“Do not press me to leave you or to turn from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
~ The New International Version of the Holy Bible
Whether it be the adventure of a knight in shining armor rescuing a beautiful lady imprisoned in a castle, or that of a prince seeking a princess in a Hollywood drama of a young couple deeply in love despite opposition from parents ... We all love love stories! Well, some of the greatest “love stories” are to be found in the Bible! And no wonder; for the Bible is the word of God to humankind and therefore is about life, of which love is an integral part.
Take, for instance that adventurous story in which father Abraham sends his trusted servant on an errand to his relatives to find a wife for his son, Isaac. His journey proved successful and the lady chosen, Reberak, proved such a suitable wife for Isaac that even today their marriage is touted that at wedding receptions as ideal! (Genesis 24) Then, there was Samson, that strongman a Judge in Israel for 20 years, whose downfall came because of his delight in and desire for women of the nation’s arch enemies, the Philistines, notably the deceitful Delilah (Judges 16).
Likewise, Solomon, for all his wisdom, was flawed because of his infatuation for foreign women, who worshipped pagan Gods (and enticed him to do the same (I Kings II). Indeed, even David “a man after God’s own heart”, temporarily “fell from grace” because of his love for the beautiful Bathsheba II Samuel 12, Psalm 51)
There is, however, another great love story in the Bible which merits our attention. It is the love story of Ruth, a young lady who came from Moab and managed to draw the attention of a wealthy Jewish family, Boaz. Their love story has many lessons for us about love and marriage, which are most relevant. Indeed, as Pastor Dr. Jay Simms has demonstrated, it is filled with lessons for us today.
First and foremost, it highlights loyalty as the essence of true and lasting love. The book of Ruth opens with a scene drawn from the idyllic days of the Judges of Ancient Israel. In that delightful village of Bethlehem there was a farmer by the name of Elimelech, who married Naomi. They had two sons, Mahlon and Chilon. For a while they lived in prosperity, but alas famine came. So they had to leave Bethlehem, “The house of Bread” for Moab, a land known for sheep herding not agriculture. Both their sons married Maobite girls. But they did not live happily ever after as in the fairy tales. Rather tragedy struck. First, Elimelech died and then, both Mahlon and Chilion. And so all the ladies became widows.
Well, there were reports that the famine in Bethlehem had ended and it was prosperous again. So, Maomi decided to return home. She bid her daughters- in- law to stay in Moab. One of them Oprah did. But the other, Ruth, decided to go with her mother- in -law to Bethlehem. Her very touching speech, pledging loyalty to her mother-in-law, our first scripture reading above is indeed heartwarming. Yes, this Maobite girl, from a pagan nation, pledged to go with her mother-in-law, to live there and to worship her God, the one true God.
Notice that her great love here is for her mother-in-law; not her biological mother, whom she had left in Moab. Is there not a great lesson here for us today? So often we hear of cases of young couples who find it hard to get along with their “in laws.” How many times we hear of “family feuds,” because people do not get along with their “in laws.” How many married men and woman complain about their “mother-in-law?”
Yet, here we find a young lady from a non-Christian family background showing great love, great loyalty to her mother-in-law. Loyalty is, indeed, the essence of true love!
Secondly, note that Maomi, after many years in Moab, has a desire to return to Israel, her home land. She was motivated to return home because of her love for her people, their customs and most of all their God. This is an example of a second type of love, love for one’s homeland and its people. Again loyalty is at its heart. We cannot claim to love our homeland unless we are loyal. Loyalty is the essence of patriotism.
Interestingly enough the relationship between Naomi and Ruth leads to the third type of love, romantic love or eros. You see, in those days, widows or orphans, the very poor would go into the field at harvest time and pick up the grain which fell as the harvesters cut down the crops. Indeed, in accord with the compassionate Mosaic law, the reapers were prevented from collecting that which fell to the ground leaving it to be gleaned by the poor and widows.
Well, Ruth, with the full cooperation and advice of Nomi went to glean in the field of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi. As she gleaned in the field day by day, she caught the attention of Boaz. So much so that he made sure that this MAOBITE BEAUTY GOT A DOUBLE PORTION OF GRAIN TO CARRY HOME. She told her mother-in-law, who encouraged her as she took the initiative in maintaining the interest of the older wealthy gentlemen.
Thus, there is the romantic scene in which Ruth goes to Boaz late at night at “the threshing floor” and discreetly leaves before day break (chapter 3). Events move rapidly, and “to cut a long story short”, their courtship flourishes and eventually they get married and live happily ever afterwards.
There is much that is relevant to us “in the world today” Note that Naomi did all that she could to encourage Ruth, giving her instructions as to how she should act. Amazingly, it calls for much initiative on the part of Ruth.
How relevant is all this to contemporary society. According to the “fairy tale Romance” and long custom, it is the young man who takes the initiative in a romantic relationship. Often young women complain that while the young men can go out and seek the love of their life, they have to sit and wait for Mr. Right to come along. Well, According to the story of Ruth, there may be warrant for the lady taking the initiative rather than sitting and waiting for the right man to come along. Had Ruth done that she would not have gotten to marry Boaz.
There is another quite interesting thing here. It is evident that Boaz was considerably older than Ruth. He refers to her as “My Daughter”. He is impressed that this young MOABITE beauty does not consort with the young men who did the reaping. Evidently, she has a preference for the older gentleman who has some wealth rather than the young men who have very little. Sound familiar?
Suppose a young lady has two suitors – one a young man who is “struggling to make his mark” and the other, an older gentleman, who is wealthy. Which should she choose? Perhaps you cannot answer that one unless you are in her shoes! It all goes to demonstrate how utterly relevant is the romance of Boaz and Ruth or Ruth and BOAZ - is to romantic relationships “throughout the ages”! For, daily, men and women “in all walks of life” must make choices as to whom they should have as a life partner!
But, that is not the “end of the story” of this romantic couple. By no means! For Boaz and Ruth had a son Obed. He in turn had a son Jessee. And Jessee was the father of David, Israel’s greatest king. Again, there is an important lesson here! You see, there were many Jews who “looked down” upon Gentiles as “second class citizens. Yes, there were those who had a strong prejudice against all Gentiles, priding themselves as being of pure Jewish racial background.
But the writer of the book of Ruth points out here that a Gentile. A MOABITE lady was the great grandmother of King David. The book of Ruth then warns against all forms of racial prejudice since virtually all people are in some way, related. It is then a book not only about family love, national love and romantic love, but also about universal love, love for all human kind as a part and parcel of God’s creation. (Psalm 1-2).
David became King of Israel being known as “The Anointed One” or “The Messiah”. God entered into a covenant with David assuring that his lineage would last forever. Thus arose the Messianic hope, the longing for a king like David who would rule Israel with justice. In the fullness of time God sent for his son, Jesus of Nazareth, who fulfilled the Messianic hope.
By his exemplary life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, he provided the way for the salvation of human kind. It was out of his great love for human kind that God gave his son for the salvation of human kind. Thus, ultimately, the book of Ruth is about the greatest of all loves, agape love, which led to our heavenly father sending his divine son to be our savior. It was out of his love that our covenant son sent his son to save us from sin, death and to restore us to himself. As St. Paul put it, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. (II Cor. 5)
Yes, the little book of Ruth (just four Chapters) speaks powerfully of loyalty as the essence of all true love. It challenges us to reflect profoundly upon the meaning of love, calls us to examine our own “Love Life” and invites us to meditate again and again upon the great love of God for human kind manifested in the sending of his divine son to be our savior.