The Long Journey Home
A famine has broken out in the land of Israel and a family from Bethlehem decides to move to another country in order to survive, as you can read in Ruth 1:1-2
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
They settle down in the country of Moab but, unfortunately, the husband, whose name is Elimelech,dies. However, his wife and two sons seem to be so settled into life in Moab that they remain there. The two sons grow up and their mother Naomi knows it is time for them to get married. Sadly, even then they do not return to Israel to find a wife for themselves among their own people, but instead they look for a wife among the Moabite people, who are idol worshippers. Both of them end up marrying a Moabite woman, as you can read in Ruth 1:3-5
Now Elimelech, Namomi’s husband died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they have lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
After a ten-year stay in Moab, Naomi’s two sons die as well. She will have wondered who will now look after her for she has no male relative left, at least not in Moab. It is true she does have two caring daughters-in-law, but they are not able to provide the protection that they all need. Perhaps, even God does no longer care about her. After all, He has allowed her to lose her husband and her two sons. But then she hears the wonderful news that finally the famine in Israel is over. She knows it is time to go back to her own country and her own people. Who knows, perhaps God will be merciful to her there, as you can read in Ruth 1:6-7
When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
As she sets out on her trip back home, she is accompanied by her two daughters-in-law. They are obviously very fond of her and, likewise, she is very fond of them. Nevertheless, she knows that it will be better for them to remain in Moab, so that they may find another husband, as you can read in Ruth 1:8-9
Then Naomi said to her daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them and they wept aloud.
However, both daughters-in-law insist they want to go with Naomi to her country, regardless of what that may mean for them, as you can read in Ruth 1:10
And (they) said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi knows that going with her to her people and her country will be extremely difficult for these two young women. They are, after all, Moabites and will not be accepted by her people. They really should return to their own people and to their own gods and, hopefully, marry a Moabite man. She cannot do anything for them, for she is too old and it seems God has turned His back on her, as you can read in Ruth 1:11-14
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me – even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons – would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.”
One of Naomi’s daughters-in-law Orpah decides that, yes the words of her mother-in-law’s words do make sense, and she should return to her own people, so she may be able to find another husband among them before it is too late. It breaks her heart to say goodbye to Naomi and Ruth for they have grown close together, especially after the death of all the men in their little family. Nevertheless, she cannot see any other way forward for her. You can read this in Ruth 1:14
At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
Surely, Orpah’s decision will help Ruth realise that she needs to follow in the footsteps of her sister-in-law and go back to her own people in order for her to start a new life among them. However, Naomi sees that Ruth is not making any move to go back so she decides to try one more time to persuade her to do what she believes is the right thing for Ruth, as you can read in Ruth 1:15
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
Finally Ruth speaks up and her answer convinces Naomi that, unlike Orpah, Ruth will not go back to her own people and the gods of her people, but will go with Naomi to love her people and her God, as you can read in Ruth 1:16-18
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.”
Ruth has had a heart change during the time she has stayed with Naomi in her home. Before marrying Naomi’s son, she worshipped pagan gods, but since entering Naomi’s household she has adopted her husband’s God as her God, and over the years she has begun to realise more and more that her husband’s God is the true God, and that any other god is a false god. Therefore, when this moment of decision in her life has arrived, she knows that it is not just a case of returning to her parental home; it is a case of returning to her parental gods. And she knows that she can no longer worship their gods for they are false gods. God has been at work in the heart and life of this young Moabite woman, for He has a purpose and a plan for her life beyond what she has any knowledge of. But it requires of her a willingness to follow Him wherever He will lead, including following Naomi into a foreign country with people she has never met. It will mean too that she will never return to her own people. However, Ruth is determined to stay with Naomi and Naomi realises it, so she stops urging her to return and together they travel to Bethlehem, as you can read in Ruth 1:18-19
When Naomi realised that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred, because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
Naomi, believes that God has given up on her and does no longer care about her, as you can see from Ruth 1:20-21
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “ Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
But God has not given up on Naomi and He has some wonderful surprises for her in store as yet. After their arrival in Bethlehem, God leads Ruth to work in a field that belongs to a man named Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Let’s read Ruth 2:1-3
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter. “ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
Now, I want you to know it is not by chance that Ruth finds herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. God has planned all along that one day Ruth will find herself in Israel, and He knows too that after she arrives in Israel she will have to go to a field in order to gather some food for her and her mother-in-law. However, He makes sure she does not just go to any field. No, He makes sure she goes to the field that belongs to a man named Boaz and this man is from the clan of Elimelech, the deceased husband of Naomi. God has chosen for Boaz to play an important role in Ruth’s life so God makes sure that Boaz notices Ruth and takes great care of her safety, as you can see from Ruth 2:8-9
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
In fact, Boaz has already heard about Ruth even before they met, as you can read in Ruth 2:10-12
At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband –how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
While Ruth is working in the field her mother-in-law is at home. No doubt, she is concerned for her young daughter-in-law, realising that she is in a very vulnerable position. So when Ruth returns home that evening Naomi is full of questions, as you can read in Ruth 2:19-20
Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working, “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. “The Lord bless him,” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”
Naomi is very pleased to hear that Ruth has been working in the field of Boaz, who is a close relative of hers. Does she think that God might have a hand in this? Not necessarily so. At least she does not say it but, no doubt, she will have recognised at a later point in time how God has been orchestrating events in her life, and that of her daughter-in-law.
Naomi, being a good mother-in-law, knows that Ruth needs to be taken care of beyond what she can offer so she gives Ruth a certain set of instructions according to Jewish customs in relation to Boaz. Ruth follows these instructions carefully, as you can read in Ruth 3:1-7
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you where you will be provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing- floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing-floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.
Boaz responds to Ruth in the way Naomi has been anticipating, as you can read in Ruth 3:8-13
In the middle of the night something startled the man and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
Boaz understands that Ruth is in need of protection beyond what Naomi can provide and that it is his responsibility, as a close relative, to take care of her, unless another close relative is willing to do so. However, the other relative is unwilling to provide for Ruth, so Boaz keeps the promise he has made to Ruth to take care of her, as you can read in Ruth 4:9-10
Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses.”
Consequently, Boaz marries Ruth, as you can read in Ruth 4:13
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.
Together, they have a son name Obed, a grandson for Naomi, as you can read in Ruth 4:17
The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David
Naomi learns all over again that God is a faithful God and she is truly grateful.
God showed Naomi He had not forgotten her. On the contrary, He blessed her with a grandson, who was like a son to her. Of course she did not know as yet that her grandson would one day have a grandson who would become king over Israel, as you can read in Matthew 1:5-6a
…Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of king David……
Moreover, Naomi’s grandson Obed and his mother Ruth are included in the geneology of Jesus, as you can read in that same chapter, in verse 16
And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe chose a young Moabite woman to be rescued out of spiritual darkness by allowing her to be married into a Jewish family. He then brought her to live among His chosen people. He next gave her favour with His people, gave her a new husband from among His people and gave her a son who was the grandfather of king David and out of whose line would be born Joseph, the husband of Mary who would give birth to the Saviour of the world.
And just as you have seen God at work in the life of this young Moabite woman, who was not even of one of the chosen people, so God has chosen you to shine for Him in this world. All He asks is that you love Him, trust Him and obey Him in everything that He asks you to do, just as Ruth did. What He has for you to do will be different from Ruth’s task but it will be as important to Him because you are important to Him. And just as God used Ruth’s circumstances in her life to bring her closer to Him so He wants to use your circumstances in your life to bring you closer to Him. All you need to do is to step out in faith, and do all that God has for you to do, trusting Him to help you each step of the way because of His great love for you.