But Naomi said, “Return home my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have more sons who could become your husbands?” Ruth 1:11
Although it’s thought that love alone is the basis of a meaningful relationship, a relationship is complex, and, with circumstances often changing, also needs commitment at the heart of it. Loyalty to one another through good times and bad is the glue that holds it together, more reliable than feelings that are easily affected by things beyond our control, as Naomi experienced.
A famine in Bethlehem had led Naomi, her husband and her two sons to move away to Moab. After her husband died there, her sons married Moabite women and also subsequently died, leaving all three women as widows. Naomi, in deep pain and distress, decided to return to Bethlehem.
As a widow with no sons any longer, Naomi had nothing left to offer either of her daughters-in-law besides poverty and bitterness, so she released them to return to their families. Naomi felt that “the Almighty ha[d] made [her] life very bitter. I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty … the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)
Orpah tearfully accepts her freedom, but Ruth determinedly refuses it, leading Naomi to ask her the pertinent question: “Why would you come with me?”
Perhaps Naomi’s qualities of kindness, strength and dignity visible throughout her pain, and her willingness to sacrificially offer her son’s wives their freedom to return to their families, foregoing her only remaining human comfort to bless them, touched Ruth, but her answer displays complete commitment to her mother-in-law and to everything she represents. Ruth was inspired to trust Naomi and her God, and to completely commit to her in her land, among her people, whatever the future held.
“’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.’” (Ruth 1:16-17)
And God blessed them.
In Bethlehem, Naomi’s bitterness was transformed when Ruth married Boaz, Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer, and God blessed them with a child, Obed. He became grandfather to King David, and an ancestor of Jesus, the Redeemer of all.
Unlike Naomi, our Redeemer does not say, “Why would you come with me?” He has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) and wants us to follow Him. Rather, He speaks to us as He spoke to the rich young man, saying, “Come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) We have Ruth’s example of beautiful commitment to Naomi to inspire our commitment to Jesus.
For the Redeemer of the world, how much more prepared than Ruth should we be to leave our old life and everything in it behind, for the joy of walking with Him and knowing His blessing?
Prayer: Loving Lord, Your presence can change mourning into dancing and bring light into our darkness. May we commit ourselves to You with joy, and glorify You. Amen