Thy People Shall Be My People. Thy God My God.
Thy People Shall Be My People. Thy God – My God
Ruth 1:15-22 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. 16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. 19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
Verses 15-18 – What a contrast between Ruth and Orpah. One must wonder what in the world caused Ruth to be so committed and so loyal to Naomi? In the face of her sister-in-law leaving to go back, I would have thought that it would be more of a sure thing that Ruth would also go back, thinking logically and practically that the odds would be in Orpah’s favour – yet Ruth says to Naomi I am so committed to you – even unto death. Death would be the only thing that separates us. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. This is a true conversion. Orpah – well she is not so committed is she? She went back home to Moab.
Ruth is not only unflinching in her commitment to Naomi, but also to Naomi’s God. It begs the question – why? What was so different about Ruth and Orpah? After all they were both widows. Both were Moabites. Both had the same mother-in-law. What was the difference between Ruth and Orpah? Why is Ruth so committed to carry on with Naomi and so adamant about not going back to Moab like Orpah? It would have been so easy for her to go back. Ruth was a foreigner. Ruth did not know Naomi’s people. She was not familiar with their culture. She did not understand their language; their customs; their culture. Ruth was stepping into the unknown in her desire and quest to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. It was a step of faith.
I believe the main reason why Ruth insisted on following Naomi was because of her commitment to the LORD. For over ten years Ruth has witnessed her mother-in-law lose her husband. One son. Then another son, and she watched how Naomi was the recipient of unspeakable difficulty in her life and she observed Naomi and Naomi’s commitment to the LORD modelling that. It is possible that what drew Ruth to want the God that Naomi served was watching how despite what she had been through Naomi still served and loved the LORD with all her heart, mind, spirit and soul. That could well be the reason why Ruth followed Naomi and converted to Naomi’s God.
This is what attracts a non-Christian both to us and to our God, because the non-Christian is watching our lives and they are watching us to see how we deal with adversity in our lives and to them – the jury is still out on how we are going to react – how we are going to respond.
It seems nowadays however, that the Church today has brought into the notion that the world is going to be attracted to us if things in our lives are going well. Fair-weather Christians are quick to falter. All too often, the Gospel that is being preached nowadays does not include picking up your cross and dying to self and counting the cost, so it is no wonder when adversity strikes and it most certainly will, that like Orpah they are quick to return to Moab. I ask myself – does my walk meet my talk during times of adversity?
What if Ruth had observed Naomi’s commitment to the LORD as the recipient of only prosperity instead of adversity? I do wonder if Ruth would have been so determined to follow Naomi.
Sometimes God will withhold from us how much He is using us in the life of another. Never underestimate what God is doing in your life with the trials that He has allowed into your life. It may be that He wants you to use the trial you are facing to encourage another person who may be going through a similar trial later on. The LORD will use your experience to encourage that person that you went through something similar, and God remained faithful – He brought you out of it – all to His glory! Such is the case with Naomi. It is Naomi’s trial that draws Ruth to Naomi.
Verses 19-21 – Naomi and Ruth arrive back home – they are in Bethlehem-Judah. Had Naomi become bitter towards the LORD? Naomi had drunk from the bitter cup of losing her husband and two sons. I do not think that she was bitter towards the LORD. Just because she had drunk from the bitter cup of their deaths, it did not mean that she was bitter towards the LORD. She had not forsaken the LORD. She did not have to go back to Bethlehem – she could have stayed in Moab. Naomi is not only following the LORD, she is still trusting the LORD in spite of that which she suffered over the past ten years. The story of Job springs to mind at this juncture. “Though He slay me – yet shall I praise Him”. In Naomi’s case it would be more apt to say – “though He afflict me – yet will I follow Him”.
Let us not forget that Ruth has been so attracted to her mother-in-law and her mother-in-laws God. If Naomi was bitter towards the LORD, do you think that Ruth would want to follow her; to commit to her; to be loyal to her; to go to Bethlehem with her? How attracted are we to non-Christians if we as Christians are always complaining and murmuring – non Christians would be inclined to run a mile.
In spite of the bitter cup that she had drunk from, Naomi had not become bitter. It could have been the utter shock of her people when they see her coming………they don’t recognise her. Had she aged greatly? More wrinkles perhaps? Face drawn down? It is likely that it was Naomi’s outward appearance bearing those bitter scars that would prompt her to say to them “no longer call me Naomi” – I don’t look very pleasant – I don’t look like a Naomi – instead, it would be more fitting to call me Mara.
Notice also that when Naomi said she left full, but the LORD brought her back empty, she is explaining to them that her wealth was not in worldly possessions. She did not leave Bethlehem to go to Moab ten years earlier with a famine in the land with plenty. They sold their possessions including the land that they had. What she is saying here is that I left full – I had a husband. I had two sons, and I have now come back empty – no husband, no son.
The culture in the Middle East during those days was no easy fete. Your wealth in the Middle East was not determined by your worldly possessions, it was determined by how many sons you have. It was determined by your family. Naomi explains her affliction from the LORD, but she doesn’t actually say that she is blaming the LORD. She says the LORD has afflicted me. The LORD has testified against me, but she doesn’t say that she has testified against the LORD. She does not imply that the LORD has dealt unfairly with her. It is not a good idea to curse God.
Job 1:9: Then said his wife unto him; Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die.
Not exactly sound advice from Job’s wife huh?
Verse 22 God is always on time. He is never early and conversely God is never late. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Great timing. What if they returned after 11 years, or perhaps a year earlier? As we continue through the remaining chapters of the Book, we will see the significance and the timing of their return.
As we go into the remaining 3 chapters, it would be prudent to give an insight into the meaning of the names we have come across thus far.
Elimelech – means God is my king.
Naomi – means Pleasant.
Chilion – means Ailing
Mahlon – means Sickly
Orpah – means Stiff necked
Ruth – means Friendship
Mara – means Bitter
Bethlehem – means House of bread
Judah – means Praise
God is my King. He will always provide my daily bread. I shall never be in want. He – my King can turn bitter into sweet if in pleasant times of plenty, or when I drink from the cup of bitter, or even when I am ailing and confined to a bed of sickness and suffering. I will still follow Him when adversity strikes. I will not become bitter. I will not stiffen my neck, but rather I will humble myself and forever praise Him, for He has called me His friend.