Make Jehovah’s Purpose Your Way of Life
1. (a) What attitude of mind and heart afflicts mankind today? (b) What challenge that faced both Ruth and Naomi provides us with a lesson in zeal and devotion?
“FAITH is not a possession of all people.” So said the apostle Paul. (2 Thess. 3:2) Outstanding among the many reasons why this is so is the spirit of self-determination that has become so strong in our own twentieth century. This desire for self-gratification has become a religion, with love of the Creator crowded into a corner and indifference toward his purpose completely subverting the heart and mind. How refreshing it must be to Jehovah, and what an example it is to us, to observe those who have unselfishly accepted the challenge of Jehovah’s service and made his purpose their way of life. One outstanding example is that of Ruth in ancient times who left behind her own people and her home in Moab and accompanied her widowed mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem. A widow also, she could well have interested herself in finding a husband in Moab and settling down in familiar surroundings to raise a family. But Ruth’s love for Naomi and for the worship of Jehovah prompted her to forsake all and accompany Naomi back to Israel. In this unfamiliar setting the unselfishness of her love was tested to the limit, but her sincere desire to make Jehovah’s purpose her way of life sustained her and moved her to face this challenge without a moment’s hesitation. The outcome to Ruth and Naomi, as well as the events themselves leading up to it, provide us with an inspiring lesson in zeal and devotion.
2, 3. What does the return of Naomi to her homeland with Ruth refer to in modern times?
2 It is the time of the barley harvest, which would mean it is after the Passover celebration. It is springtime, the winter rains are over, and now there is something to harvest in Bethlehem-Judah. It is again the place of bread after ten long years of famine. Those years Naomi had spent in Moab, where she had lost her husband Elimelech and her two sons, one of them being Mahlon, Ruth’s husband. Now Naomi is home again, with Ruth, having divine favor. They are gathered back to her homeland; they are back at Naomi’s hereditary possession. (Ruth 1:22) What does this refer to in modern times? In the historical antitype of today this would call attention to Jesus’ words regarding the regathering of all the chosen ones, the remnant of his anointed disciples, by the angels. When? After Babylon the Great (the world empire of false religion) had fallen before the antitypical Cyrus the Great. Then it was time for fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy regarding the end of the system of things to take place.—Matt. 24:29-31.
3 Isaiah 12:1, 2 speaks of the joy at that time of gathering the remnant out of Babylon the Great. “And in that day you will be sure to say: ‘I shall thank you, O Jehovah, for although you got incensed at me, your anger gradually turned back, and you proceeded to comfort me. Look! God is my salvation. I shall trust and be in no dread; for Jah Jehovah is my strength and my might, and he came to be the salvation of me.’” These words are echoed by the Naomi remnant, beginning in 1919 with a restoring of them to divine favor and a reestablishing of them in God’s service according to his purpose for them.
ZEAL IN THE HARVEST PROVES FRUITFUL
4. According to what provision in Israel does Ruth seek to contribute toward Naomi’s support, and how is her labor of love rewarded?
4 Now, in the dramatic type, the barley harvest was in progress. Ruth was living with her mother-in-law, but she did not want to be a burden upon her. She wanted to contribute to Naomi’s support. So, with Naomi’s consent, she took advantage of Israel’s law on harvesting (Lev. 19:9, 10) and “she went off and entered and began to glean in the field behind the harvesters. Thus by chance she lighted on the tract of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.” (Ruth 2:1-3) Boaz was a true worshiper of Jehovah and he respected Jehovah’s law. (Ruth 2:4-7) When he learns of Ruth’s identity he makes arrangements for Ruth to continue working in his fields, both through the barley harvest and also the wheat harvest that would follow and run down through the feast of Pentecost in the month of May. In doing so he tells Ruth: “The report was fully made to me of all that you have done to your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, and how you proceeded to leave your father and your mother and the land of your relatives and to go to a people whom you had not known formerly. May Jehovah reward the way you act, and may there come to be a perfect wage for you from Jehovah the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:8-13) When he favors Ruth with this arrangement, he has in mind her mother-in-law, the aged Naomi, to benefit her also.
5, 6. What is pictured by Ruth’s joining herself to Naomi in harvest activity.
5 The dramatic events of the day that fulfill this are in line with what Jesus said: “The field is the world . . . The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels.” (Matt. 13:38, 39) The membership of the bride of Christ was not yet complete by the year 1919. More had to be gathered in and, just as Ruth joined herself to Naomi and worked diligently with her in harvest activity, loyally even to death, so a newer addition to the remnant class began to appear from 1919 onward. This additional class was pictured by Ruth.
