Meditations in Ruth : 6. Facing the Options
Ruth 1:15, 16, Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
Naomi has decided to go home and has encouraged the two daughters-in-law to return to their own people and find husbands there. They initially refuse to leave but when she spells out the impossibility of her helping them have another husband, one of them does the common sense thing and decides to stay. It is Ruth who will not be deterred; she will stay with Naomi – whatever!
After Ruth had “clung to her” she still sought to deter her: “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” Which is when we then find Ruth making this all-important declaration which is so significant in the story. But before we look at that, notice the two aspects of life that Naomi puts before her to try to put her off. First there was, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people.” There is the social dimension that Ruth is going to have to get over. Different people groups have different customs and familiarity with the customs of ‘your people’ makes for a feeling of security. If Ruth leaves her people and goes and joins herself with another people, there is a whole new life to be learned, an unfamiliar life, and unfamiliar people with different customs and different ways. Fitting in with a new and different society is always an effort and often trying, if not downright difficult. If Ruth is to go with Naomi she will have to learn to fit in with Naomi’s people and that may be difficult.
But then there is the spiritual dimension which is equally important: “your sister-in-law is going back to …. her gods.” This land and this people have their ‘gods’. Back in Israel there is only ‘The Lord’, Yahweh. There is an immense difference between the two cultures. In this one ‘gods’ are an add-on, a useful addition to life, but back in Israel the Lord is the central feature of life, everything hinges on Him and the laws of the people are the laws that Yahweh has conveyed through Moses; the whole of life is focused on Him. If Ruth goes back with Naomi to her land she is going to have to change her allegiance from an idol worshipping culture, to submit to the one True God, Yahweh, the I AM of Israel. That is the key issue of Ruth going with Naomi.
Now this, to come to our own lives and our own time, is true as much today of people considering whether to become a Christian, as it was then. Listen to how the apostle Paul describes our old life, the same life that all non-believers follow: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” (Eph 2:1-3) Previously we were locked into Sin, that godless, self-centred tendency and as a result of that we were dead spiritually and God seemed a million miles away. Moreover, although we did not realise it at the time we were being led by Satan who encouraged our disobedience and our lives were motivated by and driven by our personal desires. That was the world (of Moab?) in which we once lived. Coming to God meant not trying to turn over a new leaf and try hard at being good; it meant leaving this dominion of darkness (Col 1:13) and going to live by the enabling of the Holy Spirit in God’s kingdom under His rule, a kingdom where love and goodness prevail in us in a godly relationship with the Lord. That is the measure of the transformation; it is actually a change in ‘country’ or ‘land’ or ‘kingdom’.
In this kingdom we find ourselves united with other believers and we find a new social life. It is not that we want to escape our old friends, simply that we find we have more things common with the people of God. Moreover, we leave behind the worship of all the little gods in our lives, the gods of fame and selfishness and materialism, and we go to live in a land where there is only one God, the Lord. He alone now claims our allegiance and He alone is worthy of our worship. These are the things confronting Ruth and they are the same things that confront any person today who is being challenged over the direction of their life.