Morning Musing: Ruth 1:16-17

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.  For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you died I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.'”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

This beautiful expression of faithfulness is often read in the context of a wedding ceremony.  And, given the words Ruth uses here, this is not an inappropriate use of them.  But, let’s consider for a moment just how amazing they really are and perhaps the wonder of such moments will only increase.

For starters, Ruth would have been the last person in the world from whom this kind of a thing would have been expected.  She was a Moabitess.  In the context of the times, she was part of one of the chief enemies of the people of Israel.  More than that, by Moses’ own command, the Moabites as a people were to be singled out for permanent exclusion from the people.  They, along with the Ammonites, were who hired Balaam to come and curse the people, and when that didn’t work, used their women to tempt them into sinful unfaithfulness that resulted in a pretty stiff punishment from God.

Elimelech and his family should never have gone there in the first place, but for his sons to both marry local girls was like pouring dirt on the heads of their ancestors.  Now that Naomi was left with just her two Moabite daughters-in-law, she should have immediately cut them loose and returned to her people.  Indeed, that’s what she tries to do.

But, while Orpah took her invitation to leave (and she shouldn’t be faulted for this; while custom would have indeed left her bound to Naomi, her mother-in-law’s graciously excusing her from this cultural and legal duty meant essentially a second chance at life for her), Ruth refused.  The words here spell out her reasons why.  The bottom line is that Ruth made a covenant when she married Naomi’s son (we’re not told which one) and she intended to keep it.  She was stripped of her opportunity to keep her covenant with respect to her husband, but she would keep it through her mother-in-law in his place.

What she does here is essentially turn her back on her entire people and heritage.  In turning from that, she turns to Naomi, the people of Israel, and, most importantly, the God of Israel.  Such a faith commitment is to be honored and celebrated and indeed, Ruth’s honor by the end of the book is great.  May we also be so faithful in our commitments as Ruth was.

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