selfless, faithful and consistent. I believe that Ruth’s story is so admirable because it is a prime example of the reckless abandonment we should exhibit when we intentionally follow Christ.”
- Ruth was mission-conscious
And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Ruth 2:2, NASB
During the Revolutionary War there lived a woman named Mary Hays (or Molly Pitcher as she was fondly nicknamed). Mary was responsible for fetching water for the parched soldiers who were fearlessly fighting in approximately 100-degree weather.One day during combat Mary’s husband collapsed beside the cannon he had been firing. (It’s debated whether Mr. Hays had been wounded or had suffered from heat exhaustion.) His wife, Mary, did something remarkable after that. She stepped over his body and took his place behind the cannon, and began to take fire.
What would cause a woman to do such a thing? It was the same spirit operating in Ruth: mission-consciousness. Mary was aware that everyone was on that field for a specific purpose, and even when devastating realities faced her, she took action and continued to work toward the goal of freedom from oppression.
Ruth’s circumstances were less than favorable. Her husband was dead; she was childless; she left her home and family in Moab; she had just arrived in a strange land where Naomi was the only soul she knew. These situations are strenuous and intimidating enough to cause any of us to buckle underneath their weight. Ruth didn’t lose heart, even while facing the greatest challenges in life. We can gather from Ruth 2:2 that one of the principle tasks Ruth sought to complete was to provide for Naomi and herself. She makes herself useful because she is aware that she is responsible for Naomi’s life, caring for her the way a daughter might care for her elderly mother. Ruth’s mission as a single woman was to care for her mother (or spiritual mother), and she held that responsibility above any other desire or factor. Ruth understood that the ministry of the single person is established through submission to the authority of parental figures. (Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post on The Ministry of Singleness) After sojourning from Moab to Bethlehem, I find it uncanny that the first thing Ruth sets out to do is get to work! Rather than dwelling on her circumstances or remaining in the doldrums, she remembers her mission, purposefully steps behind her “cannon” and sets out to bring her new life to fruition by faith in action. If Ruth had not allowed her circumstances to discourage her from following Naomi and God to Bethlehem, consider how foolish it would have been had she pitched a tent of self-defeat and sunken into depression after she’d arrived. Once we’ve made the decision to follow God into the unknown, we must use the power of yesterday’s “yes” to Him to fuel faith into today’s obstacles. Remember, even when God moves you to the place of destiny, sitting idly is detrimental to your growth. Had Ruth dared to succumb to the temptation to wallow in despair, she would have never ventured into the field where she encountered the man who would change her life. Purposeful singleness paves the way to purposeful destiny.
“I believe that this particular Ruth-like obedience produces a selflessness that separates us from our fleshly desires and prevents us from being distracted. Ruth’s mind was on working, not being qualified for marriage. She was faithful in gathering from the harvest. God recognizes the things we do to serve and please Him, our reckless abandonment and the way we treat His people.”
- Ruth was in the right place in God’s timing
So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Ruth 2:3, NASB
Isn’t it amazing how God’s timing works? Her first day out to work is the day that she stumbled across Boaz’s property. In another translation, it says that Ruth “happened by chance” upon Boaz’s field. Know that we serve a God who is Sovereign; nothing happens by chance! God is an active component in your love story. God is the one who will strategically place you and your future spouse in the right place in His timing. God is involved in the romantic aspects of our lives just as much as any other facet. Surely the God who strategically planned the rescue mission of salvation before the foundation of the world, and who fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted you and I, would have an active role in our love lives. We must trust God and follow Him because He knows our future spouse. He knows exactly what they are doing at this very moment, what they’re thinking, and what they’re praying. We must trust God to set us in the place to be found by this man, and God will lead him to that exact spot. It’s important to note that Ruth wasn’t looking for a mate; it was probably the furthest thing from her mind (mission-consciousness at work). Yet, God knew who He had for her and so He bypassed what she may have wanted for herself at the time, and gave her exactly what she needed. God will soon give you what you didn’t know you wanted.
