My wife and I enjoy good relationships with each other’s mothers. I say enjoy because this is a rare blessing! Our culture is full of jokes and complaints about mothers-in-law. Most people seem to regard theirs as a necessary evil.
Our favorite mother-in-law is Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. She lives across the street from Ray and his family. She still maintains a strong hold on him. She constantly criticizes his wife Debra, and forces herself into every aspect of their lives! Unfortunately, a lot of people feel this way about their own mother-in-law.
Can you imagine if someone loved their mother-in-law? Like, more than life itself? What if they left their home, family, and friends to be with her?
That is exactly what Ruth did. Ruth lived in the time of the judges (1400-1050 BC). She was one of Naomi’s daughters-in-law.
Naomi and her family moved from Judah to Moab because of a famine. While there, her husband and two sons died, widowing her and her daughters-in-law. When Naomi returned to Judah, Ruth insisted on going with her.
Life was hard for widows in biblical times. They had no husband to provide for them, and Ruth had left her parents. So she gleaned leftovers left behind by harvesters in a barley field.
The man who owned the field (Boaz) was Naomi’s relative. According to ancient custom, he “redeemed” Naomi by marrying Ruth and buying back her husband’s property. God even blessed them with a son (Obed) who became the grandfather of King David!
(You can read Ruth’s story in the book of Ruth.)
Putting Her Religion into Practice
Ruth unknowingly follows Paul’s commands regarding widows in the church. He instructs, “If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God” (1 Timothy 5:4).
He goes on to say, “If a woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need” (1 Timothy 5:16).
Ruth wasn’t going to leave Naomi on her own. As long as there was breath in her body, she was going to provide for her mother-in-law. She shows us how to live out our faith by taking care of our parents – even our in-laws!
Your God Will Be My God
Ruth’s conversion is also significant. She pledges to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God…May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Although Ruth was a Moabite, she vows to worship Israel’s God and binds herself to Him with an oath. By doing so, she embodies a major Old Testament theme – Gentile conversion.
This theme began when God promised Abram, “All nations on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The Old Testament reaffirms this promise many times, as Paul’s quotations in Romans 15 shows.
Jesus told the Jews in His day, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21:43). This comes true in the book of Acts as Gentiles respond to the gospel with gladness and belief (Acts 13:48).
It appears Ruth had no trouble adjusting to life as an Israelite. She already believed in Israel’s God when she returned with Naomi. And she married an upstanding Israelite man. It appears Boaz had no trouble marrying a foreign woman, either. After all, his mother was a foreigner!
Matthew traces a portion of Jesus’ genealogy: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David” (Matthew 1:5-6).
It’s interesting that Ruth’s new mother-in-law was also a Gentile who had put her faith in Israel’s God. So is the fact that both of them are included in Jesus’ genealogy!
Ruth was David’s great-grandmother. And since David was ultimately the father of Jesus, she was Jesus’ distant grandmother too! All because she was faithful to her mother-in-law. Who knew?
Feel free to share this post with your Women’s Minister or friends at church!
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