Proverbs 31 is often interpreted as the long to-do list of a godly woman: she must rise before dawn and go to bed late, keeping herself interminably busy with the affairs of her family, the needs of her community, and the concerns of her thriving entrepreneurial ventures. But Hebrew scholars have noted that the hymn to the “wife of noble character” was never meant to be read like a job description. Instead, it was a blessing that Hebrew men memorized and sang over their wives.
Ruth is like the woman of noble character described in Proverbs 31. Neither she nor Boaz are the heroes of this story—that role is reserved for God—but her relationship with Naomi does provide an example of what our obedience to God should look like. She is unswervingly loyal to her mother-in-law, for whom she leaves familiarity behind. She obeys her without hesitation, scandalously taking her place on the threshing floor at the feet of Boaz—surely no place for a woman, much less an unmarried one. For Naomi’s sake, Ruth is willing to undertake risk. And isn’t that the nature of faith?
Once again, Ruth was bold. She asked Boaz, Elimelek’s cousin, to perform the duties of levirate marriage, which would require a brother (not a cousin) to marry the widow of his deceased male relative. She also asked him to fulfill the obligation of guardian-redeemer, which would make him responsible to buy any of Elimelek’s land holdings (v. 9).
Notice that by this time, Ruth’s “noble character” was well known throughout the town (v. 11). Though she had followed Naomi’s advice to ensure that she looked and smelled her best (v. 3), Boaz’s attraction to her was fundamentally rooted in the kind of person she had proven herself to be.
Apply the Word
Ruth’s commitment to loving Naomi appeared to cost her everything. Maybe we fail to love well because we are more concerned about protecting our resources of time, privacy, money, and energy. Whom is God calling you to love in this sacrificial way? How can you live out God’s hesed and spend yourself for that person?