“Ruth and Naomi” (detail) by Ary Scheffer
After the conquest of Canaan in the book of Joshua and the epic battles in the book of Judges, we read three personal stories: Ruth’s assimilation into Israel, Hannah pleading for a son and then dedicating him to God, and Samuel’s willingness to hearken to the voice of the Lord.
Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave thee.”
Ruth was a Moabite, first of all. After all the emphasis in Deuteronomy and Joshua on driving out the Canaanites lest they corrupt the children of Israel, we have a story of a remarkable non-Israelite who demonstrated great faith as she relocated with her mother-in-law to the land of Israel.
Naomi and Ruth were both widows, but Ruth was still young. Naomi wanted her to stay with her own people, but Ruth refused to do so. “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” (Ruth 1:16).
In the small town of Bethlehem, Ruth humbly gleaned grain for herself and for Naomi, until Boaz, the owner of the land, redeemed her and married her.
Why highlight Ruth, specifically? Her courage, humility, and love are all traits worth emulating. Her redemption has parallels with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And her faithfulness created a righteous heritage for her posterity: she became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from Ruth, with associated blog posts:
- It’s important to stay close to family members and to prioritize relationships over comfort and convenience (Ruth 1:16): Not Separated.
- Our ability to achieve great things is rooted in the goodness of our character. Virtue is power (Ruth 3:11): Virtue.
- The Hebrew word go’el (גֹּאֵ֑ל) refers to a close relative who redeems or delivers you. Jesus Christ redeemed us because of His relationship with us: (Ruth 3:9, 12, Ruth 4:14): What Does It Mean for Jesus to Be Our “Redeemer?”
I highly recommend this choral setting of Ruth’s pledge to Naomi, performed by the Salt Lake Vocal Artists:
Hannah: “For this child I prayed.”
We all know what it feels like to plead with God for a blessing. But what about willingly letting that blessing go after we receive it?
Hannah desperately wanted a child. As she prayed and wept at the temple, the high priest, Eli, promised that God would give her what she sought. After her son, Samuel, was born, she brought him to the temple to be raised by Eli, explaining that she had dedicated him to the Lord. “As long as he liveth,” she said, “he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:28).
Hannah understood, as King Benjamin would later teach, that we depend on God for “all that [we] have and are,” and that we must therefore be willing to consecrate everything to Him. (See Mosiah 4:21.)
Samuel: “Here am I.”
The name Samuel is related to the Hebrew words shama (שָׁמַע), “to hear,” and el (אֵל), “God.” Hannah named her son Samuel because God had heard her prayer. (See 1 Samuel 1:20.) Samuel, in turn, heard the voice of God.
As a young child, Samuel “grew on, and was in favor both with the Lord, and also with men (1 Samuel 2:26). (Compare with the description of Jesus’ childhood in Luke 2:52.) One night, the Lord called to Samuel three times. All three times, the young prophet answered in the same way: “Here am I.” But he did not know who had called him. With Eli’s guidance, he recognized God’s voice and heard the full message.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from Samuel, with relevant blog posts:
- God’s approval is reliable, unlike the approval of other people. If we seek God’s favor sincerely and diligently, we will find it (1 Samuel 2:26): Finding Favor.
- Like Samuel, Isaiah, and the premortal Savior, we should respond willingly when the Lord calls us to serve (1 Samuel 3:4-10): Here Am I – 2 Nephi 16:8