Ruth is a special figure in the Bible. The Book of Ruth is one out of only two books in the Bible named after a woman, and Ruth is one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The Book of Ruth is praised for its literary structure and reads like a short story. Even though the book is small, the lessons we can take from Ruth’s story are insightful and deep.
A quick synopsis of the Book of Ruth will help you connect more easily to the lessons. The Book of Ruth starts out by telling us about Naomi, who packed up and moved from Judah to Moab due to a famine that was hurting her family. Naomi and her husband move there with their two sons, who each eventually found their own wives while living in Moab.
In a tragic series of events, Naomi lost her two sons and her husband, leaving her feeling broken and alone. She decided to move back to Judah and took her daughter-in-law Ruth with her. Ruth would be a widower and a foreigner in the new land of Bethlehem. During biblical times, this was a big deal. However, Ruth wanted to follow her mother-in-law and seek out God.
God had an amazing plan for Ruth in Judah. A man named Boaz, who was a “kinsman redeemer”, was able to take Ruth as his wife, giver her a child, and provide for her and Naomi. In the Bible, a “kinsman redeemer” referrers to an old custom where a relative of a man who died could marry that man’s widow. This was so that the lineage could continue through the woman.
Boaz was an honest, loyal, and respectful man. Even amid Ruth and Naomi’s awful loss, God had a plan for them. They both just had to trust each other and take the step to a new life. There are many other lessons to be learned from the Book of Ruth. Here are just a handful that can apply to your life.
Honor your past, but do not let it hold you back.
When Ruth moved to Bethlehem, she had a tortured past following her. She was living her home nation of Moab, a place that Israelites did not look kindly on. She not only had lost her husband, but she also never had given him a child leaving people to believe she was barren. Many women would have wanted to crawl in a back corner and avoid people’s judgement. However, Ruth pressed forward, believing that there was a more important plan for her life. She did not let her past define her. Ruth reminds us that no matter where we come from or what we have been through, our confidence can carry us forward into the future.
Women are important to God, too.
Despite how some people choose to interpret the Bible, the Book of Ruth reminds us that God cares for all his children equally, regardless of gender. Other religions tend to elevate men and dishonor woman, but Christianity boosts them both to the same level. Despite Ruth and Naomi’s tragic losses, God still had a great plan for them. Ruth specifically had been through what many would think as disgraceful, but God did not see it that way. While others would look down on her, God saw her as an important key character. He chose her to continue His great works. No matter your gender, age, or social status, God has a greater plan for you, too.
Even in the darkest times, you should stay hopeful.
After the loss of her two sons and her husband, Naomi fell into a depression. When she first gets to Bethlehem she says “…Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty” (Ruth 1:20-21). Ruth was broken too, having lost her husband. Neither of them knew for sure what the future would hold. They continued to stay hopeful, clinging to the idea that better days were ahead. We in life will face many situations that make us feel like the world is ending, but faith is what will help us through. We must cling to God, even if we felt our hand had been “dealt very bitterly”.
A hard work ethic will pay off.
When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth wasted no time getting to work to ensure that they were taken care of. Despite being new to the town, Ruth followed the harvesters into the field and offered her skills and labor. It did not go unnoticed, and a nearby foreman would later speak about her incredible work ethic to Boaz. The foreman said, “She’s been at it steady ever since, from early morning until now, without so much as a break” (Ruth 2:7).
Be a good person, even when no one is watching.
Your character is who you really are when you think that no one else is watching. Ruth had no idea that one day her story would be told to millions.She only lived a small life of obscurity, yet she showed great character. Boaz even speaks to her character, saying "...“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before...This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character" (Ruth 2:11, Ruth 3:10-11). Ruth became known as a virtuous woman in a town where she thought she would be an outcast. Like Ruth, we need to work to be a person of integrity. Everything we do should be in honor of God.
The Book of Ruth is a short one, but it is incredibly powerful. Christians will be able to take the short tale and apply the lessons to their own lives. We are reminded that no matter the past, faith can make us stronger.