Ruth 1 has a beautiful story that is very bittersweet as well as a great lesson in loyalty. Emilelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion were living in a land that had a famine. They pick up and move to Moab where they could find some food. While there, the two boys took Moabite wives – Orpah and Ruth – and brought them into their family. Then the tragedy hit. They lived in Moab for 10 years and Elimelech first died, then both the boys died as well. So we have a picture of three widows living this this foreign land away from their people. Naomi was “left without her two sons and her husband”
Naomi decided it was time to return to the land of Judah. So she instructs the two daughter in laws to “go, return each of you to her mother’s house”. She couldn’t care for them any longer, and they have no relationship with her people back home since they became part of her family when they lived in their land. But the family had obviously bonded as “they lifted up their voices and wept”. Their response was strong and focused: “no, we will return with you to your people”. They have grown to love Naomi and want to stay with her.
But Naomi wants what is best for these two young women. She tells them to “go your way” and make a new life. Naomi feels responsible, and feels rather frustrated with her situation. “It is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me”. She has experienced a lot of loss and life has not gone her way. With this second request for the ladies to leave here, Orpah decides to do so, but “Ruth clung to her”. Then we hear some of the most powerful words in scripture about love and loyalty. Here is what Ruth had to say……
“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 die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you”. Here is a lesson in how we need to commit. Ruth has no real ties to Naomi outside her dead son. She is living in a situation with no bread winner in her own life, nor for Naomi either. If she goes with Naomi, she will be leaving the familiar and heading to a place she knows no one. It is a bad decision on the surface. But love overcomes all those surface reasons why it shouldn’t happen. Ruth has become part of the family and wants to spend her life with Naomi. It truly is until ‘death do us part’ in a real, yet sort of different way. We can learn much from her words here about how we need to totally dive in to relationships when marriage happens. Too often people don’t go all in, they give just enough to get by. Ruth was all in – for life!