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.
In Matthew 1, there were only 4 women who were named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, tracing back to Abraham. These women came from all walks of life, and we see how God used them in various ways, which culminated in their names being logged down in history – such an amazing honour. Perhaps the one common point out of these 4 women was the faith that they had that bellied their circumstances or their background. Out of these 4 women, only one of them had the extra honour of having a book of the Bible named after her. In today’s study, we will examine the background of Ruth and her character in the initial stages of the book of Ruth – how she made a decision to stay in a situation where the easy way out would have been to leave.
But Ruth replied – we are all familiar with the context of this verse – Naomi and her husband, and their two sons, escaped to Moab for a while with the intention to escape the famine. However, while they were there, they married Moabite women, and perhaps got comfortable there, to the point where they stayed up till 10 years in pagan territory. Naomi only returned upon the death of her husband and both her sons. Without a man in the family, and having heard that there is food back in Bethlehem again, Naomi decided to move back. Her heart was bitter by then, but she at least had the consideration to send her daughter-in-laws away, for it was clear that staying with her would mean a lot of hardship and a lack of a future for them. Her daughter-in-laws were not unsentimental, each refusing the first time she asked. When Naomi insisted, one of her daughter-in-laws left. And that’s where we start off on this verse. But Ruth didn’t want to leave.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay – this is such a dramatic line that I would expect to hear it from a movie, but never from real life situations. This is a declaration of loyalty, of faithfulness, of sticking with you through thick and thin. This is what a wife tells her husband, not her mother-in-law. Especially not one who had no support and no future assured. We need to remember that Ruth was a Moabite woman – Israel was foreign territory for her, and her only support was Naomi, whose only support was her. Naomi wasn’t promising her that she had a big house with lots of field back in Bethlehem – no, the understanding was clear. Naomi had nothing, and where the future that they were headed towards was a huge unknown.
Your people will be my people and your God my God – In Moab, they worshipped various idols, and certainly not the God of Israel. Yet Ruth had obviously heard of this God that her husband’s family worshipped, and she not only heard about this God, she believed in this God. This second declaration clearly shows that she had not only married into the family, she had married into the Israeli culture and faith as well. What kind of faith was this, that she would be able to stick to Naomi at a dark time such as this? We do not know about her own family – perhaps she had none anyway, and perhaps sticking to Naomi, someone whom she knew and trusted and was comfortable with, was at least better than living on the streets. Yet, let us not discount the huge step of faith taken by Ruth at this moment.
This was a game-changing declaration. Without Ruth, perhaps Naomi would have returned with a heavier heart, and a more hopeless outlook. Without Ruth, perhaps Naomi would have worried only about the place she dies, and not the place she would live for the remaining days of her life. Without Ruth, we will not see the exciting (and dramatic) plots that Naomi conceived to try and secure a better future for themselves. Without Ruth sticking to Naomi, she wouldn’t have gone to Bethlehem, and she wouldn’t have met Boaz, and the genealogy of Jesus would have been vastly different.
I most certainly doubt that when Ruth made that declaration, she would have guessed that it will one day result in her being involved in the genealogy of Jesus. In fact, let’s not even talk about the Messiah, Ruth was the grandmother of Jesse, the father of King David, another legendary biblical figure. Yet all these honour would have been impossible if at that moment, she chose to leave Naomi and cut her ties with the people of God, and returned to her own home in Moab. Instead, what she did was cutting away her ties with the pagan land and culture, and she walked right into the plans of God, which are far greater and far more amazing than she could ever have imagined.
The loyalty and submission of Ruth to Naomi was further exemplified later on in the book of Ruth, but throughout the book, we see a humble, submissive and diligent woman who had faith despite their circumstances. While we cannot expect one day to receive an honour as huge as what Ruth received, but let us be reminded that God can use people who are at the furthest ranks of society for even the greatest of his works.
Perhaps you are the next one.