Monday, February 04, 2008

Ruth: Not the norm

About a couple of years ago, someone challenged my "notion" that the girl should not make the first move in starting a courtship relationship. She used Ruth as a Biblical example supporting her in her right to ask the man of her dreams to declare himself for her.

Ruth is an exception. This is one of those "cultural" things that has spiritual lessons for us, but should not be taken as something women should do today. Nevertheless, there are some things women can learn from the way Ruth did conduct herself.

Ruth was not a Jew. She was not familiar with Jewish laws and customs. It isn't likely that she would have made any move at all were it not for Naomi's instructions. As a childless widow in the Jewish culture, she had the right to ask her deceased husband's nearest relative to "redeem" her, that is, to buy back her husband's land and property, marry her, and father children who would be considered the children of her deceased husband. This is not something women have the Biblical right to do today.

But what can we learn from Ruth? What sort of woman was she?

1. Ruth was a believer. She was won to the Jewish faith possibly by the love of her mother-in-law, Naomi. I say this because when Naomi opted to go back to Bethlehem, Ruth clung to her and begged to go with her. She pledged herself to Naomi and Naomi's God for life (Ruth 1:16-17). She had learned to love Naomi and the one true God, Jehovah. From then on, she determined to glorify God with her life. This love and devotion was noticed by Boaz (Ruth 2:11-12).

2. Ruth was a hard worker. She went out into the fields daily to glean enough grain for herself and Naomi to eat. You may think she did this out of necessity, but Ruth 2:2 shows that she volunteered for this job. She did not sit around waiting for someone else to do it. She was not lazy. You don't have to read very far in Proverbs before you find that lazy people would rather starve than work. This quality of being a hard worker was also noticed by Boaz. In fact, it was the one thing that made her stand out from all the other women in the field (Ruth 2:7).

3. Ruth was humble. She recognized that as a Moabite she did not have the right to receive the blessings God gave the Jewish people. She was surprised that Boaz would receive her so kindly into his fields (Ruth 2:8-10).

4. Ruth was obedient. She may not have understood the Jewish customs, but she obeyed Naomi's exact instructions in approaching Boaz (Ruth 3:5-6). She didn't question Naomi, she simply obeyed.

5. Ruth was grateful (Ruth 2:13). This is a necessary quality in any person's life. Do a word search with your concordance. You will find that thankfulness is much encouraged, even commanded, in the New Testament. Being truly grateful requires humility. The thankful person recognizes that someone else has done something for her that she perhaps could not do for herself. Some of us are more independently minded than others. It is hard for us to receive something because we want to do it ourselves. This is pride, and it robs ourselves and others of blessing. The thankful person also recognizes that she does not deserve this thing that someone has done for her. The proud person, on the other hand, is not thankful because she believes it is her right to have the given thing.

6. Ruth made herself attractive. This is something that is often missed by those who strive so much for modesty that they put down physical beauty. Boaz was used to seeing Ruth working up a sweat in the fields. He was attracted to her first by her character, but now was the time for her to clean herself up and look attractive physically. She took a bath, anointed herself, and put on clean clothes (Ruth 3:3).

Taking a bath is an obvious necessity that does not need explaining. Anointing herself with oil was the custom as part of making herself look nice physically. As a poor widow, she would not have had perfume to put on, but she used what she had. "Put thy raiment upon thee" suggests several possibilities. First, modesty (wearing clothes that marked her as chaste, not as a harlot). Second, it was now time to put off her widow's garments and put on something that showed that she now wished to be married again. Third, this was an occasion for wearing her best clothes.

7. Ruth received God's best for her in the choice of a husband. Ruth 3:10 suggests that Boaz was an older man, and that Ruth could have tried to get a younger husband. But the one thing that mattered most to Ruth was that she take what God provided for her.

8. Ruth was patient. She did not follow Boaz around, nagging at him to get busy about this business of making her his wife. She did not even go back to Boaz's fields to glean. She went home to Naomi and "sat still" until Boaz sent word himself (Ruth 3:16-18).

9. Ruth caused others to glorify God. She never sought glory or praise for herself. She lived her life quietly, honestly, and with humility. As a result, other women were made to praise God--probably one of the few times any Jew would rejoice in God's blessing to (and through) a Moabite (Ruth 4:14-15).


Christy said...

Hey!!! Sorry I've not been very good about staying in touch or posting. We don't have internet so it's a bit difficult. But I was just checking in to see how you are doing. Tell Sarah I said hello!

John Doe said...

hypothetical: John Doe is a young man who shares a hobby interest with Jane Smith. Jane is under the age of majority and lives at the home of her conservative Christian parents. If John wants to correspond with Jane about their shared interest, how should he go about it? Should he get permission from her father to write to her? Should he address a letter to her in care of her father? Or is all that rather unnecessary seeing as he is only writing to her about a hobby?

Cathy said...

John should ask permission from both Jane and her parents, preferably from the parents first. Even if Jane is of age, the parents should at least be aware of the situation. Many a romance has developed from a mere "shared interest", and the parents would need to know that John is the kind of person to be even remotely considered. They would also want to help their daughter guard her heart against any premature emotional attachment.

If John and Jane "met" over the internet, I doubt any thinking parent, Christian conservative or otherwise, would approve of any kind of communication between an unknown Doe and their daughter. Too many creeps have used a supposed "shared interest" and the internet to gratify their own wicked lusts.