Summary: “Kindness is looking at the interest of others with love and compassion, and selflessly taking action to ease their burden.
The story of Ruth occurred during the period of the Judges. The last verse of the book of Judges tells us about the spiritual condition of the Israelites during this period. Israel was full of idolatry and repeated breaking of its covenant with God. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. “ (Judges 21:25). The author of this book is said to be Samuel.
The book of Ruth unfolds with a famine in the land of Judah where a man from Bethlehem and his family left to live for a while in Moab, a pagan nation about 50 miles from their town. The man's name is Elimelek, his wife is Naomi and his two sons were Mahlon and Killion who took Moabites for their wives. One is Orpah and other is Ruth.
Without giving us the details, the Bible says Naomi’s husband Elimelek died. After living there for ten years, Mahlon and Killion also died.
It can be argued that they left a famine in Judah only to suffer a condition of poverty worse than the famine that they left in Judah. Naomi was left without her two sons and husband.
Upon hearing that the famine is over in Judah, Naomi decided to go back home. She was well aware of a community assistance decreed by God for the widows, foreigners, and the poor. (Deut 24:19)
19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go -back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Naomi expressed her gratitude to her daughters-in-law for their kindness and tearfully advised them to go back to their families. But also in tears, they refused to go. They had sympathy for Naomi and they were ready to go back with her.
Naomi explained that she had no more sons to become their husbands. After much reasonable urging from Naomi, Orpah decided to stay and go back to her family.
I – The Kindness of Ruth
Your God will be my God
Ruth decided to follow her mother-in-law. She was concerned about her welfare, being old and a widow. Ruth insisted to go with her when she said: (Ruth 1:16-17)
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t v. 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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth asserted her kindliness with a firm declaration of her faith in God.
This is interesting because Naomi, who is supposed to be the godly person, showed bitterness towards God when she said:
“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (Ruth 1:13)
Ruth trusted in God in the face of uncertainties:
· she will be an outcast in a land that is not her own,
· she will live in poverty and a bleak future.
They arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was just beginning. Ruth did not waste time. She asked permission from Naomi to go and glean among the harvesters. Gleaning is the work of gathering the leftover grain during the harvest.
She worked the whole day from early morning until evening. (Ruth 2:17). She threshed the barley she had gathered and it amounted to an ephah (about 13 kilos). This would last them for a couple of weeks.
Ruth continued to glean for grain in the field but what does the future hold? They will need to wait for the next harvest to get some food to eat. Yet Ruth trusted in the providence of God.
Indeed, life is full of uncertainties but our faith keeps us going. This is what we can learn from the faith of Ruth.
II – The kindness of Boaz.
Who is Boaz?
Boaz happens to be the owner of the field where Ruth was gleaning from and also happens to be a close relative of Elimelek. The relationship makes him a guardian-redeemer, one who has the right to redeem the properties of Naomi and redeem Ruth to be his wife in accordance to the law of redemption found in the book of Deuteronomy 25:5.
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.