On the surface, the book of Ruth appears to be a Hebrew romance novel, in which the girl from the other side of the tracks (Moab), who proves her noble character by showing loyalty and kindness to her mother-in-law and in the end gets everything she desires – a noble husband and a son. While this plot line does exist, the author of Ruth crafts the story so that it confidently proclaims that Yahweh is providentially in control of history. He is particularly involved in the events of this particular story to bring about the line of King David and his descendant, Jesus, whom we long for and celebrate this holiday season.
The story of Ruth is a story within the story—a glimpse into what a sovereign and good God is doing to accomplish his mission, not despite the sinful choices of men, but in fact through them. The story is not big, it is small; the characters are not amazing, they are very ordinary. It is a story about one small family, and one young non-Israelite widow, serving as light of hope in all of the darkness of Judges who ultimately leads us to Jesus Christ the light of the world. When all things appear hapless and hopeless, God is faithful.
The book of Ruth is a story that reminds us not only that God works visibly through prophets and miracles, but that he is invisibly and mysteriously working all of the time, even within tragedy. It’s a story for those of us who have, are, and will suffer tragedy, loss, or pain. It’s a story for those wondering where God is in the midst of heartbreak upon heartbreak. It is a story for those who will doubt whether God is in control, whether God is good, and whether faithfulness to do what is right is worth it in hard times. And it’s a story for people who question whether all things, including suffering, are in fact purposed for good.
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