Ruth was a great woman. She is recorded by name in the genealogy of Christ in the gospel of Matthew, and she also has her own book in the Old Testament.
Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Ruth describe her activities as an agricultural worker. In the world’s eyes Ruth was just another unskilled laborer, but God saw her as a faithful believer whose legacy would be a blessing to mankind.
Ruth grew up in the culture of Moab and knew nothing of the God of Israel. When she became of age, Ruth joined an Israelite family by marriage.
Later, while still living in Moab both Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, became widows. With no support or prospects for a stable future, Naomi decided to leave Moab and return to her home in Bethlehem in Judah. Naomi told Ruth to stay in Moab with her birth family, but Ruth refused.
Ruth 1:16 records Ruth’s words to Naomi:
But Ruth replied, “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.”
This verse is Ruth’s statement of faith in the God of Israel. With these words Ruth placed her future in God’s hands. She accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem and arrived there as a hopeful but destitute widow.
Ruth: A Common Laborer
Ruth immediately did the only work she could do which was to glean the leftover grain from a landowner’s field. In the language of today’s workplace, we could say Ruth took the first minimum wage job she could find.
And Ruth the Moabites said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.
Ruth trusted God, worked, and took care of her mother-in-law. Meanwhile—and this is the point of the story—God was working behind the scenes in Ruth’s life.
Ruth: A Blessed Laborer
Ruth didn’t know it, but the field she chose to glean was owned by a man named Boaz.
Boaz tells her in Ruth 2:12:
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Scholars tell us that Boaz, a wealthy and honorable landowner, was an Old Testament foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Boaz was Ruth’s redeemer just as Jesus Christ is your redeemer. God blessed Ruth’s faithfulness through the person of Boaz and he will bless your faithfulness through the Person of Jesus Christ. Boaz protected Ruth and cared for her just as Jesus does for you.
In the end Boaz and Ruth married, became the great-grandparents of King David, and the direct ancestors of David’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.
God worked his sovereign will for Ruth in the midst of her everyday work experiences, and he can do the same for you and every believer. He is a providential God who continually provides for his people.
Hebrews 11:6 had not been written at the time of Ruth, but its eternal truth was active in her life just as it is in yours today:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Remain faithful to God despite life’s challenges. Know that God is at work behind the scenes.