The Context of Ruth

ruthBefore we begin to study any book of the Bible, it’s important to understand the context. Otherwise we can completely miss what the author and ultimately what God wants to communicate to us through his Word.

During the next few weeks, I’m going to be studying the book of Ruth, and I’ve got to give credit to Bible teacher Gary Runn for motivating me to study this book again. I recently heard him teach from this short book, and I realized I hadn’t studied Ruth in a while. I just had to pick it up and study it more closely again! I invite you to study it along with me, but before we do that, it’s important to discuss the following questions:

Who is this book about?
Well, naturally the book of Ruth is about a woman named Ruth. However, it’s important to remember that the lead character of this book, just like every book of the Bible, is God. If we forget that big detail, then we’ll finish reading this book and wonder why in the world it was included in the Bible. When we remember that God is the main character, then it’s easy to pick up on what it’s about.

Who is Ruth?
The fact that Ruth was a Moabite woman is a big deal and is key to understanding who God is and what the book’s about. In fact, the phrase “Ruth the Moabite” is repeated throughout the book as if the author’s driving the point home. At the time that Ruth lived, the Moabites were one of the most evil people on earth. They practiced idolatry that included child sacrifice. When a great famine occurred in the land of Canaan, an Israelite couple and their two kids moved to the land of Moab in order to survive. One of their kids married Ruth the Moabite to set up this story.

What is this book about?
One of the key themes of the book of Ruth is God’s kindness, or hesed (in Hebrew). In fact, as you read this story over and over again, God’s kindness comes out so strongly that it will bring tears to your eyes and make you want to fall deeper in love with him. I won’t give too much of the story away before you read it, but when Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, lost her husband and her two sons, Ruth showed Naomi extraordinary kindness by making a pledge to her. Ruth would move with Naomi back to Israel and never leave her. Her God would become Ruth’s God. Her people would become Ruth’s people. For the rest of her days, Ruth would take care of Naomi.

Because of Ruth’s kindness, Naomi deeply loved Ruth and showed her great kindness, too. She devised a plan by which Ruth could marry one of her relatives, but the plan was risky. It depended upon the honor and kindness of Boaz, her relative. If Boaz would show Ruth the same kind of selfless kindness that Ruth showed toward Naomi, both Ruth’s and Naomi’s lives would be saved. Otherwise, as two widowed women without land or possessions, they were doomed.

Again, I won’t spoil it for you, but as you can probably already tell, the book of Ruth is one of the most powerful narratives in the Bible. By observing the kindness displayed through Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, we get a glimpse at how kind and loving our God is. When we see that, it makes us want to surrender everything to him!



photo credit: illusionwaltz via photopin (license)

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About Chad Young

Chad Young works in full-time college ministry, serving as Cru Global’s national director over the southeast region, leading the ministries in FL, GA, AL, and MS. He has served on the staff of Cru for fifteen years. He is the author of Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World (InterVarsity Press), a discipleship-training manual, and magazine articles for Worldwide Challenge and The Collegiate. He frequently speaks at retreats and conferences and regularly writes devotionals for his website, Chad, with his wife Elizabeth, travels the country to speak at churches and train church leaders how to make Biblical disciples. Chad currently resides in Atlanta, GA, with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children, Wyatt, Clark, Evelyn, and Josilynn. His hobbies include cheering on his kids in sports, following college football, and laughing with family around the backyard fire pit.
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