Women of Hope: Ruth

I knew that crossing the Jordan River to leave Moab behind would label me as “foreigner” and “dreaded Moabite.” I knew I’d have much to learn in this new place and that as widows our lives would be hard. But I never expected the people of Bethlehem to be so distant and… dangerous. I feel their stares. Their animosity. If Naomi and I weren’t so hungry, I might have pulled the shawl over my head and stayed in the shadows.

But I could not return to her empty-handed. So, I spoke a silent prayer to Yahweh, asking for His provision, His protection.

He must have heard! Because the very field I unknowingly walked to is owned by Boaz, an honorable man who comes from my husband’s clan. For hours I gleaned barley, constantly keeping watch for men who might try to harm me. My heart pounded with fear when Boaz pulled me aside. But, then he instructed me to work behind the women he’d hired for the harvest. Peace enveloped me. 

For the first time in many days, I have hope that Naomi and I will make it through the winter. And my hope in God increases with each step because I know I am in the shelter of the Most High.

Ruth the Moabite. Widow of Mahlon the Israelite. Devoted daughter-in-law to Bethlehem-born widow, Naomi. In a moment of life-changing choices, Ruth speaks the famous promise to go where Naomi will go, making Naomi’s people her people and Naomi’s God her God (Ruth 1:16).

Ruth the Moabite. A woman known not by her reputation or personality or deeds, Ruth is defined by her nationality. She’s a “proud Moabite” (Jeremiah 48:29), historically despised by God and his people.1

Yet, instead of hiding from the world with shame, Ruth steps up to find a way forward for Naomi and herself. Knowing that two women alone in a tribal, patriarchal world have much to fear and everything to lose, Ruth defiantly sets out for the barley fields to collect grain, aware that Israelite law establishes gleaning as a means for widows to make ends meet. Armed with hope, she counts on finding favor with a generous landowner (Ruth 2:2).

In steps Boaz, whose eyes immediately spot the Moabite in his fields. When he hears of all Ruth has done for Naomi, he sets out to establish her safety among his paid workers. And, Ruth finds more than she sought, including a God who is trustworthy and a hope for a future full of promise and purpose.   


Inspired by Ruth’s words, “where you go I will go,” countless brides have chosen to have this portion of Ruth’s story recited at their weddings (1:16). Even though Ruth is not speaking to the man she marries, her promise oozes with enviable faithfulness and conviction, moving all hearers to want to stick by their person’s side no matter what. 

Photo by Vadim Paripa on Unsplash

Upon further inspection, we see that Ruth’s vow of loyalty goes beyond place or circumstance – she’s making the choice to leave behind her home, family, and pantheon of gods to become part of Naomi’s people and faith. Ruth’s devotion is the truest kind of love because it’s a laying down of her own life for the good of Naomi (John 15:13).

Over and over throughout Ruth’s narrative, our heroine chooses loyalty over risk…

  1. of being ravaged – like gleaning in fields run by men with little oversight (Ruth 2:9)
  2. of reputation ruination – like going to Boaz in the middle of the night (Ruth 3:4,11,14)
  3. of rejection – like Boaz as her husband and kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3:9,13)

But this is no blind-loyalty. It’s not one that rushes head first into dangerous situations. Ruth’s devotion is one born out of trust – trust in Naomi and, ultimately, Naomi’s God (3:12). 

It’s also sourced by love. Ruth’s love-loyaty overcomes all ulterior motives and selfish desires – so much so that Naomi is moved by it, the people of Bethlehem are talking about it, and Boaz is struck by it (2:11).2 When he offers a blessing over Ruth only moments after meeting her, asking God’s favor and reward on her (2:12), we see the power of such purity of heart. 

Such sincerity stands out in our day, too, because ours is a culture that lauds “looking out for number one.” And so, Ruth demonstrates for us all a different way of living – one that trusts, loves, and gives of herself for the good of others (Philippians 2:3-4). She shows us how to live like Jesus in the most practical ways. She exhibits how to live in the world with a sustaining hope in a God who will always meet our needs and be our shield.  


Ruth the Moabite. Like a scarlet letter on her chest, Ruth’s foreign eponym becomes the sole source of her identity (Ruth 1:22; 2:2,6,21; 3:10; 4:5,10). That is until her loyalty, love, and trust begin to outshine the prejudices of the people. 

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

A little history – when God had issued rules about not intermarrying with the people of Canaan, it was not because of bigotry but because God knew such closeness with foreigners would open doors for pagan gods to enter His set-apart people’s lives and hearts (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). But for women like Rahab and Ruth, whose faith in the One True God proved to be purer than most Israelites, their breaking-in on the scene of God’s Redemption Story sets the stage for a better door – one that would be open to all Gentiles to enter God’s family (Galatians 3:8).3 

Ruth, who is only ever acknowledged as “the Moabite” through most of her book, discovers a new identity as her story and faith progress:

My daughter.