- Ruth’s Reputation Yielded Favor
Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.” … Boaz replied [to Ruth], “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among stranger. May the Lord God, the God of Israel… reward you fully…” Ruth 2:5-6,11-12, NLT
Character is what sets us apart from any other person with similar talents, qualities, opportunities, or capabilities. Ruth’s character is what caused the news about her arrival to buzz around Bethlehem. It was unheard of for a foreign Moabite (Can you hear the whispers? “She’s a MOABITE? Dear, heavens!”) woman to travel from her distant land, live with her mother-in-law (to whom she has no lawful allegiance since the death of her husband), and work to ensure their survival. Why would she do such a thing? I think it’s imperative to note that before anyone knew her name, Ruth’s reputation had gone before her and opened doors of favor and opportunity. Never once did the foreman mention her beauty. Although we can imagine that Ruth was stunning; this isn’t what impressed him. The excellence in her work ethic is what made Ruth significant in the eyes of the foreman…and in the eyes of her suitor. Excellence is born through impeccable character, and it affects every facet of your life. If people inspect our lives, our attitudes, our work habits, would they see the testimony of good character and Jesus Christ? Do your work habits make you rise above the rest of the women in your class, church or workplace? What would be the report if someone asked about you?
If an eligible man asked his companions, “Who is Jessica McGinnis? Where did she come from?” I think the response would be: “Oh, Jess. She’s a nice Christian girl. She seems like she really loves Jesus. She talks a lot, though.” I hope the response would be, “Why, that’s Jessica McGinnis. She’s a sweet Christian girl and is so passionate about pursuing God. She’s faithful in serving Him. She’s an encourager and her words are seasoned with grace. She has a certain je ne sais quoi about her. She’d be a great, godly wife!”
In verse 14, we see Boaz has invited Ruth in to dine with him and his workers. Not only does she sit in the seat reserved for Boaz’s reapers, but he personally serves her. Boaz, being the distant relative of Elimelech, is considered the redeemer for Naomi and Ruth. He can redeem them from their current struggles, and give them the comfort Naomi longs for. Yet, their redeemer is serving Ruth hand-and-foot. Sound familiar? What a powerful picture of our own Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who has the power to transform our lives, yet the humility to serve before He saves. Small wonder Jesus is born from the lineage of Boaz.
- Ruth’s need for mentorship
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them… Ruth 2:8, NASB
Boaz gave Ruth specific instructions: Listen to me. Stay with my maids. Look at where and how they work, and do what they’re doing! I am a huge proponent for mentorship. Everyone needs a mentor. Boaz had skilled women in his field, and he wanted Ruth to learn from them all that she could. Mentors are set in place to tell you where they were, show you where God has brought them, and to help elevate you to the place in life where they are. More importantly, mentors should help propel their mentees to places they may never reach. How many of the other reapers had received the same treatment from Boaz that Ruth had? None of them were his wives. Yet, Boaz wanted Ruth to learn skills from them so that she would be in the place to receive the blessings to come.
Boaz could have chosen any of the other women in his field. [They had been there for years, probably] God set Ruth apart! It wasn’t her beauty, though I’m sure Ruth was beautiful and being a foreigner wasn’t what made her mysterious [She was set apart] because of her boldness, obedience,courage
If you don’t have a spiritual mentor, please ask the Lord to present godly women who have the qualities you hope to attain in your life. A mentor helps you walk through your Christian walk and gives godly advice based on the Word of God. They offer prayer, counsel, and a special friendship that every man and woman should have. To know that there is someone who is dedicated to praying for you and encouraging you in the Christian faith is absolutely priceless. The Body of Christ needs each other. God is calling all of us to specific purposes and destinies, and we need one another to ensure we get there. Ruth needed those other reapers to show her all they knew. Her obedience to Boaz’s request, once again, set her up for more favor. She didn’t have to listen to Boaz, but Ruth’s teachable and obedient spirit submitted without hesitation. Obey the Lord’s voice and the wise counsel He sets before you, for obedience is the breeding ground for God’s grace to be exhaled upon you.
Next time we will gather around the third chapter of Ruth. I encourage you to study the next chapter with me so we can enter into dialogue about these great truths God has for us.
Question: What would be the report for you? If an eligible man asked his companions, “Who is this girl? Where did she come from?” what do you think would be the response? What would you hope to be the response?
Special thanks to Miss Jessica McGinnis for her contributions to this blog post. Please visit her blog: That’s Jess the Way It Is, and follow her on Twitter: @JessForJesus.