Blogging the Bible 62 – Ruth 1-2 – Your God shall be my God

People sometimes comment that history tends to focus on the important people and the ‘big’ events – politics, wars, exploration – and that for most of history this has meant that history has generally not been written from women’s points of view. After the horrors of the last chapters of Judges it’s a joy to read the first two chapters of Ruth today, with a story of ordinary people told from a woman’s point of view. A reminder, perhaps, that throughout the time of the Judges, life went on for most people.

There’s no mention of God acting personally in these chapters (or the whole book) – he works behind the scenes, and by seeming coincidence as well as by faithful and good people doing the right thing for one another.

It starts with a tragedy – unique to those involved, but routine from the world’s point of view. A woman migrates to another country, and there loses both her husband and their sons. Out of kindness she releases her widowed daughters-in-law from any obligation to her. One duly returns to her family; the other, Ruth, chooses another path.

Ruth’s choice is human and spiritual – she will stick with Naomi and she will stick with Naomi’s God. We’re not told any reason for her choice, just that she, as an outsider, chose to join with the people of Israel and share their future. Ruth is surely a reminder, so early in the Bible, that God’s choice of his people has never been exclusive. There has always been room for the outsider to come in, and there always will be. 

So Ruth returns to Israel, and works to care for Naomi in their new home. After the appalling treatment of women that we’ve seen in the last period of the Judges, it’s good to read of Boaz acting to protect, honour and care for Ruth in recognition of what she has done. He comes across as simply a decent man, and although we know that love and marriage will follow, he seems to be motivated so far only by the desire to do what is right.

So these chapters show us God at work through what today we’d call ‘providence’, guiding his people by the decisions they make in good faith and with good intentions – and we’ll see him achieving more through Ruth’s and Boaz’s obedience in small things than was achieved through the great gifts of Jephthah and Samson without wisdom. 

Where is God at work behind the ordinary stuff of our lives? And how can we honour him by the small and large decisions we make each day?

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