Ruth 1:16-22 (CSB)
16 But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.
18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.
19 The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter.
21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
22 So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Philippians 4:8 (CSB) Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.
- When was that first moment in your own life where your faced towards God and could not turn back? Perhaps that has always been your life because you have always known the love of God. But perhaps you have seen two worlds and had to choose one.
- Who are the people of grace in your life? In times of distress and downcast, who has pointed you back to God? Can we do this life alone? Are we meant to be apart from the people of God?
- Think on the goodness of God.
Ruth 1:16 (CSB) But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
Exodus 6:6-8 (CSB) “Therefore tell the Israelites: I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians and rescue you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 26:9-13 (CSB) “I will turn to you, make you fruitful and multiply you, and confirm my covenant with you. You will eat the old grain of the previous year and will clear out the old to make room for the new. I will place my residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in freedom.
Same preaching of the gospel and the same goad-kicking, traumatic, grievous, life events happened to all three women. All three with hurt hearts.
Deuteronomy 29:16–20 (CSB) “Indeed, you know how we lived in the land of Egypt and passed through the nations where you traveled. You saw their abhorrent images and idols made of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which were among them. Be sure there is no man, woman, clan, or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations. Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous and bitter fruit. When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking, ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’ This will lead to the destruction of the well-watered land as well as the dry land. The LORD will not be willing to forgive him. Instead, his anger and jealousy will burn against that person, and every curse written in this scroll will descend on him. The LORD will blot out his name under heaven,
Naomi heard the preaching of the word and kept her eyes upon the Lord even by her own confession, "I am very bitter". If the story of Ruth ended in chapter 1, we would see that God has been so kind to her in the midst of her tragedy and loss and bitterness.
Orpah heard the preaching of the word and it was good for a while until life got the best of her. (Matthew 13:21) It wasn't good enough for her to move on to her new life but a return to her old life. The Christian life is so good but what if you lost everything that you once held dear. Christian, none of us are not strong enough to hold on to God. We all live on this side of Genesis 3. God must hold on to us.
Ruth heard the preaching of the full council of God and she clung to it. But we all know the power of God's words and God clung to her.
Look the lives and responses of Ruth and Mary Magdalene
Ruth 1:14–16 (CSB) Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.” But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
John 20:16–17 (CSB) Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Turning around, she said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.” “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
God had Ruth. Ruth was born again and now she saw the kingdom of God.
John 3:3 (CSB) Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In other words, you have to be a new creation in Christ. In other words, you have to have a new heart, His Spirit dwelling in you, your mind renewed, your eyes opened, your ears unplugged, and your dead wicked tongue made alive. You may look no different on the outside but the inside, not even the same person.
Ruth 1:17 (CSB) Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.
Ruth did not know what Bethlehem had in store for her. All she knew was that Naomi worshipped the One True Living God. But back home? They did not. Ruth made a choice because she was gripped by the kindness and goodness of the loving God. She, in turn, had nothing for the world because the world had nothing for her.
Luke 14:33 (CSB) In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Ruth counted and calculated the cost of what it meant to follow God. But going with her mother-in-law also meant that she did not know what was in store for her and her mother-in-law. But if she went back, perhaps she would die but surely she would perish in the wrath of the Almighty God. Going with Naomi? Meant her chances of dying greatly increased but she would never perish but have everlasting life.
When was that first moment in your own life where your faced towards God and could not turn back? Perhaps that has always been your life because you have always known the love of God. But perhaps you have seen two worlds and had to choose one. Ruth 1:18 (CSB) When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.
Iain Duguid, in his commentary on Esther & Ruth, mentioned something that I didn't see the first time and I want to mention them here: 1
We all know Ruth's response to Naomi casting her away and pushing her to go home to her baby-killing god. Ruth's words are so enduring and beautiful. We read them at marriage ceremonies. Heck, I have Ruth 1:16 above my bed. We love them because they are perhaps the most wonderful words of promises one can make to another.
