It is perhaps important to note that from here, the theme of the readings is Hope, changing from the previous theme of Gratitude.
Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth replied, “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 anything but death separates you and me.”
I have known of this Scripture being used in weddings, but that’s not the direct context. Marriage was certainly involved, but this was mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. That was a pretty exceptional relationship! Reading this makes me wonder what sort of home Ruth had to return to, and specifically if it had been abusive. In any case, the women had experienced the shared grief of their husbands’ deaths, and that can create a powerful bond. We forget that in the days before antibiotics, and even a basic understanding of germs, people often died much younger than they do today. Average life expectancy has literally doubled in just the past 150 years or so. For that reason people married young, to have children while they still had the chance! Even Mary the mother of Jesus was probably about 15. That leaves Ruth, at the time of this story, in her 20s, just when women today would be thinking of marriage. That she would be so committed to Naomi at that age speaks all the more strongly of her loyalty. The Bible story in Children’s Church just two Sundays ago was about Ruth, and that author was of the opinion that Ruth’s decision was because she was convinced that Yahweh was the true God. I’m not sure the Bible text supports that, but His name is certainly mentioned. In any case, this remains a beautiful example of commitment without hope of gain, and we know that God beautifully rewarded Ruth – and Naomi, for that matter!
This does remind me of my wife’s commitment to me. We had the same God, and her family was certainly not abusive, but she has literally followed me to the other side of the world, and has every expectation of being buried here in Japan. (Of course, the Lord had called her to missions in Japan long before she met me, but that doesn’t change the logistics of the situation.) I know that my mother considered Cathy as much her daughter as those she actually birthed, and both my wife and my mother were blessed by that. Like Ruth, my wife is a “keeper!” It is strictly a coincidence, from our viewpoint, that we named our first daughter Ruth. As a pastor I seek to lead believers into full, practical commitment to Christ, and as a marriage counselor I seek to lead couples into such commitment to each other. On both counts, it’s much easier when Cathy and I are living that out ourselves.
Father, thank You for using Ruth, and for ensuring that her story was recorded. There’s a lot of meaning to her being David’s great-grandmother, and thus in the line of Jesus. Help me be ever more committed to You and to lead others into that commitment as well, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!