In the days when the judges ruled,there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Ruth 1, verses 1 and 2.
Welcome back, friend reader, and let’s go at this a bit differently. We’re going to walk through the book of Ruth this time. I have a number of reasons for selecting Ruth, but the biggest one is simply that it’s where God led me. Now that we’re here, I’d like to ask you to look at it through a few different prisms.
First, look at it as a time capsule. This is how people lived centuries ago. In the days of ancient Israel – in the Bronze Age years of the most advanced civilization on earth at that time – this is how people lived. The book of Ruth captures their habits, their social mores, and their common practices. People really did observe the kinsman-redeemer relationship. People really did thresh grain by hand. People really did die of famine. Yet there are still places in our world today where Ruth seems timely, even contemporary.
Once you’ve done that, look at it as a family history. For some, Ruth is simply a fable, and a saga, and a morality story. It’s also history. It’s the ancestral history of Jesus Christ, whose earthly ancestors were Ruth and Boaz; you’ll meet them in the days to come.
Then, look at it as a love story. It’s the story of a family’s love. And the love of strangers. And it’s the story of a man and woman falling in love. More than that, maybe think of it as a picture of how God selflessly loves us.
Finally, read the book as relevant to today. A four thousand year old morality play may not seem very applicable to us in this oh-so-modern twenty first century. If you stopped reading there, however, you’d be both wrong and short-sighted. Even today, when outsiders come into our fold, aren’t we still skeptical? If a person of a different nationality or race marries into our family, don’t even the most inclusive and loving of us still feel twitches of hesitancy? Don’t we still need to know that a loving God provides for all of us, and that some of the most important lessons He teaches us come from the most unexpected places? All that happened to Ruth and in the book that bears her name.
This is one of my favorite books in the Bible, and I hope and pray that you enjoy reading through it as much as I hope to enjoy unfolding it with you.
Lord, open our eyes to the story of your servant and ancestress Ruth.
Read Ruth 1, verses 1 through 5.
Have you heard the story of Ruth before?
What do you know of ancient Canaan and Israel?
What is God telling you today?