Long ago, before Jesus was born, Elimelech and his wife Naomi lived in the town of Bethlehem. There was famine in the land, so in order to provide for his family, Elimelech packed up his belongings and, with his wife and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, moved to the foreign land of Moab to find work until the end of the drought. A few years later tragedy struck, and Naomi’s husband died, leaving her there in Moab with her sons. Naomi was so sad!
In time, the boys grew to be men and married two of the local girls, Ruth and Orpah. Everything seemed good for Naomi during the next ten years until both of her sons died. Naomi’s life seemed to be one of sorrow, with one tragedy after another, and she was left alone in a foreign land with her daughters-in-law.
At last she heard news that the drought had broken and there was food again in her hometown. With nothing to keep her in Moab, Naomi decided that it was time to go home to Bethlehem. Her daughters-in-law were still young, so she suggested that they go back to their family homes where she prayed that the Lord would care for them (Ruth 1:8, 9). She kissed them goodbye, and with weeping, Orpah went on her way, but Ruth clung to Naomi, pleading that she would not leave without her. She said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Ruth 1:16.
Ruth loved Naomi and could not bear the thought of being apart from her, and she was not willing that Naomi make the long trip home alone. By staying with Naomi, she returned the kindness shown her by her mother-in-law. Together they packed their bags and started on the long and dusty journey back to Bethlehem. When they entered the city there was great excitement at Naomi’s return. However, Naomi felt that the Lord had dealt bitterly with her, so she asked to be called Mara (meaning bitter), as almost everything had been taken away from her.
There were no men to provide for the family of Naomi and Ruth, so Ruth had to go out and work. It was the custom of the day that after the harvesters had gone through the fields to gather the grain, they would leave the corners of the fields for the poor people who were allowed to glean whatever was left. Ruth was one of the poor people who gathered grain in the field of Boaz, a very wealthy man who had large fields. Boaz was a kinsman of Elimelech, and when he saw Ruth working in his field, he made enquiry as to who she was and from where she came.
Boaz had heard of Ruth’s kindness towards Naomi, so he said to her, “Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens. … It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:8, 11, 12.
Boaz not only spoke kindly to Ruth, but he also invited her to eat with him! He ordered his men to leave extra grain for her to gather, and when she returned home to Naomi that evening she was loaded with leftover food from her lunch and had nearly a bushel of grain! That was a lot! Ruth was so amazed at Boaz’ kindness. Naomi was as well, and blessed the Lord for His provision for the two widows (Ruth 2:20).
This story of Ruth, which starts with such a lot of death and sadness, ends with a lot of joy. Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. Years later, Obed became the grandfather of King David and the great-great-great-great grandfather of Jesus. You can find the family tree of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 1, and see the names of Boaz and Ruth listed there in verse 5. Ruth, a young widow, by faith chose to cast in her lot with Naomi, her mother-in-law, left her own home to live in a foreign place (Bethlehem), and committed to worship a foreign God. In spite of her own personal circumstances she showed kindness, and the reward of her kindness was the honor to be listed in the family tree of the Saviour of the world!
Even greater than Naomi’s example of kindness shown to Ruth and Boaz’ kindness and generosity shown to Ruth and Naomi, is the kindness shown by God to this fallen world.
Just as God wrote a beautiful ending to the story of Ruth and Boaz, He wants to write an ending for each and every one of our lives. No matter what our circumstances, nothing is too hard for the Lord.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11–13.