LIVING TO RECEIVE GOD’S INTERVENTION We learn through the life of Ruth that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. She inherited an opportunity to receive a grand blessing because of being a descendant of Lot. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough. She positioned herself to receive fulfillment of the promise by living in the image of God; which manifested through her compassion, humility, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent diligence in doing what she could to provide for the needs. Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz; they had a son Obed, grandfather of David; and, thus established a family to link the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot to David, a great grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, we learn through her life that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention, even fulfillment of inherited blessing.
We conclude the study series on Ruth by looking back at her life as an illustration that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. Ruth inherited an opportunity to become a channel for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, because her ancestral father Lot was co-beneficiary of the promise by following and assisting Abraham on a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough to ensure fulfillment of the promise through Ruth. Her life includes several events in which she took specific action that brought her closer to fulfillment of the promise but could have diverted her away from it if she had behaved differently. Understanding the Godliness of her choice in each case helps us learn that living in the image of God prepares and positions a person to receive God’s intervention.
As we discussed in a previous bible study under Keeping Watch, living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Living in the image of God implies a person fulfills responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and diligently providing service to benefit others when God places a need in his/her path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness.
The life of Ruth provides specific examples of living in the image of God. First, she chose to live as a widow in order to comfort and assist her mother-in-law to cope with severe adversity. The choice brought her to Bethlehem from her home country of Moab. Second, her humility and sensitivity to the needs of her family led her to seek opportunity to glean for leftover grains. The search brought her to Boaz’s farm. Third, Boaz granted her preferential gleaning access in his field because of her humility, politeness, diligence and persistent effort; and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi. In each of these events, she did something positive that advanced her toward ultimately meeting and marrying Boaz, with whom she established an ancestral link in the lineage of the Messiah.
As a descendant of Lot, Ruth inherited an opportunity for God’s promise to Abraham to be fulfilled through her. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Saved from Sodom—Faithful Follower…, her ancestral father Lot shared in the promise by following and assisting Abraham on the mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah.
As we learn through events during Christ’s call up of the first four disciples several generations later, God ordains a reward for any person that helps to advance his mission (see bible study under Leading or Following…Strategic Alliance). He appoints a leader for each mission but provides opportunity for others to follow and assist the leader. He rewards both the leader and follower in ways that depend only on their capacity. When God calls you to a mission either directly or by giving you the opportunity to witness “his hand” in another person’s life or business, the blessing you earn by obeying is determined by your capacity and independent of whether you are called as a leader, adviser, assistant, or in whatever role.
Therefore, by following and assisting Abraham, Lot became co-beneficiary of God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3]. This was a promise to send the Messiah through Abraham’s offspring and was fulfilled simultaneously for Abraham and Lot through marriage of their descendants Boaz and Ruth.
Positioning to Receive God’s Intervention
We don’t, and need not, know how God chose Ruth out of thousands and maybe millions of Lot’s descendants. However, we know about her life after she joined Naomi and her response in specific events by which she positioned herself closer to receiving fulfillment of the blessing. Furthermore, we can surmise that each of the events could have diverted her away from fulfillment of the blessing if she had responded differently. The key events include returning to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, going to glean for leftover grains, her work habit and interactions with people at Boaz’s field, and accepting and implementing Naomi’s counsel to propose marriage to Boaz.
Ruth’s Compassion to Naomi
Ruth chose to live with her mother-in-law in order to comfort and assist her to cope with severe adversity. She did not mind that clinging to her mother-in-law could mean living the rest of her life as widow. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Ruth Joins Naomi…, Naomi pressured Ruth and her sister-in-law to leave because she could not see any basis for them to expect a meaningful life with her [Ruth 1:11–13]: “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
Her sister-in-law, Orpah, departed. But Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi. She recognized Naomi’s need, cared about her, and committed to doing what she could to alleviate her suffering. This act of compassion brought her to Bethlehem and preserved her opportunity to receive God’s intervention. In contrast, her sister-in-law Orpah abandoned any opportunity she might have had for receiving the blessing. Orpah’s role in the event provides a contrast that helps us understand that a different choice would have diverted Ruth away from the life we know of her today. She chose compassion without minding the sacrifice and by that choice preserved a grand opportunity for herself.
Humility and Sensitivity to Needs
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest [Ruth 1:22] and faced economic hardship. She was a stranger and had nothing of her own in Bethlehem. Her mother-in-law had been away for more than a decade. Although she had property (belonging to her husband), they faced hardship because they had not been available to develop or harness what she had. For example, they did not have any farm of their own to harvest. Ruth recognized their problem, identified what she could do to alleviate the problem, and proceeded to do it. She requested permission from her mother-in-law to go and glean for leftover grains wherever they would let her.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Consistent Godliness Opens Opportunities…, gleaning, i.e., picking leftover crops from a farm after normal harvesting, was allowed for and promoted in the Israeli society then as part of a welfare system to care for the poor [Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21]. Gleaning, therefore, was an acknowledgement of poverty. By going gleaning, Ruth not only acknowledged themselves poor but also proceeded to do what she could to alleviate the condition. She did what she could to provide for her family and did not mind that the activity might imply an acknowledgment of poverty.
This act of humility took her to Boaz’s farm, where she began to build her reputation as a polite and humble person with positive work habit.
Politeness and Positive Work Habit
Ruth showed herself humble and polite through her interaction with harvesters at Boaz’s farm. Also, her diligence at work became evident within a few hours of gleaning at the farm. We know this based on the foreman’s report to Boaz when Boaz arrived at the farm about mid day and inquired who was the young lady in his farm [Ruth 2:6–7]: “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.” Furthermore, she bowed down in respectful appreciation of Boaz after he granted her gleaning access and protection in his farm [Ruth 2:10]: “So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’”
Respect for Authority, Custom, and Due Process
Ruth accepted counsel of her mother-in-law to propose marriage to Boaz under the Israeli guardian-redeemer law. Her choice in this event was critical. Naomi’s counsel implied a willingness to release Ruth to remarry. Ruth could have taken the opportunity to seek marriage to someone younger and, maybe more prosperous than Boaz. However, such a choice would have diverted her to a different path than we know of her today. Instead, she stayed on course by respecting the authority of her mother-in-law and the guardian-redeemer custom that she explained to her.
Naomi explained their relationship with Boaz to Ruth: “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers” [Ruth 2: 20]. Then she instructed Ruth on how to present the proposal to Boaz [Ruth 3:3–4]: “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” Ruth accepted and implemented Naomi’s counsel: “So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do” [Ruth 3:6].
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Opportunity through Responsibility…, Boaz welcomed the proposal but offered the opportunity first to another relative next in line before him. The closer relative declined and, thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee the interaction. Boaz married Ruth and they had a son Obed, the grandfather of David. Thus, Ruth and Boaz established a family to link the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot to David, a great grandfather in the lineage of Christ.
Summary of What We Learned
We learn through the life of Ruth that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. Ruth inherited an opportunity to receive a grand blessing because of being a descendant of Lot. However, it was her living in the image of God that preserved the inheritance and placed her on a path to the eventual fulfillment. Being a descendant of Lot alone would not have been enough. Her living in the image of God manifested through compassion to mother-in-law Naomi; recognition of her family’s need in Bethlehem and commitment to doing what she could to alleviate the needs; humility; positive work habit; and respect for authority, law, and custom. These qualities worked together to keep her on a path to eventual fulfillment of the opportunity she inherited.