In preparing to write this week’s post, I asked myself, “What is it that is amazing about Ruth?” I find myself answering that I kind of can’t believe she actually went with Naomi! Orpah has a bad reputation for abandoning Naomi after first starting the journey with her. But I can understand someone wanting to remain among their people! But Ruth walked away from her family and her way of life to… what exactly did she think she was doing?
Why did she do it? We praise her for being faithful, but what did she see in Naomi that she wanted to be faithful to? Did she really see God in her husband and father-in-law before they died? That day in the desert when Orpah turned back, in Ruth’s mind, what was she choosing when she refused Naomi’s advice to return?
She was not choosing a sure future. As Naomi pointed out to her, she couldn’t promise Ruth another spouse. Who even knew if the circumstances that drove Elimelech to Moab in the first place had really changed? But like Abraham, she willingly set out for a land that she did not know. And I doubt she could have put her finger on exactly why.
Ruth passionately declares her devotion to Naomi, but Naomi’s heart is full of bitterness, as she tells her companions later on. This is not a cheerful, optimistic witness that entreats Ruth to return to Israel. This is happening against all logic. Something in Ruth’s heart drew her to Naomi and drew her to a land she did not know. She had hope in her heart that defied reason. Naomi returned hanging her head, but Ruth saw a new life.
In my own heart, I recognize them both: Ruth, ready for adventure and humbly doing doing what she can while allowing the Lord to position her in just the right spot for just the right moment; and Naomi, cynical and downcast, sure that past disappointments rule the future. And though they are actual people that lived through real tragedies, they represent my own choice of what to do with my past.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,
and the king will desire your beauty.
Soon enough, we see that Ruth is right, and Naomi grasps hope again, even taking the lead in planning for their future. Naomi’s brought back to life by the possibility of making a match out of Ruth and Boaz. Ironically, that’s exactly what she said she could not do for Ruth: give her another husband. But there she is, enthusiastically scheming to bring them together, happy to eat her words.
And may it be also with you this week. That thing that you said was beyond you, may you find it suddenly within reach! – Joni
Joni Butler has called the ‘Ham home since 2012. Officially, she’s here for employment but has found a home here at Breath. Though an avid diarist for years, this is her first writing gig. Jesus is her best friend and she loves pursuing Him passionately. You can read more about Joni in her Breath Bio.