By Neal Pollard
Though Israel had many spiritual lowlights and few highlights through many centuries of Old Testament history, who would say any time had greater sin problems than the period of the judges? The summary statement of the times was, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, ESV). Idolatry, sexual perversion and violence were rampant among God’s people, with even many of the heroes often weak and immoral.
Perhaps the two most famous women during the period of the judges are Delilah and Ruth. They are as different from each other as night and day, as the forbidden woman and the virtuous woman. Looking at the ideal woman, she is precious, fruitful, hardworking, praise-worthy, and, above all, spiritual (Proverbs 31:10-30). Contrast her with the forbidden woman of Proverbs, initially alluring but ultimately alarming (5:3-4), a lightning rod of trouble (6:24-35), disloyal to her own home and willing to wreck others’ (7:5-20), and one whose seductiveness, sensuality and smoothness pave the way for her destruction, deviousness, and deadliness (7:21-27).
God has blessed the church with great women today. They do much of the church’s good works. God has called Christian women to be Ruths in this Delilah kind of world. The difference between God’s expectations and the world’s expectations are as different as these two women were. How can a woman be a Ruth in a Delilah world?
She Can Be Loyal. Ruth lived when the judges ruled (Ruth 1:1), but it does not take long to see that she was different from her society. She lost Mahlon about ten years after their wedding day (1:5). Her mother-in-law, Naomi, encouraged her and her sister-in-law to return home to Moab. While Orpah ultimately left, Ruth would not (1:16-18). This loyal attitude seemed to characterize Ruth’s entire life. She displayed it to Boaz, whom she eventually married (Ruth 4). Delilah was decidedly loyal…only to Delilah (Judges 16:4-6). From the beginning, she seemed a woman looking out only for herself. It is easier for today’s woman to be like this. It is human nature to be selfish, but a godly woman will strive to be loyal. Her greatest loyalty will be to God, but she will also be loyal to her family (Titus 2:4-5), to her friends (Proverbs 17:7; 27:6), and in all her relationships. Be aware that such loyalty is not valued in a Delilah world, but God prizes it (see “faithfulness” in Matthew 23:23 and Galatians 5:22).
She Can Be Converted. Both Ruth and Delilah were Gentiles, Ruth a Moabitess and Delilah a Philistine. Both had relationships with God’s people, but only one was converted to Jehovah God. Ruth followed God even after her husband died (1:16), but Delilah never had a place for God in her life (cf. Judges 16:23-24). Are husbands or wives baptized, even going through certain external motions of involvement, without being truly converted to God? At times, one’s faithfulness seems tied to a mate more than to the Maker. An absence of conviction about putting God first and a failure to instill commitment and dedication to Christ in her children may prove a Christian woman has not truly been converted. It is not what one says, claims, promises, or intends. What spelled the difference between Ruth and Delilah was “fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20), as it is today.
She Can Be Worthy. In one sense, no one is worthy—of God’s love, grace, blessings, etc. Yet, we are all to live in a way worthy of the name we wear (James 2:7), walking worthy of the Lord in deed (Colossians 1:10). As used in Ruth 3:11, worthy means admirable and of noble character. That was Ruth and everybody around her knew it. How would one describe Delilah? She was an enticer and lover of money (Judges 16:5), she used her affection to manipulate (Judges 16:15), and she weakened the man in her life. Worrisome seems more appropriate than worthy. Understand, our society seems to think a Delilah-mentality is the only one worthwhile. The world encourages using rather than upholding people, possessions over people, sees manipulation as smart and not sinful, and condones hurting others to promote self. Ruth’s character distinguished her as God’s follower. Naomi, Boaz, and even the citizens of Bethlehem readily saw that.
She Can Be Confident. Ruth had a particular kind of confidence. She knew God would provide her needs (cf. Philippians 4:19). Delilah tried every cut-throat, devious method to get her way. We see a beautiful example of God’s providential care in Ruth’s life. She lost a husband, endured a famine, and lived at a time when women had few rights. Yet, her trust in a God more powerful than man, carried her through her trials (Ruth 2:11-12). Being a Ruth in a Delilah world requires taking refuge under God’s wings, trusting Him to help cope and conquer. Delilah lived and probably died with her confidence in the wrong place. It was on her wiles. Ruth was the exact opposite, but wound up the true winner.
Look what happens to Christian women who dare to be Ruths. Ruth sought no grandeur, being instead the consummate servant. Yet, God allowed her to be David’s great-grandmother and a part of a lineage that eventually produced God in the flesh. God will use mightily those who choose to be “Ruths” in this “Delilah” kind of world!
Being a Ruth in a Delilah World
By Neal Pollard