I read this book years ago and wanted to revisit it this summer. I remember it rocked my world. Carolyn Custis James rocked my world with this gem that just put so much about Ruth and Naomi into context.
Don't get me wrong. The book of Ruth is a love story. It is a story of how God redeemed two widows. One felt that God had turned his back in her and the other just refused to leave the other alone. She just clings. This is clingy at it's best.
Widow really is a complicated word to understand. Naomi has lost everything. Her life is in ruins and her soul is drowning in grief. She is a female Job. If she was Job there might be an opportunity for her. Poverty is not inevitable for a man. He can work or rebuild. He may endure "the unjust accusations of trusted friends, but he will face degradation, discrimination, of physical abuse because he is male" (p 58). He has a level of stature in the community even though his character is under the microscope. He has rights and can take legal action.
Noami faces a whole new layer of adversity because she is a woman in a man's culture. "Death strips her down until she stand nakedly before God without the usual props a woman counts on to justify her significance" (p 58). This is where the story enlarges to encompass every woman who is alone regardless of the reason. She is bitter and she says, "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter" (Ruth 1:20).
And yet something extraordinary is happening. This is the beginning of a female story. Generally, in the Bible, men rule to roost or command the spotlight. Male stories are being told. Women are written up as they relate to men.
"Miriam was Moses' sister. It's easy to forget that was a prophetess and a leader of God's people in her own right. "Sarah and Hagar broke rod in Abraham's coat-tails. Rebekkah had her three minutes of fame because Abraham's son Isaac needed a wife and she matched the search criteria" (p 60). With patriarchy, everyone expected men to dominate the story. We really do take "it is not good for man to be alone" very seriously.
But this book breaks all the rules! Ruth and Naomi, two un-escorted woman take command of the story line and the men recede into the background. The three male names in the opening scene are forgotten in the credits. This is not to say that the male characters are not important. They are just not at the forefront of the story.
But God is there. He is there in every scene. He is there when Ruth is in the barley field. He is there when Boaz shows kindness to Ruth. He is there when Ruth responds to this kind with, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you would notice me - foreigner?" He is there when Naomi hatches her plan to get Boaz's attention. He is there in the threshing room floor where Ruth encounters Boaz sleeping. He is there with Boaz as he approaches the town gate. He is there when Boaz announces that Ruth is his wife. He is there when they have Obed. He is there when the women say, "Naomi has a son" (Ruth 4:17). All the small things became bigger than the sum of the parts. Obed is the grandfather of King David and Ruth is his great-grandmother.
God really does take care of everyone. He was very interested in the cry of Naomi's heart.
This female Job ministers right to my heart as well. He moved heaven and earth to let Naomi know that she is not forgotten, not unloved, not meaningless or purposeless. She is loved!
"Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz remind us powerfully that even in a dark era like the days of the judges, God always has his people the Blessed Alliance is still alive and well. He is working in our hearts, summoning us to be strong and courageous like Ruth - to embrace and embody his gospel on our 'bit of earth'" (209).
I pray that this story ministers to you the same way it touches me.