|About the Book|
Carolyn Custis James has incredible things to say about the Book of Ruth. First she starts out by explaining that the hero of the story isnt Boaz, Naomi, or even Ruth. It is hesed- a Hebrew word for the incredible, self sacrificing love God has for his people. James says, Whenever we study Gods Word, our main quest is always to discover what He is telling us about himself. Through the Book of Ruth, she says, God is telling us of his ovewhelming love for women. Not only that, she says, but he is illustrating the crucial role He expects them to play in his kingdom building.She shows how Ruth, through every step in her journey displays incredible resourcefulness, courage, and self sacrifice. She breaks social norms again and again as she challenges those around her (including Boaz) to live up to the spirit of Gods laws. She does this first by requesting more privileges than gleaners usually get (2:6). Then, in a surprising reversal of gender roles, she not only proposes to Boaz in his own house (3:9) but also challenges him to redeem Naomis family name as the legal kinsman-redeemer. She shows the hesed of God. As James says,Ruth showed herself to be anything but a modest, self-effacing foreigner. Rather she emerges as courageous, if not slightly brash. Probably aware of possible rejection and ostracism, she willingly took a sizable risk in order to benefit her mother in law.Fortunately for the story, Boaz steps up- going above and beyond in allowing Ruth privileges in his field, giving her and Naomi more than enough to live on, agreeing to marry Ruth, and also redeeming the land of Naomis dead husband. Although Boaz often takes his cues from Ruth, their combined efforts achieve results that separately were out of reach. Without Boaz, Ruth was a barren widow, forced to live on the charity of society- with Boaz she became much more. And Boaz, already an upstanding member of the Jewish community, with the influence of Ruth became an ancestor of Jesus Christ. This, James says is a wonderful illustration of the Blessed Alliance- men and women standing together to fight the battles God lays out for them.While this book is empowering, it is not all snuggles and warm-fuzzies. In fact, quite the opposite. When Naomi and Ruth set out from Moab, they are both widows without children- Naomi because her husband and both of her sons have died. Ruth is widowed and was barren for all ten years of her marriage. In Naomi and Ruths world, this meant they had no income, no means for support, and no name. James uses this as an opportunity to touch lightly upon her personal struggles with infertility as well as devoting entire chapters to both widowhood and barreness. She speaks candidly of pain, doubt and confusion, noting that the phrase, His ways are not our ways, doesnt satisfy or soothe a wounded heart. Through barreness, widowhood and depression she shows how both women lived with, Gods love and a lot of pain together in the same picture.The book began with the question, Is God good for women? Carolyn Custis James uses the lives of two women- battered by almost everything the world could throw at them to answer with a resounding, yes. She says:His goodness flows steadily to his daughters as we live and breath, endure sorrows and heartaches, fight battles and partner with our brothers, stumble, fall and struggle back to our feet in this broken, messed-up, very real world that he is redeeming. He doesnt coddle us, for he wants us to be strong. He takes us through deep waters so we will learn wisdom and know him for ourselves. Our lives are not perfect. We have empty places in our hears. But we are grounded in the truth that he loves us, and thats what keeps us going. He is changing us. He wants us to change our world.