Ah, the story of Ruth! I remember learning about this incredible woman in Sunday School, but truthfully, I never took the time to look below the surface of this book in the Old Testament. And there’s so much we can learn about the characteristics of Ruth in the Bible.
The book of Ruth would’ve made a great movie!
It’s the story of a woman named Naomi and her transformation from despair to happiness through the selfless acts of Ruth and Boaz. It’s an account of tragedy, hope, blessings, and restoration.
Although there’s a lot we can learn from the three main characters of this book, today we’ll focus on Ruth, as she provides a beautiful example of how we can learn to trust God through the hard times.
Ruth was a woman of noble character and teaches us how to remain steadfast when life is difficult. She shows us what happens when we choose to do the right thing no matter how hard it is.
Ruth shows us that God’s plan will always win, despite how bleak life feels.
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Who is Ruth
“She never engaged in immorality, yet she broke many “molds” for young women of her time. She lived in a culture where you were expected to stay with your own ethnic group and you didn’t choose your “religion”, you were born into it. You worshipped the gods your people worshipped.”
Susan J Nelson, Woman of Noble Character
Although the author of Ruth is unknown, throughout the book, we see a strong woman of character.
When her mother-in-law, Naomi, lost both her husband and two boys, Naomi had become quite bitter. (I mean come on, who wouldn’t?!) But God used this young woman, Ruth, to restore Naomi’s faith in God.
Ruth was a young Moabite woman, whose name means friendship, and compassionate friend. This is of great significance, as she certainly lived up to her name.
But since she grew up worshipping pagan gods, we can assume it must’ve been a complete change for her when she married into Naomi’s family — a family with a deep love and fear of God.
Ruth’s story took place at a time when there was no king, and therefore, no rules. The Moabites did what they wanted, pushing the boundaries of morality.
Much like our world today, they bent the truth of God to fit the way they wanted to live.
As we read through the pages of this book, we see a new life for Ruth. Naomi’s God becomes her God, and it’s such a beautiful story of His grace and mercy.
The death of HER husband
After Naomi’s husband died, she was left with only her two sons who went on to marry two Moabite women — Ruth and Orpah.
As a mom to two grown boys, I can certainly relate to Naomi. Her heart must have been so full with the addition of her two daughters-in-law.
After the death of Naomi’s two boys, we see three women who have a great love for each other as they journey back to Naomi’s native Bethlehem.
Widowed in her prime, childless, and a ‘lowly’ foreigner, it must have been so difficult for Ruth. You see, in those times, widowers were subject to abuse and, oftentimes, left to fend for themselves.
It’s no wonder Naomi wanted to get back to her own people. It was a place where she had family and land through her husband.
So the three women left Moab and set out for Bethlehem. But Naomi knew the fate her daughters-in-law would have. So on the road back to her homeland, Naomi encourages the women to go back to their own families in the land of Moab.
“Turn back, my daughters, go; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband tonight and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; it is far more bitter for me than for you that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.” Ruth 1:12-13 AMPC
And although Ruth’s sister-in-law, Orpah, reluctantly listened and went back to her parents, Ruth stayed behind and clung to Naomi.
“And Ruth said, Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts me from you. When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said no more.” Ruth 1:16-18 AMPC
Wow! What unfailing devotion Ruth had for her mother-in-law.
Now that’s unconditional love right there!
We continue to see the characteristic of Ruth in the Bible, as she later provides food for Naomi from Boaz’s field, and goes on to seek him as her kinsman redeemer. (The idea of a kinsman redeemer is a male relative who would take responsibility to help a woman in need or danger.)
“In the instance of Ruth, because she had lost her husband, she had to work for essentially, scraps. Women in the Ancient world had a difficult time finding enough employment to feed themselves, let alone their other relatives. Boaz, seeing this need and his duty as her kinsman-redeemer, proposes and marries Ruth.” Hope Bolinger, Chrisitanity.com
Characteristics of Ruth
So let’s take a look at what we can learn from Ruth’s faithfulness, and model how we can keep pressing on in the face of adversity.
1.) Ruth was Determined
Throughout Ruth’s life, we see a very determined woman, one who refused to leave, even when her mother-in-law insisted she go back to the land of her father.
Another way Ruth’s character shines is when she saw the need to provide for her and Naomi. She took it upon herself to make sure they had food to eat by going out to Boaz’s field to gather grain that was left behind.
“One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.’ Naomi replied, ‘All right, my daughter, go ahead.” Ruth 2:2
Now that was a determined woman!
2.) Ruth Was Selfless
Another thing we learn from the characteristics of Ruth in the Bible is selflessness.
Again and again, she put Naomi’s needs above her own.
