We are a week away from the launch of the hotly anticipated Horizon Zero Dawn, a title that looks poised to launch an entirely new franchise if it lives up to even half of it’s early press. This mash-up of a primitive, post-apocalyptic world dominated by robot dinosaurs clearly occupies a space that has yet to have been tapped into, and if early gameplay videos hold true we are all about to jump into a setting that will alter our perspective of an open-world game once again. But like many games before it, this world seems to hold some closely guarded secrets and the concept of a entire society that has lost their position as the dominant species on the planet adds a melancholy undertone to the entire adventure. How did mankind fall into this position? The concept of loss seems rife within this story of a pack of survivors led by a female protagonist who refuses to submit to the oppressive environment of the world around her. As I considered this I found a commonality between her path and the Biblical story of Ruth, another female lead character in a story filled with loss and a harsh environment that would have crushed many. If the night is darkest before the dawn, then the night was truly dark for Ruth as we begin reading her tale…
The book of Ruth is often used by writer’s as a beautiful romance between a man and a woman, or more often as example of the epic love story between God (played by Boaz) and his people (played by Ruth). And while all this is well and good and clearly Boaz is a figure of Christ in the future, the reality is for Ruth this was not a story. This was her REAL LIFE, and it for her it was neither romantic or beautiful… it was PAIN and LOSS. She was not aware that someday her tale would be told in all of the forms of media that it exists in now, or that she was destined to become part of the parental lineage of Jesus Christ Himself. No, there was not a Hallmark Channel symbol on the cover of her DVD when she woke up one morning to the news that her husband was dead. It was grim reality and she had to deal with it.
Do us both a favor and forget everything you know about this story and just live it the way that Ruth had to. She did not have the perspective of the future and was in a very difficult predicament here. As a widowed woman, she was still provided for in her society because her husband’s brother would now take the responsibility of caring for her. Only that usual solution would also be a problem… because HE just died TOO. So bereft of her own husband as well as the typical arrangement of going to the next-of-kin for support, Ruth turns to her mother-in-law who is also a widow for guidance. This first wives/widows club meeting came to order with no small amount of panic. The immediate concern: food and shelter. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, speaks to both of her daughters-in-law and guides them to return back to their homes and start their lives over with a new husband, which is honestly pretty good advice. It took some convincing, but one of her daughters-in -law sees the writing on the wall and concedes, heading back home and out of historical significance forever. When the going gets tough abandoning those who need you is never a response that will be rewarded.
Ruth declines the easier road and decides to tough it out with Naomi, with a beautiful and poetic statement of commitment and the famous quotations, “Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your God will be my God.” Ruth had a powerful way with words, and convinced Naomi to let her come along towards an uncertain future for them both. I highly encourage you to read the entirety of it in context, as this has been used for everything from marriage vows to inspirational sermons and shows us the heart of Ruth and why she has been chosen for such a prominent place in Scripture. The voyage of the first wives/widows club is about to begin…
As Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem Ruth immediately jumps into action, leaning into the accepted practice for widows by gleaning the fields. No time for feeling sorry for herself and her horrendous circumstances… if she wants to eat tonight she is going to need to do something about it. And as she acts on her faith to provide for her and her mother-in-law God steps in to begin the process of redemption with a phrase that I find humorous in its innocence… in Ruth 2:3 the phrase’ “She HAPPENED to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”. If there is anything that should be clear at this point, there is no “happen-stance” with God. She placed her faith in God and in response He placed her in the exact position where Boaz, her “kinsman-redeemer” had a field ripe for the gleaning.
Now if you are not familiar with the concept of kinsman-redeemer, you are not alone, as it is not something that exists in our current culture. But in those times, it was considered a responsibility of the nearest family member to take the widow of their family member as a wife to prevent widespread widow and orphan issues. Keep in mind that the ONLY reason Ruth was even in a position to enjoy this act of redemption is because she had to LOSE her husband, his brother, and her father-in-law and then follow her mother-in-law in blind faith to her future provision. Boaz may have been a wonderful man, but he was not coming to Moab to look for Ruth. If she had stayed behind in Moab she may have gained a new husband in the process and maybe achieved REPLACEMENT status, but God had something far grander in mind. Through her faith in a God who allowed her to lose everything she was able to not only gain redemption for herself and her family, but she became grafted into the future redemption of the entire human race by becoming the ancestor to Jesus Christ Himself.
Consider that for a moment. Her loss was necessary to add her DNA to the solution for the sin problem of all humanity. Ruth, who in many ways could have accepted her suffering on the sidelines and become a footnote in history like her sister-in-law before her, instead became the one of the few women in the entire Bible with a whole book dedicated to telling her story. Her story of exceptional loss is what provided us with the Savior that redeemed us all. And it all happened because she decided not to take her ball and go home when the losses started piling up, and instead put her full confidence in a God she barely even knew.
So let’s jump to the grand finale for Ruth… after what may be one of the most unique courtships in all of the recorded Bible we find Ruth and Boaz joining in marriage and sealing the lineage that would lead to King David and eventually to Jesus, where she is one of the few women actually named in His genealogy (Matthew 1). As a matter of fact, if we take into consideration Ruth’s lineage as a Moabite she started with the deck stacked against her in the first place. The origin of her entire race was the result of the incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters after their escape from Sodom and Gomorrah. Not exactly the typical background for a future ancestor of the Son of God, you would think. But in a family tree that includes the prostitute Rahab, the adulterous David and Bathsheba, and now the widowed immigrant Ruth, the picture becomes even more clear that when God chose exactly how He would personally enter the world He chose people who experienced exceptional loss and lived to tale the tale.
So if you can relate to losing a spouse or significant relationship, starting life from a cursed genealogy, or simply being a member of the wrong family at the wrong time, don’t worry. God has your future covered. He was and still is the only person who got to choose exactly who his family members were prior to birth, and it was an intentional choice to make the world’s redemption occur through those who would have been cast aside into the damaged goods box by common thoughts. Your entire situation may be part of a redemptive work not only for you, but for souls that won’t exist until thousands of years after you have come and gone. Can you imagine Ruth’s surprise at realizing her tragedy that occurred in such a small, quiet little corner of the world would have such an amazing ripple effect throughout all history? Or that she would become world-renowned for being little more than a helpless widow who put her faith in God? Your story may differ in the outcome, but you are not suffering on the sidelines without God’s awareness or void of any purpose. Ruth’s loss ended up being a victory for all mankind.