URC Daily Devotion: 6th December

Ruth 1.1-18 

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.  But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.  These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years,  both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.

Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food.  So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah.  But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’  But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have 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. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’  Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’  But Ruth said,

‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Reflection

The Book of Ruth is one of the most charming of all the books of the Bible.  It tells how Naomi, a Hebrew woman, is bereaved of both her husband and her two sons in the land of Moab where they had gone to live.  Naomi decides to return to her homeland in Judah and expects that her daughters-in-law will stay behind and remarry in their native Moab. This Orpah does.  But Ruth refuses to abandon Naomi.  In one of the most moving speeches of all literature, she clings to Naomi:  ‘do not press me to leave you, or to turn back from following you!  Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die: there will I be buried.  May the Lord do so to me and more if even death parts me from you!’

Consider what this story says about the nature of friendship itself.  Naomi has no right to expect anything of a daughter-in-law, but Ruth is blessed with a capacity to love, that triumphs over Naomi’s inconsolable pain and grief.  Ruth promises to stay with Naomi for the rest of her life.  That is a profoundly moving story of human intimacy, for with it she ties herself with a lifelong commitment to an older woman of her father’s generation, not her own.  What drives Ruth is not that she owes anything to her mother-in-law: Naomi has already released her from that debt.  It is purely her love for her as a fellow woman and as a human being. 

Prayer


Faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.
All who love are born of God and know God;
all who do not love do not know God.

Faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

Love does not insist on its own way,
is not quick to take offence;
it does not rejoice at wrong,
But rejoices in the right.

Faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

Love is patient and kind;
love is not envious or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love bears all things and believes all things.
Love will never come to an end.

Faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

Today’s Writer

Ann Barton is the Facilities and Health & Safety Manager at Church House.

Bible Version

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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