Ruth 1:16-17(NKJV) 16But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
Yesterday we introduced the story of Ruth. Ruth is a foreigner and a woman, but her story is one of the most famous in the Hebrew bible. The book of Ruth was written between 100 and 200 years after the action took place. Given that that this is not a story of a great battle or some political or religious event, this is an extraordinary amount of time for this story to be remembered.
Ruth ends up married to a wealthy man who is a relative of her mother-in-law. She is part of the lineage of David and of Jesus. She goes from destitute to greatly blessed. All of this occurs because God gives her favor with the man Boaz who happens to be a relative of Naomi, her mother-in-law. What was it about Ruth that caused such great favor to come to her life?
The first thing I want to point out is a scripture that we quoted yesterday. It is quoted again above. This is a very beautiful statement of love and devotion. Sometimes when something is so beautifully stated we can miss the significance of what is actually said. In these verses, Ruth declares that she will not leave Naomi. Nothing can keep her from accompanying Naomi back to Israel. Let us look a little more closely at this.
Was there any disadvantage for her staying in Moab? She was not leaving in disgrace. She is beyond the prime age to remarry, but if she stays in Moab, she is among her own people. It would seem she is not unattractive, so it is certainly possible that she could have found a husband.
Until she did remarry, she would be able to live with her own family. We know little about them, but we do know that the family of Naomi owned land in Israel and was probably fairly well off. It is reasonable to assume that when Naomi’s husband found a bride for his son, the bride would have been of the same class. It is reasonable to assume that Ruth’s family could have taken care of her. Even Naomi told her it was to her advantage to go home to her family.
Was there any advantage to her if she went with Naomi to Israel? I cannot see any. She would be a foreigner. She would be poor because there would be no men to care for her or Naomi. Marriage would be less likely. She is still beyond the prime age and she is not an Israelite. It is possible that the Israelites could have rejected or mistreated her because of who she was. What would become of her when Naomi died?
I can see no advantage to following Naomi to Israel and every advantage to staying in Moab. Why, then, did Ruth insist so strongly on accompanying Naomi to her homeland? The obvious answer is that she loved Naomi, but did she not love her own mother? I believe there is more to her decision.
Naomi was an older widow. It had been a long time since she had been home. She had no husband and no sons. Her parents were probably gone by this time. Neither of them knew if there was anyone to take care of Naomi. An older woman alone was at great risk. Ruth loved Naomi, but more than that, she put Naomi’s wellbeing above her own. This is the first characteristic that put Ruth in a place to obtain favor.
When we live self-centered lives, I do not believe God will bring us favor. However, when we chose to consider others above ourselves, it opens the door for God given favor. I believe this applies within the family. When fathers and mothers lay down their lives for their children God will bring favor into the family. When children care for their parents, favor is released in their lives. Paul reminds us that the commandment to honor father and mother is the first commandment to carry a promise. (Eph 6:1-3)
I believe we need to extend this to the church as well. The bible tells us to consider the good of others more highly than our own. Jesus taught his disciples to walk in love towards each other and toward their neighbor. When we choose this path, we will find that God will honor us with favor.
Finally, we need to love those in the world as well. I believe that when we choose to lay down our lives for those around us, we will receive favor when we speak to them. This is the favor that the first church had and it led to people daily coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
There is a second characteristic in these beautiful words spoken by Ruth. Look at this statement from verse 16. “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Not only did she choose Naomi’s wellbeing instead of her own, but she also chose the Lord above her own gods and God’s people above her own people. When we put the Lord at the center of our desires, we are in a place to receive favor from him.
Last week we looked at the 2 ½ tribes that chose to settle on the east side of Jordan. They chose what was good for their flesh over the center of the will of God. Ruth does just the opposite. She chooses Naomi’s good and the will of God over what seems best for her own flesh. By making this choice, she puts herself right in the path of the favor of God and a blessing that she could never have imagined.
There are many voices crying for our attention today. There are many things we need to do. There are so many things for our flesh to desire and it is often difficult to make the choices that Ruth made. We are very busy and our personal needs are very great. However, what would Ruth’s life have been like if she had not made these hard choices?
She may have married in her homeland or she may have died an old maid. She might have been able to live well enough or she might have fallen on hard times and died of hunger. We do not know. We do know that she would not have been in Boaz’s field for him to see her. We do know that she would not have been his wife and he was a wealthy man. We also know that she would not have been part of the lineage of both David and Jesus.
I believe that was her real destiny. I believe God gave her favor with Boaz because he had called her to be the grandmother of David. Maybe she passed on some of her character to her son and grandson. Favor put her in the place to receive great blessing and to fulfill her destiny in the Lord. Her character put her in the place to receive the favor God wanted to give.
Let us look at our own lives. Do we consistently consider the needs of others over our own? Do we live life just for ourselves or are we willing to lay down our own needs and comforts to touch those who may be in greater need than we are? If we choose to consider others before ourselves, I believe we open ourselves to favor which comes from God.
Do we consider our flesh or the will of God? What choices do we make in the course of our lifestyle when it comes to the Kingdom of God and our own desires? If we choose to make the Kingdom of God the most important thing, we open ourselves to the favor that comes from him.
What will we see if we make these choices? I believe we will see God provide great blessing for us personally. Even though we may face some difficulties because of these choices, in the end we will be blessed just as Ruth was blessed. If we choose the will of God over our own will we will see the destiny God created us for fulfilled in our lifetime. I believe favor is worth making the right choices.