When was the last time you read the little four-chapter, Old Testament book of Ruth? If it has been a while since you have read Ruth’s story, pick it up and read it again. You will find that it is a book for our times that speaks to us on multiple levels. However, before you start reading Ruth, back up a few pages in your Bible and read the ending of the book of Judges. The end of Judges sets the context and backdrop against which Ruth’s story unfolds.
At the end of Judges, the nation of Israel was unanchored, drifting, and rudderless. The people had no compelling leadership or unifying vision to guide them. In fact, the final words of the book state, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). The country was unhinged and lawless, lacking purpose and bereft of national identity.
It was inside this confusing, chaotic time that Ruth’s story occurred, and her story was brilliant. It was a poetic, breath-taking, rescue story that speaks to us on three levels.
Theologically, Ruth speaks to us about Jesus’ heart, work, and ministry. Boaz is the Christ figure in the story, and when he rescues and redeems Ruth and Naomi he illustrates the sacrificial love of Christ. When the nearer relative fails to rescue the women, Boaz steps up to the task, reminding us that when our best efforts fall short, there is still another rescuer, another redeemer, who will help us.
Ruth’s unswerving commitment to her heartbroken mother-in-law, Naomi, is timeless. When Naomi (whose name meant pleasant) changes her name to Mara (bitter), Ruth refuses to leave her. When Naomi bitterly declares, “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20-21), Ruth is undeterred, modeling covenant loyalty. Her loyalty pays off as the book concludes in a great rescue scene that heals and redeems Naomi’s heart.
On a societal level, the book of Ruth reminds about honor, courage, and how women, immigrants, and strangers should be treated.
And finally, on a personal level, Ruth’s story reminds us that no matter what is happening around us—no matter how frantic or distraught our world becomes—God never stops working. God’s sovereignty and providence are still in effect, shaping stories, guiding outcomes, and orchestrating an ultimate rescue. Read Ruth. It will inject your heart today with strength, hope, and some well-founded optimism.