Character Study: Ruth

Ruth and her story have always been one of my favorites in the Bible. In her story, although God is scarcely mentioned, His sovereignty and His purposes and His will are sprinkled throughout this little gem of a book. Ruth’s story begins with tragedy and hopelessness, but ends with the redeeming work of the Lord through an unexpected character – Ruth herself.

Who is Ruth and what’s her story?

One of the first, of many, notable attributes of Ruth is that she was a Moabite woman. This fact is notable simply because Moabites were despised by God’s people, the Israelites. Ruth was married to the son of Naomi, and their whole family was living in Moab, though they were from Bethlehem. Naomi’s husband passed away, and later both Ruth’s husband and Naomi’s other son also passed.

Naomi instructed her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their mothers. This is where we see a second notable attribute of Ruth – she refused to leave her mother-in-law, and pledged herself to Naomi and to Naomi’s God, the God of Israel. Ruth showed incredible and unexpected loyalty. Her response to Naomi is seen in Ruth 1:16-17:

“Don’t plead with me to abandon you or return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will by my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (CSB)

Ruth travels with Naomi back to the land of Naomi’s people. As she is in a field gathering food, she meets Boaz, who just so happens to be a relative of Naomi. Here we see a third notable attribute of Ruth – she laid down her pride and asked Boaz if she could simply follow the harvesters and gather the fallen pieces of grain to eat. Boaz gave great favor to Ruth because he had been told of her loyalty to his relative, Naomi, in her time of great despair. Boaz beautifully says to Ruth in 2:11-12:

“Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and other and your native land, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” (CSB)

When Naomi hears of Ruth and Boaz’s meeting, she is thrilled because they can marry and their family can be redeemed. Ruth and Boaz do marry, and they have a son named Obed.

Why is Ruth’s story important and how does it have meaning to us today?

Let’s look back at Ruth’s notable attributes. First, she was a Moabite (a Gentile), a people typically hated and not welcomed by Israelites. Second, she was unwaveringly loyal. Third, she laid down any pride and presented humility and gratefulness in a time of need.

These attributes that Ruth upholds are attributes that we, as Christ-followers, should also uphold. We should, as Gentiles, recognize that Jesus’ death was also for us. We should be faithful and loyal to our God. And, we should show humility and gratefulness in all circumstances. Although the work of God is

not clearly written or mentioned in the book of Ruth, we can see it throughout her story. God used everyday faithfulness of His people to work out His will. The book of Ruth shows how God’s good purpose can work with human decision to produce fruit on the vine of His plan.

The masterpiece of God’s sovereignty is woven into Ruth and Naomi’s tragedy, leading them into a redemption story. How?

Ruth married Boaz, and fathered Obed.

Obed fathered Jesse.

Jesse fathered David.

Yes, King David. In the lineage of Jesus. God used a Moabite (Gentile) woman, who experienced great loss and willingly entered into a place where she knew no one, to fulfill one of the greatest prophecies in the making: the genealogy and birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:12-14 says of the Gentiles, “At that time, you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”

Ruth’s story is a miraculous presentation of God working in sovereign, though not obvious, ways. Through Ruth’s life, we see that God began using Gentile people to bring about the unity that Jesus would provide. God is constantly at work in our lives, even when we feel that He isn’t. He can use people like us, sinful in nature, to bring about His glory in ways we never expected. He will use you!