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Ruth's Story Through the Telescope of History

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Telescopes help us understand our world by bringing images of things far away up close. The story of Ruth and its place in God’s big story, His-story, can be understood as if looking through a telescope. Let me explain—by zooming our telescope all the way out, we can see the perspective of the people in Ruth’s day. From their story, we see that God worked in their lives so that they experienced a renewed hope in God’s promises during a dark time.

Which promises were they hoping in? you might ask. God had promised Abraham, over 1000 years before Ruth’s time, that He would bless Abraham’s descendants and make them into a great nation; that He would give them a land to dwell in, and that all nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:15). Every Israelite, including Naomi (Ruth's mother in law), Boaz and friends, hung on these promises.

Later, Abraham's grandson, Jacob, on his dying bed blessed his twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. To his fourth son, Judah, Jacob said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Gen. 49:10). Jacob's words were prophetic, declaring that from the tribe of Judah a future ruler would reign—even eternally.

Further in time, when the twelve tribes of Israel entered the Promised Land with Joshua, each tribe was allotted land. Interestingly, where do you think Bethlehem, where the story of Ruth takes place, is located? It is located in the land given to Judah. So, those in the line of Judah living in Bethlehem would have been aware of the prophecy of a ruler coming through Judah’s clan. The plot thickens! We’ve got these promises and prophecies in place in the time of Ruth.

Looking through the telescope to Ruth’s day, over a thousand years after Abraham, we learn from the story that their hope in these promises of God’s blessing in the land was renewed when God brought bread back to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:6, 22). The Lord blessed and redeemed Boaz, Naomi, and the least of those, Ruth, a Moabitess, who took refuge under His wings (2:12). This gives us great hope that the safest place to be is close to God, in the shadow of His wings, near the beating heart of our loving God, who cares for us and keeps all His promises.

In the next blog post, we will zoom our telescope in a bit and look at the story of Ruth through the author's view. What did the writer know in his day as he penned the book of Ruth? How does this help us glean from the book of Ruth for our lives today?

Women's Bible studies by Nancy Gemaehlich

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