Character Study: The Bravery of Ruth
I love a good romance. I love a story of rescue and redemption, of someone’s life falling apart and someone else showing up at just the right moment to make things better. I know it’s cheesy, but I can’t help it (I blame growing up with Disney). And believe it or not, in the old testament, in the middle of books talking about laws, temples and kings, we find a beautiful romance that possesses all the qualities I love about a very strong woman named Ruth. (If you haven’t read the book of Ruth, I encourage you to do so to get the full story. With only four chapters you can easily read it in one sitting and it is well worth your time).
Let’s drop in on Naomi telling her daughter-in-law’s, Orpah and Ruth, that she is returning home now that the famine has passed, and her husband and sons have died. Naomi gives the girls her blessing to return to their own homes and remarry, and is met with their protests. Eventually Orpah tearfully kisses her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth makes the now infamous vow, “…where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, English Standard Version)
Back to Bethlehem they go, a widowed mother and daughter-in-law with no plan for the future as far as we know - they just pick a path and start walking.
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth says she will go and glean (collecting food from crops after harvest) to get food for them. She just happens to start gleaning in the crops of a man named Boaz, who just happens to be the very man who can turn Ruth and Naomi’s lives around. Ruth finds favor in Boaz’s eyes, he orders for her to be protected in his fields, to have access to food and water, and for the workers to intentionally drop extra food on the ground for her to collect later. Ruth tells Naomi all about this, Naomi realizes who Boaz is, and in typical, loving, well-intentioned mother fashion, Naomi devises a plan. “…put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” (Ruth 3:3-4, ESV)
Yikes. Sounds like a scandal waiting to happen.
Thankfully, Boaz is a stand-up guy. He wakes up from a drunken sleep to find a woman lying at his feet. After realizing it’s Ruth, he’s totally cool with it and tells her that he will gladly provide everything necessary to take care of her and Naomi. In the morning he does just that and in the end they live happily ever after. That’s a fast overview, so again, please read the story for yourself.
So, what can we learn from Ruth? What example does she set for modern women who “Don’t need a man to save us!?” Plenty. I think that’s exactly the point. Ruth sets the example of a strong woman doing what is necessary to care for herself and her family.
Ruth has just lost her husband and brother-in-law, and suddenly faces losing her mother-in-law too. She has to make a decision, stay where she knows she is accepted and comfortable or brave a foreign land for the sake of loyalty to Naomi and her family. And we know the brave choice she makes.
Ruth sets a beautiful example of the value of loyalty and faithfulness. Her decision to go with Naomi ends up being the path to redemption for both of them. Because of her choices, to do the brave and necessary things, Ruth meets Boaz and the rest is history.
Ruth shows us that bravery and faith sometimes look like just doing the next thing. Not knowing what the outcome is going to be, just doing the next thing to be courageous and survive. And before you know it, doing the next thing and the next leads you to a life you never planned but it is better than you could have ever imagined. God uses our circumstances and decisions for good when we choose to follow Him.
Ruth also shows us the power of a woman’s resilience. She chose to go with Naomi, knowing she would need to be the one to provide for them both. She chose to venture into the fields as a foreigner and a woman, both characteristics that could have led to her being mistreated in many ways. But she chose to go to take care of her mother-in-law. She chose to do what needed to be done, no matter what was expected or thought of her.
Ruth teaches us so many valuable lessons, but I think my favorite thing she shows us is that strong women have value. You don’t have to be weak or waiting for a man for life to be an incredible adventure. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the mundane, everyday decisions, fighting to survive, making the next courageous choice, that an unexpected and beautiful gift is dropped into your lap.
Ruth reminds us that being a Christian woman doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines in quiet submission, it means being courageous and believing in faith that God will meet us and provide the rest.
The bravery of Ruth is an invitation for us to be brave too.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.