In the days of the judges, a famine plagued the land of Judah. A man named Elimelech, likely financially ruined because of the dearth, took his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and went to dwell in the land of Moab. After the death of Elimelech, their two sons married women of Moab named Orpah and Ruth. They lived in Moab for about ten years, and Mahlon and Chilion both died in that land.
News came from Naomi’s homeland that the Lord had caused the famine to end, and she packed her things, and headed for her home town of Bethlehem with her widowed daughters-in-law in tow. Since she was old, widowed, and had no more sons, Naomi tried to persuade Orpah and Ruth to return to their land, to their mothers’ homes, and to their gods, knowing that they had a better chance of finding a husband in their own land, among their own people. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth was resolute. She made a covenant with Naomi that day, saying, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth knew that she would be a stranger and an outcast in the land of Israel. She knew that Naomi was returning to a land she had left more than a decade before, where her own future was questionable. Still, she committed herself to her mother-in-law, and to all that pertained to her: her people, her God, and her land.
During the time of harvest, Naomi sent Ruth to glean in the field, as was customary for the poor and the widows to do. She came to the field of Boaz, the son of Salmon and Rahab. As it turns out, Boaz was a near kinsman of Elimelech, the second closest kinsman in fact, and eligible to perform the duty of the kinsman redeemer. According to the law, he could redeem Elimelech’s land for his family. When Naomi realized that Boaz was the near kinsman, she sent Ruth to him. Boaz was delighted that Ruth had chosen him. He said, “Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich” (Ruth 3:10). Apparently, Boaz noticed that the young widow was not just chasing men to find a new husband.
What really stands out, though, is what Boaz said next. Remember, Ruth was an outsider, a Moabitess. She came from a strange land, with strange customs, and a strange religious background. Doubtless, Naomi’s people were skeptical of the influence this stranger would have on the town, especially on the young men. As is common with an outsider, it can be assumed that everyone in town had their eye on her. Yet, Boaz reveals something about her in the next verse. He agrees to become the kinsman redeemer, and says, “For all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman” (verse 11).
What high praise! In fact, as much as the virtuous woman is mentioned in the volume of the Holy Scriptures, Ruth is the only woman so called. Mary, Deborah, Sarah, Esther, and many others are named in God’s Word, and all were good women – possibly even virtuous – to be sure, but Ruth alone is directly called “virtuous.” Not only so, but it is also apparent that her reputation was unimpeachable. The entire city was unanimous with regards to her virtue. When ever did you know someone of whom no one could speak ill? Even Jesus, Himself, had His detractors; but not Ruth!
Boaz went on to marry the virtuous Ruth, and from their union, in the fourth generation, sprang forth David, king of Judah, and therefore, Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did Ruth receive a great blessing, but she became one as well!
Time and time again, Scripture shows that the things which happened in the Old Testament were an allegory. What then is represented in the story and person of Ruth?
Ruth’s story is mirrored in the prophecy of Isaiah 61:10-62:4. Isaiah recorded the words of God, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.”
These prophetic words, written long after Ruth’s death, call us to a time when the people of God will again enjoy a close relationship with the Bridegroom. Let us examine the parallels to the story of Ruth:
“He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness…” When Ruth visited Boaz in the night, she lay down at his feet. Startled, he asked her who she was, to which she replied, “I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” Clearly, Isaiah’s prophecy calls to mind this act, revealing that the young woman has found safety and rest under the covering of her husband.
“The Lord will cause … praise to spring forth…” Immediately, Boaz began to praise Ruth for her virtue, declaring that it was known by all how virtuous she was.
“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest…” Boaz made a promise to Ruth, saying, “I will do to thee all that thou requirest.” He promised to find out by the next morning whether the nearer kinsman would take her to wife, or whether he would defer to Boaz. When Ruth brought word again unto her mother-in-law, Naomi reassured her, and said, “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.”
“Thou shalt be called by a new name…” When Boaz announced that Ruth would be his wife, the people blessed her, saying, “The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel, … and let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.”
“Thou shalt also be a crown of glory…” Proverbs 12:4 declares, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.”
“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither … Desolate: but … Hephzibah, and … Beulah…” The shame and reproach of her heritage, her widowhood, and her childlessness were all removed in one fell swoop! In place of shame: the glory of marriage, children and the eventual reality of the Messiah Himself coming from their union! Truly, Ruth could have said with Paul, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
In the days of the Early Church, God visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. Near the start of the second century, Christianity experienced a great apostasy, according to the words of the Apostle Paul. The glory that was seen in those early days has long since faded into the materialism and politics that consume Christianity today, especially among those who have turned to God from among the Gentiles.
The Word of God describes the Church of God as a “glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing:” a “woman” whose reputation is impeccable. The story of Ruth, the virtuous Gentile woman, reveals that God will build again the Tabernacle of David among a chosen group of Gentiles, and will use them to bring glory again to the Jewish people, even as Naomi was blessed through Ruth.
This is what Paul meant when he exhorted us, saying, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). He is not merely giving us topics to consider. He told the Corinthian church, “I have espoused you to one husband.” This admonishment in Philippians 4:8 is to the Bride.
Even as a young lady might find herself standing in front of a mirror, considering all of the things that might make her more attractive (posture, hair style, wardrobe, etc.), so, too, is Paul suggesting we do spiritually. Look in the mirror of the Word of God. What must we do to be true, honest, just and pure? What must we do to be lovely? What must we do to be of good report? All of these were characteristics of Ruth, and have their spiritual significance in our walk before Jesus, our Bridegroom. Is there virtue? Is there praise? Let us set our hearts to attain unto it, that we may stand before our Lord, and that our God would count us worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and us in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.