I have never read the Book of Judges and the Book of Ruth one after the other, much less studied it. It is truly fascinating to see the stark contrast between sin and obedience!
As a side note, I believe the Book of Ruth is so short because the beauty of God’s loving-kindness is so simple. The Book of Judges on the other hand is five times as long because sin causes so many messy complications.
In the Book of Judge the next generation of Israelites had no godly leader after Joshua’s generation died out. They spread out through the land of Canaan tribe by tribe according to their God-given allotment. God had left some areas for them to conquer to test whether or not the Israelites would continue to love Him through their obedience:
Now these are the nations that the Lord left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan…They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord…So the Israelites lived among the Canaanites…and they took their daughters as wives for themselves, and their own daughters they gave to their sons; and they worshiped their gods… The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the Lord their God…
Clearly the Israelites’ hearts were not faithful to God as they were in the previous generation. They had forgotten who He was and what He had done and thus their love for Him was gone. *Side note: remembering God’s faithfulness toward me every day is so important.*
Throughout the book, the Israelites would repent and turn back to God, and then God would raise up a judge up so they could be delivered from the hand of their enemies. That sin/slavery/deliverance cycle continued throughout the book.
Even the judges themselves were in general not of great character like Moses and Joshua. The result of sin had infected their hearts, as well:
Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.
Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her.
While God’s mercy was written all over this book, what God really highlighted to me was the ugliness of sin. One of the tribes of Israel had even begun resembling the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah. This just shows how far the downward spiral of sin had taken them:
While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him. And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning.
I know that I no longer (thank God!) have to be come under punishment for my sin, since Jesus has already taken it for me on the cross. But I think the concept of grace has allowed much of the church today, including myself, to be okay with compromising on holiness. We hold on to things in our lives we know deep down are not pure. As a result, we don’t go “all-in” with God. And because of free will, He lets us make that choice, and He loves us no differently than the Mother Teresa’s of the world. Hallelujah!
I know that don’t want to become sin-conscious or religious – this only leads to condemnation of myself and others. But my prayer to God is that He sanctifies me in all areas of my heart so that the enemy has no foothold in my life to cause complications later on. I don’t want any selfish passion to remain in me so that I can be free from all the flesh. I want to go all-in with God even if the journey getting there is scary!
Which leads perfectly into the story in the Book of Ruth, which takes place in the time period of the judges. In the beginning of the story, Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, and there was famine in the land. Even though times were tough, she decided to obey and follow God anyway.
Short story short, God ends up redeeming Naomi by blessing her daughter-in-law with a rich husband and a baby boy, who would end up being the grandfather of King David. I even think that God supernaturally allowed her to nurse her grandson, as Naomi was probably too old at that point to do such a thing naturally. She even became the praise of the neighborhood women. Back then this probably would have been one of the most ultimate blessings for a woman!
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.
So God was faithful to her. He never forgot her. All Naomi had to do was keep trusting God, and God came through gloriously in the end, beyond what she could imagine.
The character of Ruth can’t be left unspoken of. Her passionate, unconditional love for Naomi was so beautiful. When Naomi urged her daughters to stay in Moab, Ruth’s other sister chose to stay behind most likely because she feared she would not find a husband. But Naomi, out of her passionate love for Naomi, followed her anyway, despite the fear of leaving what was familiar and secure behind.
Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!
She worked all day long on her feet to gather enough food for her mother-in-law and never complained about her circumstances or gave a thought to her own self.
[Ruth] is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.
Ruth was totally selfless in all that she did, and in the end, she found favor from God through Boaz. She didn’t have to scramble for it or concern herself. She just put her head down and remained faithful and loyal to her mother-in-law and to God, and God’s love never failed her.
Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!
The selflessness of Ruth is so precious, and it something that I’m hungry for! God has been showing me that this can be mine, if I just continue pressing into His presence and obey whenever I sense Him calling.