by Sarah Jakes
This book was provided to me free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I apologize to the publisher for taking so long to review this book. Personal life has been a bit crazy.
I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. It’s the story of a patient, self-sacrificing, kind woman who, while working to take care of someone else, finds love and security from a man who admires her for her faithfulness and determination. So I was intrigued to read this devotional about that woman’s life.
The format of this book was excellent. Thirty short chapters make it an easy one-month devotional. There were just a few journal questions at the end of each chapter. While I didn’t actually journal my way through this book, they were still good to read and take pause, a moment to help digest the chapter and apply it my life.
While I liked Jakes’s writing, there were times that I felt she was extrapolating quite a bit to make a point. In my mind, this book could have used a larger dose of Ruth, as most of the chapters opened with a couple of verses from Ruth, and then a story just from random life. The Jakes would spend a few paragraphs connecting that story to the couple of verses from Ruth, and that was where sometimes things got a little shaky.
For instance, this passage –
Ruth learned quickly that her arrival into a strange land acquired the attention of many. As a new convert, she may have faced some speculation on the validity of her faith. Perhaps they even questioned her motives. Why would a young woman stay with this aging, grief-stricken woman? What would motivate her to wander out into the fields, looking for leftover grain in someone else’s fields? Surely she must be up to something. What was her game?
The rumors spread so rapidly that everyone knew her story before getting to know her. The conversations about her, whether idle chatter or malicious gossip, made her journey more difficult. It’s one thing to struggle; it’s another to struggle on stage. When private battles become public performances, it’s hard to remain true to yourself.
And just… that’s not in the book of Ruth? There’s nothing about her struggling with gossip, malicious or otherwise. Boaz does know her story when he speaks with her, true, but Boaz is also one of Naomi’s closest relatives, so it’s natural that he should know about Ruth.
The overall point that Jakes was making in the chapter – the importance of being true to ourselves even when we are wrestling with difficult circumstances what people are saying about those circumstances – was solid. But her tie-in to Ruth was weak, tweaking the story to fit what Jakes wanted to say, instead of saying what the story was teaching.
This was a consistent pattern throughout the book. While I (mostly) didn’t disagree with what Jakes had to say overall, she repeatedly stretched and extrapolated from Ruth to make her point. I personally feel that she would have been better to either write a devotional about Ruth, or write a devotional about the things she wanted to say; they really didn’t seem to be the same. Sometimes, like above, it was just deliberate padding the story to make the point. In other areas, there seemed to be a lack of understanding of culture and traditions in the time of Ruth. One chapter is based on the “fact” that Ruth wasn’t allowed to glean with the other women… again, not in the story. As was cultural, Ruth, along with other poor women, was allowed to glean in the fields behind the reapers. This is actually a part of the Jewish law of the time, one of the ways that God set up to provide for the poor of the nation. Saying that Ruth “didn’t allow rejection to keep her from doing what she could” makes no sense because she hadn’t been rejected.
Like I said, many of Jakes’s lessons were good, and a few were actually thought-provoking, but if you’re looking for a devotional that really delves into the story of Ruth and brings out truths from it, this isn’t the one.