In a time when widowers were treated harshly, Ruth could’ve easily gone home to live with her own family. They would’ve taken great care of her, and made her life so much easier.
Instead, she gave up her own comfort for the comfort of another woman she’d come to love.
She showed time and again, that she was more concerned about Naomi’s needs than her own.
3.) Ruth was Faithful
Ruth was definitely faith in action.
Not only was Ruth faithful to Naomi, obeying what she was told, but she became faithful to the God of Israel. The One she’d only recently begun to follow.
She chose to follow God and rely on Him for strength and guidance, which gives us a beautiful picture of God’s great love and mercy for His children.
After all, she was born into a pagan community, and yet, God loved her. He gave her strength and endurance and poured out His blessings upon her.
This Moabite woman grew up worshipping idols, and STILL, God used her to move Naomi through her bitterness and into a full life with unconditional love.
I love this about Ruth’s story.
It helps us see that even in our mistakes and bad choices, God still remains faithful and loves us unconditionally. It shows that although life may feel hopeless, there is always hope in God.
Here’s the thing, my friend. We know this life isn’t void of trouble — even when we believe in God.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33 AMPC
When everything Ruth held dear to her was gone, she still clung to the truth and promises of her new God.
Even in the midst of grief, Ruth’s faithfulness shined.
4.) Ruth was a Hard worker
Lord have mercy, this girl was a go-getter! She had an incredible work ethic, and would’ve made a great CEO!
Ruth saw a need to provide for herself and Naomi and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She was hard-working and quickly won the respect of Boaz.
I think too often we get complacent and even paralyzed in our circumstances, and don’t know where to turn, or how to move forward.
But Ruth gives us an important lesson in that, although God can and will deliver us from our trials and troubles, there’s still work we must do.
We can’t camp out in the pain of our situations and expect everything to change.
We must continue to plant and sow. And when we do, God shows up to give the increase.
“My job was to plant the seed, and Apollos was called to water it. Any growth comes from God, so the ones who water and plant have nothing to brag about. God, who causes the growth, is the only One who matters. The one who plants is no greater than the one who waters; both will be rewarded based on their work.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 The Voice
5.) Ruth was Humble
She certainly wasn’t living on her high horse, thinking she was too good to work. She humbled herself and did what needed to be done to provide for her family.
Another way Ruth showed humility was when Naomi told her to go to Boaz in the night.
Surely Ruth knew women weren’t allowed on the threshing floor, but she humbled herself and followed Naomi’s instructions.
She wasn’t too proud to do the work. Instead, she surrendered to God and trusted Him to provide for and protect her.
Ruth also humbled herself to accept the gifts Boaz was giving her.
I think all too often when someone tries to give us gifts, we’re too proud to accept them. We say, “Thank you, but I’m okay.”
We often think we can do it on our own or don’t want to accept a gift or donation.
But what we tend to forget is these are gifts from God himself, and when we say no thank you to someone, we’re denying the person who’s giving us God’s blessings.
God promises to provide for us. Sometimes we just need to open our eyes to the way He’s providing.
In other words, God doesn’t always provide in the way we think He should.
6.) Ruth was Loyal
I mean look at all the adversity Ruth faced!
She was a widower from a pagan community, an outsider, and a foreigner. And yet, she stood her ground and stayed fiercely loyal to Naomi by…
- not going back to her own family
- saving her leftover lunch for Naomi from the field of Boaz
- after a hard day’s work, she brought the leftovers home for dinner
7.) Ruth was obedient
“She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the “obedience that comes from faith” Bible Study Tools
We see an obedient Ruth in Chapter 3.
“One day Naomi said to Ruth, My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.’ ‘I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. Ruth 3:1-5 NLT
There was no hesitation. Simply obedience.
She faced potential rejection when she followed Naomi’s instructions, but she said, “I will do everything you say.”
I hope that when faced with such instructions, I too will walk it out with Ruth’s faithfulness and obedience.
How about you?
8.) Ruth was committed
Life was incredibly difficult for widowers, so because of Ruth’s great love for Naomi, she didn’t want to see Naomi suffer.
She didn’t dwell on the loss of her husband (Although who would’ve blamed her if she had?), or give up and go back home.
Rather she picked herself up and did what needed to be done to stay fully committed to her mother-in-law.
9.) Ruth was courageous
I think if we were to look in the dictionary under courage we would find the name, “Ruth.”
Okay not really, but it should be!
Ruth put others’ needs above her own and stayed true to her word. She must have been so afraid, but chose to step outside her comfort zone to follow and care for Naomi.
Between going to a foreign land, and meeting Boaz on the threshing floor in the middle of the night…jeesh!
That takes a lot of courage!
You see, in that time period, women weren’t allowed on the threshing floor, so we can only imagine how frightened she must’ve been. She risked her reputation and what little dignity she had as a widower and did what Naomi was asking of her.
