In so many ways, our culture’s motto is “Do whatever feels right to you.” Believing that there is one right way set by God Himself and living according to that way takes a form of courage we often lack. Though thousands of years old, the book of Ruth gives us three snapshots of courageous faithfulness from which can we still learn today.
Naomi illustrates courageous repentance. The book of Ruth begins by recounting Elimelech and Naomi’s disobedience in moving to Moab because of a famine in Judah. Their actions reflect the sin of their time as shown in the last verse of Judges (just before Ruth in the English Bible), “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Reacting to the famine they could see rather than by faith in the One who delivered them from Egypt, Elimelech and Naomi rejected the inheritance God gave them and married their sons to two accursed Moabite women. In the midst of their unfaithfulness, Naomi’s husband and sons died. Left with only two young Moabite daughters-in-law, Naomi had to choose. Would she continue in unfaithfulness or repent and return to Israel? Perhaps in desperation, perhaps in courage, Naomi chose repentance. Though she renamed herself Mara out of bitterness at God’s discipline, yet she resumed her trust in Him. She returned to the land of promise, even bringing Ruth, physical proof of her disobedience, home with her.
Ruth illustrates courageous conversion. Raised an idolater, Ruth is instead engrafted into God’s people. When Naomi urged her to return to her own people, Ruth told Naomi, “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” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth’s statement is one of the most famous examples of faithfulness in Scripture, and she isn’t even a Hebrew. In fact, most Hebrew Bibles order the book of Ruth directly after Proverbs 31, the poetic rendering of a woman of excellence, reinforcing Ruth’s character as a living and breathing woman of excellence (Ruth 3:11), one who courageously left all she knew to become part of God’s people.
In this and every story, God is the ultimate example of courageous faithfulness. Working sinlessly through the sin of Naomi’s family, God wooed Ruth to Himself. Out of His great faithfulness, He provided Israel with food that tempted Naomi’s return. Through Boaz, He provided for both women’s physical needs. Through Ruth and Boaz’s descendant Jesus, He provided for their—and our—spiritual needs.
Just as they did in Ruth’s time, people in today’s culture do whatever seems right in their own eyes. Still today we must, like Ruth, be courageous enough to align ourselves with God’s people. Like Naomi, we must be courageous enough to repent of our sins, accept God’s discipline, and return to His people. We must place our trust in the One who is faithful beyond all we can imagine—King Jesus.