Most of us are familiar with the story of Ruth. Her heartbreak, loyalty to her mother-in-law, and subsequent love story. Unfortunately though, too many young women just focus on the part where Ruth essentially propositions Boaz. In fact, there are a lot of Bible studies, blog posts and people that will take this passage as an example to show that a woman should take initiative in starting a relationship. In a few weeks, in Tirzah Magazine, we will study the fact that according to the Bible, the man should pursue the woman.
But today, let’s focus on something else we can learn from Ruth: humility and submissiveness.
This young woman was willing to sacrifice the most youthful years of her life to go live with her widowed mother-in-law. She left behind her homeland, family, and religion to follow Naomi to Judah. And then she had to go to work. Not paid work, but to trail behind servants in order to be able to feed herself and Naomi. How humbling would that be?
Then we get to the love story where many young women swoon. But I imagine that to Ruth it wasn’t all butterflies and romance. Yet, she heeds Naomi’s advice and approaches Boaz.
Back in the day, Israel had certain succession laws – where if a woman was widowed and left with no children, if there was a single male of age in her husband’s family, he was expected to take her as his wife. If he didn’t, he had to follow certain procedures before the elders that essentially brought shame upon the family. In this case, Boaz was a distant relative of Ruth’s former husband, so as Naomi advised, he had a responsibility to the family name to take Ruth as his wife.
So, here Ruth was – vulnerable before an older man that was stranger to her. Her husband had recently died. She was in a foreign land with no title, wealth or Jewish lineage. She didn’t choose Boaz voluntarily, but as a sign of respect to her mother-in-law and Jewish tradition.
Above her own sorrow and desires, this young woman chose obedience. That is humility and submissiveness in its purest form.
And yes, they did live happily ever after. A couple generations later, Ruth’s name appears in Matthew 1:5-6 in the genealogy of King David and eventually, Jesus Christ. All because a young woman chose to seek her mother-in-law’s God and to obey Jewish custom. God could have chosen any one of thousands of women in the tribes of Judah and Israel to be Boaz’s wife. But He didn’t. He chose a young woman from Moab. Long before Gentiles were welcomed into the fold of God’s chosen people, God chose Ruth. How amazing is that?
Today, I want to encourage you to search out where in your life God may be calling you to obey the advice of someone older and wiser. Maybe He is even asking you to humble yourself and obey a tradition you think is outdated or against your desires.