Ruth – A Sprig of Faithfulness
Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b
The third Sunday of Advent is upon us! I marvel at what God has been teaching me as I study Jesus’ genealogy. I’ve had a more difficult week as I’ve struggled to put my thoughts into words. My week has seemingly pointed out my character flaws and weaknesses – my husband and children have not seen me at my best. It is funny how quickly I can become insecure, in a moment, with who I am and what my purpose is. In my vulnerability, I desire to have those closest to me, embrace me exactly as I am. The amazing part is that God does exactly that. His Inherent Nature is one of steadfastness and acceptance. This week, He has been my stability when I’ve felt myself waiver and has embodied faithfulness to me, no matter where I find myself.
I know this in my mind and my heart! What God has challenged me in this week is to be faithful to Him within the mystery of my own journey. Like Ruth, I know that I don’t need to know my whole story to be faithful to Him – in fact, if I did know my whole story, then I wouldn’t need to have faith!
As I have been reading Ruth, I’ve kept thinking about her steadfast and faithful character. She chose to come alongside her mother-in-law as they grieved the loss of the men in their lives together. This could not have been easy. In fact, Scripture records Naomi as wanting to be called “Mara” or “bitter” in her grief, rather than her own name. Life is not easy, and at different times in our lives, it can bring out the worst in us. But this week, I realized the beauty of faithfulness that Ruth so vividly depicts. Faithfulness is steadfast, loyal, true, constant, stable, dependable and full of devotion. It can only be measured by time. When a friend is faithful, it is because they stood by us through the test of time. Time, in anyone’s journey, has bumps, falls and mistakes along the way. Faithfulness is a gift we can offer each other through those hurdles. Ruth’s story reveals her faithfulness to a God who was unknown to her and to a mother-in-law whom she chose to selflessly love. Sprigs of faithfulness. Here is a recap of her story:
Ruth, a Moabite, married the son of Elimelek and Naomi, who were Ephrathites from Bethlehem. Both Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s husband, Naomi’s son, died while living in Moab. A famine was upon them, and Naomi, who had heard that God had provided food for her people, decided to return home. She released her daughter-in-law, Ruth, so she could remain in Moab and possibly remarry, but Ruth famously stated, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth faithfully followed and served Naomi on their journey to Bethlehem.
When these two extremely vulnerable women, with no men to protect them, arrived in Bethlehem, they arrived with nothing. Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side named Boaz. In need of food, Ruth went to his fields to pick up any leftover grain. Boaz noticed the young woman and granted her favour to glean from his fields. In fact, he ensured that his harvesters would intentionally leave grain so that she would have enough to feed Naomi and herself. Naomi, seeing the favour that Boaz had shown Ruth, began scheming – a plan that would benefit her and Ruth, bringing protection and provision for themselves in the future.
Naomi told Ruth to put on perfume and her best clothes. She instructed Ruth to go to the threshing floor where Boaz would spend the night, and wait until he had fallen asleep. Once everyone was asleep, Ruth was to go lie at his feet and wait for him to take notice of her. Faithful Ruth followed through with the plan and soon found herself noticed by, and at the mercy of, Boaz. In response to Boaz’s surprise at her being there, she asked him, as part of “the plan,” to take [her] under [his] wing, for [he was] a family redeemer.” Just as Tamar had needed a family redeemer a few generations back, so now did Ruth. Boaz had to cleverly come up with a plan to marry Ruth – a woman that he had begun to admire as he watched her faithfully serve Naomi. It did not take long for Boaz and Ruth to marry and have a son. The women said to Naomi “…your daughter-in-law…loves you and is better to you than seven sons.”
That last line makes me chuckle. A daughter-in-law worth more than seven sons, indeed! The close bond between Ruth and Naomi would likely have been an anomaly of that time – and even in our time, the relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law can be a difficult one! They had a choice of whether to stick together or not. I can only imagine the pain of these two widows – the likelihood that they would have seen each other at their worst is highly plausible. Yet even so, their love for each other and to God remained constant. In that way, they offered each other sprigs of faithfulness.
It is a gift to be able to have a bad day, or to experience personal loss like Naomi and Ruth, and know the constancy of God and His ability to shine through us as we offer this faithfulness to others. This is supernatural: it is the Branch alive in us that gives us a heart that sees and hears beyond our human understanding and capacity. God’s faithfulness, the Branch offered to us, is beyond our ability to understand – a gift to us that we get to share!
Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! -Lamentations 3:22-23