On Sunday, I will begin preaching through the Book of Ruth, so I thought I would take some time in this week’s blog to give you a brief overview and summary of this short but amazing book.
The key verse from the book can be found in the first chapter when Ruth tells her mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). It is that simple statement followed by a corresponding obedience that is the setting for this spectacular book.
We do not really know who wrote the book of Ruth, but tradition attributes the writing of the book to Samuel the Prophet. This Old Testament book derives its name from one of its main characters. Ruth is more than just a main character—she is a heroine and a shining example of what happens when someone fully trusts in God’s provision and leadership in his or her life.
Second, the date is also unknown, but it can probably be dated between 1,000 – 930 B.C., which happens to be during the time of Judges before Israel had its first King. The setting for the Book of Ruth begins in the heathen country of Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea, and ends in Bethlehem. Because of a famine, Elimelech and his wife, whose name is Naomi, leave the Promise Land and move to the country of Moab. Elimelech dies and Naomi is left with her 2 sons who soon marry 2 Moabite girls, Orpah and Ruth.
Later both of the sons die, and Naomi is left alone in a strange land with her daughters-in-law. She then determines to return to Bethlehem. Orpah stays in Moab while Ruth determines to make the journey with Naomi back to Bethlehem. This story of love and devotion tells of Ruth’s eventual marriage to a wealthy man named Boaz, by whom she bears a son named Obed who becomes the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus.
The Book of Ruth was written to the Jewish people and is a picture of God’s redeeming love for those who are broken. This message is taught through a number of pairs of things we find in the book:
We see a pair of women, Naomi & Ruth. Naomi has lost everything and is struggling in her heart as to why bad things have happened to her. Naomi had lost her husband and two sons and felt like God had taken everything from her. On the other hand, we see Ruth who had lost her husband but instead of becoming bitter she trusted in God and found His amazing provision in her life through the broken times.
We also see a pair of places in the book of Ruth. The first place is Moab which for the Israelites was a detestable place that was filled with compromise and wretched people. The other place is Bethlehem, which is a place of promise.
Finally, we see a pair of stories in the Book. The first story is the one we read, where Boaz becomes the kinsman redeemer to Ruth the Moabite. It truly is an amazing story, and it follows the natural reading of the words from Ruth. However, there is a second story that permeates the book. It is the story of God’s love that redeems fallen men and women from their sinful and broken pasts in order to provide amazing futures through God’s grace, provision and love.
The most practical application for the book is that God’s sovereignty is clearly seen in the story of Ruth. Even when Ruth did not know it, God was guiding her every step so she could become His child and ultimately fulfill His plan of a Moabite woman becoming a grandparent to David and an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
In the same vein, if you find yourself in difficult circumstances or perhaps in your own personal Moab, you can begin today making your journey back to the place of Promise. In Ruth’s day, the place of Promise was Bethlehem. Today, the place of promise is the church.
You might be asking what God can do in your life through the church? Perhaps the best answer to that question comes from the words of the Apostle Paul, who said, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
So today, make the same decision Ruth made; head in the direction of the place of Promise this Sunday—The Church, and you will find a God who has been waiting for you all this time.
John Mark Caton, Ph.D