Reflecting on the whole book of Ruth, I feel I have a better understanding of waiting on the Lord. The expectations that society and, perhaps, Ruth herself had for the rest of her life were not what God had in mind for her. As a widow, her patience and her faith guided her to the path she was on when she met Boaz. The blessings of the Lord were bestowed upon both her and her mother-in-law, as Naomi was able to nurse her own grandchild.

The most important verses to me were 11 and 12: “And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman” (NKJV). These verses highlight the blessings of those around them and how much Ruth and Boaz affected them. Those around them and the whole of Israel were blessed through their marriage, as Ruth bore to Boaz the child who would beget David.

I found that God uses the humble and uplifts them to be his servants. Further, the wedding guests blessed Ruth in v. 11 as “the woman who is coming to [Boaz’s] house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel.” To me this represented the importance of community in this chapter, as the place that Ruth left behind bid her to go into the next stage with good tidings and comfort that would follow her throughout her days. I pray that all my days be like that of Naomi’s blessing in v. 14, that I may say, “Blessed be the Lord who has not left [me] this day without a close relative.”

Alexandria Oguntula
Pepperdine University

A Woman at the Threshing Floor

I grew up in a tradition that treats anything to do with sex as perverse and unholy, so I am always pleasantly surprised to find passages in Scripture that challenge this perspective. I imagine that the sexual undertones of Ruth 3 would make those at my childhood congregation very uncomfortable. It is, after all, difficult to ignore the scandal of this passage, especially in the opening paragraph when Naomi directs her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to “take a bath and put on perfume and dress in [her] nicest clothes” (Ruth 3:3 NLT) before presenting herself to an intoxicated older man by lying down next to him while he’s asleep!

At this point in the story, Ruth and her close relative, Boaz, have formed a friendship, and he has been kind enough to let her gather grain from his fields alongside his servants to provide for her and her mother-in-law. Naomi, deciding that it was time to take control of her living situation, instructs Ruth to go to the threshing floor where Boaz would be eating and drinking in celebration of the harvest:

“Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do” (Ruth 3:3-4).

Naomi’s hope is that Boaz would understand this to be a proposal of marriage and that he would redeem Naomi’s land by marrying Ruth. Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions and lies at Boaz’s feet until he wakes to find her there. She tells him why she is there and he agrees to redeem her. They both sleep through the night, and in the morning Boaz sends Ruth home with an armful of grain, making sure to see her off early enough so that no one else would catch her there.

There is much to be gleaned from this short passage. That Ruth agreed to Naomi’s unusual instructions is evidence of her trust and commitment to obedience. Though I say Naomi’s instructions were unusual, it is possible that this was some kind of tradition or cultural practice that Boaz would have known to interpret as a request for marriage. However, Boaz’s initial shock at Ruth’s presence and his attempt to hide her from the public eye as she leaves suggest that regardless of tradition or practice, it was scandalous for Ruth to be at the threshing floor that night. Ruth was willing to make herself completely vulnerable, risking her reputation as well as her friendship with Boaz to follow Naomi’s direction.

Once at the threshing floor, however, Ruth does not relinquish her agency. Her desire to obey Naomi does not undermine her own voice. Rather than waiting for Boaz to tell her what to do, she boldly exclaims, “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer” (Ruth 3:9). She assertively makes her wishes known. She does not ask him but tells him directly what she wants from him.

Ruth’s actions here exemplify the importance of balancing humility and obedience with confidence and independence. In an age when many churches still consider women to be less capable than men, there is extensive rhetoric among female church leaders encouraging women to embrace confidence and power, and encouraging men to create space for women to exercise that power. Equally important and much less widely discussed is the importance for both men and women to embrace humility and submission. The word, “submission,” incites fear and anger in many women because it has come to connote the historically oppressive patriarchal structures within the church and society. Although a traditionally “feminine” quality, submissiveness is valuable to men and women alike, and just as we encourage women to practice leadership, we should also encourage men to practice humility and obedience. Ruth’s obedience to her mother-in-law and her boldness toward Boaz reveal the value of balancing these two natures and avoiding one or the other extreme.

Even in asserting herself confidently toward Boaz, Ruth is gracious and respectful, honoring him with her request by calling him her “family redeemer.” Finding a balance between humility and confidence invites us to lead by lifting others up, rather than simply elevating ourselves.

“Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer” (Ruth 3:9).

Mallorie L. Urban
Pepperdine University Church of Christ
Malibu, California

Unexpected Gift

Friendship is an unexpected, indescribable gift that God has placed in my life. I came to Pepperdine University from Arkansas and knew only one person who would be on campus. I was anxious, and I had no idea what to expect after I left everything I knew and moved to California. Throughout my college career, I have built relationships with others that will last a lifetime. I have been encouraged and lifted up in ways that I had never experienced before. I have found a community of people who walk through life with me and make the most of each season of life.

