The Long Journey Home
We will next look at the story of a young Moabite woman named Ruth. A famine had broken out in the land of Israel, and a family from Israel, consisting of the parents Elimelech and Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion, had decided to move to Moab in order to survive (Ruth 1:1-2). While there, the two sons of the family married wives from that country. Unfortunately, the husband, as well as the two sons died (Ruth 1:3-5). One day Naomi decided to return to Israel, since she had heard that the famine in Israel was over. And we can read that in Ruth 1:6-7 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 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.
(Ruth) “Today I, Ruth, made a decision I never thought I would take; I decided to leave my country and my family (Ruth 1:16-17). The reason I have decided to do so is because I have decided to go to Israel with my mother-in-law. You may wonder how I have a mother-in-law from Israel. You see, my mother-in-law and her husband and two sons moved to Moab (Ruth 1:1-2), my country some years ago when there was a famine in Israel. I married one of the sons and so did Orpah (Ruth 1:4). And we lived with Elimelech and Naomi and our husbands. But then one day Naomi’s husband died, my husband died and then Orpah’s husband died as well (Ruth 1:3-5). We three women continued to live together. And then the other week Naomi heard that the famine in Israel had come to an end. And she told us she had decided to return to her birthplace. Orpah and I decided we would go back with her because we love Naomi so very much (Ruth 1:6). She is an amazing mother-in-law. She has taught us so much. So this morning we set off for Bethlehem (Ruth 1:7). Half way Naomi stopped and urged us, in fact, to go back to our own hometown because, she said to us, “My darling daughters-in-law, I love you very much. But you are Moabites. And it will be very hard for you to settle in Israel since you do not belong to our people. For you do not know anyone and do not know what to do. So please return to your own people. Perhaps you will find other husbands there (Ruth 1:8-9).” Orpah decided that Naomi was right and she went back to her hometown (Ruth 1:14). But I would not leave Naomi and I told her so. And I said to her, “ Don’t urge me to leave or go back from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. And your God my God (Ruth 1:16).”
Ruth had had a heart change during the time she stayed with Naomi in her home. Before marrying Naomi’s son, she had worshipped pagan gods, but since entering Naomi’s household she had adopted Naomi’s God as her God and, over the years, she had begun to realise that Naomi’s God was the true God, and that any other god was a false god. Therefore, when this moment of decision arrived in her life, she knew that it was not just a case of her returning to her parental home, it was a case of her returning to her parental god. And she knew she could no longer worship their god for he was a false god. God had been at work in the heart and life of this young woman for He had a plan and a purpose for her life beyond what she had any knowledge of. But it required of her a willingness to follow Him wherever He would lead, including following Naomi to a foreign country to be with a people she had never met (Ruth 1:6-70. This would mean too that she, very likely, would never return to her own people. However, Ruth was determined to stay with Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). And Naomi realised it so she stopped urging her to return and together they travelled on to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:18-19).
(Ruth) “It has been quite a challenge for me to get settled in Bethlehem for I am a total stranger. I don’t know anyone, apart from Naomi. And I don’t know how things function here. But I made a promise to God that I would live here with Naomi and I aim to fulfil my promise (Ruth 1:17). Today I decided to go to a field and walk behind the harvesters to collect the grain that they had not picked up because that would mean Naomi and I would have some food (Ruth 2:2). At the end of the day, Boaz, the landowner of that particular field came to me. And he spoke to me. And he told me to return to the same field tomorrow and not to go to another field (Ruth 2:8-9). Was that not kind of him? So I thanked him in particular because I am a foreigner (Ruth 2:10). He replied that he knew about me. And he knew about the fact that I had especially come to live in Bethlehem so that I could take care of my mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 2:11-12). I thought, “May be God has sent me to his field.” When I came back that evening I told Naomi in whose field I had worked. She said, “That is so wonderful for Boaz is a distant relative of my deceased husband (Ruth 2:19-20).” I really believe that God has led me to go to his field and I will definitely go back there tomorrow.”
Naomi knew too that Ruth needed to be taken care of beyond what she was able to do for her, since she was already old, so Naomi gave Ruth a set of instructions in accordance with Jewish Traditions in relation to Boaz (Ruth 3:1-4). Ruth followed these instructions carefully. And, as a consequence, Boaz promised Ruth that he would take care of her if another relative was not willing to do so (Ruth 3:6-13). And Boaz kept his promise and married Ruth (Ruth 4:9-10). (Ruth) “God is so good. Having led me to work in the field of Boaz, God then worked in the heart of Boaz to take care of me if no one else was able or willing to do so (Ruth 3:10-13). And he has done that by marrying me. And now God has blessed us with a healthy son. Can you imagine, me, a widow from Moab, I have now been given a home, a husband and a son (Ruth 4:13-15). God be praised!”
God had blessed Ruth with a son, and a grandson for Naomi (Ruth 4:16). Of course, they did not know that this child would one day have a grandson who would become king over Israel, as we 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 David…
Moreover, Obed and Ruth are included in the genealogy of Jesus, as we can read in Matthew 1:16
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 chosen people, and gave her a son who would be the grandfather of king David, 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 we have seen God at work in the life of this young Moabite woman, who was not even one of His chosen people, so God has chosen each one of us to shine for Him in this world. All He asks is that we love Him, trust Him, and obey Him in everything that He asks us to do, just as Ruth did. What He has for us to do will be different from Ruth’s task, but it will be as important to Him because each one of us is important to Him. Similarly, God used Ruth’s circumstances in her life to bring her closer to Him, so He wants to use our circumstances in our lives to bring us closer to Him. All we need to do is to step out in faith and do all that God has for us to do, trusting Him to help each one of us every step of the way, because of His great love for us.