Great Loss, Great Love
Holy God, I affirm that You are good and full of love, and You delight for me to call upon You.
Read RUTH 1:1–18
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to 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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Unanticipated crises can catch us off-guard and make us wonder if there’s any hope.
Naomi’s story rivals that of Job in its level of distress and upheaval. An immigrant, cut off from her own people and widowed, she is faced with the loss of everything that she once lived for. The death of both sons brings an abrupt end to Elimelech’s generational line; long-cherished hopes for the future disappear. It is not surprising that at a time like this her greatest desire is just to go
“Home,” for many people in turmoil, reflects a deep longing for peace and security. What is surprising is that her daughters-in- law want to go with her. It is not their home. They have followed the patrilocal pattern of joining their husband’s family, but that family has now been destroyed by death. In Moab, they could hope for marriage again, to begin life anew, but in Judah they would be aliens, knowing few of the customs, with no obvious means of livelihood and few prospects. They might even receive hostility. In urging them to return to their mother’s house, Naomi speaks from her own sense of feeling abandoned by God, believing that she has nothing to offer these loving and generous young women.
Ruth’s response to her mother-in- law is surely one of the deepest statements of personal commitment ever found. It is total, lifelong, faithful, unconditional and irrevocable. It’s so much in keeping with God’s covenantal commitment to his people that we realize that, though Naomi struggles with faith, belief is very much alive in Ruth.
All she has learned of living in trust before God is now given back to Naomi in her greatest need. Sometimes we’re also called to believe for others, to hold on to faith for them in times of desperation. God can use our prayerful commitment to rekindle their hope and bring new life.
Is there someone who needs to know you love them unconditionally? How can you make a difference in their lives?
Keep my heart open, Lord, to those who struggle with loss. May I never resort to easy platitudes but allow You to deepen my empathy and love.