Today’s study is a continuation of last week’s look at the life of Naomi. Ruth was born in the land of Moab. She was not one of God’s chosen people by birth, but nevertheless she was chosen by God to fill a very special role in history, as we shall see.
Allow me to recap last week’s story to set the stage for today. There was a famine in the land of Israel, so Elimelech moved his family from Bethlehem (the House of Bread) to Moab (God’s Washpot). They went there to stay, not just to wait for the end of the famine. No one knows why Elimelech truly wanted to leave Bethlehem, but God had a purpose, as we soon shall see. Elimelech and Naomi had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and they married two women of Moab, Ruth and Orpah. They were married for ten years before the brothers died, yet they both died childless. Elimelech had also died, so Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth both went with her part of the way, but then she told them to return to their families, where they could remarry and worship their gods as they were accustomed. Eventually Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and returned home, but Ruth stuck with her. In fact, the Bible says she “clung” to her. (Imagine a bond tighter than super glue.) Then Ruth said something to her mother-in-law that is now often quoted at weddings: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after 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, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Let’s see exactly what Ruth was promising to her mother-in-law.
1. Where you go, I will go.
Ruth had never been to Israel. In fact, it is likely she had never before left Moab. And yet she was willing to go anywhere with Naomi, such was her loyalty to this woman to whom she was related only by marriage. Perhaps Naomi, by the grace of God, had shown more love to Ruth than she had ever known from any other person.
2. Where you lodge, I will lodge.
Ruth did not intend to use Naomi to gain entrance into Bethlehem and then find her own way from there. Instead, she would continue to love and care for her mother-in-law, putting the elder woman’s needs ahead of her own. Ruth had such a servant’s heart, and also a spirit of gratitude for all that Naomi had done for her in the ten years that she had known her.
3. Your people shall be my people.
Ruth knew she would be a stranger in Israel, a foreigner, an outcast. Very likely the people would never accept her as one of them, and yet she would accept them as her own for Naomi’s sake.
4. Your God shall be my God.
Here is the key to all of Ruth’s commitment. Naomi had introduced her to the one true and living God, and Ruth had come to follow God for herself. She had turned her back on the false gods of her people and embraced Jehovah. This is why she could never go back to her old life. Her old life was dead. She now had a new life and a new walk.
5. Where you die, I will die.
Considering the difference in age, Ruth most likely assumed that Naomi would die before her, but she affirmed that she would remain faithful to the God of Israel even after Naomi’s death. She was steadfast, committed, and there was no turning back.
6. And there will I be buried.
This perhaps also points to her new faith in Jehovah, for most of the heathen practiced cremation. By admitting that she wanted to be buried, perhaps she was also admitting her faith in the resurrection of the dead. Or perhaps she was simply emphasizing the fact that she would never forsake either Naomi or God, whether by life or by death.
With this statement of loyalty, Naomi was content, and the two of them walked on. They arrive in Bethlehem at the time of barley harvest. We can assume that they return to the home that Naomi had lived in with her husband and boys before they left Bethlehem more than a decade before. They would have been very tired from their journey, and they probably both fell asleep with very little trouble, in spite of the dust and spiders that would have taken over the house during the long absence. I can easily imagine that when Naomi awakened the next morning, she found Ruth already up and busy tidying the house, chasing the bugs out, sweeping and dusting, washing and scrubbing, turning the house back into a home.
But they needed more than just a clean place to live. They also needed food to eat. So when the house was clean, Ruth asked Naomi if she could go find a field where she could glean, as the Israelites had a law whereby to care for the poor of the land, that they could go behind the reapers in the field and pick up the gleanings that had been dropped. That was the welfare of the day. I love how the Bible says, “And she happened to come to a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3). Was it luck that led her there? or the Lord? Of course, we know that nothing in our lives happens by chance. God led her, not only to a place where her immediate need for food would be provided, but a much greater need would be met.
In the Old Testament times, protection of the family inheritance was very important, so a provision was made in the law of the kinsman redeemer in the case when a man died leaving no heir for his property. According to the law of the kinsman redeemer, someone of close relationship to the deceased could marry the widow, and the son born to them would become the heir to the property, as if he had been born to the deceased man. In much the same way Jesus Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer. That is why He had to be born. He could not redeem us as God; He had to become the God-Man in order to identify with us so that He could redeem us and give us an inheritance in God. This is very simplified because I’m trying to keep this article short. To learn more, study it out for yourself or ask me in a private message.
Boaz, the owner of the field that Ruth “happened” to find, was a near kinsman to her. He was not the nearest kinsman, but the nearest kinsman forfeited his right to redeem the land, so Boaz and Ruth were able to be married. This is to me one of the most beautiful love stories ever written—and it’s a true story, which makes it even better. Please read the book of Ruth for yourself. It doesn’t take long.
So Boaz and Ruth were married, and they had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse, and Jesse had a son named David—the very same David who became king of Israel! Can you imagine! God used a woman from a foreign land, an outcast, but a woman who forsook all and trusted Him completely, and elevated her to the status of great grandmother of King David, and in the direct line of Christ (Mt. 1:5). Did she know how God was going to use her? No. Do you know how God is going to use you? No. Nor do I. What I like most about the book of Ruth is that God uses little people… nobodies… people who in their high school yearbooks would be voted as “least likely to succeed.” Those are the people who, when fully surrendered to God, can be used to do great things. Because it is not them; it is God. God only asks us to be faithful. The rest is entirely up to Him.
Next week: Damaris