God's arms are always open.
I have always loved the story of Ruth. To me, it is a great story of how God doesn’t harbor any prejudices. No matter where we have come from, no matter our background or family history, no matter our past life’s experience and choices, God’s arms are always open to us. He is eager and ready to receive us, and He is always working to woo us back to Him.
Ruth is a wonderful example of this. She was a Moabite woman, and in the eyes of Old Testament Israel, that wasn’t a good thing. The Moabites were enemies of the Israelites; they were considered a heathen nation. They worshiped false gods, and they were forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord. In fact, even their descendants were forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord. Obviously, the Lord was trying to protect Israel from bad influences that could come from the Moabites.
However, though she was a Moabite woman, Ruth’s heart had apparently been moved by the Spirit of the Lord. And when her mother-in-law decided to return to her homeland in Israel, Ruth was determined to go with her. She would leave everything she knew—her land, her people, her language, her customs, and her gods—and go with Naomi to a new land with a God she had come to know as the true God.
And what was God’s response to this? To forbid Ruth’s entrance into Israel? To deny her wish to serve Him because she had been born a Moabite? Hardly. In fact, this woman who wasn’t allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord became a direct ancestor of God Himself and one of only three women to be listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Because her heart was open to God’s leading, she was blessed with a position of honor given to very few women in the history of the entire human race.
You see, God has no prejudices. He holds no grudges. He knows His people—those whose hearts are open to Him—wherever they are found. He doesn’t care where we have come from; He only cares where we are headed. And if we’re headed in His direction, we can be sure that His arms are always open!
God is tenderhearted.
I really saw a picture of God in this chapter, coming through in the tenderhearted nature of Boaz. From the text, it’s clear that Boaz was a man of the Lord—and at a time when the majority of Israel was heading down the wrong path. When Boaz arrives at his fields, he greets all of the harvesters with a blessing from the Lord. (vs 4) Later, he praises Ruth for her commitment to Naomi and calls upon God to bless her because of it. (vs 12)
But it’s what Boaz did later that really made me think about God and how He treats us: “At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.’ When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.’” (vs 14-16)
How precious this is: to see a man in this culture treating a woman in this manner—especially a foreign woman! He gave her as much as she wanted to eat and even sent her home with leftovers. He asked his workers to make it easy for her to gather more grain and made sure that they treated her kindly.
Doesn’t this just sound like God? He is so tenderhearted, compassionate, and caring. He gives us everything we need—even more than we need! And He does everything He can to make it easy for us. He continually comes to us, reassuring us and helping us along in our walk with Him. He doesn’t get impatient or frustrated with us. Instead, He makes it easy for us to return to His fields day after day after day. We won’t find abuse or neglect there. No, with God, we will find peace, rest, and security
God brings out the best in us.
As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but compare Boaz with the men of Gibeah described in Judges 19. Those men went out looking for someone to take advantage of. Boaz, on the other hand, refused to take advantage of Ruth, even though she had placed herself in a very precarious situation.
In coming to his threshing floor in the middle of the night, Ruth was engaging in very unorthodox behavior. Certainly, as she was on Boaz’s property (trespassing, if you will), he would have been within his “rights” to do whatever he wanted with her. He could have abused her, taken advantage of her, even raped her. Not only didn’t he do that, but he even sheltered her from the appearance of impropriety: “So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, ‘No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.’” (vs 14) Not only was Boaz not going to take advantage of Ruth, but he was even jealous for her reputation!
What a startling difference between Boaz and the evil men of Gibeah! And what made the difference? Well, I think it’s clear from the text that Boaz was a man of God. In a time when Israel was falling away from the Lord, Boaz remained true to Him. And God gave him a very great reward for that faith. He gave him a wonderful wife in Ruth and a place in the genealogy of the Messiah.
It is God who brings out the best in us. Without Him, we are left to our evil desires and whims. Without Him, we can so easily end up enslaved to the selfishness that resides naturally in our hearts—even when we “think” we’re living good lives as good people. On the flip side, though, we know that God can clean up the dirtiest of hearts. So even if we’re headed in the direction of Gibeah, it’s never too late to turn around! And though the circumstances may not be as dramatic, we all have that choice—the choice to end up like the men of Gibeah or to end up like Boaz.
Who do you want to be?
God does not restore us.
So, in the end, Ruth finds love. She has left her homeland, her people, and her customs to move with her mother-in-law back to Israel. And because of her willingness to follow God, she ends up as the wife of Boaz and the great-grandmother of King David (not to mention a direct ancestor of Jesus). From her lowly status as a heathen woman, she becomes a woman honored in the history of Israel. I think that’s incredible.
Because of the language of redemption in this chapter (Boaz is called the kinsmen-redeemer), it made me think about what happens to us when God redeems us. Let’s face it. We all need redemption, and if we allow Him, God will pick us up from where we have fallen and redeem us. But He doesn’t just restore us to our original condition.
In light of that, I suppose the title for this blog is a little misleading. It should have said God does not ONLY restore us. By that, I mean that when God redeems us, He doesn’t simply restore us to our original condition. No, He takes where we have been and what we have done, and He brings us out better off than we were before we ruined ourselves in the first place. That’s what He did for Ruth. He didn’t simply “transplant” her from Moab to Israel, leaving her in the same situation. No. She went from being a childless widow to being a beloved wife and mother. She was much better off than when she first left Moab with Naomi.
God is into restoration, it’s true. But He doesn’t just restore us. He makes everything in our lives work together to bring us out on the other side better than we ever were before. His restoration is transformation—and always for the better. And what a comforting thought that is . . . to know that we can even trust Him with all of our bad choices and mistakes, believing that He can use all of those things to better us. What a God!