"Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you."
Ruth 3:11 (Hebrew)
וְעַתָּ֗ה בִּתִּי֙ אַל־תִּ֣ירְאִ֔י כֹּ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמְרִ֖י אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לָּ֑ךְ כִּ֤י יוֹדֵ֙עַ֙ כָּל־שַׁ֣עַר עַמִּ֔י
כִּ֛י אֵ֥שֶׁת חַ֖יִל אָֽתְּ׃
Ruth 3:11 (Rough Translation from Hebrew)
And now my daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say, I will do for you, because all of my people at the gates know that you are an eschet chayil (woman of power, valor, strength).
The book of Ruth opens with Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, facing a severe famine which forces them from their home in Bethlehem, Judah to Moab. There, Naomi’s husband died. Later her two sons who married Orpah and Ruth also died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. It’s hard to imagine Naomi’s grief, having lost all the men she loved, including her offspring. Its even more difficult to imagine their state, in an Ancient Near Eastern culture, formed on patrilineality and male-dominance, where a woman’s value and purpose could only be attained through her relationship to a male, whether father, brother or husband. They were now the poorest of poor, having no security (without property and financial stability), no place in society, or any hopes for a bright future.
Yet, through her grief, Naomi managed to hear that the Lord had blessed His people back home with bountiful crops, and set out to return to her homeland. On the way she told the girls to return to their mothers’ homes, and blessed and kissed them, her attempt to release them from their relational covenant. After they refused she attempted to persuade them, by giving them a detailed description of her bleak future, saying she was too old to remarry or to have any more sons, because the Lord had dealt bitterly with her, and in her despair, changed her name from pleasantness to Mara, bitter. Faced with this reality, Orpah decided that leaving was the right thing for her to do, but Ruth refused, proclaiming, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die…May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us” (Ruth 1:16).
What could have prompted such a response and oath! In the natural, there was absolutely no reason to stay! Naomi was old, had nothing to offer and could not even promise that a brighter day was ahead. For all intents and purposes, as one dear heart pointed out in a recent Bible Study, this was a place of NOTHINGNESS! What do you do in a place of so called “Nothingness,” and does such a place really exist? How many of us would have chosen Orpah’s route? In a day when most efforts are motivated by a “Whats in it for me?” attitude, Ruth’s response seems quite foreign and perhaps idiotic to some.
Ruth appears to have been influenced by something or someone which resulted in a different kind of seeing and a change not just in her perspective, but her world view. Could her relationship with Naomi, a person who happened to live a life in relationship with YHWH, have resulted in the cultivation of Ruth’s personal encounter with the same? She is shown demonstrating a reverence for and submission to Naomi’s God, as she bound herself to her, even to death. Again, what was the motivation for such a loyal commitment? Could Ruth have sensed that there was more to this elderly lady than what met the eye? Could she have possibly seen through to her Kingdom influence as a godly woman, and the benefit of having such a person in her life? Do such divine, faith-based joinings happen in our time? It is clear that Ruth’s motivation was far deeper than her dead husband, and even if it began with him, it certainly shifted to a greater cause, one rooted in faith and purpose.
As the narrative unfolds, it becomes apparent that this was a divine setup! YHWH had orchestrated the relationship and events not only for Naomi and Ruth’s well-being, but to further His Kingdom agenda, His global plan and purpose! Yet, it required Ruth’s sensitivity, alignment and participation! She could have easily walked away. Which begs the question: Where is Orpah?
Boaz, Naomi’s relative, was an ish chayil (2:1), a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem. Ruth put herself out there and decided to go glean Boaz’s fields, gathering only the grain left behind by the harvesters, which got his attention. When he learned of their connection through Naomi, Boaz granted Ruth an open invitation to glean his fields. He affirmed and praised this foreign girl for committing herself to Naomi and forsaking her own interests and desires. He also blessed her, saying that she had taken refuge under the wings of the God of Israel. Ruth is now connected to YHWH worshippers! These words indicate this family’s Kingdom Orientation, their connection to and relationship with YHWH.
People were not just taking notice of Ruth and Naomi’s relationship, but being impacted by it! Could Boaz have seen God’s role in Ruth and Naomi’s joining, and perhaps have had a sense of its deeper purpose? Boaz welcomed Ruth to dine with his harvesters, who were ordered to drop extra bundles for her. Ruth returned to her mother-in-law with loads of food. Naomi informed her that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, meaning that culturally, he had an obligation to provide an offspring and financial support for Ruth. While Ruth continued to work in Boaz’s fields, God was behind the scenes working things out according to His Good Pleasure.
Naomi wanted Ruth to be noticed and devised a plan. How typical of us! God was already ahead of Naomi and Ruth was already on Boaz’s radar! Boaz continues to bless and praise Ruth’s loyalty, giving her a special place in Boaz’s heart! Boaz promised, “I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a woman of power (eshet chayil).” In other words, “Everyone knows that you are a capable woman of strength, with power to influence.”
What we witness is an activation to cancel the darkness of famine, injustice, discrimination and more! Darkness always results in a lesser state of glory than intended by God for His creation! As seen, Ruth’s activation was not just to bring Naomi back to life, but was for the benefit of the entire world, as she and Boaz later gave birth to Obed, the father of Jesse and grandfather of David, who were the ancestors of Jesus.
It appears that Ruth’s sensitivity to God and her living in submission to YHWH through Naomi, resulted in a chayil activation, which caused her to realize her identity as one through whom the peoples of the earth would be blessed. Her covenant relationship with Naomi served a far greater purpose than that of a mere mother and daughter in-law. This divine joining made her a participant in the lineage of kings, including Jesus Christ the Messiah. Where is Orpah?
A place of NOTHINGNESS is seen through the limitations of the natural eye, while a place FULL of purpose and the potential to cultivate one’s Kingdom Identity and Kingdom Orientation, is seen through the limitless scope of one’s spiritual eyes!
Declaration: "I refuse to be limited by my natural senses! Father, everything You have said about me is true! I was born loaded with purpose to serve Your Kingdom Agenda!"