The book of Ruth is a short story with a BIG message. This book primarily centers around two women by the name of Naomi and Ruth. Out of the ashes of their brokenness, we witness an extraordinary love.
The book of Ruth begins by informing us of a severe famine, as a man named Elimelech traveled with his wife Naomi and two sons from Judah to the country of Moab.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Moab was an unlikely place for a Hebrew to visit, much less find respite. Yet, they escaped the drought and stayed in Moab for 10 years.
Despite living in Moab and taking Moabite wives for their sons, Elimelech and Naomi appear to maintain their faith in God. When Naomi speaks of God, she uses the name Yahweh, God’s covenant-keeping name.
After some time, though, Elimelech died, and not long after that, his two sons died. Now a widow and childless, Naomi decides to return to Israel to live among her people.
Naomi is a woman in mourning. When you’re in pain, it causes you to see things differently than they are.
Naomi views the death of her husband and now two sons as punishment from God when she says, “the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.”The phrase “hand of the LORD” was a figurative expression to identify the power of God.
In other words, it was beyond her ability to resist or overcome what God has done.
In Biblical times your cultural identity and religious beliefs were a matter of geography. Every tribe had its own identity and religious belief system.
Naomi believes God has punished her for leaving Judah to find relief in Moab. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to need a reason to explain our hardships and disappointments in life.
Sometimes there is no reason for the hardships we face, except that we live in a broken world. Searching for an answer is the wrong pursuit.
Leaning on and trusting God to be with us in the middle of our storm is what we should be focused on.
Compounding her grief is the reality that she is guaranteed a life of suffering as a widow. With no family to support you, you were at the mercy and generosity of others for survival.
So knowing that she would have a better chance of survival among her people, she prepares to return and instructs her daughters-in-law to return to their home. Her insistence is based on having nothing more to give Orpah and Ruth. Initially, both Orpah and Ruth resist Naomi’s plea to return.
Then Naomi presses harder, and her comments in Ruth 1:11 could be translated as “It is foolish for you to come with me; you will be much better off in your home country.” Her tone is more of a rebuke than a suggestion.
Upon this second plea, we see Orpah kiss her mother-in-law and begin the journey home. Nothing is said in our text to criticize Orpah for leaving. So we should not interpret this as Orpah loves Naomi less.
Instead, Orpah is honoring Naomi’s request. This reveals to us the first of two authentic expressions of love. Authentic love honors. Showing honor is a demonstration of love.
This is why the Bible commands the act of honoring.
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17
“Honor your father and your mother.” Exodus 20:12
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
But what about Ruth? Does this mean that she is dishonoring her mother-in-law by not returning to her family? Not at all. Authentic love has many expressions and applications.
This is where we see Ruth’s love level up. As Orpah leaves, we read in verse 14 that “Ruth clung to her (Naomi).” The word clung means she is determined to follow her.
Ruth demonstrates an unparalleled expression of love. She says, where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people; your God my God. But, she doesn’t stop there.
Where you die, I will die and be buried. She is committing her life to follow Naomi. Ruth demonstrates the second expression of love; sacrifice.
Ruth is young enough to go back to her home and remarry and live a full life, but instead, she pledges to stay with Naomi. She sacrificed her security, desires, future, and people and pledged herself to stay with and take care of Naomi.
Sacrificial love means loving others by not seeking my will but their good.
Jesus exemplified this type of love as witnessed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “not my will but your will be done.”
Love is not about what we say alone. It’s about what we do. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a demonstrates a sacrificial love as it says;
“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
It will be impossible to love like this if I’m seeking my own good. Authentic love is never self-seeking or self-promoting. Love in action is both honoring and sacrificial.
As you go throughout your day and interact with others, look for ways to love like Jesus so others may see God through you!