It’s notable that Naomi doesn’t call Ruth, “my daughter,” upon Ruth’s vow of loyalty. Nor does the epithet come after Ruth arrives home with arms full of barley. The name of respect and acceptance comes after Ruth obeys Naomi’s plan for a risque (and risky) rendezvous with Boaz (Ruth 3:16), reflecting Naomi’s own transformation. The once bitter mother-in-law is now hopeful once again (1:20; 3:16-18) – because of her daughter, Ruth.

Boaz actually calls Ruth “my daughter” first in the story, creating a crack in the “foreigner” stigma. Calling Ruth by such an intimate term, Boaz extends respect and acknowledges their age difference (2:8). But, as the story reaches its climax with Boaz’s acceptance of Ruth’s invitation to be her kinsman redeemer, “my daughter” has become a term of endearment, ensuring that Ruth will always be treated as family (3:10-11).4

Ruth’s identity is no longer wrapped up in where she was born and is not even defined by what she does or says – but in whose she is. 

Ruth, a woman of hope, steps out in faith with a love and loyalty that is both enviable and inspirational, but it is her inclusion in God’s family – in the very lineage of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5) – that demonstrates for all believers today how to define our identity. Because despite what the world will say, we shall be known for Whose we are.

Friends, we can be women of hope, choosing to trust our unchanging, faithful Father, no matter what He calls us to, no matter what people think or say, and no matter how dark our circumstances may appear. Ruth is our shining example of how to live out a faith sourced by loyalty, love – and hope!

Father God, Ruth’s story inspires us to want to live as your daughters, full of trust and love and hope. We stand in awe of the way Ruth’s story exudes the truth that You work all things out for good for those who love and believe You. We see that because Ruth chooses to believe You, she becomes part of a narrative that is bigger and grander than anything she could have imagined or hoped for. This reminds us that You are always at work in the heavenly realm, which is why we, too, can choose to have faith in things we hope for – certainty in the unseen. Lord Jesus, we’re so grateful that You laid aside your own comforts and needs in order to live and die for us. Thank You for giving us role-models as Ruth to help us see what it looks like to live such humble, selfless lives. Thank You for including her and us in your family. Holy Spirit, we recognize too easily how fear, doubt, and anger can keep us from seeing the Father at work, from receiving all the blessings He has for us. We ask You now to be the One to prompt and remind us so that we’ll continuously fix our eyes on our Father instead of our circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(inspired by Romans 8;28; Ephesians 3:21; John 5:17; Hebrews 11:1; Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 3:8; Ruth 2:12; John 14:26; Hebrews 12:1-2) 

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – This article gives more info about ancient Moab and the relationship between Israel and Moab over the course of the Old Testament years. 
  • 2 – The Faithful^ chapter about Ruth, Kelly Minter focuses on Boaz’s first conversation with Ruth (2:11-12), which really helped me see how unique both Ruth and Boaz were in their day. It stood out to me that Boaz, the son of a foreigner (Rahab) would have had a soft heart for foreigners. Then, I especially loved that Kelly said this: “When you arrive at the end of the book of Ruth, you don’t just walk away with a sense of God’s unfathomable ability to redeem and restore but also a grander idea of who He is.” (p.37). Isn’t that the point of spending time in Scripture – getting to know God better?!
  • 3 – The Women in Christian History Devotional^ makes an awesome point about Gentiles being included into the family of God, “By including faithful foreigners in the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew was making a powerful statement. The gospel of Jesus was exploding outward into the Gentile world, but Jewish believers didn’t need to fear that development. It was really nothing new. Outsiders like Ruth and Rahab had always been included in God’s plans because of the faith they displayed” (Dec.29).
  • 4 – Carla Harding’s Lectio 365 post about Ruth inspires me: “a Gentile woman went from the grip of poverty to the embrace of family.”
  • BONUS Resource — A friend reminded me that Francine Rivers wrote a fictional series called Lineage of Grace,^ which chronicles the lives of the five women in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. I read it years ago and LOVED it. I highly recommend it to you if you like immersing yourself in someone’s imaginings of what it could have been like then. So good.
  • On our “Women of Hope” playlist, I have two songs that speak very clearly the story of Ruth. First, “Ruth’s Song” by Marty and Misha Goetz, which sounds like something out of a Disney movie (in the best of ways), we hear about Ruth’s vow to go where Naomi goes. Then, the Faithful project’s song about Ruth, “We Are One,” echoes the idea of inclusion in God’s family! We are one!!
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Our verse is really weaving itself within my heart, mind, and soul. It’s becoming part of how I think — hooray! I’d love to hear how this key verse is establishing itself in you. Let’s stick with the Good News Translation again this week:

      “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”
    • To be fair, Beckah Shae’s song, “Faith Is,” is a big reason why Hebrews 11:1 is settling into my psyche. (I have our first two songs on replay FOR SURE.)
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured photo: purchased on Zazzle, credited to Ann McDonald of Australia. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

One thought on “Women of Hope: Ruth

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: