The book of Ruth has been used over and over to talk about how women should be like Ruth and wait for their Boaz. I honestly can’t think of any time in which I heard people talk about the book of Ruth without mentioning that famous couple.
I’m not knocking at view of the story. What I want to point out is that Ruth has 3 major relationships in her book. Boaz is only one piece of her story.
Ruth and Naomi – In chapter 1 of Ruth, we see that Ruth, a Moabite, married one of Naomi’s sons. After the death of Naomi’s sons, she heads back to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-laws. Naomi tells both of them to go back to their homes and find new husbands. Both initially said no, but eventually Orpah returned home and Ruth remained. Ruth clung to Naomi (v. 14). The term used expresses profound love and unshakable commitment.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and you God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely , if even death separates you and me.” – Ruth 1: 16-17
Not too many people would choose to stay. They were both widows and in that time widows were dependent on their sons to take care of them. Since neither had any living sons, they had no one to care for them. It would have been easier for Ruth to do as Naomi told her. Instead she claimed Naomi as her family and promised her loyalty to her. Ruth’s way of dealing with the pain of loss is to hold onto Naomi with hope.
Throughout the rest of the book, we see Ruth trying to provide for both of them. She goes out into the field and follows Naomi’s instructions concerning Boaz. She keeps her promise to Naomi by humbling herself. In Ruth 4:15, the ladies in Bethlehem say that Ruth loves Naomi and is better to her than seven sons. Considering the context, that is high praise.
Ruth and Boaz – This is the primary relationship that we hear about in the story so I’m going to keep this short and simple. Boaz appears in the story starting in chapter 2. We see him show kindness to his harvester. We also see Ruth find favor with him. In chapter 3 Naomi gives Ruth instructions concerning what to do regarding Boaz. He compliments her and shows her kindness and respect. He could have taken advantage of the situation, but doesn’t.
Ruth and God – Ruth was a Moabite. She didn’t believe in the Lord like Naomi did. But in Ruth 1:16-17, she tells Naomi that her God will be her God. Right there Ruth starts claiming God. Instead of turning back to what she knew, she moved forward. She moved towards God. In the end she marries Boaz and bears a son, Ohed. Ohed was the father of Jesse who was the father of David. God included Ruth in the line of David.
In Ruth we don’t have exact details on Ruth’s spiritual growth, but we know it happened. I believe that it happened in part through her relationship with Naomi. And speaking of Naomi, she had a story of growth as well.
When Naomi returns to Bethlehem, she tells women there to not call her Naomi, but instead Mara. Naomi means pleasant and Mara means bitter. Her reasoning is that the Lord had brought misfortune to her. She can see the work God is doing as she instructs Naomi on what to do regarding Boaz. In chapter 4, she has a son through Ruth. I think that helped Naomi lose the bitterness and be “pleasant” again.
So, I guess there are four main relationships in the book of Ruth. I think that it’s important to look at Ruth’s story as more than a guide on how to get a guy. Ruth has other important relationships in her life aside from Boaz.
We all have multiple relationships in our lives. No single relationship should define us. Our stories are made up of multiple relationships. Some may stand out more than others, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
So Ruth. She’s relationship inspiration. Relationships are give and take. What we can learn from her is to humble ourselves and remember the needs of others. Remember that sometimes we need to put others ahead of us. Here’s to telling the other sides of Ruth’s and our own stories.