For context, read all of Ruth 1
In the time when the judges ruled Israel, we read of two unlikely women who played an enormous role in the history of God’s people. Naomi and Ruth. During this time, there was a severe famine in the land, so Naomi’s husband took her and their 2 sons to live in Moab. Remember that the Moabites descended from Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughter and they often fought with Israel. So they must have been in desperate circumstances to move there. While they were there, Naomi’s sons married Moabite women despite the tense relationship between their two people. One of them was named Ruth. Sadly, during the 10 years that they were in Moab, Naomi’s husband and both of her sons died.
Naomi and her daughters were left as widows without children. In that culture, being a widow was one of the worst things that could happen to a woman. If they couldn’t find someone to help care for them, they would be left destitute.
Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to return home to their families and blessed them saying, “May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband” (Ruth 1:9
). Orpah, one of the daughters-in-law, was eventually persuaded to return home. But Ruth would not hear of it. She was determined to stay faithfully by her mother-in-law’s side.
Ruth was from the pagan Moabites, and yet in her expression of loyalty to Naomi, she referenced the Hebrew God. She did not just pledge her loyalty to Naomi, she pledged her loyalty to Naomi’s God. As we will see later, this selfless act and this pledge of commitment, was going to be extremely important in the story that God is writing for the salvation of His people.
Ruth returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and yet the hardships that Naomi had endured had gotten to her. In verse 20
, we see Naomi tell the other women to call her Mara because “the LORD has made my life very bitter”. In verse 21
, she even says that she has returned home “empty”. She was grieving and she undoubtedly felt extreme loss due to the deaths of her husband and sons. And yet, it seems she was overlooking a blessing. God had given her Ruth. A woman whose very name means “friendship”. A name that Ruth was true to. Naomi had suffered great losses, yes, but she was also given a great gift in her daughter-in-law. She did not come back from Moab as empty as she perceived. Plus, God was not finished with her yet. Her story wasn’t over.
Sisters, the WORD about women in the story of Naomi and Ruth is that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is each other. From Ruth, we learn that when we are loyal to those God has put into our lives we can be a tremendous blessing to them. From Naomi, we learn that we shouldn’t get so distraught at the desperate circumstances in our lives that we miss the gifts that God has given us in others. God can work in our desperate circumstance and through our faithfulness for great good. ReflectHave you been given the gift of a friend like Ruth whose faithfulness blessed your life? Is there someone in your life that you could be a Ruth to? PrayFather, even in the most dire circumstances, you are working. Thank you for the blessing of friends and family that have stood faithfully beside me. Help me to be a loyal friend to those You have placed in my life. Amen.