6 In that year, on Saturday afternoon, September 6, 1919, a mass baptism was conducted in Lake Erie, at the time of the Cedar Point, Ohio, general convention, and there were more than 200 that were baptized. These were an addition to the old original Naomi remnant of the bride of Christ. Among those looking on were the Society’s officers who had been released from the Atlanta federal prison on Tuesday, March 25, of that year. They were now enjoying new freedom and still working in behalf of the Kingdom interests of Jehovah God’s theocratic government. Three years later, in 1922, another general assembly was held in Cedar Point, Ohio. On Saturday, September 9, 1922, 361 were baptized. The Ruth class continued to be added to as time went on. Now, like Ruth the Moabitess, the modern Ruth class determined to work zealously together with the Naomi class to the end of God’s harvest in the earth, both the barley harvest and the wheat harvest, as the prophetic drama pictures. And just as with Ruth, whom Boaz pronounced an excellent woman, so with this new addition to the remnant. It proved to be an antitypical excellent woman of exclusive devotion to Jehovah God.
NAOMI’S HOPE TESTS RUTH’S DEVOTION
7. (a) How only can Naomi keep her hereditary possession in Elimelech’s name and also make a contribution to the royal line leading to the promised Shiloh? (b) How does this provide a challenge to Ruth?
7 Now, as a result of Ruth’s industriousness and the generosity of Boaz, Naomi and Ruth have food. Still, Naomi is an aged widow beyond the age of bearing children and she has this hereditary possession that was her husband Elimelech’s. She is helpless now without Ruth’s acting as an agent or substitute for her. Naomi sees the way out. She decides to sell this possession, having in mind particularly the benefits to Ruth, whom she must use in this transaction. Furthermore, as widows, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth could not make any contribution to the royal line in the tribe of Judah leading to the promised Shiloh. Naomi must have a child; she must have an adopted child, a child by Ruth in the tribe of Judah, because that hereditary possession could not be moved out of the tribe of Judah. Ruth therefore has to marry a man in the tribe of Judah and keep the property there. But first, Ruth must accept this way of life for her, renouncing any desire she might have for a younger man than the aged Boaz. How will she react to the proposal?
8. How does Naomi propose to Ruth that this solution to their problem be put into effect, and how does Ruth respond?
8 Naomi puts the challenge to her quite plainly. She says to her: “My daughter, ought I not to look for a resting-place for you, that it may go well with you? And now, is not Boaz, with whose young women you have continued, our kinsman? Look! He is winnowing barley at the threshing floor tonight. And you must wash and rub yourself with oil and put your mantles upon you and go down to the threshing floor. Do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. And it should occur that when he lies down, you must also take note of the place where he lies down; and you must come and uncover him at his feet and lie down; and he, for his part, will tell you what you ought to do.” How did Ruth respond? “At that she said to her: ‘All that you say to me I shall do.’ And she proceeded to go down to the threshing floor and to do according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her.”—Ruth 3:1-6.
9. How is Naomi like Paul in taking this course?
9 Naomi is like the apostle Paul. In his relationship to the church or congregation, Paul says: “I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) Likewise, Naomi arranges for the marriage of Ruth to the right man. So Ruth goes out into the field and lies down at the feet of Boaz. When he wakes up in the middle of the night she proposes that he take her as wife in order to raise up a seed to the dead man Elimelech.—Ruth 3:7-9.
ANOTHER “GOʼELʹ” INTERPOSES
10. Why was this not immoral action on the part of Naomi and Ruth, and how did Boaz view Ruth’s proposal of levirate marriage?
10 This was not immoral action on the part of Naomi and Ruth. It simply manifested confidence in the honor of the one in the position of a repurchaser, a goʼelʹ. That Boaz did not misunderstand her motive or misinterpret her proposal of levirate marriage as an unvirtuous overture is evident from his reply. “At that [Boaz] said: ‘Blessed may you be of Jehovah, my daughter. You have expressed your loving-kindness better in the last instance than in the first instance, in not going after the young fellows whether lowly or rich. And now, my daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say I shall do for you, for everyone in the gate of my people is aware that you are an excellent woman. And now while it is a fact that I am a repurchaser, there is also a repurchaser closer related than I am. Lodge here tonight, and it must occur in the morning that if he will repurchase you, fine! Let him do the repurchasing. But if he does not take delight in repurchasing you, I will then repurchase you, I myself, as sure as Jehovah lives.”’—Ruth 3:10-13.
11. (a) Why did Boaz not immediately accept Ruth’s proposal and act toward her as a repurchaser? (b) How does this apply in the antitype?
