Ruth: Overcoming Others’ Expectations

Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple during their women’s ministry event. We unpacked the topic of expectations, dealing with our own and the ones that other people place on us. Whew, letting go of unhealthy expectations and learning to embrace God’s is so refreshing and liberating!

One of the Bible characters we examined was a woman named Ruth in the Old Testament. She was able to overcome the negativity surrounding her heritage and bloom into the woman God designed for her to be.

Ruth’s Backstory

Ruth was a Moabitess woman, and the Moabites did not have a G-rated history. In fact, there were some good reasons the descendants of Abraham viewed the people of Moab with scorn. You see, Moab was the incestuous son of Lot by one of his daughters. It probably didn’t help that at one point, the king of Moab also tried to pay a soothsayer named Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22). However, God prevented Balaam from pronouncing a curse and instead gave him words of blessing for the Israelites. Still, these people clearly had grounds to resent and disdain the Moabites.

So you can only imagine how they must have viewed Ruth the Moabitess when she came with her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem. Despite the odds stacked against her, Ruth was able to break free from the expectations of other people.

Naomi’s Expectation: Go home to the people of Moab and remarry. That’s where you belong.

Naomi’s husband Elimelech had moved his family into Moab because of a famine in the land of Judah. Moab may have seemed like a land of plenty at the time, but Elimelech and his two sons died there (cause of death unspecified). As a result, his widow Naomi and her two Moabitess daughters-in-law are left alone.

Naomi expects both women to return to their fathers’ houses until they remarry, but Ruth does something unexpected. She clings to her mother-in-law, vowing that Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God, her God (Ruth 1:16-17). Although her sister-in-law Orpah returns home, Ruth stays with Naomi and travels with her to Bethlehem.

The Jews’ Expectation: Your past defines who you are.

Ruth had to be a patient woman. Even I get tired of reading the number of times she is called “the Moabitess” in the short four-chapter book that bears her name.

When the people of Bethlehem asked about her, the response left no doubt of her history.

  • 5 times she’s referred to as a Moabitess
  • 1 time she’s called a Moabitish damsel
  • The country of Moab is mentioned 11 times in the book

As I read Ruth’s story, I can almost hear the emphasis on the word Moab. It’s as if the gossips of Bethlehem were telling her, “We know your past, and it will define your future.”

Human Nature’s Expectation: Treat people the way you’ve been treated.

If you’re a Disney fan, you’re probably excited about the trend to create live action versions of our favorite childhood animated movies. One of mine is the live action Cinderella, and I particularly enjoy its theme of kindness – even to those who are unkind. When the prince finally rescues Cinderella from her attic prison, she turns and tells her cruel stepmother, “I forgive you.”

This intentional forgiveness flies in the face of human nature, which would have us treat others the way they treat us. But Cinderella doesn’t do what comes naturally, because she doesn’t dwell on the past or treat her stepmother the way she was treated. Instead, she forgives and moves on.

I think Ruth may be something of an Old Testament Cinderella. She doesn’t focus on the stigma of her heritage or treat others with the disdain they may have shown her. Her ambition is to care for her grieving mother-in-law, so she works hard. She gleans the leftovers in a near kinsman’s field from dawn until sundown.

And her reputation is acknowledged by Boaz, the man who ultimately redeems and (spoiler) marries her.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11, NKJV).

Ruth even receives recognition from the gossips of Bethlehem, the same women who likely whispered “Moabitess” until it seemed like a stigma that would forever define her. When Ruth and Boaz have a son, they tell Naomi, “…for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:15b, NKJV).

God’s Expectation: You belong to me, and I have good plans for you.

Ruth had the courage to break through the expectations that seemed to bind her to the cursed country of Moab, and as a result, she became the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17-22).

Don’t ever believe the world’s lie that your past defines you, that you’ll never “belong” or “fit in.” If you’re God’s child, you’re an heir of promise (Ephesians 3:6).

Heir of promise. That’s God’s expectation that I want to define me. How about you?

~ Kristen

 

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Ruth: Overcoming Others’ Expectations – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

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