Ruth: A Guide for Life’s Troubled Times
by Brian Bailey
"Declaration of Dependence"
And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But 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. Where 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.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her (Chapter 1: 15-18).
They are all weeping. If they leave, it is as the finality of death. They will never see or talk to each other again in this lifetime. As Orpah is leaving I can see Naomi trying to pull Ruth’s arms from around her as she says verse 15, “Then she [Naomi] said, ‘Behold your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’”
While all of this is going on Ruth is holding onto to Naomi for dear life. For the first time we hear Ruth speak in this drama and what she says was very emotional.
As Ruth said this she most likely wept: “Entreat me not to leave thee…”
“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. Where 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.” (Ruth 1:16,17)
If that isn’t a declaration of love, of devotion, of the willingness to risk it all for another, what is? She has said that her life would be completely intertwined with Naomi’s, that their futures were completely linked!
I cannot stress it enough--Ruth made this declaration, having no promise that her life would improve. In fact, she was taking a great risk by going to Israel.
She clung to Naomi. The Hebrew wording, I am told, means to cling to totally, as in sticking completely to that person. Ruth, by her actions is clinging to the family of God. Something in Naomi’s previous life, something in her mother-in-law had drawn her to the one true God.
Some people want to walk away from God when life gets hard, but that is exactly the time we need to cling to Jesus like Ruth clung to Naomi.
It is so common for people to want to leave God when something difficult or painful happens. Sometimes, when the truth of God is hard and demanding, we want to run. But to where are we going to run?
We read in the gospel of John where Jesus is instructing the disciples and the crowd follows after him. He is discussing some hard things about partaking of Christ, his body and blood as a part of the partaker. The people as a whole do not understand and begin to decide that Jesus is fine when he provides but not when he makes demands, so they walk away.
So many people begin to leave that Jesus looks to the disciples and asks if they are leaving as well.
The response of Peter is poignant: “"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Where else is there to go when life gets hard?
Naomi did the wise thing here: she returned to the land of her God.
When life is difficult or hard we need to run to our Father in heaven for comfort, just as a small child runs to a parent when she is hurt.
As angry and spiritually wounded as Naomi was she went back home. It isn’t fair to look down on her for her anger and questions, certainly not if you have not buried a husband or children as she had. Naomi had been run over by one of life’s Mack trucks. She was hurt down to the core of her soul! Still, she is coming back to God.
Naomi couldn’t see it then, but God’s answer to all of her hurt and suffering and loss, indeed God’s provision for her need walked into Israel at her side.
Ruth said, I will go where you go…where you lead me, in other words. This is a clear declaration of faith and obedience to Yahweh God. Ruth placed herself at the direction and disposal of Naomi and her God. She would go and stay where directed; she would live and fellowship with Naomi’s people. She left the world she knew for a new world and a new faith.
She said all of this when all she could see for the future was poverty and want.
Ruth finished by saying she would rather die than break her vow of loyalty to Naomi. This is total selflessness; it is dying to self and self-interest and taking on a life that is truly significant in God’s eyes.
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In 1934, John and Betty Stam were serving in China as missionaries. Raised in China by missionary parents, Betty had purposed while attending school in the States to return to China as a missionary. It was her calling and she was willing to go and be faithful to that calling regardless of the price. Before she returned to China she penned a prayer that showed her devoted and loyal surrender to Christ.
"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."
Communists captured John, Betty and their infant daughter. Their captors beheaded John and Betty Stam; their daughter was saved.
This is totally the spirit of Ruth’s devotion. She went with Naomi, whatever the cost; she was fully surrendered to God in spite of her circumstances. Ruth was trusting in the midst of the life-storm of affliction.
To be at peace with God’s present plan in the midst of the storm requires the surrender of our will to His. This is the beginning of the peace that Jesus gives. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is there anything that is keeping you from clinging to Jesus?
To cling to Jesus, do you have to understand what God has planned for your life?
What do you think Ruth understood about God and faith when she clung to Naomi and promised to faithfully stay with her?
Do you want to cling to Jesus? It may be that you are reading this book because you are looking for answers for the deep questions of life. The answers reside in the one who created life. You don’t have to understand it all to trust Jesus. You simply need to come to him and admit you are a sinner who has broken his father’s law. You need to thank him for dying on the cross to pay the just penalty for those sins and ask him to come into your heart and become the Lord of your life.
He will do that.
Not all of your questions will be answered, certainly not all and not right this minute, but you will have peace, peace with God. If you have not done so before, ask him to do what he has done for believers throughout all the ages and what he has done for me. You can be born again; you must be born again.
Make your declaration of dependence.