11 Boaz is an honorable man, a man of great self-control, and he reminds Ruth that there is a man in the family relationship that is closer to Naomi than he is. He himself is the nephew of Naomi, whereas this closer relative is a brother-in-law of Naomi. He is the one who should have the first opportunity to buy this hereditary possession of Naomi, to act as the repurchaser, the goʼelʹ. This does not mean that Boaz is not willing, after being an old bachelor for so long without family responsibilities, to do his duty, even if it means becoming father of a family. He is willing to make his contribution to the royal line leading up to the promised Shiloh of the tribe of Judah, to which Boaz belongs. This applies in the antitype to the Lord Jesus Christ as the heavenly goʼelʹ, Repurchaser or Redeemer. But first of all he leaves the Naomi class and the Ruth class exposed to whoever is pictured by “So-and-so,” the brother-in-law of Naomi. This brings about a test of the Naomi and Ruth divisions of the remnant of today. Who wins? Who fails? The account tells us.
12. How do Ruth and Naomi react to the position Boaz has taken?
12 Ruth goes her way to her mother-in-law before the first rays of the morning sun light upon the city. She is joyful as she carries wrapped in her cloak six measures of barley that Boaz has given her as a token of his promise. She is greeted by the aged Naomi with the words: “Who are you, my daughter?” Recognizing the import of Naomi’s expression, she points out that she is not yet the wife of Boaz, but relates everything that occurred and that Boaz told her. Naomi then says: “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out, for the man will have no rest unless he has brought the matter to an end today.” Ruth waits expectantly, with a bright hope for the future; Naomi waits with the hope of fulfillment of a lifelong desire.—Ruth 3:14-18.
THE REPURCHASER FACES A CHALLENGE
13. What action did Boaz take to bring the matter to an end?
13 Now the climax of events on this significant day rapidly begins to unfold. “As for Boaz, he went up to the gate and began to sit there. And, look! the repurchaser was passing by, whom Boaz had mentioned. Then he said: ‘Do turn aside, do sit down here, So-and-so.’ Hence he turned aside and sat down. . . . He now said to the repurchaser: ‘The tract of the field that belonged to our brother Elimelech, Naomi, who has returned from the field of Moab, must sell. As for me, I thought that I should disclose it to you, saying, “Buy it in front of the inhabitants and the older men of my people. If you will repurchase it, repurchase it; but if you will not repurchase it, do tell me, that I may know, for there is no one else but you to do the repurchasing, and I am next to you.”’ At that he said: ‘I shall be the one to repurchase it.”’—Ruth 4:1-4.
14. How did “So-and-so” respond to the challenge of becoming the repurchaser?
14 Ah, yes, “So-and-so” is willing to buy the property; that will increase his own proprietary holdings in Bethlehem. And as for this old woman, Naomi, she has lost her power of reproduction, so there is no fear of having a child by her to whom the property will pass on; so he will have the whole property of Naomi to himself, in addition to what he already has. “Then Boaz said: ‘On the day that you buy the field from Naomi’s hand, it is also from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead man, that you must buy it so as to cause the name of the dead man to rise upon his inheritance.”’ Ah, now that is a different matter. It is too much responsibility; it might complicate matters. Faced with this unexpected challenge, the repurchaser replies to Boaz: “I am unable to repurchase it for myself, for fear I may ruin my own inheritance. You repurchase it for yourself with my right of repurchase, because I am not able to do the repurchasing.” So he takes off a sandal and hands it over to Boaz as an attestation of the agreement.—Ruth 4:5-8.
15. What course did Boaz follow?
15 “So-and-so” has failed to meet the challenge. But not Boaz. He accepts the arrangement; he is happy to do so. And he says to the closer relative and all the people: “You are witnesses today that I do buy all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon from the hand of Naomi. And also Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I do buy for myself as a wife to cause the name of the dead man to rise upon his inheritance and that the name of the dead man may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.” Thus Boaz fulfills Jehovah’s purpose regarding responsibility toward a brother, whereas “So-and-so” is disgraced in the eyes of all the people in the gate.—Ruth 4:9-12.
16. Whom does “So-and-so” represent in modern times?
16 But, whom does “So-and-so” represent in modern times? And how does this challenge affect us, some thirty centuries later? Since “So-and-so” stood in the way of Boaz for a while, he represents a class here on earth who stand in the way of Jesus Christ the bridegroom to whom both those of the Naomi class and those of the Ruth class are betrothed spiritually. This “So-and-so,” who was the brother-in-law to Elimelech and who could have taken the place of Elimelech and could have raised up a seed, pictures one who fails of his duty, a mere pretender Christ, a false prophet, of whom the Lord Jesus Christ warned his followers saying: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise [in the time of the end] and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones,” that is, the Naomi class and the Ruth class. (Matt. 24:24) So it is with this false Christ class of today. Oh, they want to capture the congregation, the remnant espoused to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they want the patronage of these and the support of these, but they do not want the responsibility of making the Naomi class and the Ruth class fruitful with Kingdom interests; that would be too much work. It detracts too much from their own selfish interests. They are not interested in the kingdom of God. They prefer the League of Nations and now the United Nations of the present time. They do not want to tie in with the royal lineage of Shiloh, the King Jesus Christ. This attitude of mind and course of action could fit only the religious clergy of Christendom. They have failed to accept the challenge of Jehovah’s service and make his purpose their way of life. From such Jesus warned us to flee!—2 Tim. 3:5; Rev. 18:4.
