Her life had once seemed so promising, and now her whole world was shattered, and seemingly beyond repair. It was bad enough that she was barren; 10 years without a child had left her no doubt of that. But now she was also a young widow. She stood staring at the mound of dirt that marked her husband’s grave, and realized that life would never be the same again.
That was not the entire accounting of the tragedy, either. Her husband’s brother and father had also died. All that was left of the family now was her mother in law and sister in law. But, if they stuck together, they would at least have each other.
Alas, that also was not to be. Her sister in law decided that enough was enough, and she said her goodbyes and walked away, never to be heard from again.
Would the heartache never end?
Her mother in law decided to leave as well. But the young woman had grown so very attached to her, that she refused to part from her. She told her mother in law, who was leaving the country to go back to her own country, that she was coming with her. Her mother in law, though, knew what was in store for the young woman if she came with her. She informed her there were no other living relatives that could marry her, none coming up, and that no one else would want anything to do with her because of where she came from.
Imagine the anguish of hearing words like that.
But the young woman, despite loss, despite tragedy, despite no perceptible hope for the future, determined to do what she knew to be right. Her mother in law’s God had become her God, and she would follow her to his land, and live with his people, even if it meant being a barren widow forever and dying with no one around her to care.
When she arrived in her new homeland, more hardships were instantly piled on her. Her mother in law was bankrupt, or “empty,” as she put it, and yet somehow the bills had to be paid and food had to be put on the table.
And so the young, broken, woman went out to find work. She ended up on a farm, working in the field with a bunch of other people she did not even know. I rather suspect that, being who she was, and because of where she came from, she endured taunts and jeers from at least some of the people around her.
But the foreman could not help but notice how hard she worked in spite of everything. And when the owner of the farm showed up later in the day, he noticed the young woman and asked the foreman about her, and who she was. The foreman answered, “It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab.”
Her name was Ruth. And while she was carrying the weight of her broken world on her shoulders, she was also carrying the load in the field like a champ. The foreman told the boss, Boaz, that she had been working from morning until now.
That began one of the most beautiful, and yet most unorthodox love stories of all time. It ended with her proposing to him, him saying yes, and then him saying “howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.” In other words, there was someone else that she did not even know, and that unknown other someone had the right to marry her if he chose to do so. Ruth had to be floored, wondering if the “other guy” was old or young, rich or poor, handsome or ugly, but most of all godly or ungodly.
Boaz, though, played the cards he was given like a pro. And at the end of the next day the “other guy” was out of the picture, and Ruth had become Mrs. Boaz.
End of the story? No, it gets even better. It turns out this young woman was not barren after all. She and Boaz had a son. But that is still not the end of the story. Her son had a son, and that grandson had a son, and that son was named David, who became the greatest king in Israeli history.
But that is still not the end of the story. Twenty-eight generations later, in that exact same town where Ruth and Boaz met and married, another baby was born to their line, a baby named Jesus. The woman whose whole world was shattered, seemingly beyond repair, saw her life and her line brought to heights of glory no one could have ever imagined in their wildest dreams.
As you celebrate the birth of Ruth’s great x28 grandson this year, remember that he is the one who can turn the most broken of lives into the most beautiful of lives.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Bo Wagner Columnist