‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realised that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”(Ruth 1:15-18)
I am sure you have heard many wonderful teachings and sermons based on the book of Ruth. Many people wrote entire books about her story, it is so incredibly rich, full of meaningful messages.
Today, I would like to focus on just one aspect of story. I would like us to notice how much God can and will reward those, who motivated by love and commitment, choose to step out in faith.
We know the story well. After losing her husband and 2 sons in a foreign country, Naomi decided it was time to go home. She then tried to persuade her 2 daughters in law Ruth and Orpah to return to their own home, to their birth family.
So Ruth and Orpah were faced with the same dilemma. Should they return to a place that is familiar and safe to them…. in hope of a new beginning and a better luck next time
Should they let their love and loyalty to this one person, their mother in law, Naomi to lead them into a new home.
Then we see how Orpah decides to go with option A, and she returns home, while Ruth decides to stay with Naomi anyway.
I’m wondering… Do you think Orpah made a wrong decision? Does the Bible condemn and shame her for going home? Absolutely not!!
Orpah had every right and every reason to go home. She’d been through a lot. She had lost a husband, and along with him she lost her livelihood, and being a widow without a child she pretty much lost all hope for the future.
This woman needed a break. And she is not judged, but she goes home with Naomi’s blessing and although we don’t know what happens with her later, we can hope that eventually she remarried, had a dozen children and lived happily ever after. But we really don’t know.
What we do know is that Naomi tries to convince Ruth to be sensible and go home like Orpah did. But Ruth is determined, she digs her heels in and refuse to leave Naomi alone. Her commitment and determination have inspired many people since and her short monologue is often quoted in wedding sermons and vows.
‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you – she says
Where you go I will go…
and where you stay I will stay…
your people will be my people…
your God will be my God…
your chicken stuffing is my chicken stuffing…
and your football team is my football team…
from now on and forever.
(Okay… She didn’t exactly say this last bit, but I am sure she meant to!)
Because of her love and commitment to Naomi, she was willing to give up everything. She was holding onto Naomi so hard, that she was willing to fully let go of her past, of her home and identity, the culture and traditions she was brought up in with it’s many gods, and she was ready to adopt Naomi’s culture and her God, the one God of Israel. And so they continue on the road together.
Then we see how the bold choice and commitment of Ruth has set into motion a chain events, that eventually led them into a new home and a new life. Naomi’s relative a man named Boaz marries Ruth and their son becomes the grandfather of king David. This way Ruth is grafted into the family tree of Jesus Christ himself. God rewarded her and restored her joy not only in her lifetime but on an infinitely bigger scale.
Although the narrator never mentions God directly, it’s impossible to ignore how God is behind EVERY little detail, every timing, every decision… from the moment Ruth binds herself to Naomi, every mundane, ordinary event of their story are woven into God’s plan and the grand story of redemption of the whole world. How amazing is that?
I hope you can see that this story is not about Orpah making a bad choice, it’s about Ruth making and extraordinary choice and being rewarded in an equally extraordinary way.
The same way God promises an extraordinary reward to those who chose to cling to him and walk with him through life with loyalty and true commitment. So let’s bring this story home with asking this question:
After having been through so much – either during this last year, or a long time before – will you choose to return home like Orpah did or will you glue yourself to Jesus and follow him as he leads you into your new home?
After having your life turned upside down, possibly trying to deal with the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, a missed opportunity, or the loss of time, will you make the sensible choice and go back to what’s normal and familiar to you, hoping for a new beginning and better luck next time?
Or will you make an extraordinary choice, the way Ruth did. You have the option to leave the past behind, and glue yourself to the ONE person, Jesus Christ who can lead you into a new home, and completely new way of living?
The heart of the question is: Will you go for the sensible choice or the faith choice?
What does the faith choice look like, you may ask? With simple words, it looks like this: clearing out the clutter from our lives and making room for Jesus. It looks like what hundreds of families did recently: when they cleared out and rearranged their house, to prioritize home schooling or facilitate working from home. When walking with Jesus is our priority, then we do what we have to do to make it happen. We re- arrange our lives to make it work.
Binding ourselves to Jesus means to stick with him for better or worse. It means to keep him at the centre of our whole life, as our absolute priority. We cling to Jesus by surrendering him every thought, every plan and opportunity we have and to expecting an extraordinary reward.
If we walk in faith, and commitment to Jesus, he will weave our steps into his steps and he will be present in our lives, and all our decisions and actions in ways we don’t even see or understand…
Walking together on this path he will guide us into a new home, a home where our lives will be completely restored, all our burdens will be taken away, our wounds will be healed and we will be comforted by the gentle touch of the one who was loyal and committed to us till death. What a reward!
Think about this!
If God was able to restore Naomi from the bitterness of grief to joy… if He was able to turn Ruth, a childless Moabite widow into a wife, a mother and the great grandmother of King David, than what do you think God can do with your life?
If God was able to graft Ruth into the family tree of the saviour of the world, what can he do with your life? If you cling to him in faith, God will do with your life more than you could ever imagine or ask for!
He is able and willing to take all your pain and brokenness and turn them into blessings, not only to yourself but to all the people around you.
So May you make room in your life for God and cling to him with all your strength. May God weave your steps into his steps as you walk together, and as he is leading you into complete restoration and a new, eternal home.