– Inyang Okutinyang
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Ruth is a Moabitess. She is not a Hebrew, so she is outside of the commonwealth of Israel. Let’s pick up her story.
1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion – Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.
5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
There is something interesting here. Elimelech gathers his family and moves to Moab to dwell there because of the famine in Bethlehem, Judah. The word “dwell” in the verse is actually better translated “sojourn” in Moab. In other words, he intended just a short stay. Bethlehem means house of bread. Moab is the result of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his older daughter Zoar. Moab means father in sin. Judah means praise. Elimelech takes his family from the house of bread into sin for a short stay because of how attractive Moab looked at the time. Before Elimelech realized it, he was dead, as well as his two sons and they ended up staying there way beyond what he had intended.
Dear friend, never yield to the allure or enticement of sin. It will cost you way more than you bargained for. It could cost you your very life.
If you remain in praise even in the midst of lack, praise will make provision.
Naomi is now left with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Their bread-winners are all dead. Naomi tries to persuade them to go live their lives, seeking new husbands. Initially, they both refuse to leave but she insists that they are now free to seek greener pastures. Orpah reconsiders and leaves but Ruth is resolute about remaining with Naomi even when she knows there is no prospect of Naomi birthing any possible husband candidate for her. It is clear that her love and affection for her mother-in-law is unconditional. She is not sticking with her for what she can mine from her. This possesses a character quality that isn’t that common today.
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
From what we see here, when Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s two sons they had forsaken their false gods and idol worship even while living amongst their people, other Moabites.
Here is Ruth’s response to Naomi when she urged her to go free from her:
16 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.
17 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.”
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
Having abandoned her religion to embrace Jehovah, the only true God, Ruth does not have second thoughts or regrets about her following Him, despite the tragedies in the family. She is not blaming Him for the misfortune and hardship they have gone through; or thumping her fist before Him questioning “Why, why, why did you allow these tragedies to happen to us? Are you not God who could have prevented them?” Instead, she affirms unshakable faith in Jehovah by saying to Naomi “…your God shall be my God…” and seals her committal with an oath.
What a woman! After all she has experienced, she is still declaring unshakable faith in her new-found God!