The Book of Ruth is the story of one particular family in Israel, during “the days when the judges ruled.” We are not exactly sure of the precise time during the period of the Judges when this history transpired. Perhaps it was around the time of Gideon, when the invading Midianite raiders caused famine in the land of Israel; for the story of Ruth begins with a famine.
This Book is called the Book of Ruth – not the Book of Boaz, nor the Book of the Descent of David – because Ruth is the chief subject of the story. One writer says that it takes its name “from Ruth, the most remarkable person in it, to whom God granted His grace – not only to write her name in the Book of Life in heaven, but also to prefix her name before a Book of life on earth.”
The purpose which the Lord had in giving the Book of Ruth to the Church seems to have been directed for the display of Divine mercy – both in the world of Providence and of grace. And perhaps even more pointedly, the Book is intended to lead us to Jesus! Independent of all other considerations, this Book claims special regard from us because our Savior Himself descended from Ruth.
The gracious superintending mercy and Providence of God over His people is beautifully illustrated in Ruth’s history. In reference to the things of time and sense, which are connected with this world alone, Ruth’s life provides the fullest proof and display of our dear Lord’s promise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all things needful shall be added unto you!” Ruth left all that was near and dear to nature, in order to seek the God of Israel; and she found Him, and all things with Him and in Him – and thus she became a living testimony of this precious doctrine!
But although we may very readily and cheerfully admit that – in a subordinate sense – this might be among the gracious intentions of the Holy Spirit in causing the history of Ruth to be written down, yet we cannot help believing that a greater and more important purpose was intended in the giving of this sweet morsel of sacred truth to the Church! Was it not to display even more illustriously the wonders of the Lord’s grace? And what can more gloriously display the riches of His grace than the call of this poor girl from Moab to be among the fellow-heirs of the same Covenant-promises with the Israelites? Ruth was brought into the Covenant-family of God by her kinsman-redeemer; and this, of course, was a foreshadowing of the righteous redemption that was worked out for us by Jesus, our ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer!
As we read this touching narrative, there is a charm within its pages which never allows it to grow old or stale. This is to be attributed partly to the truth to nature in the narrative, and partly to the truth to grace in the sentiments that are expressed. Manners and customs vary in different times and in different nations, and nowhere does the peculiarity of some of the practices of the ancient Jews more appear than in this short Book. But still, the heart of man – both in its good and bad – is the same in every age. “As face answereth to face in a glass,” so will the heart of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz correspond to the hearts of some people in all times. And where that heart is truthfully laid open (as it is here in this Book), it will be found that although some of their circumstances were peculiar indeed, yet their sins, frailties, and feelings are still faithfully reflected by the lives of many believers! The grace of God does not change, either; its features rise above or shine through the peculiarity of customs and manners – which it sanctifies where they are harmless, refines where they are rude, and modifies where they are detrimental to true piety. None except the ignorant or narrow-minded will take offence at these customs which are so different from ours; and those who are truly intelligent (even though they may be destitute of piety) will admire a narrative that is so true to nature, and so satisfactory in its result.
It is said that the celebrated Benjamin Franklin – being in the company of some persons who were admiring some of the legends of ancient Greece – told them that he had once read an eastern tale that was even more tender and interesting. At the request of those who were with him, he told them the narrative. It was the story of Ruth, but with the names of the persons and places changed. Not recognizing it, all were loud in its praise; and they begged to know where he had heard it. He told them; and although some consider him to have been a skeptic himself, he did administer a severe rebuke upon the interest shown in fictitious and heathen narratives, while the greater beauties of the sacred Scriptures were neglected or despised.
As we enter upon the pages of this short but beautiful history of Ruth, may the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth! May our hearts be mutually refreshed and comforted in the faith which makes us wise unto salvation. And may we be led into a saving acquaintance with Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by manae | Lightstock.com