Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Ruth
“But Ruth replied, ‘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
The Book of Ruth holds a very special place in the canon of Scripture. Not only is it the only Book of the Bible that is specifically about a woman; but she is a godly and loyal woman; a Jewish proselyte (a Gentile who converts to Judaism); and the future great-grandmother to King David, and of course, a distant relative of our Savior Jesus Christ. This sixteenth verse is often used in wedding ceremonies to indicate the devotion of the bride to her groom.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Ruth, here is a Reader’s Digest abridged version: A Jewish couple – Elimelech and Naomi – live in Bethlehem in Judah, but a severe famine in the land forces them to relocate to Moab where food has been plentiful. They have two sons – Mahlon and Chilion. While in Moab Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons. Some time later the two sons marry Moabite women – Orpah and Ruth – and as a side note, television personality Oprah Winfrey was named after this Orpah but people mispronounced it regularly and ‘Oprah’ stuck.
Ten Years later both of Naomi’s sons died, which now meant that Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws are all widows. Naomi decides to return to her homeland of Judah, and both Orpah and Ruth begin the journey along with her. It appears that a short time later Naomi encourages both women – as much as she loves them both – to go back to their own land and people since Naomi will probably never marry and have more sons for them to marry years later. Orpah and Ruth must now decide what to do, and although Orpah loves her mother-in-law, she decides to go back to her own homeland. The implication found in the Hebrew word ‘return’ is that Orpah has decided to ‘return to the worship of the Moabite gods’ (not to imply that she ever was a lover of Jehovah God).
On the other hand, Ruth feels and believes differently. Not only does she love her mother-in-law Naomi, but she also loves Naomi’s God – Jehovah God of Israel. As the Reformation Study Bible points out, this sixteenth verse includes four constructions known as idem per idem (the same for the same), a literary device in which the same verb or noun is used of one person’s actions and then of another person’s actions. It is used to underscore the intensity of the action as well as the totality of commitment. Ruth’s desire to remain with Naomi and resettle in the land of Jehovah God is more than just a special dependence or attachment to Naomi; Ruth is totally committed to Naomi’s God, who is now her God.
To now jump to the end of the story (which isn’t my real emphasis here, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you of the amazing outcome!): Naomi will eventually (and providentially) meet a wealthy businessman/farmer named Boaz, who ‘just so happens’ (I love how the Lord always does this!) to be a relative of Naomi. This is significant because under Jewish tradition, if a woman’s husband dies before she is blessed with children, it is the obligation of the brother of the late husband – or another male relative if a brother isn’t available – to marry the widow in order to keep the family name going through her. The man who does this is referred to as the ‘kinsman redeemer’.
Well, Boaz is smitten with Ruth, discovers her story and his relationship to Naomi, and lovingly marries Ruth, and they produce a son (and Naomi is so very, very happy and blessed!) named Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse, who will be the father of King David, who is a relative of Jesus Christ, who is OUR Kinsman Redeemer!
So, back to why I picked Ruth 1:16 as one of my favorites. This verse not only speaks of the wonderful love and devotion that Ruth had for her mother-in-law, as well as being a nice illustration for married couples, but it accentuates Ruth’s conversion to the Living God, as opposed to Orpah’s desire to go back to her false gods. As we read in Jonah 2:9, ‘Salvation is of the Lord’, and although Ruth came to ‘faith’ under the tutelage and influence of Naomi, Orpah had the same opportunities, yet she decided otherwise.
It is the Lord who calls sinners to a place of salvation. As we poignantly read in Acts 16:14 concerning the conversion of Lydia “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (The gospel)”. It wasn’t just a coincidence that Ruth rather than Orpah would come to faith, but it was according to the Lord’s good pleasure and purposes, and how about this – Ruth just so happens to become the relative of King David and Jesus Christ. Boy oh boy, aren’t we ‘lucky’ that Ruth “decided” to stick around with Naomi! If not, there would’ve been no King David, no Jesus Christ, and no salvation! Yeah, I know that you don’t see it as “lucky”….the Lord God knows what He is doing, so let’s trust that ‘the footsteps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord’ (Psalm 37:23); and that ‘No plan of the Lord’s can be thwarted’ (Job 42:2).