Scripture states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). That seems plain enough. We’ve probably read that scripture, or heard it read, more times than we can count. We’re so familiar with the topic of faith that we can almost take it for granted. In fact, if you asked any Christian, “Do you have living faith?” chances are, he would say, “Well, of course I do!”
And yet, the Son of God expressed grave concern about this issue. Speaking of His own Second Coming to this Earth, Jesus asked, prophetically: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). When Jesus uttered those words He was looking into our present generation. And He asked the question because He foresaw an almost total absence of faith in our time! Christ wondered if we, today, would truly have living faith! Do we?
We’re living in the days of Malachi’s Message, and that message is concerned with a faith crisis in the Church. “The Prophet Malachi was trying to correct a faith crisis, caused by a priesthood that was relying more and more on human, scholarly reasoning,” Gerald Flurry wrote in Malachi ’s Message.
What about you and me? We came out of that shambles, and that destruction had an effect on us. Have we redeemed the time by reconfirming total faith—living faith, in God? We need to check ourselves because we are on the brink of world destruction. We’re on the edge of total global annihilation if God does not intervene. Do we have the faith of Christ to endure unto the end?
By putting all the scriptures on the subject of faith together, “we learn that there are two kinds of faith. And the kind so blindly trusted in by the majority of this day is nothing but a dead faith—and a dead faith never will save one soul! Notice! James 2:20: ‘Faith without works is dead’—just a dead faith” (What Kind of Faith Is Required for Salvation?).
Ruth—a Woman of Faith
The Bible records another faith crisis like the one today. In the midst of that crisis, God gives a tremendous lesson in faith through the outstanding example of a woman—Ruth.
The story of Ruth is the chronicle of a generous Christian life and the happy result of obedience to God. Though the story is familiar to most of us, we miss the point if we see it only as a romantic interlude in the scriptural narrative. The truth is, at a time when most of Israel was following the way that seemed right to them, only a few Israelites were loyal and obedient to God.
Ruth left her land to obey the laws of the God of Israel. Ruth was a type of the New Testament Church which was to come out of the world and be joined to Christ.
The setting for the book is during the time of the judges. Of this time, Josephus wrote, “Now after the death of Samson, Eli the high priest was governor of the Israelites. Under him, when the country was afflicted with a famine, Elimelech … removed his habitation into the land of Moab” (Antiquities v, ix, 2).
It was a time of oppression. At a time when there were external and internal disputes, a drought struck the entire area of Canaan. Neighboring nations carried off much of Israel’s produce.
A fairly prosperous Israelite by the name of Elimelech lived in the town of Bethlehem. Many would come to him for food and money. Soon he grew weary of so many troubled neighbors, and because of his selfishness, he decided to leave Canaan. With his wife, Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, he settled among the pagan peoples in the land east of the Dead Sea, where he soon died.
His two young sons married Moabite women—Orpah and Ruth. Later, the sons died also, making life in Moab increasingly difficult for the three widows. Not only were they lonely, they soon became poor. They knew something had to be done—soon! When Naomi heard that living conditions in Judah had improved by good weather and abundant crops, she decided to return to her native land, and leave her daughters-in-law behind.
“And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:8-10).
Although Naomi convinced Orpah to return to her home, Ruth was determined to serve Naomi. “Entreat me not to leave thee,” she said, “or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (verses 16-17).
Determined to Obey
Ruth was determined to do what she knew to be right, even though doing so meant leaving behind everything she possessed and going to a strange land with no more than could be packed on a donkey.
Ruth set her face toward a land and a people that had been oppressed for many years—people who had lost the ark of the covenant, and who were obviously laboring under the curse of God. With only hope and trust in her heart, Ruth without hesitation stepped into a future which, to her, was the deep unknown. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
In a short time they arrived in Bethlehem where friends helped them move into their home. For the moment there was comfort, but their meager funds would soon run out and, again, something would have to be done to avert disaster. Ruth came to Naomi with a suggestion. “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:2-3).
“Gleaning” was gathering any produce left behind after a harvest. It was not stealing. One of the civil laws given to Israel stated that whatever the harvesters left of value in fields, vineyards or orchards could be claimed by the poor, the stranger and the widow (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22).
