It seems that at some point in her life every Christian woman has done a study on Ruth. With it being one of only two books in the Bible named for a woman, I don’t know about you, but I feel a sort of duty in a way to study that book. However, maybe I’m in the minority, but Ruth has never been my favorite Bible character. I would always choose to read Esther over Ruth. To me, Esther was the courageous one; she risked her life to save her people. She stood up for them in a way no one else could. Ruth, in my mind, was more of a Cinderella story (and I have never been a huge fan of Cinderella, Belle for the win!). Ruth was the woman who was rescued by the handsome, rich man.
So, when we decided to a study on Ruth, I was pretty skeptical. I kept the skepticism to myself, but I seriously doubted that I would get much from the study. Boy, was I completely wrong!
First off, if you have never heard Bianca Olthoff, she is fantastic (side note: this is not a paid endorsement, I truly feel this way). She is so open and real when she speaks. I think sometimes there’s the perception that female Christian speakers have to keep it together, or, well, fit the world’s version of poise and grace and keeping it together. Bianca Olthoff shows complete poise and grace while also telling it like it is.
One important element is how Bianca Olthoff sets the stage. For example, in talking about Moab, Ruth’s hometown, she discusses the history behind its formation, specifically just how bad it was for any Israelite to be there. Without background like that, we really would have no understanding of what it meant for Ruth to come from there. We would not understand just how amazing it was for God to use someone from a place thought to be so horrible and terrible. It proves that God can truly use anyone to fulfill His purpose.
Second, her description of characters is awesome. From Naomi being the epitome of drama queen to Boaz running onto the scene “like David Hasselhoff in Baywatch,” her explanation of characters’ thoughts and feelings, is so entertaining, yet so understandable. She talks about Naomi and how, upon returning to Bethlehem, she wants to be called Mara, meaning ‘bitter’. She goes into how we all have times in our lives when we are bitter about the circumstances and shows how Naomi is not so different than us.
Third, Bianca made Ruth become someone to actually aspire to. She mentions that the story is written as a fairytale, so it’s part of the reason why I equated it to Cinderella. But she delves into certain aspects of the story that helped me see that Ruth isn’t just a damsel in distress. I noticed that while Ruth didn’t risk losing her life, she did lose the life she had, the life she was used to. She gave it up to be there for her mother-in-law, the woman she came to care for as her own mother. Sometimes giving up everything you know for a new life can be far scarier than the risk of actually losing your life. The other aspect I noticed was Ruth’s intentions. Yes, Ruth ended up approaching Boaz on the threshing floor. However, when she first got to Bethlehem, she had no intention of finding a man. She was just trying to find food for herself and Naomi. Boaz was the one who first noticed her when she came to glean in his field, who asked about her and first approached her. Additionally, as Bianca notes, when he first approached her, she wasn’t looking like a gorgeous beauty queen; she had been working in the fields and was in the middle of some hard labor. But when he approached her, he treated her with respect because he respected her character. Even at the threshing floor, when he could have taken advantage of her, he respected her reputation. It’s a good reminder that we should focus on doing what God is calling us to do and focus on being women of good character and He will work out a relationship if it’s in His will.
Finally, Bianca compares Boaz’s desire to provide and protect to Jesus. Boaz did not know who Ruth was, but he approached her showing concern and care, wanting to keep her safe and make sure she got what she needed to eat. Ruth did not comprehend why because she was a Moabite, someone looked upon with scorn by the Hebrew people. Yet, Boaz still showed her kindness. Every single one of us is Ruth. We are far from perfect and should be viewed with scorn by a holy God. Yet, He doesn’t reject us for our imperfections, but approaches us with kindness, giving us provision and protection. In this, Bianca made Ruth so relatable to me. How many times has God approached me when I have been at my most unlovable? Yet, He does so time and time again.
God definitely used Bianca Olthoff to give me a whole new perspective on one of the most well-known female biblical characters. You can read a passage, or in this case an entire book, over and over and have it not mean anything until the right moment. There’s a reason God didn’t allow the story of Ruth to really sink in until after I completed Bianca Olthoff’s study, and I can’t wait to see why it took until now for it to hit home.
While you may have immediately seen Ruth for the fantastic example she is right away, maybe some of you haven’t? Either way, getting a new perspective on the Bible is great for either helping to reaffirm your thoughts or provide you with some new ideas (as Bianca Olthoff did for me). So, in this season of pumpkin spice lattes, chunky sweaters, and the endeavor to be a successful participant in ‘cuffing’ season, may I recommend taking a look at the Book of Ruth and who the main character truly is. Don’t focus on fitting into the aesthetic of the season, but striving to follow God’s will, not on finding a man to get through the cold winter, but on serving God and letting Him bring the right man in the right time.