One of my favorite contemporary Christian music artists is Chris Tomlin, the singer of such great songs as Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone), How Great is our God, Indescribable, and many others. One of his more catchy songs includes some powerful lyrics from a story in the book of Ruth, our next lesson from The MANual, the NIV Bible for men.
About The Book of Ruth
The eighth book of the Bible is about a widow and the influence of her relatives. It’s a story is about love, friendship, and family loyalty after a tragedy. The purpose of the book is to show the strength of character of three people: Ruth, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and a close relative named Boaz. Many believe the prophet Samuel wrote this book, but evidence suggests it was written after his death. The book of Ruth is short with just 4 chapters but it contains several important lessons for us.
The setting is two towns on the opposite sides of the Jordan River around the end of the 325-year period of Judges, approximately 1050 B.C. The tribes of Israel still worship idols and live to please themselves so God brings judgments upon them, including war and famine.
Chapter 1 opens with a report of a severe famine that drove Elimelech, a member of the tribe of Judah, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to leave Bethlehem. While they were in Moab, Elimelech dies and Naomi’s sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women named Ruth and Orpah. Ten years later, the sons also die, leaving Noami, Ruth, and Orpah as widows.
Where You Go, I’ll Go
After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem since she heard that the Lord had provided food to her people there Naomi urges Ruth and Orpah to remain in Moab with their parents. Orpah stays, but Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law who had become her friend and mentor in the faith. Ruth replies, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth’s words became the basis for the lyrics in one of Chris Tomlin’s more-catchy songs, I Will Follow:
Where You go, I’ll go
Where You stay, I’ll stay
When You move, I’ll move
I will follow You
Who You love, I’ll love
How You serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow You
Naomi’s mentorship had a huge impact on Ruth so she followed her mother-in-law back to Bethlehem. The trip was 50 miles of rugged and steep terrain away and may have taken 7-10 days on foot. It must have been a tough decision to leave her parents.
- Who have been the positive mentors in your life? What gifts did they share with you?
- What gifts or experiences do you have that would make you a great mentor to someone?
- Who might benefit from your mentorship of them?
Chapter 2 opens as Ruth gets to work gleaning the leftover grains of the barley fields in Bethlehem. She did not depend on Naomi or wait for good fortune to simply happen. She worked where God placed her. Coincidentally, one of Naomi’s closest, relatives, Boaz, owned some of those fields. Wealthy and influential, Boaz was considered the family’s “kinsman-redeemer,” meaning he had the privilege and responsibility to act on behalf of any relative who was in trouble, danger, or in need.
Boaz was the son of Salmon and Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute we met in Joshua 2 and 6 who housed the two spies sent to scope out the town ahead of the take-over of Jericho. Boaz was always sensitive to the needs of the people he met. His words to employees, relatives, and others were colored in kindness. He openly offered to help once he discovered Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law and saw how Ruth respected Naomi.
At that time, there were also cultural and legal ramifications for taking care of a woman after her husband died (See Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Naomi had no sons left, so the next closest relative was responsible for redeeming the family and marrying the widow. Naomi suggested to Ruth to act in accordance with the Israelite custom in which a servant would lie at the feet of their master to show he could marry her if he wanted.
I can find the perfect woman
Some people believe everyone has a soul mate It’s just a matter of time until they find one. At the time, Boaz was 80 years old and Ruth was only 40 so their age difference was stark. One commentary I read said Ruth did not intend to lie at Boaz’s feet as a romantic or seductive act, but as one for the family business. Thankfully, these types of relations are not as common in the modern world.
Today, many guys fear settling down or keep looking for perfection in a spouse. They think that if nothing clicks between them right away, she must not be the right one.
- Do you pray that God puts the right woman in front of you? Ask Him to help you understand His plans for your marriage.
- Identify 4 or 5 qualities you consider crucial for the woman of your dreams. Pray for help to adjust your attitude toward the women you date. Let go of the minor issues.
- If you are married, do you look at all your wife’s flaws rather than her best qualities? Make a list of your spouse’s great qualities, then tell her how much you appreciate those in her.
These are just some of the steps needed to find the person God wants you to marry rather than just seeking someone physically beautiful, the right age, or who comes from wealth.
Chapter 4 opens with Boaz cleverly presenting the case to his relatives that he should marry Ruth. Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech, still owned some land in the area. According to the law, the land passed to his son but with no sons alive, it went to the next relative who should marry the widow. Impressed that Ruth chose him out of family loyalty, Boaz makes his case to marry Ruth, as long as the one man in Bethlehem who was a closer kinsman, does not want to marry her.
No Mother-in-law Jokes
We’ve all heard or even said humorous statements about in-laws. Maybe you are even an in-law deserving of a joke. Married men shouldn’t underestimate the importance and influence of their wife’s mother and father on your family. Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law paid off big. Boaz rewarded Ruth for the respect she showed his relative, Naomi.
- Do you show that same kind of care for your in-laws?
- Have you worked on your relationships with them?
- Do you pray for them?
- Have you told them how much they mean to you and your family?
After they marry, Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, the future father of Jesse, who would become the father of King David, who was one of the ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1:5, Luke 3:32). It was all part of God’s plan.
God Buddy Focus
God’s story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates how we can learn from older, wiser people who have learned to trust in God’s plans. Like with Boaz, God also calls us to be responsible to our family — even our extended family, through thick and thin.
- Identify the qualities you look for in a mentor. Invite another man with those qualities out for a cup of coffee to ask him about mentoring you.
- Get together with your God Buddies and discuss the key messages in the story of Ruth. What qualities did they look for in a wife?
- Talk about the qualities you desire in your relatives. What responsibilities come from being an in-law? Discuss how others seek out the best relations with their in-laws.