Notice, at this time, even though Ruth did not know it and could not have forseen it, events were already happening that would bless the woman who had stepped out on faith. Had she just happened to choose a field belonging to a “near kinsman” named Boaz? No. God was intervening in her life. God rewards those who live by faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Ruth went to the field and, by the middle of the day, had filled her bag less than half full of overlooked or dropped barley. Ruth, as a picture of the Church, shows herself willing to do hard work through the heat of the day to feed another woman (another part of God’s Family)—Naomi, who had changed her own name to “Bitterness” (Ruth 1:20). That is living faith! That is what those with the Philadelphian attitude have always done. That’s what the pcg is doing today—feeding a warning message to a bitter Church, and working through the heat of the afternoon to do it! This is a work of faith!
At that moment Boaz, the owner of the field, appeared. “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee” (Ruth 2:4). The character of Boaz, a type of Christ, is an exciting subject on which to meditate. Think of it—at a time when almost no one gave a thought to God, or His law, this man expressed God’s blessing on his laborers—and, of all things, they expressed it back to him!
Ruth did not know it, but God was already setting events in motion to provide a suitable husband for this woman of faith. Would she patiently wait for God to provide the right mate, or would she lean to her own understanding (lust) and decide for herself? Even in this, Ruth was a woman of faith.
“Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (verses 5-7). Boaz needed no introduction to Ruth. The community was buzzing with the news of the young woman who was faithfully looking to the God of Israel.
Humility Before Faith
Notice the main characteristic of Ruth: “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 knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed 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” (Ruth 2:10-11). Ruth had a great depth of humility. God tells us what He thinks of humble and contrite people: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). In addition, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
To Ruth, Boaz replied, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12). Boaz was also a person of faith, as he witnessed to Ruth that God would grant a full reward to her for her work.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
It was an Israelite custom and duty that the nearest eligible male kin of a dead husband should marry the widow in the event she had no children (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). This was Ruth’s need—a husband to provide inheritors. To fulfill this need, Naomi sent her to the threshing floor of Boaz, there to lay at the feet of the man (a common custom of the day in those circumstances).
When she was discovered, Boaz said, “Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:9-11).
Obviously Boaz realized that a young woman with the virtuous qualities which Ruth possessed would have been a great asset to the other families of Israel. He noted that she’d had the opportunity to follow other young men—both rich and poor, from whom she would have received an instant, though much smaller, earthly inheritance. But, again, this woman of faith had chosen to ignore human reasoning, follow the law, and trust in God for a more permanent reward.
Can we understand that Ruth, as a symbol of God’s Church today, typifies the Philadelphians who refuse to run after other false branches of the Church (other “young men”), choosing to hold fast to Christ, His Philadelphian Work, and His government?
Just as Boaz truly was fully aware of the value of this young woman, so Christ and the Father fully appreciate those who are doing the continual today.
Boaz told her the next morning, “Bring the veil that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city” (verse 15).
Six measures of barley! A heavy load! We see here that God knows He has given the pcg a heavy load to bear, and we bear it! We have a heavy responsibility! But He also knows that if we rely on Him, in faith, He will provide the strength to bear it. This, too, is an act of faith!
God ultimately caused everything to come out right for this woman. Not only did she receive the physical abundance through the love of Boaz, she also became the ancestor of David, and Christ, and qualified for the spiritual abundance in the Kingdom of God. Those who live by faith inherit everything!
What have we learned from Ruth? What did she do to begin to receive God’s blessing? The answer is that she did what was easiest in the long run—she did what was right. Remember that this story took place during a time when most Israelites were making their own decisions about right and wrong (Judges 21:25) and suffering for it! Ruth had every opportunity to go her own way—she probably even had been encouraged to do so by her neighbors—and yet she chose to be ruled by God’s laws.
Did God love Ruth more than He loves you and me? Of course not. He is not a respecter of persons. Will He not bless us for stepping out in faith to do His will as she did? Of course He will. It is impossible for Him to do otherwise. Christ said it is more possible for heaven and Earth to disappear than for God’s promises to go unfulfilled (Matthew 24:35).
Do we fully understand God’s love for us because we love Him and remain faithful? As we study the book of Ruth and see the relationship between Ruth and Boaz, which typifies the relationship between Christ and His Bride, can we comprehend and grasp the full impact of Christ’s devotion to us? Can we respond to Him in full and undivided living faith, realizing what we, the Church, mean to Him? He has given His life for us! Can we submit to Him in believing, living faith?
Here is the question which is set before us today: When the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the Earth? That’s a question all humanity is waiting in deadly peril to find out. Now that we know the lesson of Ruth and the day of Pentecost, what answer will we give? I know we will join together to say, Yes, we will be faithful! We will love our Husband! We will finish this Work!