Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-17
In the movie series “Lord of the Rings” Frodo must take a powerful ring to Mordor, a volcano, in order to destroy it. Along the way he travels with others who are escorting him along the journey. At one point he feels it would be better for him to do it alone. His life-long friend Sam thinks differently…
Sam could have chosen to let Frodo go on his own. After all, it would have been a lot safer. This journey they are on is incredibly dangerous as they struggle across difficult terrain and many opponents who seek to not only stop them, but destroy them in the process.
Only Sam made a promise he would never leave Frodo’s side. A promise he takes very seriously as his friend is burdened with this powerful ring which is known to cause a great deal of physical and emotional suffering for the one who carries it.
Sam was not willing to let Frodo carry this burden on his own. He was committed to helping his friend through this impossible adventure.
His friendship, his love for Frodo, would not let him leave his side.
Today we’re stopping in on the book of Ruth as we progress through some stories of the Old Testament.
It begins with telling us that Elimelech and his family living in Bethlehem need to move to Moab because of a famine. So he, his wife Naomi and his two sons pack up and leave for greener pastures.
While they were there, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi and her two sons. The sons married two local Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. We’re told that ten years later both of the sons also died, leaving Naomi, Orpah and Ruth as widows together.
Naomi’s sons would have been caring for her as a widow. They were the only family she had in Moab, and it was their duty to care for her. But now Naomi is not only a widow, she is also childless, even without grandchildren to care for her.
I’m sure the three women are wondering what to do next.
Naomi hears word though that the famine in Judah is over and she begins to make her way home, to be closer to family. Orpah and Ruth begin this journey as well.
However, Naomi recognizes these women are leaving their homeland for a foreign nation. They are leaving their extended families behind. They would be like Naomi, a widow in a far away land with no one to care for them.
Naomi explains to her daughters-in-law there is no need to follow her. She cannot produce sons for them to marry, which would be the custom of the day; brothers of the deceased care for their wives should they pass away. She explains it would make more sense for them to stay in their homeland where they can remarry and have a family of their own.
Orpah agrees and does not go. After a tearful good bye, she returns to her home and her family, but Ruth will not.
We then hear Ruth give a passionate speech to her mother-in-law as to her commitment to continue living with her.
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
Ruth has formed a very special relationship with Naomi. They are more than mother and daughter-in-law. They have formed a very tight friendship with each other.
So Ruth makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and follow Naomi to Bethlehem. And away they go!
I suspect they know life won’t be easy for two widows. They will need to trust in the kindness and generosity of distant relatives and strangers. They will need to forage for food. They will have to work very hard to make a home in Bethlehem.
So why does Ruth make the trip?
Why does she choose to leave family, friends and home to travel with Naomi.
Ruth is a Moabite, which means she worships a different god than Naomi. Noami, as an Israelite, worships the God of Abraham and Moses. The same God we worship today.
Naomi’s sons marrying Moabite women would have been a big problem because Israelites were banned from marrying foreigners, the Moabites being listed in the ban. There was fear that marrying foreigners would lead to Israelites worshipped pagan gods.
However, if we look at Ruth’s reaction to Noami’s leaving, we would see something else has happened.
In Ruth’s commitment to Naomi she says, “your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth has shown she has been moved by the faith of her in-laws in such a way she is willing to commit herself to Naomi’s God.
An interesting fact about the book of Ruth is that God does not really show up. There’s no prophets saying “God says…”, nor does God appear to anyone or even get mentioned in any tangible way.
Yet, as you watch the story evolve, how the two women live together and how Ruth eventually finds herself a husband in Bethlehem, you can see how God moves through the people in the story.
Ruth makes herself a commitment to living the life of an Israelite, and to worship their God, and we see how God provides for the two faithful women.
So what does Naomi have to offer Ruth with her age and poverty?
She has faith.
Naomi’s friendship; Naomi’s faithfulness; Naomi’s witness has impacted the life of Ruth. And in their shared faith they are blessed by God.
This story shows God doesn’t have to move mountains in order to have an incredible impact on society. This story shows how even the quiet faith of two forgotten widows can have an impact on a wider community.
These women weren’t out in the streets preaching. They weren’t found hanging around the temple. They are two hard working women who did what had to be done in order to get by on their own, with no family to support them.
Their quiet commitment to the God of Israel was more than enough.
And so it is with faith today. We don’t need to be great preachers or evangelists, we just need to trust in our God to lead us.
When we put our full trust in God people can see it. Our demeanor changes. The way we look at the world changes.
In Jesus, God invites us into this special relationship.
Shortly after Jesus had chosen all of his disciples, so pretty early in his ministry, he was sitting in a house with them. His mother and brothers came to see him. A crowd who had gathered with Jesus told him his family was waiting to see him.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus lets us know that family is more than DNA. Family, for those people who let Jesus Christ into their lives, is far greater than blood. We are united by God, not just on this earth, but for all eternity!
While Naomi and Ruth had no blood relationship to make them family, they were one family under God because of their faithfulness and quiet witness and trust in Him to provide.
We too are part of this family. Those of us who trust in God to guide and provide for us, we are with Him.
God doesn’t always show up in big, flashy ways. Sometimes He shows up in the quiet moments. I’d say that’s his preferred communication strategy. God works in those quiet moments. He works in our actions as He guides our hearts, changing our lives for His glory.
We are one family, even if we have different mothers and fathers, because we have a loving God who brings us together to learn and grow in His love.
Ruth and Naomi show us it’s God’s love which moves the hearts of people, leading us to be quiet witnesses in a world full of noise and distractions.
Yet, even in the chaos, God can be seen in and through us, as we follow His call in our lives to live fully into a relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.