Yet, what was Naomi's response? "I am not going to fight with you. I got nothing for you. Let's go."
Not, "that is so sweet" or "thank you for being a companion on this trip back." Nothing of the sort.
Even worse still, what it exposes is that in the midst of Naomi's grief and bitterness, it seems that she does not care for the souls of her daughters. She sends them back home to their gods. What was missing right in front of Naomi's face was a new daughter that would say yes to the Almighty. Ruth was captured by the love of the Father. Ruth was the gift of grace upon Naomi's life.
I remember when I had lost seemingly everything. When I talk about my previous marriage, I always leave out an equally devastating loss. You see, my mentor and friend, whom I have known since I was saved by God, had asked me and my then wife to stop attending his church which him and his wife planted. They were going in one direction in which I could not follow. (To protect the people of that church, I will only give one context--it was 2016.) I was cut all the way to the heart. But for me, tragedy had not one but two steel-toe boots to kick me in the goads. Shortly thereafter, I found out that my then wife was having an affair and had made plans to take my kids and step-kids from Texas to Kentucky and expected me to follow along. I had lost everything. Like Orpah, I was completely done and yearned to return back to my old gods. Like Naomi, I was stabbed twice in the heart and embittered against God--who has done nothing but good to me for all of my life. But what Naomi had in Ruth was a a daughter, friend, and sister who sought the Lord her God and was captured by his great grace and mercy. Ruth saw the mercy upon Naomi and she wanted that same mercy for herself. Ruth believed God and it was counted to her as righteousness.
What God sent my way in my moment of despair were three Ruths of my own. Three of God's children who were my dearest friends, sat and grieved with me and pointed me to right back to God. Because of God's great mercy, I was embittered for six whole weeks. And by his grace, I turned back to the Lord Jesus Christ. And these three Ruths of mine held me up and set my feet back to God.
And for all of my life, I will thank God for their courage, boldness to stand up to me because they loved me so much.
Who are the people of grace in your life? In times of distress and downcast, who has pointed you back to God?
Can we do this life alone? Are we meant to be apart from the people of God? >Ruth 1:19 (CSB) The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
Every commentary I read about this one little passage pointed the same thing: notice the response of the town of Bethlehem. Keep in mind that Bethlehem is little. "Po-dunk" as Texans would say. It would make Nonesuch the size of Lexington in comparison. If you know little towns, then everyone knows everyone. So notice their response, "Can this be Naomi?". Notice it was not, "Hey Naomi, welcome back! Who is this young women with you?"
Notice that while Ruth clung to Naomi and to her God, she is literally an alien in a foreign land. Nobody knew her.
1 Chronicles 29:15 (CSB) For we are aliens and temporary residents in your presence as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
Yet, God knew Ruth and has not forgotten nor forsaken her. God tells us that we are aliens, exiles, sojourners just like our fathers before us. Hebrews even describes the father of our faith, Abraham, in the same way:
Hebrews 11:9 (CSB) By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.
It is in the same thought that where we see the cries of Ruth's grandson, David, when he penned and sings psalms like Psalm 31:
Psalm 31:12 (CSB) I am forgotten: gone from memory like a dead person—like broken pottery.
I wondered if Ruth ever told David when she encountered the Lord our God. And how she ended up from Moab to Bethlehem and how she felt when she arrived. Scared, frightened, forgotten--a little bit alone.
Psalm 31:14 (CSB) But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 31:16 (CSB) Make your face shine on your servant; save me by your faithful love.
We know that God had Ruth and Ruth had God.
