“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Ruth 1:16-18
These are amazing verses. The majority of people think they’re a wonderful wedding verse. In fact, in my single days I cross-stitched this verse trusting God for a mate. It had a beautiful wedding dress draped over a hope chest and these words were written beneath it. Lovely, right? Except these verses aren’t actually about marriage or following the love of your life. They’re about two women who had an incredible relationship and how they followed God together.
Let me introduce you to Naomi. Naomi had a hard life. Her husband moved her from her hometown with their two sons. While there, first her husband died, then both of her sons about 10 years later. That’s a tremendous amount of loss for any one person. Her sons, however had married and that is where we meet Ruth and Orpah. The Bible isn’t clear how long they were married. We just know this is how these women came into relationship with each other. They were in-laws. Naomi was also from a foreign country, so they were also foreigners to her.
Picture this, you’re in a foreign country, you’ve lost your husband and sons. You have no money, you’re destitute. You’re left with two women who are now your daughters-in-law. (Let’s face it, mother-in-laws and daughters-in-law don’t always have a reputation for the best relationships.) What would you do?
Naomi trusted God. In fact, Naomi was so devoted to God, that when she wants to move back home, they want to go with her. Why would they want to go with her? That means that they are willing to leave all that is home to them to follow her into a strange land where they will be the foreigners. They are willing to leave their gods for her God. Their very lives could be in danger and they could be subjected to unthinkable things. Yet they want to go. Why?
There is only one answer. It’s God. It is God in Naomi. It is how Naomi has loved and treated them. It has drawn them not only into a close relationship with her, but with God as well. That is incredible! Eventually Orpah decides to stay, but Ruth is adamant, she’s going. That one decision, her choice to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God gave her a place in history no one could of ever expected. She is in the lineage of Jesus. She married Boaz and gave birth to Obed, who is the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David.
That all happened because Naomi loved God and loved those around her. Naomi suffered such tragedy. In fact, she changes her name to Mara “because the Lord has made life very bitter for me.” (Ruth 1:20). Yet in her bitterness she still loved, in her sorrow she still trusted, and in her pain she still drew others to her and to God.
Corrie Ten Boom sums it up well:
“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”