Summary: Through the example of Naomi and Ruth we see the blessings and responsibilities that go along with motherhood, as well as the proper God-pleasing response to our mother’s love.
Today is Mother’s Day, a time to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day life to thank our moms for raising us, for loving us, for putting up with us. The “mother” of Mother’s Day is a woman named Anna Jarvis. Two years after the death of her mother, she convinced her church to have a special celebration remembering all mothers on the anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. Her drive to create a national observance reached fulfillment in 1914 with a presidential proclamation by Woodrow Wilson.
Anna Jarvis never became a mother. Over the years, she slowly became disgusted and embittered with Mother’s Day because of the commercialization of the holiday. Kind of sad isn’t it? But it goes to show that if we don’t keep the correct focus, something even as good as Mother’s Day can become sad and abused.
Well, today, to help us keep our focus, we are going to turn to God’s Word. We are going to look at an example of how God uses mothers as instruments of his grace. Today we are going to study the story of Ruth. Now technically the relationship is of Ruth with her mother-in-law Naomi, but really, as we are going to see, it becomes more of a mother/daughter relationship. So, I am going to summarize the story of Ruth for you. Then we will look at what we today can learn from these words as both mothers and children.
I. Synopsis of Ruth
The book of Ruth begins with the words: “In the days when the judges ruled...” These were the dark ages in the history of Israel. A time of disobedience and bloodshed, rebellion and punishment. We see in the book of Judges that at this time, “everyone did as he saw fit” in his own eyes. The Children of Israel fell into a terrible cycle of rebellion against God, God’s punishment, their repentance, and God’s deliverance. Only to fall later into the same rebellion.
It appears that the events of Ruth take place during a time of punishment. A severe famine has hit Judea. In the town of Bethlehem (which ironically means “House of Bread”) there was no food. So a man from Bethlehem named Elimelech did something drastic. He took his family and moved away from Israel, away from the promised land, under the guise of self-preservation.
They went to Moab, to the land of the descendants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew), a land where the true God was not worshiped. Even though Moab was a distant cousin of Israel, there was much distrust and hatred between the two. In fact, God in Psalm 108 calls Moab his washbasin.
But, we see in the book of Ruth that Elimelech took his wife Naomi and his two sickly sons Mahlon and Kilion (Mahlon literally means “sick” and Kilion means “puny”) and they went to the pagan country of Moab. Where Elimelech soon died. So much for his plan of self-preservation, huh?
The two sons married women from Moab, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. But soon the sickly sons of Naomi died like their father and Naomi was left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. Not too long afterwards, word reached Moab that the famine in Judea had ended. So Naomi decided to return to her homeland and her daughters-in-law were set on following her. But Naomi told them to go back to their homes. You see according to the customs and laws of the day, another son or close male relative would have to marry these women to continue the family name of their dead husband, but Naomi points out to them that she wasn’t about to have any more children. Better that they go back to their families.
So, Orpah cried, hugged her mother-in-law and said good-bye, but Ruth just wouldn’t go. She clung to her mother-in-law. She would follow her. Take care of her. Live with her as her daughter. And when they got back to Bethlehem, Naomi (whose name means “pleasant”) told everyone to not call her that anymore, but rather Mara which means “bitter”, because God had made her suffer such bitter trials.
The rest of the book of Ruth tells of how Ruth came to be married to a man named Boaz. He was a rich relative of Naomi’s dead husband and God controlled the events of the story so that they would meet and fall in love. So, Boaz “redeemed” Ruth in the sense that he became that close relative that would claim her and continue the family line for her dead husband. In doing all of this, Ruth also provided for and obeyed her mother-in-law and acted in a God-pleasing way.
In the end we find out that Ruth and Boaz actually were the great-grandparents of King David and therefore ancestors of Jesus. The real point of the story of Ruth is how God works and guides the events of history to make them work out according to his plan of love for us. Ruth and Naomi had to go through many trials, but we see how God truly makes all things work out for the good of those who love him.