Today we’re going to look at a story of love, loyalty, family, and God.
But before we get into the story, I want to read to you a quote, that may be one of the greatest statements of love and loyalty and devotion, that any one person ever made to another. The quote is found within our story, and here it is..
“For where you go, I will go. And where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God. Where you die, I shall die, and there I will be buried. And may the Lord deal with me, and worse, if anything but death, parts you and me.”
What a statement! Could any person, make their devotion to another, any more sure, and any more clear than that? Even the vows of marriage, are no more sure than that statement is. “Where you go, I will go. And where you live, I will live. Your family of people, shall be MY family of people. And your GOD, shall be MY God! And where you DIE, I shall die and there I will be buried. And may the LORD deal with me, severely, if anything but death, shall cause me to part from you.”
Do you have that kind of love, and loyalty, and devotion to anyone? I hope you do, because we need to be that devoted! That’s the level of love, that we need to have for one another. And our loyalty and our devotion to one another should be such, that we would be able to say, with honesty; May the LORD deal with me, if I should part, with that kind of love, for you.
Those words were spoken by a young woman, to her mother-in-law. They were widows, because their husbands had both died prematurely.
The young woman’s name was Ruth, and her mother-in -law was Naomi. And their story is told in the book of Ruth, in just four short chapters. It’s not JUST a story of Ruth’s never-ending love for Naomi, but it’s a story about “family”, and about God’s blessings, towards those who are WILLING to love one another. And I guess it’s really a story about GOD”S never ending love, for us.
The Book of Ruth
So let’s turn to the book of Ruth. Ruth is near the front of the bible, just after the book of Judges, which comes right after Deuteronomy.
Here’s what it says in Ruth chaptgr 1, verse 1; “Now it came about in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, in Judah, went to sojourn in the land of Moab, with his wife and his two sons.”
So this story takes place in ancient times, over 3,000 years ago. It was “in the days when the judges judged..” God began to appoint judges to rule in Israel, after the death of Joshua. Joshua was the one who led the people of Israel across the Jordan river, and into the promised land of Canaan, after Moses had died. It’s estimated that Joshua probably died somewhere around the year 1400 BC. And then God raised up judges to rule Iarael, for another three to four hundred years, or more.
So that will give you an idea of the time frame for this story. But you’ll see from the story, that although people’s lifestyles have changed, people themselves haven’t really changed much. And certainly, God hasn’t changed. Now back to our story..
A man and his wife, and their two sons, leave Bethlehem, because of a famine, and travel to the land of Moab.
And it says in verse 2; “And the name of the man was El-ee-meh’-lek, and the name of his wife, Naomi. And the names of his two sons were Mah-lone’, and Kil-yone’, Ephathrites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab, and remained there.”
The Land of Moab
The land of Moab is on the opposite side of the Dead Sea, from Bethlehem. So when El-ee-meh’-lek and his family headed out on their journey, I’m sure that they would have headed around the northern end of the Dead Sea. Bethlehem sits to the west of the Dead Sea, but it’s close to the northern end. So it would make perfect sense to head east, and just a little farther, north, and then cross the Jordan river, and then start heading south, until they got to the land of Moab.
If they would have gone south from Bethlehem, they would have been heading into a desert area, so I would hardly think that you’d leave your home town because of a famine, and head right into a desert. And then you’d have to pass through the area where Sodom and Gomorrah once stood, and that’s a waste land, and then you’d have to pass through the Valley of Salt, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and that’s also pretty much a waste land. So it’s a pretty fair guess, that they headed north and east, and crossed the Jordan river, and then down to Moab.
So verse 2 tells us; “Now they entered the land of Moab, and remained there.”
But now listen to verses 3 thru 6; “Then El-ee-meh’-lek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.”
“And they took for themselves, Moabite women as wives. The name of the one was Or-paw’, and the name of the other was Ruth. And they lived there about ten years.”
“Then both Mah-lone’ and Kil-yone’ also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.”
“Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the land of Moab, for she heard in the land of Moab, that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.”
God said, regarding His people, in Psalm 132, verse 15; “I will abundantly bless her provision. I will satisfy her needy with bread.” And that’s exactly what God did here when He visited His people in Judah. And that’s what He does for all of us.
Let’s continue reading. Beginning with verse 7; “So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her. And they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.”
“And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law; Go, return each of you, to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead, (in other words, as you have dealt with your husbands who have passed away), and with me.”
“May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” (She wanted them to go back home and find new husbands) “Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her; NO, but we will surely return with YOU, to your people.”
To Stay or Not to Stay
The daughters-in-law wanted to go with Naomi, but Naomi didn’t want them to be tied down to her, in her suffering, but rather, she wanted them to return to their home, and find husbands to take care of them, and be happy. Naomi thought that would be best for the young women. So Naomi said in verse 13; “No, my daughters, for it is harder for me, then for you. For the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.”
It’s actually kind of sad, isn’t it? Naomi has certainly faced tragedy, but still, she doesn’t want to be a burden for her daughters-in-law, so she’s willing to return to Judah, by herself, to what family she may have left there.
But listen to verses 14 thru 17; “And they lifted up their voices, and wept again. And Or-paw’ kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” So in other words, Or-paw’ kissed Naomi good-bye, but Ruth wasn’t willing to go.
