We’re going to do a little jumping around right now. We’re going to talk a bit about Ruth, and we’re going to look at a passage from Proverbs 31, and it’s all going to make sense in the end. K? This is a case of what’s called “Scripture illustrating Scripture.” See, Ruth is an example of noble character—she is an illustration of our point from Proverbs. You may or may not know the story, and we won’t cover it all here, but we’ll hit the highlights. Here goes… a quick look at Ruth, and a glimpse of noble character.
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In a nut shell, Ruth is a foreign girl married into an Israelite family. All the men of the family die, leaving Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah and her mother-in-law Naomi with nothing and no one and nowhere to go. Naomi wants to send them both back to their own lands and their own people, and Orpah puts up a little resistance—just enough to be polite—and then she goes. But Ruth refuses to leave Naomi, even though Naomi has nothing to offer, and they basically have no more ties to each other. Naomi’s husband and her sons are dead. She isn’t getting any younger. Now here they are, a couple of Old Testament widows with no one to take care of them. So Naomi says, “Just go, Ruth. Go home. I have nothing to offer you.”
But Ruth isn’t having it. She refuses to leave her mother-in-law. She says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Just like that, Ruth leaves her identity right there on the side of the road. Everything that is familiar to her, everything she knows, everything about her old life—she leaves her identity behind. She chooses God’s people. She chooses God.
This is a very fortunate turn of events for Ruth and Naomi. They didn’t see that coming. Cut to the chase, and later in the story, Ruth comes to Boaz in private. She basically asks him to take her as his wife and take care of her mother-in-law Naomi. Now Boaz is impressed again—after all, Ruth is a young woman, and he is not a young man. He sort of can’t believe she’s come to him, instead of chasing after the young guys. This, Scripture explains, is another testament to her character.
Long story short, Boaz does take Ruth as his wife. He redeems her situation and Naomi’s situation. Everybody lives happily ever after. Nice Christian fairytale ending, right?
So, appreciate this: an ordinary girl who becomes the great-grandmother of an ordinary kid who becomes the greatest king in the Bible. A foreign woman married into the people of God who gives life to the line of David leading to the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Ruth didn’t know all of that was going to happen. She didn’t set out to be a good person so good things would come her way. Before she had any idea what would happen to her, she chose faithfulness. She was a person who lost everything and ended up finding everything. She was a noble character. We know this particular trait of Ruth because Ruth is told, right to her face, right in the book of Ruth, that she is a woman of noble character. In verse 3:11, Ruth is told, “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”
Now, listen, ladies and gentlemen… wouldn’t you like to be known as a person of noble character?
I sure would. If someone was new to my town and asked, “Hey, what do you think about this Serenity woman?” I would love to imagine that someone might say, “Now, she is a person of noble character.” That stirs something in my soul. That makes me want to live better and be better. It sounds a lot like an ideal to me.
Now, get this… that same day, after I read about Ruth, I went on to read Proverbs 31 for the first time in my life, and what do you think I found there? Some of you already know. God has already spoken Proverbs 31 as an ideal in a lot of your lives. But for me, there that day, for the first time, I read about the wife of noble character.
And... ouch! For those of you who have failed in marriage the way I have, you might know what it feels like to be convicted of that for the first time. When I read about the wife of noble character in Proverbs 31, God spoke another ideal into my life. I had another “prayer of Saint Francis” moment where God spoke directly into my inadequacies… my failures… my shortcomings… my shame. He convicted me on the spot, in all of my wrong attitudes and outlooks. He showed me all of my wounds and weaknesses… and He showed me what He had for me instead.
That’s where we find our application point of the day, folks: A noble character finds identity in Christ.
If you don’t remember anything else about this topic, remember that point. We’ll need it for next time. Meet me back here later this week, and we’ll see what this Old Testament tale has to do with our New Testament faith.
Next >>> Old Testament Women and New Testament Faith: Ideals, Identity, and Character Issues (Part Three)