Our protagonist leaves their homeland.
Begins to be in need.
Hears that back home, people have enough food to eat.
So they get up and head back, not quite sure what to expect when they get there.
If that was all you knew, you might think I was talking about the parable of the lost son from Luke 15. But this particular story is about Naomi, a woman from Bethlehem who lived in the time of the Judges. And instead of a rebellious son, she is a refugee, widow, single-mother, childless, stuck with a couple of foreign women, and starving. In that order.
If part of the reason Jesus told that story was to help us understand God’s grace for rebellious sons, how much more should we have compassion on those who find themselves in the same situation through no fault of their own?
The LORD Has Turned Against Me
Naomi lost her homeland, husband, and children.
I can’t even fathom what that was like.
Given all that had happened to her, can you blame her for believing that God had abandoned her? Or, to use her words: turned against, dealt bitterly, brought her back empty, dealt harshly, and brought calamity upon her?
How many of us would be quick to try and snap her out of it?
How many of us would push her to have hope? Push her to believe that God had a reason and a plan and that things were going to look up if she could only have faith?
That’s because we know the end of the story. We know about Boaz and the lineage to David and Jesus.
But in the moment, before any of that has happened, there is only grief and pain.
Ruth & Mount Sinai
Naomi hasn’t lost everything. She still has a couple of daughters-in-law. But they have a shaky relationship at best. There is nothing legally binding them to one another. Naomi cannot offer them anything that they might need. Staying with Naomi isn’t going to set them up for success.
Naomi is helpless. Her sons’ widows are also helpless. That is like adding zero to zero.
But for some reason, Ruth doesn’t care. Ruth wants to stick with Naomi. And not just any kind of sticking with, no! Listen to the words she uses:
Do not press me to leave you
Where you go, I will go
Where you stay, I will stay
your people shall be my people
Your God, my God.
I will never leave you. I will be with you when you go and when you stay. I will become one of your people and worship your God.
This is a covenant. And it mirrors not just Israel’s side of the Sinai covenant, but God’s.
Naomi can offer Ruth nothing. But Ruth moves toward Naomi, just as God moved toward Israel. Ruth binds herself to Naomi, just as God bound himself to his people.
How ironic that in the midst of all of Naomi’s pain and grief at what God has done to her, she almost drove away the very person who was embodying his steadfast love to her.
Have you ever encountered someone embodying God’s love? What did it look like?