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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

“Entreat 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: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.”

Ruth 1: 16, 17

The account of Ruth, narrated in the book of Ruth, is a beautiful and heartfelt story. It took place around Gideon’s time, when there was famine in the land – the Lord’s judgment due to a measure of unfaithfulness to Him and His Covenant with them. Naomi and her husband Elimelech, pressed by the hard times, decided to leave Israel and God’s people to try their fortunes in the land of Moab. The Moabites were the descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, but were not recognized by the Lord as the children of Abraham, nor as fellow-heirs of the promises made to him.

Their course brought them trouble. Elimelech died, leaving Naomi to rear her two sons alone. The two sons eventually married heathen wives. Her two sons also died, and Naomi, deprived of all but her two daughters-in-law, felt chastened by the Lord. Even though Naomi and her husband had erred in judgment and had been faint-hearted, they were still loyal to God. Naomi’s life, example and faithfulness to the Lord had evidently made a favorable impression upon her daughters-in-law. When Naomi had learned the needed lesson and determined to submit herself to the Lord’s leading, God’s favor began to return to her. She found great comfort in the devotion of Ruth, her daughter-in-law, and in her conversion to the Jewish faith.

Ruth’s Devotion to Naomi

When Naomi decided to return to Israel, both of her daughters-in-law resolved to return with her. But on the journey, she reflected that these two young women would be sacrificing much by leaving their homes, families, acquaintances, customs, future prospects, etc., to go to a land where they would be considered as foreigners and probably discriminated against. She urged them to return to their own people, fearing that their resolution to accompany her would eventually prove to be a disappointment. Naomi’s argument appealed to one of her daughters-in-law, who returned home. But Ruth loved her mother-in-law so deeply and respected her religion so thoroughly, that she was resolved that such a home amongst those who reverenced the true God and were heirs of His promises was more to be esteemed than anything she was leaving. Her impassioned words to her mother-in-law, as found in our text, are noted throughout the world as being amongst the most beautiful expressions of sympathy, kindness and devotion.

Naomi and Ruth received a kind reception when they arrived to her home city, Bethlehem. Another blessing was Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, a man of character, wealth and influence, who provided a happy home to the two women. And finally, Ruth was honored by God in becoming the great-grandmother of King David and in the line of our Lord’s ancestry.

Lessons for God’s People

One lesson that we can learn from this narrative is the value of positive decision. Ruth made the positive decision to follow Naomi to Israel. It was not a proposal to merely try it for a while. It was a decision unto death. The Christian, for instance, did not really become a Christian until he made just such a definite, positive consecration of himself to leave the world, its affairs, its loves, its hopes and ambitions, to spend and be spent even unto death in the service of the Lord.

Their next step should be to say, “Thy people shall be my people.” God’s people are all brethren of one family, whether they be found in one denomination or another, or whether they be found outside of all denominations. Let us not only seek for God’s people, but acknowledge and fellowship them, whether they be black or white, rich or poor, learned or unlearned; for “ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” and “one is your Master, even Christ.”

And finally, let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles, their teachings and practices. “They shall be all taught of God” is a promise which belongs to the entire household of faith; and the Word of God is “meat in due season,” and is the strength provided for their strengthening, uplifting and preparation for a share in the Kingdom.