‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”’ (Ruth 1:16-17)
Mother-in law and daughter-in-law relationships are not the easiest of relationships to sustain. In this story of Ruth and Naomi some people may ask was it right for Naomi and her husband to leave Bethlehem to go to Moab. There was money in Moab – but when they got there, there was trouble. Providence is a great and glorious doctrine of scripture. Naomi lost her husband and two sons. How did Naomi feel? Have you ever received visitors after a bereavement who mean well but their pearls of wisdom only add to your misery? Naomi tried to persuade her daughters-in-law to go back to their home (v8) but they wept at the thought of this (v14). Orpah returned, Ruth was encouraged to go back. It is a very touching situation.
The text shows these two women stuck together, becoming part of the family history of Jesus. Things happen for a reason. God has only one purpose – His will. This morning we will develop two themes: (1) what one woman expresses and (2) what one woman experiences. Naomi expresses what she feels and Ruth experiences coming to faith.
- Naomi expresses how she feels (verses 16-17). She had mixed feelings. Our first heroine never lost the sense of Yahweh’s loving kindness, yet she bares her soul. In all she has gone through God shows His loving kindness (Psalm 63:1, 1 John 4:10-11). Even in her grieving Naomi felt that love towards her. Later Boaz told Ruth he knew all about the love she showed Naomi, she was the talk of the town (Ruth 2:11). You may be going through the most difficult time of your life. Thank God His loving kindness is felt, known and experienced.
There is a paradox here. Naomi bares her soul. As we read the story we see how Naomi felt. She wept aloud (Ecclesiastes 3:4). There is a sense of loss. She felt God was her enemy (v13) that God was out to get her. Is it possible that a child of the Covenant could feel this? Well, here’s an example. She had suffered not only the loss of her husband but also her two sons. The future looked bleak. She was penniless, aging, feeling betrayed. Yet at the same time she knew the loving kindness of God. Do you sometimes feel that everything is against you, yet you still come to church, read the Bible? Can you have mixed feelings when going through the valley of the shadow? Yes! David prayed, in a sense of desolation (Psalm 22:1). This was David’s lament. Someone else prayed such a prayer on the cross, but it began ‘My God’. He still had faith!
As the British abroad we have a traditional picture of never complaining, having a stiff upper lip. As a Christian is there ever that aspect of calling on God, ‘Why?’ Do you weep aloud? Do you feel your trouble is worse than others? Face this situation bravely, spiritually, honestly.
- Ruth experiences coming to faith (Ruth 1:16-17). Here is spiritual conversion, Old Testament style. She is speaking as a young woman that’s come to know or coming to know God. Such an experience can take place when there is trouble. Ruth saw something in the life of her mother-in-law; Naomi loves Ruth even though she was a Moabitess. Though Naomi was widowed and penniless, she possessed something Ruth wanted – faith. At funerals every one of us is presented with our destiny, where earthy life culminates. This woman comes to the Lord in the depth of misery. Naomi tells her to go back but Ruth is drawn from Moab, from gods to the loving God her mother-in-law enjoyed. Do you know what it is to find God, to find Christ, to come to Calvary by faith?
Ruth was to become a proselyte – a rebel becoming a Jew. The glory is when you become a Christian you belong to the people of God, you become part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). This is what happened to Ruth. Ruth and Naomi belonged to the same family, they walked together (v17). In Roch, will you leave the world and cleave to Christ? Will you cease to walk in darkness and come to the light of Christ? Perhaps tragedy has crossed your path recently or years ago and you still can’t get over it, yet you still know something of the loving kindness of God? Have you ever felt like Naomi felt, knowing the loving kindness of God yet things happen you don’t understand? Yet God is graciously refining you gold in a furnace, ultimately for His glory and your well-being.