But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. 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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. ESV
Review: Last post we saw that Naomi’s words forced Ruth and Orpah to face the real consequences that their intended return to Israel could lead to. Naomi painted her situation in bleak terms; there was no hope of her providing husbands for them, which was very important in the ancient world. In addition, Naomi says that God is strongly against her. As Orpah hears all this, she makes the sensible, but ungodly choice of returning to Moab and forfeits whatever spiritual blessing that could have been hers. Ruth, however, makes the godly and kind choice by deciding to stay with Naomi. But Naomi does not seem pleased with Ruth’s choice. Now what will Ruth do?
In this section, we hear Ruth speak for the first time, and her words are majestic and poetic. Naomi has been telling Ruth to return to Moab. Now Ruth issues a command of her own. She tells Naomi to stop pressuring her to leave her. Ruth has become a believer in the true and living God, and she wants Naomi to realize that great change.
I. Basic parts of Ruth’s conversion
A. Yahweh, the true and living God, became her God.
1. Ruth words refer back to God’s promise that forms the basis of his covenant with his people (Gen 17:7-8; Ex 6:6-7; Lev 26:12; cf. Jer 11:4). When God is your God, he is your boss, your rescuer, your provider, and your confident expectation. You trust and depend on God alone. You acknowledge God’s right to direct the world and your life in conformity with his goals and purposes (Job 2:10).
2. Ruth’s confession shows that she had the same spirit of faith that Abraham had, and in some ways, hers was more remarkable. She left her native land for the Promised Land, but without any promise of land or assurance of God’s blessing that led Abraham out. She leaves for Israel without spouse or possessions or servants toward an unclear future as a widow in a foreign land with another widow.
Apply: What is the core of Ruth’s faith? She has tasted and seen that the Lord is good; she knows that a person is blessed if he or she takes refuge in him (Ps 34:8). She delights in the Lord, not in his gifts.
B. Yahweh’s people became her people.
1. Ruth changes her “people group” from Moabite to Israelite. When you trust God, you become part of his people. It’s a package deal (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8). In Ruth’s day, God’s people were Israel; in our day, it’s the church, Christ’s new assembly, his body and his bride. So Ruth throws in her lot with people whom her native people had formerly opposed. This happens throughout history whenever someone puts his or her faith in the true God. That might turn your former people against you. Depending on the time period, you could be called such hated names as Christian, Anabaptist, Reformed, fanatic, schismatic, Holy Roller, Bible thumper, fundamentalist, born again, etc. You see, people hate real change—a change of worldview and way of life—and so they despise anyone who stands for real change.
2. Ruth had to “count the cost”. She faced an uncertain future as a widow with no apparent way of support among a people that she does not know. She is an example of the teaching of Jesus (Mt 8:21; 10:37; 19:29).
Apply: Too often, God’s people prove to be a disappointment. Some witty Christian put it this way. “To live above, with saints in love, that will indeed by glory! But to live below, with some saints I know—well, that’s a different story!” Or as another wrote more seriously, “So too we may often find the Lord’s people to be a disappointing bunch, exhibiting fewer of the fruits of the Spirit than we would like… Yet flawed as the people of God are, if the Lord is to be our God then his people must be our people, too” (Duguid). When you hang around any true Christian long enough, you are going to see the sad, disgusting work of remaining sin (the flesh), as well as the better fruit of the Holy Spirit.
C. Yahweh’s promises became her hope.
1. It is easy to pass over Ruth’s reference to burial, until we remember burial customs of that time (cf. the burial customs of the patriarchs in Genesis). People were buried with their people, in whatever hope they had of an afterlife. “Given the intimate connection between land and deity in the ancient Near East, and the importance of proper burial for a restful afterlife, this was the ultimate commitment in the ancient world” (Duguid).
2. So then, Ruth cuts all ties with her past, including death and burial. She illustrates the kind of commitment Christ requires of his followers (Lk 9:57-62).
3. In summary, Ruth’s conversion touches all the dimensions of her life: in regard to geography, all locations; in chronology, from the present to the future; in theology, from idols to the living God; and in genealogy, from the Moabites to the Israelites.
II. Lessons from Ruth’s conversion
A. When we become a believer in the true and living God, the way we look at ourselves changes.
1. As an old covenant person, Ruth becomes part of the old covenant nation of Israel. She is joined to Yahweh and his people. This means that she will from that time on live as one of the Lord’s people, keeping the law’s commands and regulations. What she eats, how she dresses, her thoughts, attitudes, words and actions are now within the boundaries of old covenant life. For example, she could longer have a ham sandwich for lunch! She has to keep the Sabbath. Yes, even the basic desire of her heart must change (Deut 6:4-5).
2. As new covenant people, we become part of Christ’s body or church (assembly or gathering). We are united to Christ by faith. Everything in our way of life must change. When we wake up every morning, we must remember we are in Christ and part of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We have a new mission statement and a way of life that agrees with it (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:1-4:1).
B. With this union with Christ to God the Father’s family, we gain a new passion for life. We stop wandering aimlessly through life and begin to live for the kingdom of God.
1. Ruth’s passion shows up in the strong promise and oath she made (1:17), probably with a fitting gesture, such as slashing one’s throat. (Remember that when people speak with emotion, we tend to use gestures!)
2. True Christianity involves living with passion for the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. The good news has forever changed us, and we want others to hear the good news of Jesus and be saved! And so we gladly make sacrifices of wealth, health, leisure, honor, and perhaps even our lives for the Lord Christ.
Illustration: My daughter Sarah was recently at a meeting for Starbucks’ managers, where the founder told the story of the founding of that company and the sacrifices many made to launch it. Christ’s church grows in the same way. Are you passionate about what we’re doing here?
C. Our hardships can become the doorway to faith in the Lord for others.
1. What must have Naomi been thinking as she listened to Ruth’s confession of faith? We are not told! The writer allows us to ponder the scene in solitude. In any case, to the praise of God’s glory, all of Naomi’s complaints failed to have a detrimental influence on Ruth. But clearly, Naomi is not filled with joy at the moment, as this “pest” of a daughter-in-law walks by her side, because her words are filled with her bitterness when she arrives in Bethlehem.
2. However, God has told us the rest of the story that neither Naomi nor Ruth knew at that moment. God wants us to share his smile, as his sovereign grace as provided a kind, loving, believing sister-in-the-Lord to walk beside bitter Naomi. For at that time, the story of God’s glory is very much wrapped up in Ruth, and through her, Naomi’s life is about to change from bitter sorrow to sweet joy.
Apply: My friend, why not trade in your bitterness, sorrows, frustration, disappointment, and anger for the opportunity to serve the Lord with gladness, because he delights in joy and offers to share joy with you? Life is short. Don’t waste your life being peeved and pouting.
Song: “The Master Has Come and He Calls Us to Follow” (Hymns for the Living Church, #499)
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.