I read through the Old Testament book of Ruth not so long ago. What struck me this time through is the way in which Ruth differs so much from many of the heroes from that time in Israel’s history.
The book of Ruth is set in the Old Testament alongside the book of Judges, and that is full of heroes. There you can read of Ehud, the left handed deliverer, of Deborah, Gideon and Samson. They were all famous for great feats, but Ruth is different.
For one thing she wasn’t even a Jew, which is a big deal in terms of the story of the Old Testament. How many heroes of the Old Testament can you name who were not Jewish? (Yes there are a few, but not many.)
Ruth was from Moab and related to God’s people only through marriage, and by the time she is introduced in the Biblical narrative, she is a widow.
And yet Ruth is someone who plays a key role in the purposes of God. Ruth became the great grandmother of David, Israel’s greatest king, and himself the ancestor of Jesus.
How does a Moabite widow get to be so central in the purposes of God? It seems that one of things that the book of Ruth does is answer that question. The process that leads to her marriage to Boaz, the great grandfather of David, begins with a simple albeit costly act of kindness.
Her mother-in-law Naomi is herself widowed and alone in an alien land. Ruth’s act of kindness was to remain with Naomi as she travelled back to her own people despite being released by Naomi to stay with her own people. From the there the story unfolds and we read of her meeting with and eventual marriage to Boaz.
It’s really a simple act of kindness that propels Ruth into the arena where God’s purposes are being worked out. It’s that act that places a very ordinary lady in the hands of a very extraordinary God and ensures for her lasting significance and a place in salvation history.