“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
Last week, we saw how God redeemed a woman who, in faith, feared the Lord. Her obedience and commitment changed her life and the lives of her family members. God opened the door for grace to be bestowed upon her in excess. Today and next Wednesday, we will study our sister Ruth, whose grandmother was Rahab. Again, we find a woman in scripture who possesses a heart for God. It’s safe to say, God starts at the heart. If we are committed to becoming women who fear the Lord and are touched by His grace, we have to desire Him deeply.
When I think of Ruth, I think of a woman who was loyal, diligent, obedient and richly blessed. The introduction scripture assigns to Ruth begins with her deficiency and ends with her fulness which is further proof God has given women, all throughout history, grace upon grace.
Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, has lost her husband and two sons in Moab, a land stricken by famine. As an older woman she realizes the dismal reality ahead of her. Without a man (husband or son) to provide for her monetarily, she and her two daughter-in-laws have very little options to sustain themselves. So she does what I think most older women would do today, she urges them to move on with their lives, to remarry while they still can.
But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
A distinction has to be made here, because the Bible has given us two women, both young, both widowed, both weeping and yet only one is loyal in the face of distress and that woman is Ruth.
Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
Being loyal is characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance. This concept is one God cares about deeply and honors. We know Jesus required loyalty from His followers in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
God is looking for us to be followers and believers who will keep pushing forward knowing that with every step we take we inch closer to Him. The ability to stay on course and walk the path God has laid out for us, through Christ Jesus, is one measure of obedience. If we seek to be women who understand God’s will in our lives, we must become women who press IN when difficulty shows up. Can you imagine losing a spouse, a child or maybe even a dream? We all have faced some form of loss and we will continue to lose things in this lifetime. But, when we press inward and onward, grace truly abounds. This truth, Ruth understood in part and God was willing to show her in full.
As Naomi and Ruth journey together they end up in the land of a prosperous relative, Boaz. What I’m struck by is Ruth’s character shining through her circumstances. New land. New people. Broken heart. Foggy future. And yet, verse 2 of chapter 2 says, “ And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Diligence is the “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.” How many of us, when we are deeply saddened or unsure about your next meal (or next move in life) find ourselves ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work? I fear, too many times, we sit back wanting someone, even God, to miraculously fix our circumstances. Sisters, Ruth is a great reminder that if we want to be women who fear God, we have to use what we have and more times than not, that means our own two hands!
Luke 16:10 says, “”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Are there times in your life when you want to get right to the big, amazing dream you feel God has placed in your heart? I know exactly what that feels like! I’m fighting the urge every day, but I know verses like this one in Luke remind me that I have to be molded into that big dream. God has to see me be faithful, honest and diligent over the tasks He’s given me right now. In order to be diligent, I have to willing to show up to do the dirty and hard work, every day, until God shows me the next task.
Ruth showed up and I’m sure there were moments in the field when she missed her husband, but she keep gleaning that field. There had to have been times when she caught the eyes of a few people passing by and as she worked hard, hunched over, I’m sure she wished for a blessing of prosperity. I’m confident Ruth hoped and prayed for a husband to assist her. I’m also confident God was listening to each plea pumping in her heart.
That’s the God we serve. The Lord God Almighty who listens to our heart’s ache, who listens to our prayers. He sees every single time we put Him ahead of our own comfort and deepest desires. Ruth, at this point of the book, is proof that we can truly do all things by the strength and power of God through Christ. Because Ruth put the hard work in, God blessed her with an opportunity to be seen by Boaz the field owner! He gave her access to the field, access to water and he even served her a meal! I wonder if there are women out there today that want a good, godly man to serve them them a meal after a hard day of work!?
Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”
Boaz heard about Ruth before he noticed her. When he noticed Ruth and saw all that he heart was true, he spoke a blessing into her life. This is a word for the single (unmarried) ladies who are reading: may your good works be what a godly, single man hears about when he hears about you. Beauty fades, charm is deceitful (Proverbs 31:30), but good works speak volumes! Married ladies, your works matter too. May your spouse always hear of your good works, not your gossip or busybody behavior. Because Ruth was a woman of character throughout her new land, God used a caring man to be gracious and bless her with the ability to provide for herself and her mother-in-law. We’ll pick back up next week to see how Ruth’s diligence and loyalty match her obedient heart. We’ll get to see how Ruth has one of the sweetest love stories in the Bible!
Grace upon grace, sisters! We all are in need of it.