Ruth is a great book for teenagers. So many of them can relate to a person who has had so many difficulties. We began the study of the book of Ruth by writing on the white board all of the characters from chapter 1 – Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Ruth, Chilion, and Orpah. We had a good time looking at the meaning of the names of the characters and discussing the trials that Naomi, Ruth and Orpah faced.
Names of the characters in Ruth and their meanings:
Elimelech- My God is king
Mahlon – Sickly
Chilion – Wasting Away
By understanding what Ruth and Naomi faced, we can better understand the deep message of redemption and triumph through trials that Ruth teaches us. After outlining chapter 1, I asked students to write down a difficult challenge that they have overcome. The trials the youth are facing today are incredible. Reading some of their responses in class brought a powerful spirit in the room that prepared the students minds for the message in Ruth chapters 2-4.
Ruth, having moved to a far off country, gleans the fields day by day to provide for herself and Naomi. She begins in the time of the barley harvest (Ruth 1:22) which started in April and she continued on through the wheat harvest (Ruth 2:23) which takes place in the Fall. This gives us some context as to the time with which Ruth serves Naomi and gleans in the fields of Boaz.
Boaz is a great symbol for the Savior. He has a conversation with Ruth in chapter 2 that shows his care and concern for her situation. From the text we read:
And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to aglean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here bfast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take aknowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full areward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose bwings thou art come to trust. (Ruth 2:7-12)
Boaz is much like the Savior, indeed he is an excellent type much as Ruth is a type of us going through our journey in mortality. There Boaz is in the distance, aware of Ruth’s situation, allowing Ruth to exercise her agency to bring about good in her life and the lives of those she loves. Boaz is there to lend help and encouragement, indeed he will “purchase” Ruth and provide her with an inheritance.
We spent our time examining Ruth’s desire to bring about good in her life. Even though she had great trials, the Lord was with her and gave her strength. It was through her trials and efforts that her character was manifest to Boaz and herself.
I read a quote once that embodied the spirit of the book of Ruth. It suggests the idea that even in our greatest trials we are experiencing a bit of heaven. C.S. Lewis has described this truth as follows:
Heaven works backwards
“Ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective… all this earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved… All their life on earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me but have this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly… Ah, the Saved… what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery, turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce [New York: Macmillan, 1977], 67-68 as found in Wilcox, Michael, Hope: An Anchor To The Soul [Deseret Book, 1999], 60-61).
One student shared how her experience on trek was like C.S. Lewis’ description of heaven working backwards. She said, “For me trek was like that. I had a hard time doing the things they had us do, but in looking back I can honestly say I was in heaven at that time.”
It is important to look at the end of the story. From the marriage that results between Ruth and Boaz, Ruth is redeemed from her poverty and is able to better provide for Naomi. She has a son, and through this child comes the father of David, King of Israel. It is through her line that the Savior of the world is born. Ruth is a marvelous example of how “God is amindful of every bpeople, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.” (Alma 26:37)