Ruth 1: Famine, Family, Faith and Future
There are a few women in the bible that do not fit the Jewish mindset of heritage and ethnic lineage. Think of Tamar, the widow daughter-in-law of Judah, Bathsheba, and Rahab. Ruth is one of those women, she is a Moabitess, from the line of Abraham’s second wife Keturah. [Genesis 25]
We pick up the story with Naomi and family leaving Bethlehem, the city of David, also called the “House of Bread” because of a famine. Talk about your irony! It is still the time of the Judges in Israel History. Naomi and Elimelech have two boys. They move to Moab; I presume to find work and food. The move is not just across town, but quite a distance.
While moving to a new place can have it pros and cons, especially trying to fit into the culture, disaster hits the family. First, Naomi’s husband dies, the two boys have taken foreign wives, and soon they die. Our story is about how Naomi in her grief is comforted by Ruth.
Naomi has the attitude that usually takes over in times of grief and sorrow – self-pity. In her darkened state of mind, she has a conversation with the two daughters-in-law about how they should go back to their people and she will return to Judah, in reproach and shame; having man to provide for her. Her return would be one of ridicule and need. Naomi feels that God has forsaken her. AT first, the two women, object to the suggestion, but after being pressed, Orpah takes Naomi up on her offer.
It is interesting that Naomi tells them that she is too old to have sons, which would invoke the GOEL, kinsman redeemer law. [this is what got Judah in trouble with Tamar] Essentially, the GOEL principle states that in the case of a brother dying without an heir, his brother is to take his brothers wife and provide an heir, and if he dies without an heir, it moves down the brothers until an heir is provided. [Matthew 22:25 story] Back to our narrative, Naomi gives them their release.
Ruth enters into a conversation with Naomi; now I find no explicit revealing of the faith of Ruth, but it definitely is there implicitly. Ruth talks about Orpah going back to “her gods” but Ruth in 1:16-17 takes her stand to stay with Naomi. This is awesome, obviously there is faith and God of Israel conversations and display during their stay in Moab. Ruth makes a vow, I will go where you go, your God will be my God and your people will be my people. Where you die, I will die. What a tremendous statement of faith! I have used these verses in marriage vows to show the commitment and dedication to the union the couple are making. Now, let us think about all this from Ruth. What is she going to? Who is she going back with but a bitter, depressed Naomi! If it would be difficult for Naomi to return, how much more difficult for a foreigner to go back?
Naomi takes the position with God that many takes when life situations are no longer in our favor, we grimace and groan about how God has delt harshly with us. Ruth relentless in her vow to stay with Naomi reflects amazing faith and commitment for family, faith, and future. Let us think about it, what does Ruth have to stay for in Moab?
During these days in our society and pandemic culture, the future is uncertain, but journey we must. The future is unknown, but our faith can still shine. Let our faith in our loving Heavenly Father guide our days as we travel into a New Year. Yes, this has been a most difficult year. Anything that seemingly could go wrong has, but we are not left to solve these difficulties on our own. We must travel into this new year with hope and faith – Our God has a plan, even in the darkest days!