In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.
Judges 21:25 NIV
This closing statement of the Old Testament book Judges leaves us with a sense of hopelessness. Anarchy is rampant during that time and then, Ruth drops in. Her book entitled “Ruth” follows on the heels of Judges. I love how her story begins, “In the days when the judges ruled. . .” Loosely translated it means “Meanwhile back at the ranch. . .” And if we take a peek in the window God is cooking up something pretty special for us to see.
Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are poverty stricken and alone. Some ten years earlier, Naomi’s husband had set out to protect his family from famine only to land Naomi in a famine of a different sort. Death had taken her husband and sons, leaving her far from home. She would be isolated in her bitter life if it had not been for Ruth.
Ruth is a great surprise when we consider her cultural background. This young woman was a Moabite whose people had a reputation for pride, arrogance and wrath. But Ruth has nothing in common with this description. She is humble, generous and loving. She acts in faithfulness and loyalty as we see her care for her husband’s mother as one would care for their own, pledging to do so even beyond what was required.
So how do you think this lovely young woman got to be that way? The culture she grew up in was not known for their goodness. In fact, they were referred to as the ‘cesspool of humanity’. That’s something considering that most people in the world were living in depravity during this time period. They were the worst of the worst.
Perhaps Ruth gleaned some of what she did from Naomi. After all, Naomi must have been good and kind. She was well loved by her daughters-in-law (something that doesn’t always happen) and on her return home to Bethlehem after the death of her husband and sons, Naomi was embraced by family and friends. That really says something about the character of Naomi. But I think it was more than that. I think Ruth decided to do right even when culture said it was OK to do otherwise. She actively chose goodness and her life reflected it.
So on with the beautiful love story that captures our hearts as Boaz, a close family member of Naomi’s, falls in love with this woman of noble character. Ruth’s hard work and devotion to her mother-in-law does not go unnoticed. And in their story filled with twists and turns, the two eventually marry. Ruth’s life is made new. Through their union, a son is born, restoring the family line and rejuvenating Naomi’s hope. Good begets good. Years in the future this family tree would include Jesus, the greatest good mankind would experience.
Aren’t you glad that when it says everyone did as they saw fit, Ruth saw fit to do good? She shows us it is possible to live the “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” kind of life found in Philippians 4:8. She did this even when dwelling in the midst of a culture that practiced rebellion and anarchy. We even have an edge that Ruth didn’t. We have the Holy Spirit living in us whispering in our ear the ways of God. [John 14:26]
So then, no excuses. Only action. Decide to be one who does what is right. Even though it is not stated exactly like that in the story, we know Ruth was just that. We can be like her. Make the choice to do good.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling . . . ” Ephesians 4:1