When Naomi decides to return to her homeland of Judah, she insists that her widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, go back to their mothers’ houses. She spells out the reason. Naomi is too old to produce more sons who could later become husbands to Ruth and Orpah.
Though both women had wanted to stay with their mother-in-law, Orpah realizes the logic in Naomi’s warning and kisses Naomi goodbye. But Ruth chooses, in spite of the negative outlook, to cling to Naomi. She will not leave her mother-in-law or return to her mother’s house. Instead, she will belong to Naomi’s people and, best of all, embrace Naomi’s God—the God of Israel.
Like Ruth and Orpah, we too face difficult choices. In those moments, we are often tempted to give up on what we always believed about God’s goodness, mercy, love, and faithfulness. We are tempted to go back—at least in our minds—to think, Nothing good will come my way again, at least not as good as what I had before. There’s no hope. Maybe God doesn’t love me after all.
But from Ruth’s story we learn what to do when hard times hit: cling to God, who does not change whether times are good or bad. God is able to turn negative situations around, to turn our mourning into dancing, as David testifies in Psalm 30:11.
In the end, Ruth’s choice of the God of Israel is greatly rewarded. Ruth marries again, and she and Boaz produce Obed, one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ. (See Matthew 1:5.)
God, help me to choose to embrace the new things that lead me to your unseen blessings. Amen.
Ruth and Psalm 146 share a thematic connection. Ruth is a foreigner who decides to follow the God of the Israelites, and the psalmist praises God for being the trustworthy God who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner. In Ruth, Boaz will demonstrate this kind of care for her. The New Testament readings focus on sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that Christ was both the greatest high priest and the eternal sacrifice. A scribe in Mark receives praise from Jesus, for he understands that the sacrificial system is less weighty than the act of loving one’s neighbor. Ruth and this scribe are examples of those, named and anonymous, who have come before us in the faith.
Read Ruth 1:1-18. When have you left the familiar behind to set out into the unknown? Where did you experience God’s presence and help in that situation?
Read Psalm 146. When have you witnessed God at work in the world in a way that gave you hope about an otherwise seemingly hopeless situation?
Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How does the redemption offered in Christ’s death free you to worship the living God? What form does your worship take?
Read Mark 12:28-34. What does it mean to you to love your neighbor as you love yourself? How do you act on that commandment in your everyday life?
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