Scripture: Ruth 1:1-14
Key verses: (8-14) 8But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” 14Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
Reflection: The book of Ruth is a story of family life. There are mothers and sons, husbands and wives, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. There is death and remarriage. There are times of plenty and want, and times of joy and sorrow. Like modern family life, things get complicated. Naomi thinks she knows what she wants. After the death of her husband and sons, she intends to go home to Judah, where she has heard that food is plenty. She tells her daughters-in-law to stay in their home country of Moab. She is sure that the Lord is against her, and wishes a better future, with new husbands in Moab, for the younger women. She gives a lovely farewell speech. One daughter-in-law listens and does as Naomi asks. The other, Ruth, does not. Ruth stays with Naomi, completely against her stated wishes. Ruth gives a lovely little speech of her own, and it seems like all might go well. I note what verse 18 says, though: “When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.” Ruth gets the silent treatment, perhaps all the way to Bethlehem! And when Naomi gets home she tells her friends that the Lord has dealt bitterly with her, and she came home empty. No mention of the sacrifice of her daughter-in-law. I am not sure all was well between the two women, after a long road trip together.
The story works out unexpectedly, as family stories often do. Naomi manages to help Ruth remarry well, and in fact, the marriage becomes the genealogical line of David, and ultimately, Jesus. In hindsight, Naomi must have been able to see the hand of God at work redeeming the darkness, though in the moment of her grief, it was impossible. It felt only like loss and emptiness and failure. I wonder where God is at work for you today, in what might look and feel like pain and frustrating relatives?
Prayer: O God, give us the grace to trust that you are at work redeeming what looks to us like a mess. By your grace, light can overcome darkness, and new life can come out of death. Teach us to be patient, with you, with ourselves, and with one another. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].