God In the Book of Ruth
God in the Book of Ruth
After reading through the depravity of the last chapters of Judges, it is a refreshing change to begin reading the book of Ruth. It begins on an ominous tone: In the days when the judges ruled… (1:1). Then we begin reading about loving relationships between Naomi and her daughter-in-laws. We meet Ruth, a Moabite that leaves her family, country, and 'gods' to join herself with God's people. There is Boaz, a godly man who has compassion on the poor. The workers speak of God, the townspeople pray to Yahweh. This is such a change from Judges.
Looking for God in the book proves to be an easy assignment. He is mentioned everywhere in the book. They speak of Him as the Almighty (1:20-21) and the more general term Elohim (1:15-16). However the most oft used designation is the name Yahweh.
This is the name by which God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:15-16). The event where God allowed Moses a glimpse of His glory He showed the meaning of His name: The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:5-7).
God is seen as being providentially active in the lives of these people. Boaz greets his workers: "The Lord be with you!". They answer back with “The Lord bless you” (Ruth 2:4). Boaz petitions that Yahweh would repay Ruth for her kindness and service to Naomi (2:11-12). Again in 3:10 Boaz hopes that Ruth would be blessed by Yahweh for her kindness. Naomi prays that Yahweh would treat her Moabite daughter-in-laws kindly and provide that they find security and husbands (1:8-9). They understand that it was Yahweh that had broken the famine and brought food again to their people (1:6).
They understood that Yahweh did bring judgments upon the people. Naomi declared "that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (1:13). When she returns to Bethlehem she says (making a play on the meaning of names): “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me" (1:20). It looks to me that she is in the same situation as Job. She attributes such misfortune in her life to God. I think she was wrong, but I do learn that she believed that God could and did intervene in the lives of His people. She, also like Job, continued to serve Him faithfully even though she thought He had brought such bitter situations into her life.
It is obvious that they believed Yahweh knew their situation, heard their prayers, and responded to their petitions as they are constantly praying to Him. At the announcement of Boaz and Ruth getting married, the people and the elders declare: "May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel" (4:11).
They also show their understanding of Yahweh being not just the God of Israel, but God over ALL. They constantly make mention of the fact that Ruth is a Moabite (1:4, 22; 2:2, 6, 21; 4:5, 10). Yet Boaz declared:" The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (2:12). God would accept a Moabite who, like Ruth, was willing to join herself to Israel making them her people, making their God her God. Such is at least a foretaste of the great invitation of Jesus (the future offspring of Boaz and Ruth Matt. 1:5) where He invites all nations to become His disciples (Matt. 28:18-19).
Great is the God that we serve. Great is his providence and kindness towards His people. Let us praise Yahweh for His mercy towards us through Ruth.