Yesterday, we started this week’s journey along the dusty road between Moab (modern-day Jordan) and Israel where three women were walking back to the land of Elimelech, the late husband of the oldest of the three women. Perhaps you were able to envision yourself on the road with them, listening in as Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to Moab to see if they could start over, if they could find husbands again and thus gain respect in the eyes of their people. (If you missed the reading, I encourage you to listen to it before you listen to today’s passage.)
We learned that finding a husband and then bearing sons for that husband was considered the main role women had. (I, for one, am thankful I was born in the 20th century, not in 1200 BCE, the time when this story plays out. How about you?)
But one of Naomi’s widowed daughters-in-law, a young woman named Ruth, decided to stay with Naomi, declaring,
Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you sleep, I will sleep. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried.
Famous words, those are, as they should be, for women at that time really had no right to make a declaration such as that. As subjects in a patriarchal culture, they weren’t allowed to make big decisions for themselves. But Ruth did, as Naomi had done. These weren’t timid women.
In today’s chapter, you’ll also discover that Ruth was not afraid to work hard, either. In the process, she catches the eye of the landowner whose land she goes to pick up barley that had been dropped. If you grew up going to Sunday school, you’d know how this story ends. But if you didn’t, keep listening. There’s a reason this story is in the Bible, and it’s not just because the Moabite widow was beautiful or a hard worker…
As with yesterday’s reading, I encourage you to consider how God uses suffering and tragedy in both Naomi’s life and that of Ruth to bring them to an understanding of God’s loving-kindness. It may be time for you and me to take another look at hardship in our lives that we’re begging God to take away and instead invite him to help us grow through the events in our lives.
Even better, pause and ponder what you are learning about God’s character that you could not have learned under any other circumstances.
For Ruth, the lesson seems to be that the God of her mother-in-law is a God who sees her, comforts her, and protects her. There’s more for her to learn, though. We’ll discover that in tomorrow’s reading.