Summary: Ruth is a foreigner who finds belonging among God's people. "Where you go I will go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God.
Ruth 1:1-17 “Finding Family”
Stories are a powerful force in our lives. They do more than merely entertain. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a powerful, gripping anti-slavery novel that was first published in 1852. It solidified the abolitionist movement. When President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he is credited with saying, “So this is the little lady that started this great war.” The story of an orphan boy with magical powers who lived in an abusive home caught the attention of the world, dealt with issues of growing up and portrayed the fight of good versus evil. The Harry Potter series single handedly encouraged more children and young people to read than any educational program. A small boy from Imperial, Nebraska whose story is told in the book, Heaven is for Real captivated a nation. He briefly died from a burst appendix and visited heaven.
The Bible contains powerful stories. They inspire, comfort, instruct, encourage and motivate. The Holy Spirit has used these stories in a mighty manner to touch and to transform lives. The story of Naomi and Ruth is such a story. Though thousands of years old, this story serves as an example of sacrificial love and deep commitment. If we want to know what everyday life as a disciple of Jesus Christ looks like we can see it in Ruth.
The story takes place during the period of the judges around 1200 BC. The Israelites had occupied Canaan, “The Promised Land” but it was not a time of peace. There were constantly wars and skirmishes with neighboring nations.
There was a famine in and around Bethlehem. Elimelech, his wife and his two sons fled the famine and move to the nation of Moab. The family settled into their new surroundings. Sometimes life is unfair, though. Naomi’s husband Elimelech and her two sons died. Naomi and her two daughters-in-law faced life, in a male dominated world, with no male family members.
Life is hard. Somehow the three women eked out a meager existence. There is little hope, though. Naomi had no expectation of being married again, and as long as Ruth and Orpah were with Naomi they too had little hope of being married again.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. She heard that the famine had ended and that the Lord had given the people food. She was probably hopeful that she would be able to survive better in an area with abundant food. Naomi released Ruth and Orpah from any responsibility for her. Orpah left to find a new husband.
Ruth refused to leave Naomi. She knew that Naomi couldn’t fend for herself; she need someone to care for her.
Ruth was fully committed to Naomi. Ruth wasn’t satisfied to be Naomi’s traveling companion. Ruth pledged to stay with Naomi for the rest of her life. She would no longer be a Moabite, but would now be one of Naomi’s people. Ruth was even willing to give up the gods that were a part of her upbringing and become a follower of the one true God, the God of Naomi.
Commitment is an expression of love and a mark of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
• Commitment is moving heaven and earth to “be there” for our family and friends.
• Commitment is walking with a friend through the darkest hours of their lives and not abandoning them.
• Commitment is seeing a need and working to meet that need until there is no longer a need.
• Commitment isn’t necessarily one big action, but small, regular actions over a long period of time.
Ruth’s love was sacrificial; it cost her something. In Ruth’s case it cost her a lot e.g. the safety and security of marriage, her family and friends, even her identity. Ruth’s sacrificial love took the focus of attention off her own needs and put it on the Naomi’s needs.
Modern day models of sacrificial love are all around us. Many of us were caught up in the story of Robin Roberts of Good Morning America fame and her battle with breast cancer and a rare blood disease. It was her sister Sally-Ann who sacrificially donated her bone marrow who saved Robin’s life. It was also the constant care of Robin’s friend, Amber, through those years that demonstrated what sacrificial love is.
In 1968 the North Koreans captured a US warship, “The Pueblo,” and imprisoned her crew of 82. During their imprisonment the crew was forced to sit ramrod straight around a large table. Every day a guard enter the room where they sat and beat the prisoner in the first chair. This went on for four days. On the fifth day one of the man’s crewmates took his place. Each day a different crew member sat in that chair knowing what would happen. Not able to break the members of the crew the guards eventually gave up this torture.