ACCEPTING JEHOVAH’S WAY IS BLESSED
17. How are Boaz and Ruth blessed in accepting the challenge presented to them, and in what way are Naomi’s interests intertwined?
17 On the other hand, Boaz, true to his promise, takes Ruth as his levirate wife. (Ruth 4:13-15) Their marriage did not produce a king or the Shiloh; the time of the Kingdom of Israel had not yet begun. But they did produce one who became the grandfather of King David, the eleventh in line from Judah and with whom Jehovah made a covenant for an everlasting Kingdom (Matt. 1:3-6; 2 Sam. 7:12, 13) and one in the line that leads eventually to the Lord Jesus Christ, the permanent heir of King David. (Luke 3:23-31; 20:41-44) Ruth’s interests and Naomi’s interests are all intertwined. Ruth is the mother, but Naomi adopts the baby and acts as its nurse, as though it were the son of her own dead husband Elimelech, the one to take over the hereditary possession of Elimelech. Accordingly the neighbors say: “‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ And they began to call his name Obed [meaning “servant” or “one serving”].” (Ruth 4:16, 17) Thus, Boaz and Ruth, in accepting the challenge presented to them, with the interests of Jehovah’s purpose at heart, unselfishly devote their lives to fulfilling that purpose and Jehovah blesses them in allowing them to produce one of royal prospects indeed in the line of the promised Shiloh, whose “scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, . . . and to [whom] the obedience of the peoples will belong.”—Gen. 49:10.
18. What relationship exists between the Naomi section and the Ruth section of the remnant today, and what is produced thereby?
18 Now, finally, in our own day the Naomi class and the Ruth class of the spiritual remnant are in line to become the bride of Christ, the Shiloh of Jacob’s prophecy. But they do not produce the anointed king of God’s Messianic Kingdom, no more than Boaz and Ruth did so. They do, though, produce a class that serves God. Just as the name of the boy that was born to Ruth in Bethlehem was called Obed, meaning “one serving” or “servant,” so the modern Ruth and Naomi classes produce or make up a class that is described in Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew, chapter 24, as the “faithful and discreet slave” class. Also both sections of the spiritual remnant of today, the Naomi section and the Ruth section, have intense love for one another like the unbreakable love of Ruth for the older widow Naomi, to whom Ruth ‘is better than seven sons.’ Nothing except death can make a separation between the two.
A TIME FOR ZEAL AND DEVOTION
19. What example of unselfish love do Naomi and Ruth provide for those on whom the end of this system has come?
19 What a lesson in zeal and devotion is to be found in the dramatic yet moving Bible book of Ruth! And what an example the modern-day Naomi and Ruth classes provide for those living now in the time of the end of this wicked system of things! This is no time to turn to a course of self-determination, preferring a way of our own choosing due to selfish interests or pursuits. Neither is it a time for indifference to the purpose of God now approaching a culmination for this system of things. Naomi surely realized that she might not know if she would be used in the line of Shiloh, yet she was willing to devote her whole life to making it possible. And Ruth, being a young woman, could have married any kind of young man, a rich one if she had wanted to or a poor one if she had loved him, but instead she was willing to marry an old man just so her son could become Naomi’s son. But both of them did it because they loved Jehovah and wanted to have a part in fulfilling Jehovah’s purpose. What an example of unselfish love! Yet both Naomi and Ruth, in their own time and among their own neighbors, might have been considered just “ordinary” people.
20. What warning did Paul give, and how can we receive Jehovah’s blessing of reward today?
20 Today we are living in the “time of the end,” the time in which all these prophecies are having such a grand fulfillment. Paul wrote this warning for us: “Moreover, this I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those . . . making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31) If we think we can live like the people of this system do, occupying our time with the pursuits of just living, then we are due for a rude awakening because, as Paul is inferring, this world is rapidly disappearing and soon there will be no living in it at all. Today, there is so much to live for in view of the prospects of the Messianic Kingdom blessings soon to flow to all the earth, and there is so little time left to live in this present wicked system. Even if we were to give up everything this system has for us, “making use of the world,” as Paul said, “as those not using it to the full,” how could this compare to the course taken by Ruth, and by the Ruth class who have already spent years in fulfilling Jehovah’s purpose? Yet just as Jehovah has blessed both the Naomi and the Ruth sections of the anointed remnant with Kingdom fruitage, so will he bless anyone who now fully accepts the challenge of Jehovah’s service and makes Jehovah’s purpose his way of life. What better reward could anyone have than that?
[Picture on page 88]
Ruth unselfishly presented her baby to Naomi, who adopted it as though it were her own son; the child came to be an ancestor of the Messiah