Whenever I consider the book of Ruth, I am always reminded of my grandmother, “Baba,” who helped raise me from the time I was born until she went home to be with the Lord when I was 14 years old.
The first reason the book of Ruth reminds me of Baba is that she donated to her Russian Orthodox church in New York City a large oil painting of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:2-9), which occupied a prominent place on a side wall in the main sanctuary. This was no small accomplishment and sacrifice considering her very modest means!
But more importantly, Ruth’s character and life have many parallels to that of my grandmother. Ruth left her home country to follow her mother-in-law to a new land and a new life. She left behind her family, customs, and pagan gods for a new country that worshipped the true God, Jehovah (Ruth 1:6-19).
At 16 years of age, my grandmother left her small village outside the city of Kiev, Ukraine, to follow her husband to a new world in Nova Scotia, Canada, with an entirely different society, form of government, climate and customs. The Ukraine was known as the bread basket of Russia because of its abundance of wheat fields, and farming these fields was the main occupation of her village. So it is not a stretch to imagine Baba as a young girl, gleaning wheat from the fields much as Ruth later was allowed to glean in the fields of Boaz!
In contrast, Nova Scotia was a harsh, unforgiving land, with bitterly cold winters leading to frequent illness, including pneumonia that claimed the lives of Baba’s nine children, leaving only my mother who survived past infancy. Baba’s husband Ivan, who worked as a mining engineer, was at risk for mining accidents and other occupational hazards that had led to the death of several of his coworkers.
One evening, Baba’s joy and relief to see Ivan return safely home from work quickly abated as he told her of an unusual experience he had while in the mine.
“I’ve seen Jesus, and I’ll be going home soon to be with Him,” he said.
Two weeks later, at the age of 35, Baba's husband collapsed and died, apparently from a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Ruth met her husband in her home country of Moab (Ruth 1:1-4), a pagan nation that worshipped Chemosh, also known as the fish-god, god of stone, or god of Baal. Chemosh may have been the same false god as Molech, whom the Ammonites worshipped with infant sacrifices (1 Kings 11:7,33; 2 Kings 3:27).
Ruth’s husband, his brother, and his parents had come to Moab from the Hebrew nation of Bethlehemjudah, which had been struck by a famine (Ruth 1:1:2). Rather than trusting God to provide for them at home, they ventured to where the grass seemed greener, even though it could not have been God’s will for them to assimilate into such an evil culture (Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 9:2; 2 Corinthians 6:17).
Soon tragedy overcame them, as Ruth’s husband, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law died in Moab (Ruth 1:3-5), yet God had a plan that would work all things together for good (Romans 8:28), as we shall see in later posts. Only Naomi, her mother-in-law, and Orpah, her sister-in-law, remained of her new family.
After Ruth and Orpah were widowed, Naomi encouraged them to return to their family and old way of life, and Orpah eventually agreed. But Ruth dearly loved her mother-in-law, and she loved their true Jehovah God even more (Ruth 1:6-15).
Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Ruth vowed never to depart from Naomi nor from her faith, and she followed Naomi back to her home town of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:17-19), which (like the Ukraine!) means “bread basket.” Bethlehem, in God’s chosen nation of Israel was the birthplace of Jesus, Who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48. 51), so the name is fitting.
Like Ruth, Baba was then faced with an important decision – go home to the Ukraine and her old way of life, or remain in the new world that seemed to have treated her so cruelly. She and my mother chose the latter, although they moved from Nova Scotia to Manhattan’s lower East Side, which had a growing Russian and Ukrainian community.
Praise the Lord that we are not chained to the evil ways or false beliefs of the society in which we were raised! God offers each of us a choice to be made of our own free will – to accept His Son Jesus Christ and His freely given gift of salvation (Romans 6:23), or to reject Him and be condemned to eternal separation from Him and everlasting punishment in hell (John 3:18; Mark 9:43-49). We cannot be saved simply because we were born into a Godly home, nor can we be judged for the sins of our fathers (Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6).
Once we become God’s children by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can have faith that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), that He will always provide for us (Psalm 37:25), and that He will answer our prayers exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ever imagine or think (Ephesians 3:20). Both Baba and Ruth are a testimony to this, as we shall explore next time!
© 2018 Laurie Collett