Ruth 1:16-17 (King James Version)
16 And Ruth said,
Intreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest, I will go;
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people,
and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die,
and there will I be buried:
the LORD do so to me, and more also,
if ought but death part thee and me.
I remember the first time I read today’s passage thirty-odd years ago. I had come across a reference to it in a novel I was reading, and I looked it up in my grandmother’s big King James family Bible. It struck me even then as a great expression of love and trust. Such great faith and devotion as Ruth showed to her mother-in-law Naomi is a beautiful testimony of the faith we are called to have for our Savior.
We read in the Gospels about how some disciples thought they understood what it took to follow Christ, and yet they didn’t understand it fully.
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In each of these cases, Jesus is pointing out that these people do not understand what it takes to follow God with blind faith. As we read in Scripture, when Abram was told by God to leave his family and go “to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), Abram just got up and went. No questions, no conditions, and no looking back. That is Ruth’s attitude, too. Look at what she is saying she will do:
• Wherever you go, I will go
• Wherever you lodge, I will lodge
• Your people shall be my people
• Your God will be my God
• Wherever you die, I will die
• Wherever you are buried, I will be buried
Ruth is giving up every part of her identity: her home, her family, her nationality, her traditions, her religion. Ruth is stripping away everything that would hinder her devotion to Naomi and to Naomi’s God. Unlike the people who wanted to follow Jesus but also wanted to briefly return to say goodbye to their families, Ruth is dropping everything she has ever known and not looking back.
Are we doing that? Are we following our Savior like that? Are we leaving behind everything that hinders our devotion? Are we putting our love for Him before our love for family, home, and nation? Are we sticking by Him through everything, regardless of the hardship and the persecution? Are we hearing the hard teachings and embracing them rather than turning back? Are we preaching the gospel as He told us to do? Are we carrying our crosses daily for Him?
Look at Ruth’s beautiful statement of faith, and make it your own. Leave the things of this world behind and focus on the kingdom of God. Turn to Jesus and say to Him, without doubt and with utter faith, “Whither Thou goest, I will go.”
Lord God in heaven, thank You for the example You have given us in the faith of Ruth. Thank You for Your written Word that records so many such instances of deep faith – a faith so rare in today’s world. Today, Father, let me pray for those who do have such great faith, who have followed Your Son to the far corners of the earth and face persecution and death in order to proclaim Your gospel. Teach me to have such faith, Lord, and help my unbelief! Amen.