“Then Naomi said; Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people, and her gods; Return after your sister-in-law.”
“But Ruth said; Do not urge me to leave you, or turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go. And where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, MY God.”
“Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death, parts me from you.”
That’s devotion! Wouldn’t you have liked to have known Ruth? She must have had a lot of love in her heart. She wasn’t thinking about herself, she cared more about her mother-in-law.
Naomi was suffering emotionally. She said; “For the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me”. When she said that, that God’s hand had gone out against her, we shouldn’t get the impression that Naomi had lost her faith. She still remained perfectly faithful to God. I think it’s a lot like Job, when he had lost so much.
It says in Job 3, verses 1 thru 3; “Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said; Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night, which said; A boy is conceived.”
But if you remember, in the end, Job was praised by God Himself, for his CONTINUED faith. So we can be down, and we can be saddened and depressed, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our faith. It only means that we need to rely on GOD, and that much MORE in times of trial.
So Naomi hadn’t lost her faith in God, but as she put it, the hand of the Lord had definitely “gone forth against her”, at least for now. And she was definitely suffering. And she was even willing to suffer alone, if it was God’s will.
But that doesn’t mean that she thought God had left her. And neither should WE think that God has left us, just because the things of THIS life, often times, don’t always go as we’d hoped, and planned.
Having come from Bethlehem, in Judah, Naomi was probably knew the scriptures.
And she might have thought of this scripture.. Deuteronomy 31, verse 6; “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your GOD, is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you, nor forsake you.”
Those words were originally spoken to the people of Israel, when they were about to enter into the promised land. But they were going to have to subdue all the nations that were already inhabiting that land. And Moses had told the people in verse 5; “And the Lord will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments, which I have commanded you.”
And that’s why he had said in verse 6; “Be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid or tremble at them. For the Lord your God, is the one who goes with you. He will never fail you nor forsake you.”
So the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan river, to go and live in the land that God had promised them. And God went with them. And their FAITH in God, is what sustained them.
When Naomi travelled from the land of Moab, back to Bethlehem, in Judah, I’m sure her faith sustained her also. She no doubt would have taken the same route that her and her husband had taken, to get to the land of Moab. So Naomi would have headed north from Moab, and gone through the land assigned to Reuben, of the tribe of Israel. Then she’d have turned west and gone through the land given to the descendants of Benjamin, and then into Judah, and back to Bethlehem.
And Naomi was willing to make this journey, all by herself, because she knew that God was going to be with her. But as it turned out, she didn’t have to go by herself, because her daughter-in-law Ruth, refused to leave her side. Remember, “Where you go, I will go.. Your people will be my people, and your GOD, will be MY God!”
We’re told, in Ruth 1, verses 18 & 19; “When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. So they both went until they came to Bethlehem.”
Naomi was a strong woman, wasn’t she? And Ruth must have been just as strong. And even though “the Lord’s hand had gone forth against her”, by allowing her to lose her husband and her sons, God hadn’t left her, because God would NEVER fail her or forsake her.
So Naomi and Ruth headed north, and passed through the territory of Reuben, and then turned west. They would have been less than 30 miles from Bethlehem now, but something stood in their path. And that something, was the river Jordan.
Across the Jordan with God
It says in verse 22; “And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.” So then Naomi and Ruth must have crossed the Jordan, during harvest season, on their way home.
But listen to what it says in Joshua 3, verse 15 & 16. These verses are talking about the time when Joshua led the nation of Israel across the Jordan, into the promised land of Canaan;
“And when those who carried the ark, came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water – for the Jordan overflows ALL it’s banks, ALL the days of harvest – that the waters which were flowing down from above, stood and rose up in one heap..”
Verse 18 says; “And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood firm on dry ground, in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.”
On that occasion, God brought the entire nation of Israel, safely across the overflowing river Jordan. So I have a question. How did God bring Naomi and Ruth, across that very same river, at that very same time of the year, when the river overflowed all it’s banks? We’re not told how God brought them across, but God DID bring them safely across!
And maybe the lesson for us, is that no matter what WE face in this life, God will bring us safely across also. And that’s a fact! That’s a promise form God!
It’s interesting that we’re not told more about this journey of Naomi and Ruth. Remember that Naomi had been willing to go it alone, because she didn’t want her daughters-in-law, to have to suffer with her. But Ruth, had a love that wouldn’t be denied. Ruth was willing to love, at her own expense. And so God basically said to Naomi; “No, you’re not going to make this journey alone. Ruth is going to go with you, and so am I.” God used the love of Ruth, to bless Naomi, after she had suffered such great loss.
We’re out of time for now, but next week, we’ll look at the rest of the story of love, and loyalty, and family, and God.
But here’s a question for you today.. Are you willing to allow God, to use YOU, to bless others, just like He used Ruth to bless Naomi?
In other words; Are you willing to be a Christian? Are you willing to hear His word, and to BELIEVE it, and to obey it? To repent of your sins, and to confess your faith in Christ, and to buried in baptism for the forgiveness of your sins, so that YOU can be a Christian? And then are you willing to live faithfully unto death, so God can use YOU in His plan to save the world?
God will save those who obey Him, with or without, you, or I. But wouldn’t it be better to be a part of that plan? If you’re not willing to be a part of His plan, then you won’t have any part in heaven either.