Have you have ever played the game Jenga? “You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top.” Each of these blocks could represent a day in your life. Each day you try to live the best you can. Each day you try to get by. But then there comes a day when life falls apart.
Ruth 1 tells the story of two women whose lives fell apart. Let’s look at Ruth for a moment.
Her life seems to hold a bright future. She marries a husband with strong family ties. They begin building a life together. But in a few short years her family is demolished by death. Ruth’s husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law all three die. Ruth and two women she has no blood relation with have to start over.
I don’t think it does the Bible any injustice to read between the lines. We who have been through suffering and the death of those close to us know how Ruth felt.
Psychologists have noticed five stages grieving people go through: denial and isolation; anger; bargaining; depression; and acceptance. We don’t know where Ruth was in this process when her mother-in-law announced she was returning to Bethlehem in Judah. But I imagine she hadn’t had enough time yet to feel like she was ready for new beginning.
To Move on from Loss, we see a second principle in this story.
In Loss Cling to Family, They Help Support Us.
In the last post we left off with verse 6 where Naomi gets word that “the Lord has visited his people and given them food.” So she decides to return to Judah. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, go with her part way it seems, but then in verses 8–13 she tries to persuade them to go back home. When she needs them the most she is trying to get rid of them. Haven’t we all done that? When we need people most we push them away. We prefer to be alone or suffer in silence. Thankfully Naomi’s daughter-in-laws cry with her and hug her and kiss her. This is how we should grieve. We need to shed tears and cling to each other. I think there are a couple of reasons why the writer devotes so much space to Naomi’s effort to turn Ruth and Orpah back.
First, the scene emphasizes Naomi’s misery. For example, verse 11: “Naomi said, ‘Turn back my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband.'” In other words, Naomi has nothing to offer them. Her condition is worse than theirs. If they try to be faithful to her and to the name of their husbands, they will find nothing but pain. So she concludes at the end of verse 13, “No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” Don’t come with me because God is against me. Your life may be as bitter as mine.
When we have decided that God is against us, we usually exaggerate our hopelessness. We become so bitter we can’t see the rays of light peeping out around the clouds. It was God who broke the famine and opened the way home (1:6). It was God who preserved a kinsman to continue Naomi’s line (2:20). And it was God who moves Ruth to stay with Naomi. But Naomi is in grief and can’t see God’s work in her life at this point.
Another reason for verses 8–13 is to make Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi appear amazing. Verse 14 says that Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye but Ruth clung to her. Not even another entreaty in verse 15 can get Ruth to leave. This is all the more amazing after Naomi’s grim description of their future with her. Ruth stays with her in spite of an apparently hopeless future of widowhood and childlessness. Naomi painted the future black and Ruth took her hand and walked into it with her! What faithfulness!
It’s amazing how God brings people into our lives that become closer to us than our own blood family! Do you have friend or extended family member that is closer than your own blood? I see this in the church all the time. God brings people together that need family. I see people that have family miles and miles away or family that is gone find new and closer family in God’s house. This is what God does; he brings us family to cling to in times of loss. Will you cling to them or like Naomi will you try to go it through life alone?
The amazing words of Ruth are found in 1:16–17,
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely,if even death separates you and me.”
The more I ponder these words the more amazing they become. Ruth’s commitment to her destitute mother-in-law is simply astonishing. First, it means leaving her own family and land. Second, it means, as far as she knows, a life of widowhood and childlessness, because Naomi has no man to give, and if she married a non-relative, her commitment to Naomi’s family would be lost. Third, it means going to an unknown land with a new people and new customs and new language. Fourth, it was a commitment even more radical than marriage: “Where you die I will die and there be buried” (v. 17). In other words, she will never return home, not even if Naomi dies.
But the most amazing commitment of all is this: “Your God will be my God” (v. 16). Naomi has just said in verse 13, “The hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” Naomi’s experience of God was bitterness. But in spite of this, Ruth forsakes her religious heritage in Moab and makes the God of Israel her God. Perhaps she had made that commitment years before, when her husband told her of the great love of God for Israel and his power at the Red Sea and his glorious purpose of peace and righteousness. Somehow or other Ruth had come to trust in Naomi’s God in spite of Naomi’s bitter experiences.
This leads us to our last way we can move on after loss…
Cling to God, He will Provide for us.
When loss hits, we wonder, “will we be okay?” Will we ever feel better? Will we have what we need? Who cares for me, who can help me? The answer is yes, God is there. God provides for his people.
God provided Ruth with a testimony to know Him personally though Naomi and her family. Ruth was an idol worshipper from Moab who came to know the one true God. God provided friendship and family; Ruth and Naomi had an unbelievable bond to each other. Each was a gift to the other. God provided food for his people. As we look into chapters 2-4 we will see God provide them with a place to live and people who cared for them. In their home there was food on their table each day. God provided a wealthy family member named Boaz to care for them and provide for them. God provided redemption through Boaz; he would purchase the property that once belonged to their family and provide them a home and a future. God provided Ruth with a husband (and Naomi with a father in law) named Boaz which means “mighty man.” God provided Ruth with a son named Obed who would have a son named Jesse who would have a son named David who would be Israel’s greatest king and a descendant of Jesus.
God provided these ladies with everything they needed: food, a home, a family, a community, children and a relationship with Him. God provides us the same things. When loss hits, cling to God, he will provide.
Will you trust Him? I have decided to and I hope you will join me.