Sunday, March 8th, 2009 - 11:00 am
The picture we get from the book of Judges is that Israel is in deep trouble. There is a general breakdown of moral standards and religious practice throughout the land. Most of the people had left Jehovah and were worshiping other gods instead. At least eight references are made to the Israelites forsaking God in favor of the local Canaanite gods. Even the Levites were engaging in a form of idolatry (see Jdg 17:5 ff). The Israelites were fighting among themselves over territory and booty and power. There are stories in Judges of deception and murder, rape and immorality, human sacrifice and human slaughter. The constant refrain running through Judges is, "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord . . ."
It is in this setting that the story of Ruth unfolds. "In the days when the judges ruled" (Ru 1:1), we find a family moving from Bethlehem to Moab in search of food. The story that follows offers a touching and heartening story of one woman's piety and personal integrity.
That woman is Ruth, a native of Moab and the daughter-in-law of Naomi. Ruth's devotion to Naomi and her sense of honor sets the book of Ruth apart from Judges - in the middle of a pig-sty of immorality we find a pearl of virtue and dignity. The fact that Ruth was a foreigner serves only to highlight a theme which will recur throughout the Bible - rightness before God is not determined by genealogy or nationality but by the quality of an individual's heart. Ruth has so pure a heart and shows herself to be of such integrity, God includes the story of this Moabitess in his Holy Scriptures and involves her in the family tree of both David and the Messiah to come.