A True Friend
What are the attributes of a true friend? When you think about your very best friends in life, what stands out about them? Loyalty, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, love, trustworthiness are characteristics that come to mind for me. In the Bible, there is a woman by the name of Ruth who exemplified all of those traits. You may not be surprised to know that her name, Ruth, literally means “friendship.” Her story is captured in a book of the Bible named for her (Ruth).
All of us want to have friends and family members like Ruth. We want to be like Ruth too! Ruth had a chance to reveal the depth of her character after her husband and his brother passed away. They were the sons of her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, who had lost her husband ten years earlier. Now, without a husband or sons to take care of her Naomi was in dire straits. At the time, Naomi had been living with her sons and their wives Ruth and Orpah in Moab, far from her hometown in Bethlehem.
Naomi decided it would be best to head back home to Bethlehem and told Ruth and Orpah they should go back to their own families and find new husbands to care for them. Orpah reluctantly agreed to do that, but Ruth wasn’t having it; she was determined to stay with Naomi. What happens next shows the depth of Ruth’s love and kindness. Ruth’s story is filled with life lessons for us. I’ll share four…
Lesson #1 - You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow! (Ruth 1:16-17). This is an overarching theme in the book of Ruth; in fact, it is a principle we see throughout God’s Word.
Ruth was determined to stay with Naomi at great risk to herself. The safe option would have been to go back to her family and hopefully find a new husband; but she takes the far more risky, uncertain, challenging option. She stays with Naomi. Why? We don’t know for sure, but they must have had a great relationship… Naomi must have been good to Ruth for Ruth to be so loving and kind toward her.
There is no doubt that when you are kind, loving and caring to others, people tend to respond to you the same way. This is the principle of sowing and reaping. Kindness reaps kindness. Goodness reaps goodness. Love reaps love. 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Cor. 9:6. What are you sowing these days?
Lesson #2 - When you place your faith in God (Jesus Christ), He welcomes you, no matter your background. 16 …Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
What a powerful statement of commitment and faith! Ruth placed her faith in the Lord, Naomi’s God, the God of Israel. Ruth uses the divine name for God, Yahweh, to indicate her commitment to Him. Not only was Ruth committed to taking care of Naomi; Ruth was now committed to following her God! Essentially, Ruth was forsaking all that she had ever known as a Moabite to embrace the one true God of the Israelites.
This is a really big deal because years earlier, God had forbidden any Moabite or his descendants from participating in the spiritual life of the Israelite community. (Deut. 23:3). Ruth’s decision serves to highlight that the true distinction between people is not where they come from, but rather, what they choose to believe. That is great news for us! That means, no matter your past, who you are, or what you have done, you too can freely choose by faith to become a child of God! (Gal. 3:26-29). The ground is level at the foot of the cross!
Lesson #3 - The Lord has a purpose for our lives, and He is at work through our most painful seasons to accomplish His will. (Ruth 1:20-21). The name Naomi means “pleasant,” but she couldn’t see anything pleasant about her troubles. She told her friends when she got home to Bethlehem to call her “Mara”, which means “bitter.” At that moment, Naomi believed “Mara” was a better name for her. When facing hardship and pain, have you ever felt bitter? If you are really honest, sure you have.
Like Naomi in that moment, you may be tempted to believe that the Lord has turned against you. But if you are a child of God, our sovereign God is at work, even in the most painful, difficult seasons of your life. You are never a victim of your circumstances. God can and will work all things together for good when we faithfully follow Him. (Rom.8:28).
Naomi and Ruth needed to feed themselves. So, with Naomi’s approval, Ruth went to glean leftover grain from nearby fields. As it turns out, she makes her way to a field owned by a man named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s late husband. When Boaz finds out that Ruth is with Naomi, he kindly offers to let her glean all the grain she wants from his fields. Why?
When Ruth told Naomi how Boaz had treated her, Naomi told her he was one of their “guardian-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20). A guardian or kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according Old Testament law, had the responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. Boaz steps up to take care of Naomi and Ruth; he even takes Ruth as his wife! (Ruth 4:13). God didn’t leave Naomi and Ruth without someone to provide and care for them.
Lesson #4 - God has provided us with our Redeemer, Jesus Christ! 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14
Everyone is in need of redemption. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. That is the bad news! But the good news is that God has given us a redeemer! 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24
Jesus paid sin’s penalty of death for us on the cross.All that is left for us to do is by faith believe and accept Him as Savior and Lord.Have you admitted your sin and asked Him to save you?(Rom. 10:9-10).It is the most important decision you will ever make.For much more, click here to listen to Heroes: Part 6 - Ruth.