Book of Ruth, Chapter 1

During this first chapter we are briefly introduced to Naomi’s family; she has a husband and two sons. We are informed they moved from Bethlehem, Judah to live in the country of Moab. Now Naomi’s husband dies, and she is left with her two sons. Her two sons took wives—Ruth andOrpah—for themselves from the country of Moab. This is somewhat a big deal because Deuteronomy states that a child born of Moabite background was not to be admitted to the congregation of Israel until the tenth generation. This still allows marriage, but it speaks of the position of any possible children they might have.

Now it comes to pass that after about ten years Naomi’s two sons die. Neither wife had any children with their husbands. So when Naomi decides to move back to Bethlehem she tells her two daughter-in-laws to return to their families. At first they both refuse to go, but Naomi says to them:

11. But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12. “Turn back, my daughters, go–for I am too old to have a husband. If I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons,
13. “would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”

Now Orpah left with Naomi’s blessing; Ruth had a different answer. It is an answer often quoted.

16. But Ruth said:
Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17. Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.

Ruth was blessed because she stayed. To me this speaks of loyalty and commitment. Naomi pointed out every reason she should go, Naomi gave Ruth her blessing. The other woman went. Ruth stayed. She stayed because when she vowed before her husband’s God to be of one flesh with him, she dedicated herself to his family, leaving her own. Ruth honored that. Despite what it would mean for her–the pain, sacrifice, and treatment of strangers back in those days–she kept to her vow. She remains completely loyal to the commitment and vows she made before others and before God.

Ruth put herself second. Naomi became first, as if she were her own mother, because of the vow Ruth made to her husband. She didn’t let thoughts of herself get in the way. Sure she might never marry again, she may never have children, she will surely get ridiculed and probably worse for being a foreigner, and not to mention all the strangness that comes with submersing yourself into a culture that is nothing like your own. None of that mattered in the end. In the end her vows mattered. Her love for Namoi mattered. God blessed her for keeping that vow, for keeping that commitment, and for having that sort of love. There was no real hope or obvious path to self-gain, but she did it anyway. She put love, loyalty, and commitment first. It is hard to find people who will stand by their word in the face of personal sacrifices and loss.

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