I recently had the privilege to speak at a ladies’ meeting at our church in February. The topic I was given wasn’t one I had thought about much before.
The topic? The love between Ruth and Naomi–a mother-n-law and daughter-n-law.
Ok, so I have written this devotional to be interactive. You will want to open to the book of Ruth in the Old Testament and have it handy.
The story of Naomi and Ruth can be found in the book of Ruth in the Bible. It holds historical significance as well as hope, redemption, and love. This event took place during the time of the judges in the Old Testament. When reading the book of Ruth, most people tend to see the beautiful and romantic story of Boaz and Ruth–a woman who left all she knew to go to a new land and people, meets a godly man, marries him, and has a son who is in the line of King David and ultimately the line of Christ. That IS a beautiful picture, yet many, including myself, tend to overlook the precious love story between Ruth and her mother-n-law, Naomi.
Let’s take a look at both Naomi and Ruth:
Naomi: Jewish, wife to Elimelech, from Bethlehem-Judah, mother of two sons, and a follower of the One true God
Ruth: Moabite, young woman, grew up worshipping the pagan god Chemosh, married to one of Naomi’s sons
Read Ruth Chapter 1.
In the past I have heard some say that they felt that when Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, moved his family away from Israel to Moab, he was out of God’s will–backsliding. This could be true. Yet, after reading and re-reading the story of Ruth, I tend to lean toward this thought–
God says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
When studying the Bible on a subject, be prepared to be directed to other verses that show His truth. God’s Word tends to be a map that shows all roads, or verses, that connect to each other. That is no accident.
The above verse (in biblical context) is the prophet Jeremiah giving testimony to God’s calling him to preach. Yet, through this verse we can see the biblical principle of how God has a plan for our life even before we are born. With this in mind, God knew Ruth before she was born and had a plan for her life. He knew she could be used to bare a son that would be in the line of Christ IF she was given the chance to follow Him. We all have that same choice–to follow Christ or not to.
My thought is this–Couldn’t it have been God’s plan that through the drought, Elimelech’s family would move to Moab to where Ruth was? Now, I’m not saying that God slew Naomi’s husband and her sons just to get Ruth back to Israel to meet Boaz. No. The curse of sin in Genesis tells us that death and sickness came because of sin. So, no, I do not believe God caused them to die, but God’s glory can be seen through that difficult time because Naomi and Ruth chose to follow Him.
How many times, I wonder, does God allow something to happen in order to give us the opportunity to serve Him? Do we take that opportunity to do so? Ruth did.
If you read chapter 1 of Ruth, you would have seen that Ruth was married to one of Naomi’s sons for ten years before he died. There is no mention of children being born to her during this time. I can only imagine how broken hearted she must have felt not only losing her husband and not being able to bare any children during those years that she had been married.
Although while reading chapter one, I saw that Naomi kept her faith through out each heartbreak, although she was in grief. Did you notice that? It never mentions that she cursed God or yelled at Him or even blamed him. She accepted what happened and praised His name.
Read Ruth 1: 6-18.
After hearing that the drought was over in Israel, she decided to move back to her home in Bethlehem-Judah. She told Orpha and Ruth to go home to their families to remarry. Orpha returned to her family, but Ruth did not. She “clave unto her” (vs. 1:14). She would not go.
Why wouldn’t she want to go back to her own family? friends from childhood? her own people? her gods?
The Bible tells us in Ruth 1:16-17 that Ruth told Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee.” Intreat means to ask (a person) earnestly; beseech; implore; beg. She literally begged to stay with Naomi. Most likely this was done in tears. (I mean I cry at a drop at a hat sometimes. Just ask my hubby.)
What would make Ruth want to leave her own homeland?
It was Naomi, or rather Naomi’s testimony of the love of God. You see, Ruth had seen a woman who loved God even when she was told to move to another land. Ruth had seen a woman who loved God even when she lost her husband and had to become the sole bread winner of the family and parent. This was very uncommon during that day and age. Widow women were taken care of by family, but Naomi had none in Moab. She didn’t move back to Israel at that time. Ruth had seen a woman who continued to serve her Lord even when both her sons had died. Ruth saw a woman who had loved her daughters-n-law as her own children. You see, Ruth saw something different in Naomi that she hadn’t seen before.
You must understand that Ruth had grown up in a land that was known for their worshipping the false god Chemish and other gods. This worship included human sacrifice (many times children), sexual immorality, and witchcraft. The god Chemish was not known for love but for hate. Maybe she had been attracted to Naomi’s son in the first place because she saw something different in him and his family. But we do know, that when presented with going back to what she had known as a girl, she refused to go. She had already accepted the God of Naomi and rejected the false gods. She had no desire to go back. She found love in Naomi’s home, a never ending love that only God can give through faith in Him. It was by God’s grace that Ruth had married into such a wonderful family.
Here is the testimony of God’s love that Ruth saw through Naomi:
- God never leaves or forsakes His own.
- Unfailing love and kindness to all
- A determination to stay true to God in ungodly surroundings
- A loving relationship with God the Father
- Seeing good in others
- Being nonjudgmental of one’s past
- Speaking of God in reverent and loving tone to others
- Faithfulness to family
THAT is why she chose not to go back but to go forward to a new life and a new land. What would make a person leave all they knew for a new place? Love for that person.
Read Ruth 1:17-18.
In this verse we can see that Ruth chose God to be her God. She gave up her old ways for good and moved on to serve Him. I love that in verse 18, Naomi gave up trying to convince her to go back. This made me chuckle. Ruth must have been one strong headstrong young woman.
Ruth chose to go. She came to the point in her life when she had to make a great decision that would affect her future. Because of Naomi’s faith in God, Ruth too became a believer in Him as well. She saw Naomi’s works or testimony to be true. She wanted what Naomi possessed–a peace through the storm.
Ruth came to love Naomi as hear own mother. She denied all her past and leaped at the chance for a better future through the Lord.
The verses mentioned above, Ruth 1:16-17, are sometimes used in wedding ceremonies or said to a husband or wife. But in biblical context, these verses were said from a daughter-n-law to a mother-n-law.
Ruth came to understand and love Naomi, because she came to know and love the God of Naomi.
They became close because they had shared in grief of losing a husband, leaving their homelands, not having a child (either through death or not baring any), and being caregivers each to the other.
Read chapter 2.
It was the newfound love for God that flowed through Ruth that made Boaz notice her as she worked in his field. Her testimony of caring and loving her mother-n-law was known by all.
She loved Naomi, so she followed her wisdom when it came to “proposing to Boaz” or rather making it known that she was interested in him as a husband by laying down at his feet to sleep (which was highly unusual and could have been damaging to her reputation). She stayed close to Naomi all of her remaining life. She loved her and allowed her son to be raised with and nurtured by Naomi. She wanted Naomi to be a godly example to her son as well.
Here are some lessons we can learn:
- When we follow God against all odds, He blesses us.
- Know that others (many times younger than you) are always watching you to see if your actions match your words.
- Your testimony for Christ will either draw others to Him or away from Him.
- God sees the big picture when we cannot. It can be hard to see the blessing through the struggle, but just keep your faith in God.
- God can make all things new for His glory.
- And…if you have a mother-n-law, love her and take her wisdom to heart–even if her advice seems crazy like lying down at your future husband’s feet.
Let’s be the right kind of testimony to others to draw them to Him.