But Ruth replied “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
The book of Ruth has been called the most beautiful short story ever written (Huey, 1992).
This brief narrative contains elements of great suffering, perseverance, self sacrifice and ultimately redeeming love. The plotline intertwines the three major characters; Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Whilst God does not enter the dialogue, it is unanimously held that this story is a powerful testimony of Godly providence.
All of the ‘by chance’ encounters leading to Naomi and Ruth’s redemption continually highlight God’s unseen hand. The omnificent Stage Director, God directs the actors as the divine script unfolds. The result is a plot line with precise timing. Nothing is left to chance.
Yet for all of its precision the stories’ namesake stands out as an example to us all. Ruth epitomizes self sacrificial love. A Moabite woman – Ruth was not an Israelite. Marrying such was against God’s commandments. Now a young widow, she was given the prospect of returning to a land dominated by Israelites. In this territory she would be regarded an alien and outsider.
It is reasonable to assume she was attractive, especially in delighting Boaz (a man of some standing). Therefore in her twenties she could have rebuilt her life and sought another husband in her own homeland. Yet she chose to accompany her embittered mother-in-law and stay be her side – no matter what.
In comparison, her sister’s devotion was nonexistent. At the prospect of release she packed her belongings and headed home. The temptation on Ruth potentially would have been great. She also could have returned to her own people, her own ‘gods’ (thus far this Israelite God had not bestowed many blessings on them. Her husband, father and brother-in-law had all died and now the two women were starving). Even her mother-in-law’s pleas to leave her in her bitterness would not sway Ruth’s resolve.
She willingly gave her young life to serve another.
This ‘outsider’ gave her heart in selfless devotion. Her mother-in-law was now her only mother, and Her God was now Ruth’s God. It is understandable that the God of Israel accepting such a sacrifice and adopting her as His own. From her own womb would come the ancestors of King David, ultimately the royal lineage leading to the Messiah Himself. “Her total devotion to her desolate mother-in-law mark her as a true daughter of Israel and a worthy ancestress of David” (Barker, 2002).
Thousands of years later Ruth stands as a woman of noble character, selfless devotion and obedience. It is her sense of love that binds these qualities together – Her life was laid down for another (1 John 3:16). In return, God honoured her commitment and rewarded her – Eternally.