“What now?” clawed at her throat, but the words refused to be uttered from her mouth. Disbelief that her husband was dead locked those words in her tortured mind. Numbness over the reality of it all would have made her swoon if it were not for the look on her mother-in-law’s face.
“Not now,” Ruth thought as she tried to hold on to her composure despite the sadness that gripped her own heart. “Noami needs me to be strong,” she silently willed within herself. “First, Elimelech, and now this. How much more can she bear?”
“Daughters,” Naomi spoke up, “it is time,” feeling greatly resolved at the decision that had to be made.
“What?” both women, Ruth and Orpah, spoke in unison.
“It is time for me to return home. Oh, girls, Moab has been good to my family and me these last years. But, Moab is not home.” Looking at their pleading eyes Naomi continued, “It has recently come to my attention that the famine we fled from is now over. God has blessed my people once again with His favor. There is now bread in Bethlehem. I have no more reason to stay here. It is time for me to go back.”
“But, what of your life here,” asked one of the women?
“I no longer have a life here, dear,” Naomi cried with sobs breaking through her words. “In this land I have had to say good-bye to the people I treasure most in this world. This land has taken my heart; it has taken my family. I’ve watched my husband die and now I am forced to let go of my sons. What is there left for me here?”
“Naomi, you have us,” Ruth spoke confidently.
“No, my daughter. It is best if you two return to your homes as I must return to mine. I am old. I have nothing left to offer you.”
“Mother,” Ruth lovingly and gently spoke to her. “We can do this together. You don’t have to return to Bethlehem and we don’t have to leave your side. Somehow, some way we can make this work.”
Sighing and hoping for understanding, Naomi turned to the face that bore the sadness of her own. “Child, I love you both, and I would that for all the world to have things as they once were. But, it is not so. Things will never be the same for me again. Not here anyway. Now, I must return to my own people where I belong to seek solace for this old, broken heart.”
“Then, permit us to go with you,” Ruth said with Orpah nodding in agreement.
“Mahlon and Chilion were my only sons. I have no more. I am now too old to remarry. It’s as I told you, I have nothing left offer you. It would be selfish of me to ask you to give up the possibility of a better future in your parent’s homes to follow me. Go, return now to your own people. Perhaps God will be gracious to you and you can remarry there and start over again someday.”
“You don’t mean that, do you,” Ruth questioned as she looked into the eyes of the woman whom she has come to love? Sobbing by her side, Orpah could not speak. Their world had been shaken, but Naomi is right, she thought within herself.
There was a decision that had to be made that day. Both Ruth and Orpah would have to choose what path in life they would follow.
What would it have been like to stand there that day and to make that decision? Those times were not favorable toward women who were all alone. Should they stay or should they go?
Walking into the unknown toward Bethlehem with Naomi, Ruth chose to go. Orpah chose to return back home to her people. There she would hope to find some semblance of normalcy and stability. Ruth, as the Bible says, clung to Naomi and refused to be parted from this woman who has meant so much to her.
That day Ruth walked away from everything familiar with no promise for better. Ruth turned her back on her own family to love and support this woman who is not even of her own flesh and blood. Ruth chose a path most would not want to travel. Hers was a path of self-sacrifice. Lest, one take her story too lightly, they should consider her life in comparison with ours today.
Before I go anywhere I plan ahead in great detail to be sure I lack nothing when I arrive. Ruth had no such pleasure. Not only was she not guaranteed any provisions of life, but would they even accept her in Bethlehem. Surely by now they knew that Naomi’s sons married Moabite women. How would she be treated? People would rejoice at the return of Naomi, but what of her? In that place, are there those who would take advantage of her? If any of those questions ever arose they were not spoken for fear of thwarting the opportunity to follow Naomi. Her only concern was for that very woman, not herself.
In every part of her journey Ruth stepped into the unknown. In her travels with Naomi, in her arrival in Bethlehem, her work at gleaning the fields to try and support Naomi, and in her marriage to Boaz. Everything was new to her and everything was strange. But, everything she did, she did for the love and care of Naomi.
What would it have been like to give up so much; to show so much love to make such a decision? If we knew all the particulars of a woman in her situation in that day we would see that hers was a decision of pure love.
She knew everything she was leaving behind. She didn’t know anything about where she was headed. But, declaring God as her own, her mind was made up and her heart was fixed. Onward she walked the journey where life would lead her because of that decision made that day.
In the end, God greatly blessed her life and the sacrifices she made on behalf of another. So much so, that she ended up giving birth to Obed who is the grandfather of King David, the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It started out with a decision. Not knowing what we were stepping into, would we have been able to make that decision? What would it have been like to be Ruth of the Bible?
Ruth teaches us our decisions matter!