We might be aliens in a foreign land. And most of the time, it feels that way. But we have God and he smiles on us and delights in us. We know this he is compassionate towards us because he has not only taken care of us and been with us for all of our lives but he sent his Son, a stranger in a strange land. A world that he made but it wasn't like he first created. But Christ lived unto God and in that way, he was separated and holy unto him. And when Christ gave up his life on the cross, it was that moment that the strange land was going to be redeemed. And it isn't the land but his people. He was going to remake us and make his home in us. >Ruth 1:20-21 (CSB) “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
John Piper, in his book, "Sweet and Bitter Providence", exhorted Naomi and us to remember the story of her forefather, Joseph. Joseph, too, was an alien in a strange land. And how he got there was the worst kind of betrayal: his brothers sold Joseph into slavery and came home to tell their dad and Joseph's full brother, Benjamin, "Yep, he is dead." 2
God called that betrayal and deceit evil.
Yet, what Joseph's brothers meant for evil, God meant it for good.
We all know that passage. But stay present with Naomi. When bad things happened or will happen in our lives, it is so difficult to remember that God means this worst things for his glory and our good. We are going to forget that just like Naomi. We are all prone to forget the goodness of God. That does not make him less good.
And perhaps it goes back to the absolute truth of God's goodness: that God saves us to himself and to each other. That is why we are to love the Lord our God and love each other because he first loved us. God has not forgotten us but knows us. God has not let us go but will bring us through the trials and tribulations. God in his goodness has placed us in the middle of his people--his church. Naomi came back from Moab after losing her husband and sons but gaining not only a daughter but a daughter that fears and loves and worship the Almighty God.
And this Almighty God leads her back from strangers into a community that loves the Lord their God.
It is okay for us to be pricked in the heart. I dare it is okay for us to be mad at God because we don't see everything that is going on. God remembers we are made from dust and he knows that we are frightful. He knows this and loves us and he takes care of us nonetheless. >Ruth 1:22 (CSB) So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
I want to have us let loose the notion that God does not care about you. He cares for you so deeply that not only he sent his Son to live and die for you, he sent his Spirit to give you life, a new heart, and a renew mind. And not only did he send his Spirit, God Father Almighty has made his home in you with his Son and Spirit.
But let also forget the notion that while God cares deeply for you, he is not to be bothered by the details of your life.
We have read the Bible. We know for a fact that God is not only in the details, he is in the details of your life!
"But, wait a second, if he cares so much about the details of my life, why do I still experience pain and suffering here on earth."
The same Christ who gives us real rest is same Christ who promised suffering if we follow him.
Romans 8:17 (CSB) and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
The moment we turned to Christ meant that we turned away from the world. To have our face set towards God who saves is to turn our face against the world.
We are in this world but not of it. And the Father using anything good or evil and using the heavens and earth to conforming you to make you look like his Son will not be painless. Your new birth started with coming from death unto life with his Spirit performing an instant heart and brain transplant.
And we all know the recovery from surgery is long and difficult. No less so for born again Christians how have been crucified with Christ.
But God was there when he made you in your mother's womb (Psalm 139:13)
And from birth, he has always been your God (Psalm 22:10)
He alone has determined when you will be born and where you will live so that others might seek him (Psalm 139:8-10; Acts 17:22-34)
God searched you and knows you (Psalm 139:1)
God knows your thoughts (Psalm 139:2)
God is acutely aware of your ways (Psalm 139:3)
Before you speak a word and have it in your heart, God knows it (Psalm 139:4)
But God has always been there with you and protecting you from real danger and threat (Psalm 139:5)
To know that God loves me and cares for me perfectly, intensely, and most intimately, is the greatest relief and peace in the world.
Psalm 139:6 (CSB) This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.
Because despite my not-perfect and not-good motives, Christ is my righteousness and my All-in-all. He is enough because he is everything. I cannot repent enough or be sincere enough or have enough faith or be good enough. Christ is my perfect obedience. I know when I do something that the world or even Christians call good, if I dig that source up out of my flesh, it started something bad. But because I have Christ, I know whatever Christ did, it was purely good because he is the source of God.
So whatever sufferings we might face now or will face, we have the glory of Christ:
Romans 8:18 (CSB) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
Think on the goodness of God.