Milk & Honey Magazine's in-depth look at the Bible book of Ruth. There is always hope!

The Book of Ruth

Hanna Wilbershide

It’s easy to praise God when we see blessings in our lives.

What’s not so easy is remembering He is working all things for our good when time has passed without hearing from Him or seeing anything change in the hard times. It’s easy to question if He’s really listening or cares about us.

The book of Ruth starts with Naomi, who lives in Bethlehem with her husband Elimelek, and their two sons. A famine was plaguing Bethlehem, so Elimelek decided to move his family to Moab. Not only were they moving miles and miles from their family and friends (which meant walking for weeks carrying all of their possessions), they were going to a land that was not Jewish and believed in different gods (little 'g' on purpose). 

People viewed gods as having geographical boundaries. Not only were they leaving all their family, friends, and community, but also the true God. Not to mention, the Moabites were not a favorable group of people. This was a complete life change for Naomi, who likely had no say in the matter. 

This is already a pretty bad start for Naomi, but unfortunately it gets worse. Once getting to Moab, Elimelek passes. Her sons then marry Moabite women, (a big no-no in that time) and they all live there for ten years. Until, her two sons die as well. 

All of these details of the story happen in the first five verses in Ruth 1. Naomi has nobody to provide for her, no support, and she was completely alone aside from her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. 

At this point, Naomi is pretty much at rock bottom. Shortly after all this, she hears the famine ended in Bethlehem and chooses to travel back on her own. She tells the two girls not to come with her. She’s giving them away to get out of their oaths and live a happy life. She’s already decided there’s nothing but despair for her, and she wants to save them and let them stay with their families and gods. She ends all this by saying “No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (Ruth 1:13) She assumes they can remarry.

This was a very sad time for all three of them, and Orpah wept as she said goodbye to Naomi... but Ruth remained with her.

In one of my personal favorite verses of the bible, Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth declares she’s willing to give up everything to stay with Naomi and accepts her God, abandoning the gods of Moab. So they return to Bethlehem together.

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, the people cry out to Naomi and welcome her home. However, Naomi tells them she won’t be called “Naomi” any more and asks them to call her “Mara” instead. Naomi meant pleasant, whereas Mara means bitter. Naomi/Mara is declaring her bitterness by changing her name, portraying how she was once full, but now empty, bitter, and forsaken by the Lord.

When Naomi/Mara and Ruth get back to Bethleham, they are left poor and must provide for themselves. Their only option was to glean for grains that were dropped by servants in fields as they harvested.

Ruth went out to work in a random field to collect food for the two of them. While in the field, Ruth became recognized and respected for her work ethic. The owner of the field was Boaz, a man of wealth and good reputation in town. He was so impressed with Ruth, he told her not to worry about going to any other fields; he ensured her she would be safe working there among his servants. He told her to feel free to harvest among his servants instead of behind them. He gave her food and water and sent her home with plenty of food to share with Naomi. This was unusual at the time, which lends to how outstanding Ruth’s character was.

Naomi was (very) pleased when she saw this food, and even more delighted to find out the field belonged to Boaz. Unbeknownst to Ruth, Boaz was a relative of Elimelek and unmarried, which gave him the right to marry Ruth and redeem Elimelek’s land and provide for Ruth and Naomi!

Naomi developed an elaborate plan to prompt Naomi and Boaz’s engagement, and it worked! Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son named Obed, renewing Naomi's hope in the Lord. Women throughout the town spoke blessings over Naomi, and it was widely known the Lord did not abandon her. Rather, everything happened for a reason and Naomi was at great peace. She used her situation to bring glory to God. 

If you look in the New Testament at Matthew 1:5, Boaz, Ruth and Obed’s names are mentioned. If you continue to read the genealogy down to verse 16, it explains how this was the direct line that led to the birth of Jesus. Had all those miserable things not happened to Naomi, our savior would not have been born!

God knows our past, our present, and our future.

God sees our lives as part of the bigger picture. Even in times when we see no light and seem to be surrounded in darkness, we can’t turn into a Mara. Our God will never leave or forsake us. 

Even when there's no other possible explanation for our misery, God is just putting all the pieces together to create a greater, beautiful miracle. Keep faith!

The Bible is full of stories of hope where people started in a hopeless situation.

God has not forgotten you; He’s just getting all the pieces together for your miracle! For the bigger the miracle, the more we can glorify Him for the great works He’s done in our lives. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)