Summary: A look at the extreme commitment of Ruth, and how we should do likewise.
I have had the privilege of officiated two weddings this summer. Since being ordained last May, I have officiated a total of four weddings, and two of the four have been relatives of my wife. Jen has a big family, and by family I am not referring to brothers and sisters. She only has one brother. But it is a big family when it comes to aunts and uncles, and cousins. In fact, I have been spending time with them for at least four years and I think I just now have most people’s names down. I still struggle on some of the connections, how is this person connected to the family? But I pretty much know everyone’s name.
I have noticed a trend in the family gatherings that we attend. I am almost always the one asked to pray. Preacher, that’s what they call me, preacher, would you say the blessing? It makes me wonder who did the praying before they had a pastor in the family? There is a similar trend when it comes to cousins getting married. One cousin got married last summer, and they were my very first wedding. This summer, another cousin got married, and they were my fourth wedding. It really is a privilege for me, and I think it is very special to be able to officiate at those weddings. But another cousin has gotten engaged, so we will see if the trend continues, I may just marry every cousin Jen has. In fact I may just start up my own business. My mother-in-law already does wedding cakes. I do the counseling and ceremony. If Jennifer wants to be the coordinator and photographer, we would have the whole package.
Each time I do a wedding, I am impressed with the commitment that is being made. As I worked with the bride and groom for this last wedding, they wanted to do something I had never seen before for their wedding vows. Generally people do the traditional vows, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, or they write their own. But they had seen a passage from Ruth used in another wedding and they loved the idea. So this is the passage they recited together as their vows…
Ruth 1:16-17 Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."
Rut 1:16-17 Porque iré adonde tú vayas, y viviré donde tú vivas. Tu pueblo será mi pueblo, y tu Dios será mi Dios. Moriré donde tú mueras, y allí seré sepultada. ¡Que me castigue el SEÑOR con toda severidad si me separa de ti algo que no sea la muerte!
This is the NIV translation, and they opted to use a different translation that was not quite as harsh in the final sentence. The version they used said, may the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me. What a commitment! What a strong statement for a couple to make!
Let me give a little background to the passage. Ruth was making this commitment to Naomi who was her mother-in-law. Ruth had married into the family while they were living in Moab, a non Israelite land, And during the following years in Moab, all of the men of the family die. Naomi’s husband dies, and then her two sons die. This leaves Naomi with her two daughters in law.
As Naomi receives word that the famine in Judah has ended, she has no reason to stay in Moab. Yet Naomi discourages Ruth from returning to Judah with her because of the difficulties she would face. As her mother-in-law insists that she stay in Moab, Ruth makes this commitment that we read together. Ruth, who was not Jewish, who as far as we know had no previous knowledge of Yahweh, says may Yahweh deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.
What a commitment for Ruth to make. Not only to go to a foreign land where she will have no rights, and a very low probability of ever remarrying, but she intentionally chooses to live the rest of her life with her mother-in-law. And you know how mother-in-laws can be, traditionally speaking of course. But what an amazing commitment for Ruth.
And what a commitment for a bride and groom to make! Wherever you go I will go. Your people with be my people, your family is now my family. Your God my God and I will be by your side until death, and only death will separate us. And even then I will be buried where you are buried. And if I break this commitment, then may God deal with me.