That’s a courageous woman if I ever saw one!
It takes a lot of courage to step into the unknown. But those are the times we can use Ruth’s life as an example, and trust God enough to go where He calls us.
This lesson teaches us that blessings aren’t found in the safety of the shore.
In order to experience all God has for us, we have to step into the deep, unknown waters. We must take that leap of faith and trust God’s faithfulness.
“I hear the Lord saying, ‘I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!” Psalm 32:8-9 TPT
10.) Ruth was Brave
Although bravery and courage are often interchangeable, when someone does good things out of bravery, there’s no fear that accompanies it.
On the other hand, when someone is courageous, although they’re afraid, they take a step without the outward appearance of fear.
As I mentioned earlier, Ruth was courageous because we assume she must have felt some kind of fear when following Naomi’s requests.
But holy moly, this girl was also very brave!
Earlier, I stated that in chapter 3, verse 5, Naomi told Ruth it was time to find someone who could care for her more permanently. So Naomi told her to put on her best clothes and go to the threshing floor.
Ruth immediately replied,
“I will do everything you say,’ Ruth replied.” NLT.
No apparent fear, but complete bravery.
And I don’t know about you, but I definitely need Ruth’s strong example of bravery when I go where God is calling me.
No fear. Just complete trust in God.
11.) Ruth was a Devoted woman
Talk about a devoted woman! Ruth was the embodiment of devotion as we see again and again throughout the book of Ruth.
Her devotion to her mother-in-law gives us a great lesson about staying true and dedicated to God’s calling.
12.) Ruth was Kind
As I mentioned earlier, it would have been far easier for Ruth to go back to her homeland. But she knew that in doing so, there would be no kind of life left for Naomi.
Out of kindness, Ruth shows us how important it is to follow Jesus in His ministry and exude kindness to everyone we come into contact with.
Likewise, we see an incredible kindness in Naomi as she puts Ruth’s needs above her own.
They both showed great kindness to the people in their life.
13.) Ruth had integrity
According to the dictionary, integrity means having the quality of being honest, with strong moral principles.
And Ruth was a beautiful example of a woman with integrity!
She was honest and held high moral principles when it came to caring for Naomi and the work she did in Boaz’s field.
She followed the rules and was rewarded greatly for doing so.
“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” Ruth 2:11-12 NLT
14.) Ruth was compassionate
Compassion is the concern for those who are suffering, and we can see Ruth’s deep compassion for her mother-in-law, as we read this story.
She knew the fate Naomi was bound to as a widower and chose to leave her own family to compassionately care for Naomi.
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. 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.” Ruth 1:16 NLT
Ruth’s compassion was apparent throughout the entire book as she cared for this woman she’d grown to love.
What we can learn from Ruth’s Life
There’s a lot we learn from Ruth’s life.
Not only did God use this virtuous woman, (a woman who grew up worshipping pagan gods) to change Naomi’s life, but she’s still making a difference in the lives of women like you and me every day.
She’s taught us important lessons, like…
- God is always working, even when we don’t see it.
- Even when God is calling us to do something that feels foreign and uncomfortable, we can still trust that He knows what’s best for us.
- We don’t need to know the big picture. Ruth certainly didn’t, and yet, she chose to follow Naomi and her new God anyway.
- The Lord keeps His promises and always knows what’s best for us.
- When all we see around us is death and decay, God is still the same faithful God we can rely on.
- God will always provide when we step up and do the work.
- He will restore that which has been broken — it just may not be what we had envisioned.
- God can and will turn tragedy into triumph.
- God will use ordinary people like you and me to provide for others’ needs.
- Even when it feels like there’s nothing but evil in our world, there are still faithful believers in God.
- We aren’t called to judge others, but to love them unconditionally. Can you imagine what Naomi must’ve thought when both of her God-fearing boys came home with pagan worshippers? She didn’t judge, but instead, grew to love them both very deeply.
- Nothing is hopeless. Not only did God use Ruth to help Naomi, but He used Naomi to bring Ruth into His Kingdom!
Now those are some powerful lessons, wouldn’t you say?
Moral of the Story of Ruth
I have great respect for Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz.
And my prayer today is that you, too, will draw from this incredible biblical story when you’re facing trials and challenges.
My hope is that you’ll have the courage to follow God’s calling, and walk in kindness — even when you have different beliefs.
And most of all, my desire is that you’ll always turn to His Word in those times you need a reminder of just how faithful our God is!
I, for one, can’t wait to sit down with Ruth when we get to our final destination! How about you?
If you’re ready to have a relationship with God, but just don’t know where to begin, grab my FREE 4-Steps to Grow Closer to God today.
Until next time, my friend…
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