There’s a tiny little book in your Bible, only about 4 pages but those 4 pages tell the powerful story of a woman who impacts the genealogy of Christ. Ruth is her name and Proverbs 31 is her game. As a Moabitess, Ruth came from a distant country, filled with false idols and child sacrifice to their god Chemosh. But through God’s mercy, forgiveness, and transformation, Ruth becomes a woman of immense faith, strength, and devotion to her family and the Lord. She becomes what Proverbs 31 describes as an ishah hayil, a “noble woman.”
Ishah Hayil (woman of noble or virtuous character) is only found in Proverbs 12:4; 31:10, 29 and Ruth 3:11. In Ruth 3:11, the same words, ishah hayil, are used by Boaz to describe Ruth as a “virtuous woman.” Interestingly enough, in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), Ruth is immediately after Proverbs 31 making her the Bible’s real life example of what a “woman of noble character” really looks like.
Ruth’s Character Was Noticed By All
Ruth hadn’t been in town long but her reputation already preceded her. Everyone knew how she had left her own home, was taking care of her mother-in-law, and believed in Yahweh. She had sought refuge under the Lord’s wings and it showed to the whole world! The Proverbs 31 woman seeks after the Lord and walks in His ways all the days of her life, making everyone take notice her character built by the Lord. If a woman is seeking the Lord and living for His glory then everyone who comes in contact with her will notice because the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s heart cannot be hidden. God’s glory will shine through!
Is He shining through you?
Ruth Surpassed Them All
In a culture where sons were highly esteemed and desired, Ruth received the greatest of praise! The women who knew Ruth said she was better than seven sons, SEVEN! They knew Naomi and Boaz were the most blessed people for having Ruth in their lives. She was blessing, beyond blessings! Ruth surpassed all other women because of her faith in the Lord and His transformation of her heart and life which completely reflected the character of Christ!
Ruth Chose a Wise, Godly Man
Ruth didn’t choose Boaz just because he could be her Kinsman Redeemer, there was another man who should have been the first in line for that (Lev. 25;Ruth.3:13). Ruth chose to ask Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer because she and Naomi knew he was a godly man, a man that treated her with respect and kindness. Boaz was even an elder in the city and it was clear he was highly respected by all. The Proverbs 31 woman did the same in marrying a man that treated her respectfully and was respected in the town too. Godly women should be careful about who they choose to marry and choose men who love them and fear God above all.
Ruth Spoke With Wisdom and Kindness
In the first chapter of Ruth, Naomi continually talked about how God’s hand had stricken her, how He dealt bitterly with her. She even changed her name to Mara, meaning “bitterness.” This was a woman who’s soul and personality had changed so much that her old friends didn’t even recognize her. You could even call her a “negative Nelly,” who blamed God for all the bad things in her life. Most people would find it hard to deal kindly with a woman like this, including me, but Ruth always spoke to her with such gentleness, such kindness and respect, as a Proverbs 31 woman does.
This seemed to have a great impact on Naomi because soon after Naomi is praising the Lord and thanking Him for His kindness, it’s like she’s a completely different woman! No doubt, Ruth’s kindness and love had something to do with this change! The words that come from a woman’s mouth can have the power of life or death in a person’s life (Prov.18:21). Do the words you speak offer life, joy, and encouragement to those around you? Or, do they speak negativity, death, and discouragement? To be like Ruth and the Proverbs 31 woman, we must be women whose words are healing, gentle, bringing forth life. Our tongues must be a reflection of Christ’s love to everyone around us. (Prov.10:31; 12:18;15:4)
Ruth Took Care of Her Family
As widows without family to take care of them, Ruth and Naomi were both very poor and needed a way to provide for themselves. Not waiting for others to provide for them, Ruth takes the initiative to take care of her and Naomi. She made a vow to Naomi and she intended on keeping it. With utmost humility, Ruth asks if she can glean from Boaz’s field to get what would have been like the crumbs of the field. She didn’t demand it or act as though she was entitled to these provisions because she was a widow. Ruth gratefully worked to get whatever she could to provide for her and Naomi, just like the Proverbs 31 woman makes sure there are provisions for everyone in her household.
A Proverbs 31 woman works to provide food for her home and she works hard, never leaving an idle moment. She is resourceful, intentional, and productive. She knows the value of time when taking care of a family and she doesn’t waste it, making sure her family doesn’t suffer because of her laziness. Idleness doesn’t produce fruit but physical and spiritual diligence produces the fruits of the Spirit.
Ruth Worked Hard
From sun up to sun down, Ruth was in the field, working tirelessly to gather anything she could for her and Naomi to eat. She didn’t waste time because she lovingly took care of her family, just like the ishah hayil (noble woman) in Proverbs 31. Ruth lived her life serving others which is exactly what a godly woman is supposed to do (Ti.2:3-5). We’re to work hard to serve those around us so they experience the grace and love God shows us every day. Women of godly character make God’s word attractive which means there isn’t much time to waste because too much is at stake. Is being the Proverbs 31 woman tiring sometimes? Yes. Does it make the Gospel more attractive to a lost and dying world? YES! Being tired is worth it if God is glorified through hard work for His glory!
Ruth Was a Woman of Strength
The basic meaning of the word “noble” (hayil) is “strength” and “power” and can be applied to a variety of people, including warriors (powerful), functionaries (able), and landowners (wealthy). This word embodies all the characteristics listed in Proverbs 31:10-31. Ruth embodies all these things as well. She worked in the fields from dusk until dawn, being the sole provider for her family, and made herself very strong! She “dressed herself with strength and made her arms strong” just like the woman in Prov. 31:17! Girl must have been IN SHAPE!
Ruth Feared the Lord and Walked in Faith
But more important than being physically strong, she was spiritually and emotionally strong! Can you imagine the strength, the faith in God, it must have taken to leave her family, her home, giving up the prospect of marrying again and having children, to go to a foreign land, in order to serve your mother-in-law and follow a God who was once your enemy? Ruth did all this without complaint or waiver. When she trusted in Yahweh, she became a woman who was faithful and strong. She sought refuge in the Lord’s arms to give her strength because she knew He was the only way she was going to make it! She trusted Him to provide for her, to give her hope, and to give her joy! She could laugh at the days to come because she feared the Lord God and trusted Him to give her strength! (Prov.31:25)
She didn’t let her past as former enemy of God, her status as a poor, Moabitess widow, imprison her and keep her from doing the work the Lord had called her to do. The Lord was her greatest Redeemer and she lived her life in worship to Him because He had forgotten her past and instead given her a future, one that would impact the world FOREVER! (Matt.1) Ruth feared the Lord completely, believed in God’s grace and forgiveness and followed Him in all ways. She was a Proverbs 31 woman to be praised! (Prov.31:30)
Ruth is an incredible example and encouragement to all Christian women. Not only is she an example of Christ’s redeeming love and power to transform any heart, she’s an example that, through the Lord’s power, any woman can be a Proverbs 31 woman.God can take any woman, no matter her background or her past sins, and use her to for His glory. If we trust the Lord and walk in all His ways then He is faithful to change us to become more like the godly women He designed us to be!