Weekly Thought: Encouragement from Every Book Ruth: Remembered in Eternity
It is an unsettling and somewhat disturbing reality to realize that most of us right now will not be remembered by anyone on Earth in a hundred years from now. We will likely all fade away from memories and into the foggy void of history as new generations rise and forget the distant ancestors of the past. Time presses onward and only a select few are remembered for several decades past their own lifetimes. It is no wonder, then, that many want to make a great name for themselves, to be remembered, to extend a legacy, to do something noteworthy and great. None of us want to be forgotten. Yet, God teaches us to not exalt ourselves, and he reminds us that we ought to make his name great.
In the book of Ruth, we see some incredible acts of self-sacrifice and humility. This book of the Bible invites us into the lives of a seemingly obscure and insignificant family. In the time of the judges where almost everyone was corrupted by idolatry and doing what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6), we are provided with a rare story of hope and faithfulness. We are introduced to a young Moabite woman named Ruth, who demonstrates incredible loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi’s husband dies, as well as both of her sons, leaving her as a grieving widow alongside her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. While the sorrowful Naomi insists that they leave her alone and return home in order to remarry and bear children, Ruth decides to stay with Naomi in an amazing affirmation of loyalty and love:
“ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you’” (Ruth 1:16-17).
For Ruth to spurn a chance to return to her homeland, to remarry, and to bear children all for the sake of caring for widowed Naomi is truly stunning. Ruth places the needs of Naomi over her own desires and chooses a life that will surely be more difficult. She shows that she is more concerned about taking care of Naomi than she is about building her own family and making her own name and line great.
In the same book, the writer of Ruth makes us aware of another person characterized by humility and service. Boaz was a successful and upstanding man who takes special notice of Ruth as she goes to glean in his field. He has heard about her plight and her love for Naomi, and he ensures that she is protected and provided for in Ruth 2 and 3. He also agrees to be her kinsman redeemer. This was a practice prescribed by the Old Law in which the closest unmarried relative of a deceased individual would gain the inheritance and land of that person, but he would also be required to marry the wife of the deceased in order to ensure that she was provided for and so that there would be an heir to continue on the name of the one who had died. In the ancient world, this was of huge significance to ensure that the family name, line, and inheritance was carried on. So the firstborn son would not be considered the child of the kinsman redeemer, but he would carry on the name of the man who had passed before being able to have an heir.
In Ruth 4, there is a man who is a closer relative to Ruth’s former husband than Boaz is, so he is the one who ought to take hold of the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer. When this man hears that he might gain land, inheritance, and property, he seems up for the task in Ruth 4:4. Yet, when Boaz informs him that he would also be responsible for marrying Ruth “in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5), he balks. Notice what he says in Ruth 4:6:
“I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
He was worried about his own inheritance and family name being continued and remembered and made great, so much so that he was not willing to perform the duties of the kinsman redeemer. Boaz gladly and selflessly steps up and marries Ruth instead. Ironically, the name of the man who refused is not recorded; he is lost to history and forgotten. The name of Boaz, however, is enshrined in the pages of Scripture thousands of years later. Even more amazing is that it is through the line of Ruth and Boaz that King David comes, as well as the promised Messiah Jesus Christ. These two humble servants of God did not seek recognition or fame in their acts of sacrifice and service, but they are exalted and honored by God because of their faithfulness. Truly, it is those who are humble who become great, just as Jesus taught.
I am reminded of when Mary anointed Jesus with expensive oil and humbly washed his feet not long before he was crucified. Mary was criticized for this act, but Jesus said that “wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13). In other words, this act of submission, sacrifice, and humility would be remembered for generations. She did not seek honor for herself but only desired to honor Jesus. Even so, what she did in that moment will never be forgotten.
Similarly, it is the greatest act of humility that is the most consequential event in history: the incarnation of Jesus and his death on the cross. If we pursue a great name in this life by lifting ourselves up and preserving our own interests, the best we can hope for is a mention or two in some history books. But if we deny ourselves and are faithful to Jesus, we will be
rewarded in eternity by having our names written in the book of life (Revelation 3:5). In the book of Isaiah, God promises that even eunuchs who are faithful to his ways will be remembered and will have a great name:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
Those who have no hope of a continuing family line and have no descendants, even they will have a great name in God’s house and will be remembered by God for eternity. So if we are tempted to think that our little acts of faithfulness are unimportant or if we think that we won’t make an impact on the world by our humility and sacrifice, think again. Be a servant and God will lift you up. Your faithfulness will echo through the ages and will be a monument to God’s glory and grace.