It's Rarely Romantic at the Time

If you’re a romantic (and I think you should be) you love the book of Ruth.

This short story almost seems like it was made for film. It has all the components of a great romance: tragedy, loyalty, courage, virtuous love, unlikely lovers, a great obstacle, the triumphant moment, the happy ending, and the hand of Providence guiding it all. It’s a feel-good read.

But I don’t think Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz experienced it as romantic until they saw it all in retrospect.

Just think of chapter one. Naomi thinks her life is over. At this point she’s more “Ecclesiastes” than “Ruth.” With her husband and two sons dead, she has nothing. God appears to have turned on her. All she has to look forward to is destitution.

Ruth’s future doesn’t hold out much promise either. She’s a young childless widow. She has a fierce loyalty to her mother-in-law, but we don’t know why. Maybe she discerned in Yahweh a reality she couldn’t leave, though Naomi’s interpretation of God’s disposition toward them was not very optimistic. Or maybe Ruth’s family of origin was so painful that a life of poverty with Naomi in a foreign land was the much better option.

And what about Boaz? Polygamy was acceptable back then, but nothing is said of other wives, living or dead. He seems to be at least middle-aged (Ruth 4:10) and single. If that’s true, surely there are heartbreaks in his past; perhaps someone he once hoped for who is now another man’s wife. 

And there they are, ordinary people of sorrows and acquainted with grief, just trying to hold it together in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest, completely unaware that God has assigned them roles in his Great Romance that people around the world would still be marveling at 3,000 years later.

So where are you in the real, living story God is telling? God is the great Romantic and all his children have roles that are far more significant than most of them know. But they are rarely romantic to experience at any given time.

Take a lesson from Naomi and don’t assume too much too early. Even if death is near. God is always up to more than you think and foresee. Remember, Boaz and Ruth both died before ever knowing that their child would grandfather Israel’s greatest king.