The choices, Ruth – a Moabite woman – made, impacted each of us. Although she lived 4000 years before us, her choices affect us today.
The Moabites were descendants of Moab, the son of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) from an incestuous relationship with his own daughter. The Moabite people were pagan; they did not worship Jehovah God. So how did Ruth, a Moabitess, come to be in the genealogy of Jesus Christ?!
That’s an interesting story. There was a famine in the land of Judah, so Elimilech (a Jew) moved his wife Naomi and their two sons from Bethlehem to the land of Moab. During their stay in Moab, the sons married pagan wives from this same country.
And, during their stay, Elimilech died. Naomi was left with her sons, Mahlon and Killian, and their wives. Ten years later, both of the sons died.That left Naomi, the grieving widow and mother-in-law, and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. There were no more sons, and no grandchildren.
Going back home
Naomi decided to do what many of us would have done: leave this God-forsaken land and move back to her country, her home, and her people. She had no reason to stay in Moab and every reason to go back home.
The young widows helped Naomi pack their things, and they began the long journey back to Naomi’s home. She tried to talk the girls into staying with their people and in their country. The move back to Bethlehem brought them to a foreign land. Naomi recognized how difficult it was for her to move to this country, and the changes these girls would make would be every bit as hard for them as it was for her. She wanted them to turn back.
So after they begin their journey, she begged the girls to go back to the homes of their mothers. She thanked them for blessing her and for their love for her, but she told them they need to stay there in Moab. They cried together, and then Orpah turned back to her hometown. She left Naomi and Ruth.
Naomi tried again to persuade Ruth to go back. “I don’t have any more sons that you can marry; even if I bear a son, you won’t want to wait until he is grown to get married,” she told Ruth. “Go back to your people.”
But Ruth had lived with her husband and now with Naomi. She had met the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and she wanted to stay. Ruth wanted to belong to His people. She had no desire to turn back.
“Please don’t ask me to leave you, or to go back to my former haunts,” she pled with Naomi. “Wherever you go, I want to go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.”
The years had been difficult for Naomi. So difficult that people don’t know, at first, who she is. She herself said, “I went out full, and I came back empty.” [Ruth 1:20] “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara (bitterness).”
While the years had been difficult for Naomi, they had been good to Ruth. Yes, she lost her husband. But she found something more. Once a girl who worshiped a pagan god, she met Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord provides).
On that dusty trail as Ruth made the choice to stay with Naomi and go to Bethlehem with her, there was something we can learn from this woman who wouldn’t turn back.
She said, “I’ve been everywhere and I have sinned. I’ve had sorrow; and I didn’t find any peace until I met your God. So I’m coming with you. I’ve been a fugitive, and I want to go with you and find Rest.
“I once was lonely, drifting aimlessly, like a cloud or the wind, or the waves of the sea. I’m going with you; I’ll live with you, and I’ll die with you.
“Your God is now my God, and I am giving up every idol of my pagan faith. I don’t care if I’ll be poor, and I don’t care if life isn’t easy. I’m not being forced into this. I’m taking this step by faith and by my choice. I have no reason to turn back, and every reason to go forward.”
She understood that their sacrifices were worship of the true God. Ruth wanted to become more than an observer; she wanted to be a participant. She wanted to belong, forever.
Choosing to stay
For years, the words Ruth used those thousands of years ago have been used in wedding ceremonies: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Ruth lived out that commitment by providing for Naomi after their move to Bethlehem. Because of her character and her diligence in providing for Naomi, she was noticed by Boaz, a noble Jewish man. Because she wouldn’t turn back, she was in Bethlehem where she met Boaz. Their marriage continued the lineage of Jesus, and Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David.
Had Ruth stayed in Moab, this love story would never have happened. Her decision to leave Moab and come to Bethlehem brought life, not only to herself and Naomi, but to her descendants. Because she wouldn’t turn back, she became known as a loyal and faithful friend to Naomi as well as an ancestor of Jesus. Through Ruth, our Savior was born.
The song People of the Living God is based on this story in the book of Ruth. You might want to check out this four–chapter book in the Bible. You can read the entire story in less than fifteen minutes. This love story is powerful; it shows us what can happen when people are committed and don’t turn back.
Ruth’s story helps each of us remember that, no matter what our background and no matter where we have worshiped, when we find the true God, we know we have come home. There is no reason to turn back because we belong. Forever.
To learn about the song taken from these words, scroll below; you can also listen to the song.
People of the living God,
I have sought the world around;
Paths of sin and sorrow trod,
Peace and comfort nowhere found:
Now to you my spirit turns—
Turns a fugitive unblest;
Brethren, where your altar burns,
Oh, receive me into rest.
Lonely I no longer roam
Like the cloud, the wind, the wave;
Where you dwell shall be my home,
Where you die shall be my grave;
Mine the God whom you adore;
Your Redeemer shall be mine;
Earth can fill my soul no more—
Every idol I resign.
Tell me not of gain and loss,
Ease, enjoyment, pomp, and pow’r;
Welcome poverty and cross,
Shame reproach, affliction’s hour.
Follow Me—I know Thy voice;
Jesus, Lord, Thy steps I see;
Now I take Thy yoke by choice,
Light Thy burden now to me.
James Montgomery (1771-1854) was the son of a Moravian minister. Of the 400 hymns he wrote, 100 of them are still in use today. This hymn was written around 1814.
Listen to the Song here
The Table Singers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLBgC7QaliY
This post was one of the first posts on my blog five years ago. I am re-posting it with some minor changes.