Have you ever been reading in one passage of Scripture only to find another passage or verse resonating through your mind? I have. It happened to me while I was reading through the book of Ruth a few weeks ago. The verse – “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4) – speaks volumes in how to live in relationship with others and Naomi, Ruth and Boaz certainly exemplify it.
So how is this exhortation displayed in their lives? Let’s start with Naomi. Can you imagine the scene as Naomi tries to persuade Orpah and Ruth to return to their families? How long had they been walking along the road when Naomi thought it was best for them to turn around? What could she offer them? She didn’t have sons that could marry them in fulfillment of the law of the Levirate and she never would. Naomi was truly looking out for their best interests. They needed to find rest in the house of a husband and that husband would be found in Moab, right?! Now, I believe that Naomi was, in the deepest place in her heart, looking to the interests of Ruth and Orpah. She wanted the best for them and it was what she thought best. I’m sure that she desired to have them a part of her life. She loved them dearly. She was willing to sacrifice her own desires for what seemed best for them. Yet had she known what was ahead, she may not have tried to persuade them. I believe that she was acting in part from how she viewed her circumstances at that moment and that she believed that turning back was the best for her “daughters.” (Ruth 1:12) While Orpah listened to the voice of her mother-in-law, Ruth did not. God can take our best intentions and overrule them for His purposes! Naomi did have opportunity to find rest for Ruth after all and her desire to do what was best for Ruth was answered in God’s way!
Who could ever forget the words Ruth spoke in her determination to follow Naomi. “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…..” She gladly left the familiar behind for Naomi and to follow Naomi’s God. In her loyalty to Naomi, she looked not only to her own interests but to Naomi’s. When Boaz arrived on the scene, we witnessed a man who quickly put the interests of Ruth and Naomi above his own. He offered Ruth protection in the fields and met her needs as well as Naomi’s for sustenance. He even went above and beyond what the law called for in taking care of the poor by leaving behind bundles for her to gather. And we know that he was not doing this for what he could receive as these were his words to Ruth at the threshing floor: “You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.” Then Boaz willingly (unlike the kinsman nearer) redeemed the lands of Naomi’s husband and sons and married Ruth not for his own benefit but to “perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.”
Naomi, Ruth and Boaz offer us wonderful examples of lives lived looking to the interests of others. I loved seeing Philippians 2:4 threaded through the story of these godly people. But if I stop there, I’m missing something. What about my life? Can it be said of me that I looked not to my own interests but to the interests of others?
The greatest example to us of a life lived looking to the interest of others was that of our Lord Jesus Christ – our Kinsman Redeemer (Philippians 2:5-8). A bit further in the text, Paul writes these words. “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”(2:21). Can it be said of me that I looked not to my own interests but to those of Jesus Christ? What about you?
~~~~~~~ Join us on Monday to study the life of Hannah.