Grace Driscoll has helped her husband Mark plant Mars Hill Church in Seattle and is a stay at home mom for their five children.
Does what the Bible say about women really apply to us today in this culture (submission, can’t be a pastor, weaker vessel, more easily deceived, etc.)? Doesn’t it make us too vulnerable to our husbands? Doesn’t it limit our ability to demonstrate our gifts? Doesn’t it make us less of a human to just stay at home with the kids or take care of our husbands? These are the questions I hear over and over from women. They are wrestling with how a loving, all-knowing God could possibly think that such antiquated ideas would work today.
The answers to these questions are clear in the Word, yet so seemingly unclear when compared to the yearnings of the culture around us. The more I study what God says for me to do as a woman, wife, and mother, the more peace I have in the roles God created for me. Through Ruth and various other verses, I will explore with you the clear principles that God has given us and the freedom in the methods by which we live them out.
After studying the Book of Ruth for the last few months, my understanding of submission, God’s sovereignty, and Christ’s redemption has been newly awakened as comforting truths.
The setting for Ruth was during the period of Judges when “there was no king in Israel; but everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), including idolatry, adultery, and various habitual sins. Does this sound familiar to the context you are working in today? The Book of Ruth opens with Elimelech and his family disobediently leaving the famine in Bethlehem to sojourn in Moab, a nation that God referred to as His wash pot (Psalm 108:9) due to its incestuous origins (Gen. 19:37). By the end of the first chapter, Elimelech’s wife, Naomi, had lost her husband and two sons and returned to Bethlehem with one Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. Ruth left her hometown, family, and gods to follow a bitter woman and her God because He chose Ruth to follow Him. Little did Ruth know that by her submission in the beginning, she would be counted in the lineage of Christ at the end of the book! It is easy to submit when we know the outcome, but Ruth trusted the God that created her to “work out all things for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) Ruth is a beautiful picture of humble faith and obedience, rather than proudly believing that she knew better than God and “doing her own thing.”
In the second chapter of Ruth, a type of Christ is introduced in the man of Boaz. He was a man of standing, great wealth, noble character, reputable in the community, and a portrait of strength. Through God’s providence, Ruth found herself gleaning in Boaz’s field so she could provide food for Naomi and herself. Gleaning, or gathering the leftovers from harvest, was a provision that God put into place to exhibit His concern for the poor, widows, and aliens. Remember that Ruth was a despised Moab foreigner with no protection during a godless age. Again, she displayed such a pure trust and obedience toward God that we rarely see this in women today. We have a hard time even imagining how an “enlightened” woman could live so “blindly” and vulnerably.
Boaz picked Ruth out, as he did not recognize her as one of his servant girls, and asked, “Whose young woman is that?” (2:3) He is told of her hard work ethic and her relation to Naomi. He already knew of her undying commitment to Naomi and immediately wanted to protect her from harm even though she was a Moabitess. Ruth respected Boaz so much that “she bowed down with her face to the ground” (2:10) and showed her humility to his finding favor in her. She was no longer seen as vulnerable to her circumstances but noticed and protected (“under whose wings you have come to take refuge” 2:12) by a God who cares and has a plan.
Again and again, Boaz provided more than enough for Ruth in food and protection, and she fully recognized her undeservedness of his grace. Boaz was referred to as a “kinsman-redeemer” (2:20), which was another system that God put in place to protect the family lineage and widows from being taken advantage of (Deut. 25:5-10). Kinsman meant he had a familial relation to the widow, and redeemer meant he would rescue or buy back the widow, a picture of Christ to us. Marriage was viewed as a place of rest and security for women. Do you view your marriage as rest or competition? Are you at peace with being a helpmate or, like Eve, do you desire to rule over your husband and switch the order of God’s perfect creation (I Cor. 11:8-9)? Do you try to take on your curse (Gen. 3:16) and your husband’s curse (Gen. 3:17-19) by ruling over domains that are not yours? The lie of the world is that women have to “be all things to all people” and “be superwoman.” If we allow this lie to rule us, we will live a very unfulfilled life. Christ redeemed us so we could glorify Him in the roles He created us for (helpmates and homebuilders). This looks different for each of us in different seasons of life and as our husbands lead us in various ways. As soon as we start to look at the “importance” of our roles according to culture, we will grow weary and bitter. If we view them through God’s eyes, as a beautiful picture of His place of rest and protection for us, we will know the kind of peace that passes understanding that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phillip. 4:7).
