Great Faith: Ruth 1 & 2
The book of Ruth begins with identifying a family during the time of the Judges who move to Moab from Bethlehem to escape a famine. The Bible names two generations of the family and then notes that the patriarch and his sons wound up dying once the family was settled in Moab. This left the matriarch Naomi and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. Realizing that her best chance for survival was to return to Bethlehem and rely upon God for sustenance, Naomi tearfully urged her daughters-in-law to return to their ancestral lands and peoples. One of the women departed, but the other, Ruth, chose to stay with Naomi, even though she knew her life would be difficult living as an outsider in Judah. In verses sixteen and seventeen of Ruth 1, it says, “But Ruth replied [to Naomi], ‘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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’”
Now this is a profound statement from Ruth, and it speaks to the contents of her heart and her character. She was a loyal and determined woman and was not about to be separated from her mother-in-law Naomi. This passion speaks volumes about both women. For Ruth, we see a brilliant and humble expression of faith. She vows to break with her worldly past, to move far from where she came from, and to leave the pagan gods of her people behind to join the family of God and to serve Him. This is very similar to the beginning of Abraham’s story in Genesis 12, but Ruth was willing to do this without first receiving a promise from God. What an incredible example of faith! Ruth was willing not only to make this dramatic vow but committed to doing so until death. She even went so far as to invoke the wrath of God should she ever break this vow. Reading ahead in the book shows us that these were not empty words from Ruth but an emotional expression of a heart that was turned toward God.
While the first verses of Ruth mostly provide us with logistical supporting information that sets the stage for the rest of the book, this proclamation of devotion from Ruth should challenge us to our cores. At some point in our lives, we all need to be like Ruth, willing to leave behind our idolatrous past, join the family of God, and make the Lord our everything. While we don’t know the moment of Ruth’s salvation, certainly her words recorded in Ruth 1:16-17 seem to express a level of faith that lives under the banner of Ephesians 2:8-9. For many of us, we can look back and remember a specific Ruth 1:16-17 moment in our lives where we can pinpoint the moment in time when we were born again. For others, it can be a little murkier. Ruth 1:16-17 might have been the moment Ruth was born again, but it could have happened before or after that time as well. For many of us, we know, as per Scripture, that we are living as a saved children of God, but we cannot identify the exact moment we became that way. Regardless, it doesn’t matter as long as we can look into our own hearts and know that, right now, the words of Ruth 1:16-17 are true for us as well.
And while we could spend many more pages praising the faith of Ruth, we also need to make sure that we don’t miss the testimony of Naomi. We don’t know when Ruth was first introduced to the God of the Bible. Presumably, her husband Mahlon would have greatly influenced her while he still lived, but Naomi’s relationship with God must have had a profound effect on her. We are not treated to a detailed account of Naomi’s character or day-to-day life in Moab, but we can clearly see from Ruth’s fierce devotion to her that Naomi must have been a woman of noble character. The power of her testimony is obvious, and it should challenge us. Does your life provide the testimony of Naomi to others? Does your walk with Christ inspire your family and neighbors so much that, when the chips are down, they publicly proclaim their devotion to you and decide to make your God their God? If your life isn’t having that effect on others, why not? We’ll never be perfect, and these women have left some really big shoes to fill, but we should read about their examples and be inspired to do likewise for the glory of God.