“I Am Ruth Thine Handmaid (Part 1)”

I Am Ruth Thine Handmaid (Part 1)

Wade Webster

When Boaz awoke on the threshingfloor and asked who was at his feet, he received answer, “I am Ruth thine handmaid” (Ruth 3:9). “Handmaid” means “maid-servant” or “slave girl.” Both Ruth’s position at Boaz’s feet and her plea for him to spread his skirt over her demonstrate that she possessed a servant’s heart.  In the book, Ruth willingly made herself a servant of Naomi, Boaz, and God.  As individuals today who are supposed to be the servants of God and man, it behooves us to study the story of this great servant.

A Faithful Servant - Three times Naomi attempted to get Ruth to turn back to Moab (Ruth 2:8, 12, 15). Although the temptation to go back to her homeland must have been strong, Ruth refused to leave Naomi.  In fact, Ruth’s words to Naomi demonstrate a kind of faithfulness so admired that they have often been used in marriage ceremonies (Ruth 1:16-17; cf. Rom. 7:2; Mt. 19:9; Mal. 2:16).  As you know, marriage is about leaving, cleaving, and weaving (Gen. 2:24).  How sad it is that some have changed the “till death do us part” of the traditional marriage vow to “as long as love shall last.”  These individuals know nothing of the faithfulness of Ruth.   Ruth’s statement to Naomi can be broken up into three parts:

  • The plea – “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee.”   
  • The promise – “For wither 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 punishment – “The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:17).   Ruth’s commitment to Naomi was so strong that she bound herself under a curse.   

Clearly, Naomi took Ruth’s promise seriously.  After all, when she saw that Ruth was “steadfastly minded to go with her,” she left off speaking to her (Ruth 1:18). “Steadfastly” means “strong.” Ruth was strongly minded to go with Naomi. Baker and Carpenter suggest that the word means “to persist in an activity.”  Although Naomi could persuade Orpah, one of her daughters in law, to turn back, she could not persuade Ruth.  We read, “Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her and they came to Bethlehem” (1:22).

What about us?  Are we faithful servants?  Are we as steadfastly minded to walk with Christ as she was to walk with Naomi?  How easily are we persuaded to turn back?  Will we go on even if those closest to us turn back? No doubt, we want to one day hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21).  However, to hear these words, we must stedfastly continue in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) and faithfully abide in Christ until death (Rev. 2:10).  Unlike Orpah, we must not turn back (John 6:66; cf. Lk. 9:62; Heb. 10:38; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).  Like Ruth, we are bound under a curse if we turn from the promise that we have made (2 Pet. 2:21; Lk. 12:47; John 15:22). William J. Reynolds, in the song, “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus,” perfectly captures the faithfulness which must be displayed by servants of God.  Please consider the words with me:

I have decided, to follow Jesus, I have decided, to follow Jesus, I have decided, to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wonder, I still will follow, Though I may wonder, I still will follow, Though I may wonder, I still will follow, No turning back, no turning back. 

Though none go with me, still I will follow, Though none go with me, still I will follow, Though none go with me, still I will follow, No turning back, no turning back!

The world behind me, the cross before me, The world behind me, the cross before me, The world behind me, the cross before me, No turning back, no turning back!

It should be noted that there are several versions of this song.  I picked these verses because they so closely fit the events recorded in the book of Ruth.  As in the song, Ruth three times made the decision to go with Naomi.  No doubt, as in the song, Ruth wondered and had many questions as she left her homeland.  Yet, she did not let these questions stop her from following Naomi.  Furthermore, as in the song, Ruth returned even though Orpah wouldn’t go with her. Finally, as in the song, she put Moab, the only world she had ever known, behind her.