According to Titus 2, we are to “train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” If we are not doing this ourselves, how can we train others? Many of us were not taught these things, so we continue to not seek the Truth and pass on the lies to other women. Can we not see that it isn’t working? Marriages are falling apart, children are falling apart, churches are falling apart!! What will it take for us to resist our flesh and embrace purity? “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10) God desires peace for us, but when we resist righteousness and faithfulness to His will, we experience chaos – the kind we see in the world around us.
In chapter three of Ruth, we again see her pure faith in the provision of her God. She went to Boaz and respectfully said she wanted him to redeem her. Since Boaz had initiated with Ruth throughout their relationship, it was her responsibility to ask for redemption and allow him to make the choice. Being an honest man, Boaz surprised Ruth with the words, “Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I…if he wants to redeem, good…but if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it.” (3:12-13) Ruth’s whole future was in limbo with the possibility of being redeemed by a man that she didn’t even know but who was a closer relative to her late husband than Boaz. Did Ruth suddenly doubt God’s sovereignty? Did she try to rule Boaz and tell him that he had to be the one to redeem her? Did she try to do things her own way since God’s way wasn’t quite what she was expecting? No. Ruth went home, not knowing the future but trusting God and Boaz, and waited for Boaz to lead and protect her as he desired to do. Does this make us view Ruth as weak or strong? It makes her extremely vulnerable…but only to God’s sovereignty, which is the safest place we can be. Boaz saw Ruth as a woman of “noble character” and said he would do all that she asked (3:11).
The book ends in chapter 4 with Boaz following through with his commitment. The closer relative did not want to redeem Ruth so, in God’s sovereignty, Boaz did. In front of ten elders (like judges) of the town, Boaz put everything on the line as a man of standing to even associate himself with Ruth, let alone marry and redeem her. Boaz, like Christ, chose his bride, provided more than enough for her, served her, and loved her. She was a foreigner, blemished by her sin, unworthy of his grace and love, but a humble servant. What an unpredictable ending, but a beautiful foreshadow of our redemption through Jesus.
Not only did the elders witness the transaction, they offered blessings of numerous and distinguished offspring (4:11-12). Children were and are a blessing from the Lord. God used this faithful man and woman to bare a son, Obed (David’s grandfather), and be in the lineage of Christ. I am sure that Ruth never imagined that she would contribute to Christ’s lineage. She could have made some very different and seemingly “liberated” decisions, yet she faithfully in discernment walked the road that God laid out for her. Ruth is a true story of a life that began empty and ended full.
Though this story took place hundreds of years ago, it is a great parallel to today. During a dark, evil time, God showed up and brought about a wonderful, yet unlikely, love story. He demonstrated His power, His love and care for each of us, and His desire to see us walk in His righteousness. Will we trust His perfect ways, or will we continue as His people to take our own path?
To answer the initial questions that I asked about the Bible, we have to ask who our God is. Does what the Bible say about women really apply to us today in this culture (submission, can’t be a pastor, weaker vessel, more easily deceived, etc.)? Yes. God created us to submit, not because He hates us, rather because He loves us enough to protect us. Doesn’t it make us too vulnerable to our husbands? As daughters of Eve, we are more easily deceived, but like Ruth, under the security of our husbands and our God, we are safe. Doesn’t it limit our ability to demonstrate our gifts? No. We can lead children and women, which is what a Titus 2 woman should desire. God doesn’t give us gifts unless He provides righteous opportunities to use them. We just need to make sure we don’t use them unrighteously. Doesn’t it make us less of a human to just stay at home with the kids or take care of our husbands? No. We were created in the image of God, and that is where our value comes from, not in what we do. It is an honor, after working in the corporate culture for many years, to be a helpmate for my husband and a mother for my children. The Proverbs 31 woman is a crown for her husband, and her children rise up and call her blessed. That is a privilege that we can either embrace from the Lord or reject in sin. These ideas are only antiquated because our culture has labeled them as such. But we find favor in the eyes of our Lord when we seek His good and perfect will. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)
I hope this encourages you to go against the lies of the culture and trust the God that created you and knows every hair on your head. He is the only one that can give you the strength to glorify Him through submission and faith in His sovereign plan.