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. Ruth 1: 16
Beautiful words, and ones you may remember from the OT book of Ruth – especially the King James version which is often recited at weddings: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.”
Ruth’s story conveys one of the strongest and most beautiful expressions of faith and faithfulness in all of Scripture.
There was a famine in Israel so severe that a Hebrew named Elimelech took his wife Naomi, and 2 sons to live in the nearby country of Moab. Elimelech soon died and his sons married Moabite women named Ruth and Orpah. After a few years, the 2 sons died also, leaving the 3 widows in Moab.
After their deaths, when Naomi had heard that the famine was over, she made plans to return to her family in Israel. As she set out on foot with Ruth and Orpah, she stopped and implored her daughter-in-laws to return to their own families, to their own gods, and to find another husband to sustain them. The two young women wept and promised to remain with her.
But when Naomi tried to persuade them one last time, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye and left for her own native land and family. Naomi begged Ruth to do the same, but Ruth clung to her in faithfulness and responded with these beautiful words from Ruth 1: 16.
Naomi returned to Bethlehem in shame – financially, emotionally, and physically drained – with nothing, but her loving daughter-in-law. Yet, both women were graciously welcomed by the family, and Ruth began to consider how she could best take care of their needs. She loved Naomi and she had learned to love her God, and with faith, she believed He would care for them. With no money or husband, Ruth had no choice but to go into the fields to gather whatever grain she could find. (Some field owners would let the poor “glean” the fields or pick up what remained behind the harvesters.)
One land owner, named Boaz, took notice of Ruth and asked if anyone knew who she was. When he found out that it was the Moabitess who had returned with Naomi, he was deeply moved by her humility and devotion. He told Ruth to stay in his fields with his servant girls and that his workers would be kind to her and leave plenty of grain for her to pick. She bowed down before him and asked why he would do such a thing for a foreigner.
Boaz replied that he had been told of her kindness to her mother-in-law and how she had left her own family to live with Naomi’s. And then he said these kind words to her, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2: 12)
Ruth then returned to tell Naomi about this generous and kind landowner. Naomi was overjoyed to learn that it was Boaz, a relative of her late husband. According to the law and custom, this meant that Boaz could openly become their “kinsman redeemer” and take Naomi and Ruth into his care, as well as free them from their financial debt.
Boaz graciously and gratefully took the opportunity to buy them out of debt and take Ruth as his wife. They married and had a son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, and grandfather of King David.
For so long, Naomi had been overwhelmed with grief, bitterness, and despair. But with time, she began to understand the sacrifice and love her daughter-in-law had given. But even more, she recognized the blessings and opportunities God had provided. Through Boaz becoming their kinsman redeemer, He was not only ensuring that their family line and inheritance would be restored, but He was also giving Ruth the opportunity to have a loving family.
What a wonderful example of God’s sovereignty and how He will often send individuals into our lives to get us through the difficult times. He will provide His loving care when we need Him most and what miraculous ways He works out our situations if we will be patient and trusting.
This beautiful story has also been called the foreshadowing of an event to come. For we, too, have had a “kinsman redeemer” to pay our debt, and He did so on the cross. Jesus Christ redeemed us with His saving grace, and just as He did for Ruth and Naomi, He will provide His loving care.
Dear God, thank you for the beautiful stories in your Word to teach us about your love and grace. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross to redeem us and to give us the gift of eternal life. Amen