“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” (Ruth 1:16). Those words of Ruth are often quoted to express the desire that one’s marriage and family might be characterized by a loyal love that will endure through the years. We long to rest under the shadow of true loyalty, to have the assurance that we will not be forsaken or betrayed by those we love and that we will never betray those who have trusted us. Human loyalty is frail, and false loyalty for self-gain abounds, but the loyal love of God is our refuge, and our lives as His people should be characterized by a reflection of that love to others.
To escape the famine in their land, Elimelech of Bethlehem had taken his wife Naomi and their two sons to live in Moab. While in Moab, tragedy struck, making widows of Naomi and her two daughters-in-law.
When word came that the famine had abated in Israel, Naomi decided to return home. Naomi pondered that more than a decade ago she had gone out full from the land of famine and was now returning home empty, the Lord having dealt bitterly with her. Her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, assured her that they would return with her to her people, but Naomi, considering that she had nothing to offer her daughters-in-law, entreated them to remain in this Gentile land and return to their families and their gods.
The words we read at the beginning of this article were Ruth’s response to Naomi that she would not be turned back by Naomi’s insistence that she not follow her. We read in her words to Naomi not only words of human loyalty and kindness towards her mother-in-law, but a profession of Ruth’s faith and a loyalty based upon God’s covenant and His loyal love.
After Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth was known in the community for the deeds of kindness shown to Naomi, and in Ruth 3:11, we read that all the people of Bethlehem considered Ruth to be a virtuous woman. God, her Redeemer, in His providence brought Ruth from a pagan nation and placed her, a Gentile, in the covenant community and also into the genealogy of David and of Jesus. We can trust His providence to guide our lives, through famine or prosperity, through sorrow and joy, ultimately to His purpose. May we rest in His loyal love.