Day 5 Ruth 1 ... Tough Love

"In the days when the judges ruled . . . " begins this charming tale about two scrappy women. It has nothing like the broad sweep of history found in Judges. Rather, Ruth narrows its focus to the story of one family trying to cope during chaotic, tumultuous times. In style, it calls to mind such stories of simple village life as Fiddler on the Roof.

Things got so bad in Canaan, especially after a severe famine, that Naomi's Israelite family migrated into enemy territory just to survive. There, her two sons married local pagan women and settled down. Years later, after both those sons and her husband had died, Naomi decided to return to the land of her birth. This book mainly tells of the stubborn loyalty of Naomi's daughter-in-law named Ruth.

Ruth and Naomi were unlikely friends. Ruth was young and strong; Naomi, past middle age and broken-hearted. In addition, they came from completely different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Who would have put them together? But somewhere along the way, Ruth had converted to the worship of the true God, and she insisted on returning with Naomi to the land of the Israelites.

In a few brief chapters, Ruth manages to capture a slice of agrarian life in ancient times. The male-dominated society posed problems for unattached women, and these two lived in harsh, trying times. Ruth served awhile as a migrant farm worker, surviving on the gleanings left in the fields by the harvesters. (God's laws required that wealthy farmers help the needy by leaving some grain behind for the poor to harvest.)

You can read this small book in several ways: as a tiny, elegant portrait of life in ancient times, or as a record of God's faithfulness to the needy, or as an inspiring story of undying friendship. Ultimately, Ruth does get a loving husband and both women find economic security. Perhaps the most accurate way to read this story, however, is as a missionary story. God not only accepted Ruth, a member of the despised Moabites, into his family, but also used her to produce Israel's greatest king. Ruth's great-grandson turned out to be David. To anyone who thinks God's love was for the Israelites only, Ruth's life makes a striking contradiction

Point to Ponder: When has a friend "gone out on a limb" for you?