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Lessons From Ruth: the Life of A Servant
Living the servant life may not be something you have considered important.
Doing life as a servant is not popular in today's culture. Servant-living, however, is prominent in the Scriptures and teachings of Jesus.
We find many examples of the servant life in the Bible. Ruth is one instance. Her story was so significant to God that he ordained an entire book in the Old Testament named after her.
Ruth’s story is about a woman who chose to follow God. Her life was one of surrender. She saw God involved in the small events of her life—and in the events of nations!
Ruth was a native of Moab but married into the Israelite family of a woman named Naomi, who was living in Moab due to famine in her home country. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband died, as well as her two sons. Ruth was the widow of one of those sons.
Though born into the godless Moabite culture, Ruth found a new faith in the one true, living God.
Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. 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 (NIV)
After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi wanted to go home. The famine was over. She longed to return to her people in Bethlehem.
In Ruth’s day, there was a rather strange marriage custom. When a man died, it was a tradition that another male family member would take the widow as his wife. So, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to go back to their families and find a husband because she had no more sons (Ruth 1.8-11). Ruth, however, refused to leave Naomi.
Ruth was a loyal servant – (Ruth 1.16)
Ruth told Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” She cared for Naomi, but there was something else. Ruth’s homeland, Moab, was a sinful place. She was now a servant of God Almighty. At this moment, I believe Ruth feared returning to the immoral life of Moab. Ruth was a loyal servant to Naomi—and to the God of heaven.
Ruth was servant-hearted – (Ruth 2.2-3)
Now, they were two women alone and dependent on Naomi’s family in Bethlehem. Ruth suggested she go to the fields to gather grain so they would have a way to feed themselves. This custom allowed the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow to pick up the grain left behind after the harvest. It was hard work, bending over in the hot sun for hours on end. Ruth had a servant’s heart—she volunteered to help provide for their mutual need.
Ruth was a diligent servant – (Ruth 2.5-7)
Boaz, the owner of the field where Ruth went to gather grain, was related to Naomi. Why is this important? Remember the custom—a widow, like Ruth, had the right to be redeemed by a relative of her husband’s family. Boaz arrived and saw this woman out working in his field. He asked his workers, “Who is this woman?” They replied: “She is a Moabite, and has returned with Naomi. She asked for permission to pick up the leftover grain. She came early and has been working all day.” Ruth was a diligent servant. Boaz saw this—and so did his workers!
Ruth was a humble and grateful servant – (Ruth 2.8-13)
Boaz then told Ruth to stay in his field, insisting she was welcome and safe working there. When Ruth heard the words of Boaz, she bowed before him in humility and gratefulness. “I am a foreigner!” she said. Now, remember, Ruth was a Moabite. The Israelites knew the people of Moab did not worship their God. This was a big deal, and most people in Bethlehem would not have treated Ruth kindly because of her heritage. Boaz was both kind and generous. In return, Ruth showed she was a humble and grateful servant.
So, what can we learn from Ruth?
There are many lessons in Ruth’s story. This book in the Old Testament has only four chapters but, as they say, it is loaded. I encourage you to read it when you have the chance and don't miss the love story woven in.
This interesting custom of a widow marrying another man in the same family was expected of Ruth because she needed to be redeemed. It is the picture of redemption made available for all humanity through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This is, in fact, the main lesson in the book of Ruth.
Jesus said, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20.26b (NIV)
As believers, we have been redeemed by the One to whom we owe our life—that we might live as His servants. Ruth's life is a beautiful picture of the servant life. It is an important lesson for us, today.
Jesus calls us to live the life of a servant: loyal, servant-hearted, diligent, humble, and grateful. Like Ruth, it is possible for us to live this life because we have been redeemed.