A lesson – Ruth 1:14-18
Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
Ruth is one of the five women who Matthew includes in his version of the genealogy of Jesus. The book which bears her name tells the tale of her in-laws, Elimelech and Naomi fleeing Israel in the midst of a famine, and heading to Moab. While there the two sons of Elimelech and Naomi married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Then in a series of unfortunate events, Elimelech and their two sons die. Naomi decides to return home to Israel, and she releases her two daughters-in-law of any commitment to her, and tells them to find other husbands in Moab. Orpah reluctantly listens to Naomi, but Ruth will hear nothing of it. Ruth, in a stunning act of familial love towards Naomi leaves her home and journeys to Israel with her.
While in Israel, Ruth catches the eye of a handsome farmer, Boaz, and ends up marrying him. They become the parents of Obeb, who becomes the father of Jesse, who becomes the father of David.
One thing that commentators mention over and over again is the fact that Ruth is a Moabite – a people who were held in great contempt and suspicion by the Israelites. That she becomes the great-grandmother of David, King of Israel, is stunning. I think that the most important thing about Ruth though is her display of love and fidelity. She is the very icon of faithfulness and sacrifice on behalf of her mother-in-law. She could have stayed at home in Moab, and been quite comfortable. Instead, she chose the harder road.
That she becomes a root on the genealogical tree from which the Messiah comes, I think, is quite beautiful.
O God, whose faithfulness knows no end, give us the wisdom and grace to follow the example of the loving fidelity of your servant Ruth, this day and every day. Amen.