As mentioned last week, Naomi's sons had married women of Moab - Orpah and Ruth. Though the full story is not revealed as to what happened, these two women soon joined Naomi in widowhood. This is where the meat of the story begins to unfold before our eyes, so please take a step with me past what your surface knowledge currently provides you.
I ask you to place yourself in Ruth's shoes, so that you can truly take to heart all that has happened. This was a young woman who was born and raised in the land of Moab. Moab was a nation that had descended from the incestuous relationship of Lot and one of his daughters. It was right next to Israel, and there was history between the two nations that traced back to the time of Israel's journey to the promised land. This was Ruth's home. This was her background.
While Naomi had grown up knowing the God of Israel, Ruth had grown up apart from Him. She was a Gentile. She met a man who had come with his family from Israel and married into this family. The head of the household had died, then her husband and her brother-in-law died. Wow. Suddenly she was left with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law to grieve and put the pieces of life back together. Sure, Naomi had told her and Orpah to go back to their families, back to their homes, and back to their gods. Orpah was upset about it, but chose the familiar and comfortable route back home. Ruth was determined that home had found her - in Naomi.
The very familiar discourse that Ruth declared in her devotion to stay with her mother-in-law gives no leeway in her commitment to her:
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. 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 even death separates you and me.”
This may not have been that big of a deal had it not been for the fact that Naomi was leaving Moab and returning home. This prompted her urging for the ladies to go back to what they knew. Sure, it would have been admirable for Ruth to remain devoted to this woman in Moab...but to leave and go to a foreign land herself? That took courage. Please note one powerful statement that Ruth spoke, however, that leads me to believe that there was no way she could go back to her "gods":
"May the Lord deal with me..."
She didn't say, "May your God deal with me." She recognized that the God whom Naomi worshipped was Lord. Wherever He was had become home to her. There was no turning back now.
Have you ever felt like you don't belong, like fitting in is next to impossible? I challenge you to draw from Ruth's story this morning and meditate on the courage it takes to find home in Him, rather than in this world. I want the faith and strength that shined in Ruth to say that I have been near the Lord by being near this woman, and I cannot settle for anything less. No matter what happens, there is no going back to the life I knew before Him.
Father, I know where I belong, and it is with You. Lord, wherever You go I will go. I cannot turn back from following You, even when it feels like it may be safer and more comfortable to stay behind. Give me courage to never leave nor forsake you, just as You promised to me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.