The story of Ruth is a wonderful story of God being faithful to people and people being faithful to God. It is an interesting story, as well, given that it took place “during the days when the judges ruled” (1:1). So now, when the Book of Judges continually showed how unfaithful the Israelites were by intermarrying with the peoples around them, the main character here is a Moabite woman. It is important not to justify condemning an entire people group. Individuals must be dealt with on the basis of their own character. Ruth’s character is amazing. She states to Naomi, her mother-in-law:
“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 is truly amazing! In a culture that held deeply to the idea that God blessed the faithful, this goes against all conventional wisdom. Ruth here is giving up her homeland, her family, and her gods. She chooses to go with Naomi and worship Naomi’s God. Think about this! The Lord has caused a famine, killed her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, her husband, and left her destitute without any children. And this is the God Ruth chooses to follow!
There must have been something about Naomi’s faith that held Ruth close to her. Indeed, Naomi never looses faith in the Lord, although she is convinced that the Lord is punishing her for something (1:20-21). Naomi’s faith in God must have allowed her to act in a loving and honorable manner to Ruth. This commitment to Ruth was then reciprocated when Ruth committed to follow Naomi and to worship her God.
There are times in our lives when our faithfulness in times of distress and disappointment can have more of an impact on others than our faithfulness to God in times of blessing. It is easy to Give thanks to the Lord for He is good when our homes are nice and well furnished, our families are healthy, and our pantries are full. It is easy to have faith when it seems that God answers all of our prayers. It is much more difficult to show faith when nothing seems to work out and it feels like our prayers hit a barrier before they reach God. Yet that is when our faith can shine brightest, when life seems darkest.
Ruth most likely would have gone back to her family and her people just like her sister-in-law Orpah did, if it was not for the faith of Naomi that impressed upon her that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one true God. When we encounter hardships and disappointments in our own lives, let us remember that our faithfulness in those instances can have an eternal impact on others around us–as shown by Naomi and Ruth. May we continue being faithful to God in the hardships of life.