Life has crunch times of decision with a major impact on all that follows. Such tipping points determine the trajectory of our whole lives. This was one such moment for Ruth. It changed her life, giving it profound impact even beyond her own lifetime. No doubt she’s rejoicing over the decision she made even now in eternity. Her decision might make obvious sense now, looking back, but we don’t make such key decisions in retrospect, we make them on the ground, not knowing the future. Looking at her situation and response can help us to make wise choices as we feel our way forward in life today.
Her starting point was not great, which is encouraging. God can start with us in any predicament, ready to bless, if we follow His prompts to wise choices. She was a Moabite widow, living with her sister Orpah and their Israelite mother in law Naomi, all three widows. Naomi had decided to head back to Israel, but it seemed the prospects for Ruth and her sister would be better served remaining with their Moabite relatives. Orpah took that path; we know no more. Ruth however was determined to go with Naomi, declaring, ‘“your people shall be my people, and your God my God”’.
It’s interesting that she made this determined choice despite the fact that her material/relational prospects looked likely better served in Moab. Moreover, she wasn’t put off by Naomi’s rather negative narrative: ‘“the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”’(Ruth 1:20), and other similar comments.
So what drove/pulled Ruth? God must have been at work in her. His touch can bypass such obstacles to faith, drawing His people as a moth to light. In fact God seems to have designed the whole sequence of events to retrieve Ruth from Moab to bless her. His plan started when Naomi, her husband and two sons, left Israel to find refuge in Moab from famine. This shows how God ‘loves the foreigner’(Deuteronomy 10:18), and has an ongoing plan to bless ‘“all the nations of the earth”’(Genesis 22:18), but also that His plots can be intense and perplexing, sometimes only fathomable from eternity. Ruth’s late husband is an interesting example of that. Mahlon’s role seems to have been to flee famine, marry a foreigner, introduce her to God, then pass on prematurely to set the stage, so that the blessing of Ruth and all that flowed out from that, even to us, could transpire.
So it seems that Ruth ignored the off-putting remarks and circumstances, committing to follow the God of Israel who’d touched her soul, trusting the outcome.
Alongside this Ruth displayed remarkable loyal-lovingkindness to Naomi – surely this was God at work in and through her too, and part of her godly decision making. She committed to stay loyal to Naomi even unto ‘“death”’(Ruth 1:17). Later the Israelite women, recognising how God had blessed Naomi through Ruth, described her as ‘“your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons”’(Ruth 4:15). Interestingly, ‘“all that you have done to your mother-in-law”’(Ruth 2:11) was one of the things that endeared Ruth to Boaz when she arrived in Israel, causing him to request that God ‘“reward”’(Ruth 2:12) her. So God blessed Ruth with Boaz as a husband! (mutual love, loyalty and blessing all round). It’s God’s way that His people reflect his attributes, and in community this should naturally multiply, as Jesus taught ‘“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”’(John 13:35), just as He demonstrated Himself: ‘“just like I have loved you”’(John 13:34).
Ruth’s decision has resonances with another of Jesus’ teachings: ‘“there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land,…”’(Mark 10:29-30) – the church / family of God in our context. Moreover, it’s fascinating that ‘Ruth’(Matthew 1:5) features in the ancestry of Jesus Himself, a blessed outcome obviously unknown to her in this life.
Here, as Jesus continued, we might suffer ‘“…persecutions”’(Mark 10:30) etc. We mustn’t be put off by that. There are more blessings to be uncovered and made known, infinitely more: ‘“in the age to come eternal life”’(Mark 10:30). That’s where we’ll gather with our spiritual family ‘out of every nation’(Revelation 7:9), including Moabites, and the full beauty of God’s plan will become clear, like it already has for Ruth, and even Mahlon.