I am currently in a stage of engaged bliss. After coming back from Christmas break with a smile on my face and a ring on my finger, I was blown away by the amount of support and encouragement I received. My friends threw a surprise party for me and my fiancé, and we celebrated this joyful commitment. As I walked into a room filled with smiling faces, laughter, and hugs, I was completely humbled, and I thanked God for the gift of friendship.

Ruth 2 tells the story of Ruth’s unswerving and selfless devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and how the Lord provides her with an unexpected gift in response: his faithful love through human relationships. After Naomi’s husband passes away, she decides to leave her family and move in with her mother-in-law to provide for her. She moves away knowing that she would be an extremely vulnerable foreigner, but she still makes the transition.

A man named Boaz provides Ruth with a field from which to glean and promises that she will be safe there. He tells her he has spoken with his servants and tells them not to harass her. He also tells her to drink from the water buckets if she is thirsty and not to worry about a thing. Ruth’s reaction to this provision is nothing short of amazing. She is completely humbled that someone would treat a foreigner so kindly and asks him why. Boaz awakens hope in her heart.

Boaz answeres her: “‘I’ve heard all about you — heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done — and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings’” (Ruth 2:11-12 MSG).

God works in mysterious ways that often catch us by surprise. The Lord’s love is not confined to certain human ideals. We worship an everlasting, powerful, and totally indescribable King of All Kings. What kind of God would we be worshiping if we could understand his ways?

God has a mysterious love for us that stretches from the East to the West. Awaken the hope in your heart and remind yourself that He is the Lord of Lords and the King of All Kings. Reflect upon the unexpected gifts that the Lord has provided in your life and thank Him.

No matter what season of life we are in — whether it’s preparing for marriage or struggling through intense difficulties — the Lord is alive and searching for a way to surprise us with unexpected gifts. He is a God of relationships and wants to connect with us. “Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!’” (Ruth 2:20).

Hope Hesslen
Pepperdine University Church of Christ
Malibu, CA

Yet Ruth...

Family bonds are one of the strongest things we have in this life. I can recall many times when my family stood by me, like when I have felt dumb or insignificant. Through those dark times my parents are constant companions, encouraging me and showing me the truth.

Familial bonds can also be found in friendships that hold us together through difficulties. I had an internship a couple of summers ago that left me in shambles. It was one of the toughest summers of my life, and I can remember the feelings of inadequacy and utter loneliness I experienced. Yet come the end, my parents drove more than 800 miles with two of my best friends to surprise me for my birthday and my trip home to California. I was a bit shaken up from all the emotional baggage I was holding onto, but I cannot begin to express how grateful I was to my friends for choosing to stick by me. They knew the summer had been rough, to say the least, before they got there, and they gave me space to process it. Just having them there for support meant the world to me.

The book of Ruth brings these kinds of memories to my mind — stories of devotion and unfaltering love during crises. My favorite way to read the book of Ruth is as a symbolic display of this familial love and devotion. The pinnacle of the first chapter — and, I would argue, the whole story of Ruth — is in Ruth 1:14-16. Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons, and she urges her daughters-in-law to go back home to their families where they will receive protection and provision. Yet in verse 14, Ruth refuses to leave Naomi, clinging to her. Naomi tells Ruth to follow the example of her sister-in-law, but Ruth is persistent, saying, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16 NIV). There is nothing more holding Ruth accountable to her mother-in-law. They are no longer legally family. There is no reason she should need to stay. And yet, Ruth does not go.

The far more logical thing would be for Ruth to leave Naomi, who cannot physically or emotionally provide for Ruth in any way. Yet Ruth refuses to leave Naomi in her hour of need.

The far more rational thing would be for Ruth to go back home to her own clan who would be able to provide a stable life for her. Yet Ruth rejects any idea of forsaking her mother-in-law to a life of misery with no family.

The far more reasonable thing would be for Ruth to move on and find a new life with her people and their gods. Yet Ruth does not leave her mother-in-law, whose people have become her people and whose God has become her God.

Ruth takes on the role of caregiver to love and support her mother-in-law through this crisis. She continues to embrace the role of daughter-in-law even though there is no logical reason she should. Ruth’s bond of love to Naomi is so strong that Naomi cannot give Ruth a good enough reason for her to leave. This is faithful, steadfast love. This is the love of a family.

I do not remember all the exact dismays or frustrations I have had during low points in my life. I do not remember the exact school projects or problems that made me feel so dumb. I do not remember the exact words people said that made me feel so inadequate. And yet I remember the tenderness, compassion, and encouragement of my family that spoke truth into trial. I remember the support, loyalty, and comfort my friends gave me in my darkest hours. We will have dark hours and difficult phases in this life — that is a guarantee. Yet love will always win because God has given us family, sometimes in the form of friends, who will stick by us.

Ruth cries out, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). May this be the cry of our hearts to those whom we love. May we be able to provide comfort to those who have brought us healing in our pain, just as Ruth persistently loved and comforted Naomi.

Alicia Williamson
Conejo Valley Church of Christ
Thouand Oaks, CA