Choose a Wife for the War of Life, is the title of a message I did last year from Proverbs 31:10-31. The wife of noble character, the wife who was valiant and strong, who demonstrated the kinds of characteristics you would normally think to find in a war hero, is the kind of wife the wise man in Proverbs is exhorted to find—a woman who embodied the wisdom of the book of Proverbs! Ruth was such a woman (Ruth 3:11).
What made Ruth that kind of woman? Ruth trusted God through bitter times. Ruth's faith runs contrary to what we might expect because she was a Moabite.
The story begins with Naomi, whose name means pleasant, her husband and two sons, leaving the promise land to go to Moab because of a famine. After ten years in Moab, her husband and two sons die, but only after the sons had married two Moabite women. Naomi hears that the economy is better back in the land of Israel so she heads back encouraging her two daughter-in-laws to return to their families. She explains,
11Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—13would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me! (Ruth 1:11-13)
In other words, this isn't going to be the easy route. There is a lot more promise in Moab for you than back in Israel. Here is the first place we see Ruth's trust in God, even through bitter times. Ruth was evidently not fixing her eyes on the circumstances, but on better and lasting possessions.1
16But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth could not be persuaded. Hardship may lay ahead, but she was in for the long haul. Ruth's trust in God's sovereign care even in bitter times is demonstrated by her unflinching commitment to stay by Naomi and to stay committed to the God of Naomi. Her fear of the Lord made her as the noble woman of Proverbs who could laugh at days to come (Prov. 31:25,30).
Second, Ruth was a noble woman, a woman who embodied the wisdom of the book of Proverbs, because she had an active faith. A trust in God that did what He said rather than a pseudo-trust in God that sat around waiting for God to do something to feed her. Ruth did exactly what God had prescribed for those who were hungry (Deuteronomy 24:19-21). Ruth was an alien and Naomi a widow. In fact, it is interesting to note that Naomi didn't actually go with Ruth but sat at home in her “depression” (to use a modern term).
2And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." 3So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. … 5Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?" 6The foreman replied, "She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.' She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter." (Ruth 2:2-7)
Ruth was not afraid of work and she didn't hesitate to go do what was needed. God providentially guided her to the field of Boaz as she trusted Him enough to obey Him.
While Ruth's trust in God resulted in actively obeying his direction for her life, the third thing we see about her trust was that she patiently waited on God's provision. This is reflected in her willingness to take direction from her mother-in-law. It is made most clear, though, in what Boaz says to her.
10"The LORD bless you, my daughter," he replied. "This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. (Ruth 3:10-11)
At the beginning of this story, she didn't pursue the easier path, but the path of faith. In the middle, she worked hard trusting in God's means of provision, and then she continued to live in faith not pursuing merely her desires but waiting on God's provision, God's way. When we get to the end of the story we find that she is richly rewarded. In fact, she becomes as the mother of Israel in a manner of speaking (Ruth 4:11, 17).
Because of her trust in God through bitter times Ruth is the woman of noble, valiant and strong, character. Ruth's trust didn't accomplish all this; Ruth's God accomplished all this. She was noble or valiant because the object of her faith was Rock Solid! Ruth was for Boaz a wife for the war of life; she is an example for women to follow.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1Ref. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 and Hebrews 10:34. I use this language because it seems that Ruth fits the description we see of faith we see in Hebrews 11:16, 25-26 and that chapter generally.