Real WomenNo. 11 – Ruth and Naomi – In-laws or outlaws?

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Ruth 1 and Ruth 2

Ruth was a truly amazing woman who, like Rahab, is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) and has a vital part to play in God’s story. She was a young lady from Moab who had been married for ten years to an Israelite who was living in her country because of a famine in Israel. His name was Malon (meaning ‘weak and sickly’) and he died at the same time as Orpah’s husband, Kilion. The boys’ father had died sometime earlier leaving Naomi a widow.

When Naomi heard that the famine was over she decided to return to Judah to see if she had any relatives left who would care for her in her old age. She tried hard to persuade the girls to return to their mother’s home where they might meet a new husband. Naomi knew that if they came with her there was no possibility of getting a man to marry them. She cared more for them than for her own needs and loneliness. Orpah chose to go with Naomi at first. After being pressed by Naomi and looking at the logic of her chance of finding another husband, she changed her mind and returned home to her family and false gods (Ruth 1:7-14) Ruth had seen the faith of Naomi, the love in her heart for God and so she makes her choice of a lifetime.

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and meRuth 1:16-17.

1) Ruth knew that she needed new friends. She could not grow closer to God by staying with her own people so she decided to move closer to those who would encourage her spiritual growth. Is there anyone that God is asking you to move away from who is hindering your growth as a child of God? (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Hebrews 10:24)

2) Ruth not only needed new friends but she needed a new country. Some of us are so trapped into a lifestyle that we actually need to move areas, churches or homes in order to put the past behind us and move on with God. We have to choose to put the world out of our relationship with our Father and be one hundred percent for Him in every part of our lives. (Galatians 2:20)

3) Ruth totally committed herself to her faith in the one True God. She moved from false religion to worshipping God. By the time she made her decision to go with Naomi she had heard enough about Him, to cause her to want to follow Him forever, despite Naomi’s bitterness about her great losses (Ruth 1:20-21). Ruth wanted a love relationship with the God of Israel above anything else, even above another husband.

Total abandonment to God is like starting a friendship that will develop into a marriage for eternity. We have to start off whole-heartedly, as God does not promise to reveal Himself to those who are only half-hearted (Jeremiah 29:12-14) We spend time with Him, God talks to us and we listen, we talk and He responds. We spend some time in silence never wanting to leave His company. We find out what pleases Him and we try to do it. As we get to know Him better we find we are growing in a deeper love and trust. Like Ruth our heart is the key to the success of this relationship. Devotion to Jesus Christ is giving Him everything, our whole heart, 365 days a year. If we do go for total devotion God will be our completeness. We do not need anything else, a career, a marriage, motherhood will not make us satisfied on their own. We need to see that we are only complete in Jesus “For in Him all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness……..Colossians 2:9-10.

The in-laws or out-laws?

Naomi had really appreciated Ruth and Orpah when they had all lived in Moab. She had felt a responsibility for their spiritual wellbeing as they were from heathen families. The young girls were able to be a help to her when she became a widow. Although Naomi became bitter after the death of her husband and two sons the girls were still keen to fulfil their duty to her. Despite her depression Naomi held onto her God and was able to put the girls’ interests before her own. She implored them to go back to their mothers’, even if it meant her own future would be even emptier. When Ruth returned to Bethlehem with her, Naomi did start to trust God to provide for them both. Naomi’s attitude changed when she praised God for His provision (Ruth 2:8-9) She saw His leading concerning food, protection for Ruth, and also a kinsman redeemer who would care for them both (Ruth 2:20). Naomi knew in the culture of the time that this would be the best for them both.

Ruth was seen by all the people in the town to be diligent, faithful, loving, humble and kind. Her reputation for her loyalty and commitment to Naomi was exemplary to all (Ruth 2:11-12). Ruth behaved towards Naomi like her devoted daughter (Ruth 4:15). She saw to all her physical needs (Ruth 2:2) caused her to praise God (Ruth 2:20) obeyed her (Ruth 2:22; Ruth 3:5) lived with her (Ruth 2:23) and gave her a grandson (Ruth 4:16)

God’s plan for the relationship of in-laws is shown here beautifully. When we are children we make relationships with our parents. This relationship depends on many key factors (their relationship; circumstances of our birth; siblings; finance etc.) so when we leave home and marry in some cases we still have some unfinished business which often comes to light when we ourselves have children. When we marry we take an extra set of parents and in some cases this only adds to our problems and we imagine our in-laws are the same as our parents. Our in-laws have needs also, as they feel they have lost a son and are concerned for their child’s wellbeing, they are growing older and all that that entails and are looking for support.

Coping with parental problems

*The man must leave his parents. Make the break (Mark 10:7-9; Ephesians 5:31)

*Respect your in-laws (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2)

*Trust God with the relationship (Psalm 5:11-12)

*Keep your joy (Nehemiah 8:10)

*Look to the Word (Colossians 3:16-17)

*Always be quicker to apologise and forgive (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

We are expected to honour older parents even if they are demanding and difficult. This means treating them with respect, humility and love. Make sure they are comfortable and happy as far as it is in your power to do. Honour does not mean exalting a person who is constantly manipulating or demanding (Luke 21:14-19). Jesus did not respond to His family when they came to make demands on Him but continued to do His Father’s work (Matthew 12:46-50). He did provide for His mother’s needs at the Cross (John 19:25-27). We need to seek God who knows our full circumstances and ask Him what He wants us to do in our relationship with our parents and in-laws (Romans 12:9-12; Romans 12:14)

Being a mother-in-law

Take note of Naomi’s behaviour even if your daughter/son-in-law is nothing like Ruth.

“She opened her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:26.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…..” Matthew 7:12

Be a daily example of Jesus to your children-in-law and even if they are a daily disappointment to you sow love, tolerance, unselfishness and gentleness and remember we reap what we sow. You will see fruit for your labour in the fullness of time. Don’t be bitter like Naomi, be better. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 and “Be joyful always; pray continually; Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


No.11 – Ruth and Naomi – In-laws or outlaws? Challenge Questions

1.  Read the notes ‘Ruth and Naomi’ above. Do you find the idea of total abandonment to Jesus easy? Could you help anyone if they have a problem with this?


2.  What do you feel about Ruth’s confession of faith? Ruth 1:16-17. Her change of friends, area and faith? Do you have something to share about this?


3.  When looking at the subject of “in-laws or out-laws” do you find Naomi and Ruth’s relationship helpful?


4.  Why was Naomi a good mother-in-law? Do you have any biblical advice for someone with a parent/daughter/-in-law problem?


Read Ruth 3 and Ruth 4.

5.  What plan did Naomi suggest and what was Ruth’s response? (Ruth 3:1-6)


6.  What was Boaz’s response to Ruth? (Ruth 3:9-10)


7.  What words of encouragement did he give her? (Ruth 3:11-13)


8.  What did Boaz do to protect Ruth’s reputation? (Ruth 3:14-15)


9.  How quickly does Boaz find out if he is entitled to marry Ruth? (Ruth 3:18)


10. What did Boaz have to do in order to redeem Ruth and what did that do for Naomi? (Ruth 4:1-12)


11. What was the name of their great-grandson? (Ruth 4:17-22)


12. What encouragement can you find in the lives of Ruth and Naomi for anyone who has lost a husband?


13. What challenge is there here for anyone looking for a partner? Can you see any guidelines?


14. Write a short sentence summing up Ruth’s life.