In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“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 realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Life isn’t always fair. If we needed a reminder of that, Ruth chapter one gives it to us.
Naomi loses it all (or so it certainly feels that way to her on this side of Heaven) and she does what many of us, in her shoes, would want to do too… she blames God, grows bitter and seems to lose hope for her life. In the midst of her pain and hopelessness she encourages her daughter-in-laws to leave her, to return to their families and to seek new lives for themselves.
It’s hard to cling to hope when you don’t know the end of the story. It’s hard to look into someone’s eyes and tell them, “everything is going to be okay,’ when you don’t really know that it is and Naomi apparently couldn’t find any hope in their situation. She has to convince Orpah twice to leave her and go. Ruth, she tries to convince a third time, but Ruth’s loyalty is stronger than her fears and she tells Naomi, “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.” Ruth’s conviction is strong and she knows she will feel no peace in leaving her mother-in-law. Ruth stays with Naomi if for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.
We live in a world of rationalization. We sometimes lie to ourselves because we think we are bettering ourselves. Fear feeds our rationalizations and I believe it to be one of the reasons many of us choose the easy way out over the harder, honorable, right thing to do.
Friends, I’m hear to tell you today, blessings come out of obedience. The older I get the more I experience this to be true…also, it’s Biblical.
“Observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.” ~ 1 Kings 2:3
If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 28:1-2
Ruth is a wonderful example to us of someone who makes the hard choice because it’s the right thing to do…and while she didn’t know the end to their story we can read ahead to find out that the blessings come.
When you’re faced with a choice and find yourself rationalizing, pray. Pray for the strength to do the right thing…the loyal, honorable thing. Then listen. Listen to the Holy Spirit living inside of you urging you to do what is right. Seek wise counsel if you need it, too. Sometimes, as in the case of Ruth…the choice is clear and you just have to act on it. While that choice might not always be the easy choice, it will always be the choice that brings you peace. The blessings are the bonus.
Lord, sometimes it’s hard to make the right choice when it means saying no to something we think we need or know we want. It’s even harder when it means uncertainty. I pray that I would trust you, trust your word, and trust the Holy Spirit living in me. Help me to choose loyalty and good character. Whether my choice is in public or private, I pray that I would choose to do what brings you honor and glory and ultimately what will bring peace into my life. Amen
For a good overview of the Book of Ruth, take a look at this Bible Project Video:
Today’s post was written by Amanda Sanders.
Amanda has been married to her high school sweet heart Matt for 12 years. Together they have three kids ages 9, 7 and 4. In this season of life, Amanda spends most of her time drinking coffee, teaching children, doing laundry and repeating herself. Occasionally, she has some time for working out, reading for leisure and writing. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life UCF campus.