But Ruth replied, “Do not 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”. Ruth 1:16
These words ring in my ears when I recall reading the story of Ruth in Sunday school as a child. The full story is found in the book of Ruth in the Bible. For purposes of this post, I will give a brief summary.
Following a great famine Elimelech, his wife Naomi plus their two sons leave Bethlehem and travel to Moab in search of food. Unfortunately Elimelech dies. Their sons find love and marry two Moabite women one of whom was called Ruth. Ten years after the father’s death, the two sons also die leaving Naomi alone with her two daughters in law. Filled with grief Naomi makes a decision to return to Bethlehem and urges Ruth and Orpah to go back to their mothers. Although Orpah tearfully leaves Naomi, Ruth who has learnt so much from her utters the words above and vows to follow her wherever she goes.
In Bethlehem, Ruth goes in search for food and lands on the field of a wealthy man Boaz. He graciously allows her to pick the left over grain. This is what sustained the two women. Events later unfold and soon it becomes apparent that Boaz was among the relatives of her late father in law. When the person who was direct in line to redeem her declines the lot falls on Boaz. He gladly marries Ruth and they are blessed with a son, Obed who was a grandfather to King David.
Which ever way you look at this story, it has many lessons for us women today let us look at some of them.
1. God values each of us.
The book of Ruth is a perfect example of the impartiality of God. We see that it does not matter who you are or what you have or do not have. Jesus Christ values each of us. What matters is that you accept him.
Ruth was a Moabite woman she was an “outsider” so to speak. She learnt about the God of Isreal through Naomi. She accepted him and God in his love and mercy also accepted her and called her his own. So much so that her name is imprinted in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Ruth reminds us that it does not matter who we are but whose we are. When other people choose to look at you as an outsider or an outcast, remember God calls you his own. This in effect means that our value and worth should be found in Jesus Christ.
Not only Ruth but her husband Boaz was also someone people could have raised eyebrows at. His mother Rahab was a prostitute. She came to fame when she hid the twelve Israelite spies who had gone to spy the land. In spite of their past, God brought these two imperfect people together and created something perfect out of them.
2. Our Steps are Ordered by God
Through out this story, we see God’s hand at work in order to fulfill the scriptures. Naomi’s decision to return to Bethlehem after all those years even when she was not sure she would find anyone who knew her was just the beginning. The fact that Ruth would make a decision to leave her motherland and journey to a foreign land with an old lady was another.
The timing of when the journey was made is also of essence, it was during spring and harvest season. How Ruth chose to go and pick left over grain from the field of Boaz; who turned out to be a close relative who would redeem her under the Israelite culture is also another.
We see God’s hand upon both Ruth and Naomi until his purposes for their lives is fulfilled.
3. It is not over unless God says so
The events that happened to Naomi caused her so much anguish to the extent that she decided to change her name. Her words “do not call me Naomi call me Mara” depict a woman who had gone through so much. Naomi had left Bethlehem with a loving family she returned widowed and poor. Her actions were to express her bitterness and sadness but not to reject God. She had served him so faithfully that Ruth had come to accept him as her God as well.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem she knew that was the end. Perhaps at that time her only desire was to die and be buried among her people. However, with God this was only the beginning of him bringing redemption to all mankind.
What about you what situations have happened to you that have caused you to stop referring to your self as blessed. We know that God did not promise us a life without hardships but instead he promised us his peace that surpasses all understanding. When life throws us a curve let us remember to ask for his peace as we navigate that storm of life because we know no storm lasts forever.
4. God always honors sacrifices
When Ruth made the decision to follow Naomi, she had no idea what would become of her sacrifice. All she knew was it was the right decision to make and so she made it. She choose to look beyond what was right before her and decided to trust the God she had come to know.
The words Ruth uttered in Ruth 1:16 are often quoted at weddings. I recall over twelve years ago as my father gave us his blessing this is the scripture he read. Little did I know a few years later I would be faced with a decision to make. Was I going to choose my career and have our then very young family split because my husband was taking up an international job? In my view, the sacrifice I made was huge. To this day I still get people who question the decision I made and yet in my opinion it felt right and was the right thing to do.
I know that many women like me have come to a crossroads and had to decide whether to break up their families or say like Ruth “where you live I will live”. The world has coined a term for women who make this choice they are called trailing spouses. A term I have many reservations about. I prefer to look at it as a sacrifice we have chosen to make not just to our spouses but to God, to honor our roles of being helpmates and stewards.
My encouragement to women who choose to make whatever sacrifice is to keep God’s eternal values in mind. Your decision may not make sense to many people but it makes sense to God. He will honor your sacrifice even if it happens beyond your life time like it did in Ruth’s case.
Next week we conclude this series and look at lessons from Hannah.
Mother’s Day Series
Where You Stay I will Stay: Lessons From Ruth (You are here)