Monday, July 27, 2009

Ruth Chapter 1

As I read through Ruth Chapter 1, I wasn't really sure what I could pull out of it. Which is one reason I'm a week or two late in getting this posted. I just needed to think on it a bit.

One of the things I found interesting is that from the way the text is written, it would appear that Naomi's sons waited until after their father died before taking wives.

"But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband." Ruth 1:3-5

Since the text doesn't give us ages or timelines, there could be a number of reasons that the boys didn't marry until after their father's death. The boys may not have been old enough to marry while their father lived, or (and I must admit this was my first thought), they knew that Elimelech would not allow them to marry foreign women. That thought was bolstered by the fact that God did not bless those marriages with children.

However it came about, Naomit found herself with not one, but two daughters-in-law who did not share her faith. We don't know anything of Orpah's or Ruth's lives, what kind of homes they grew up in, but we do know they were raised in a pagan culture.

After Naomi's sons died, she decided to return home, hearing that the Lord was once again blessing the land. She begins the journey with both daughters-in-law, but at some point decides to urge them to return to their mother's houses. (As a side note, I wonder if this is a clue that these were fatherless girls. Why not urge them to return to their father's houses?) I don't understand why Naomi decides mid-journey that the girls shouldn't return with her. Why not decide and settle it before leaving? Perhaps she truly loved them and wanted them with her. This would at least partially explain Ruth's love and devotion for her mother-in-law. Did she begin to think that it would be too difficult for her daughers-in-law once they were back in Judah? Wash she showing her love for them, and sacrificing her own comfort in having them, by encouraging them to return to their own homes?She also had to realize that they would have a hard existence with no man to provide for them. So, for whatever reason, Naomi decides the girls should return to their homes in Moab.

Orpah tearfully agrees, but Ruth pleads with Naomi to allow her to stay with her.

"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.' And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more." Ruth 1:16-18

What kind of woman was Naomi that she inspired such love and devotion from Ruth? Considering her circumstances, it would have been so easy for her to have been resentful and to keep her daughters-in-law at arms length. After all, they were pagans! They did not know or love the One True God. She could have been angry with her sons for not going back to Judah to find wives. But it would appear that this godly woman loved her daughters-in-law in spite of their differences. She must have made them feel loved and welcomed into the family ~ for even though Orpah did return home, she didn't do it without a lot of tears. And Ruth was willing to leave everything and everyone she knew and follow Naomi to a land she knew nothing about.

Even though later Naomi changes her name to Mara (meaning "Bitter"), and feels like God has dealt harshly with her, there must have been something of the character of God shing through in her to draw Ruth so strongly.

So, as women desiring to live godly lives, what are some lessons we can pull from Ruth Chapter 1?

  • Even when things aren't going like *I* plan, I need to trust God's plan. I need to love the people He brings into my life, and not hold them at arms length just because they aren't who I would have chosen. We get to read the end of the story, and know that God had a plan for Ruth to marry into Naomi's family ~ she was to be in the lineage of Christ, but Naomi didn't know that! Yet, she loved Ruth anyway.

  • In the same vein, as a mother-in-law (someday!), I need to love my children's spouses. Even if they marry someone I think they should not, I need to accept and love them. I ned to make sure that I am doing what I can to make them feel welcome and a part of the family. My own mother has been a wonderful example of this to me ~ and she has had some difficult in-laws! I need to remember that it may be my response to them, the way that I love them that God will use to draw them to Himself. Even before getting to this stage in my life, I know myself well enough to know that I will only be able to do this within the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • As a wife, I need to love my husband's family. It may be likely that Ruth's husband's family was much better than her own, but we do not know that. She may have had a wonderful family, yet she was willing to leave them and take her husband's family as her own. She was willing to leave and cleave. How often I have observed women who are not willing to leave their own family, but expect their husband to practically abandon his family in favor of hers. Now, I am not calling us to abandon our families! But we do need to love our husband's family and be willing to spend time with them. We need to love them as our own ~ and I know that this is not always easy! But I do believe that as wives it is what we are called to. It honors God and it honors our husband.

  • I need to think of others and what is best for them beyond what I want, and what would provide the most comfort for me. Naomi apparently wanted her daughters-in-law with her, and yet, in the end decided it was in their best interests for them to return to their own homes. In encouraging them to turn back, she was putting their interests ahead of her own, and showing a trust in God that He would provide for her needs. As a godly woman, I need to do the same.

Is there anything that you picked out of Ruth 1, that I missed? Please share! I would really like for this to be a "group" study. Let's learn along with and from each other! This week, let's read Chapter 2, and I'll post my thoughts next Monday.


Martha A. said...

I find this story very interesting. I think for one thing, Elimelech went to moab, who were sworn enemies of Israel, so then he dies, we are not sure how, but because both of the sons died also, I have heard thoughts perhaps they were sickly, but i am wondering if someone killed the men.i think one reason they are thought of as sickly, is they did not have children. Who knows?
Evidently though i am thinking that Ruth must have seen something different in her MIL and husband's family in order for her to say her God would My God. Of course, from reading some about moabite history, they sacrificed babies and humans to their God alot, so a loving God was a very different draw for her.

She was brave though, knowing how Israel thought of people from Moab. God had forbidden any moabite to even come into the congreation of the Lord (de. 23:3) I heard one teacher who said, it says moabite, not Moabitess, which is why Ruth was accepted and in the lineage of Christ. But then i am not sure as I look at Ezra and Nehemiah and I am not God made an exception for Ruth somehow, maybe because of her heart, which obviously was soft towards God. Since she was David's grandmother, i wonder if she had influence over him as well.

Beth Cook said...

This is such a small book, but it is brimming with the beauty of our Lord's love and perfect plans. I want to be loyal and brave like Ruth.

Tracy, having one son-in-law and the possibility of others within the near future, you have challenged me to once again consider my view of him/them. I so want to be a mother-in-law that inspires love rather than the stereotypical antagonism.

Chilion means "consumption, failing" and Mahlon means "sick" (Strong's Concordance), so maybe they were sickly even from birth. At any rate, I often thought on the ordinance from Deuteronomy as well, Martha. My study Bible refers to it being a beautiful picture showing the spirit of the law rather than the letter. It is amazing how God redeems what we see as unredeemable.

Molly Underwood said...

Doesn't this story pull at your heart strings? It does mine. I see such sadness and depression turned to joy in the end.
I always thought of Ruth, although from an ungodly society, became so committed to her husband that she had burned all bridges of her past and had grown to love Naomi's way of life and her God. So much so that when he died she felt like her family was Naomi.
It reminded me of Peter's words,
"where would we go Lord, only you have the word of life" or something like that, I may be misquoting but I get the same sense of abandonment from one life to total embrace of another.
Thought provoking!

jennifer said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.