Back when Israel was ruled by judges, there was a famine, and a man named Elimelech moved from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons. After settling into Moab, Elimelech died. Both sons married, and both wives were Moabite women. Roughly a decade later, the sons died.
At this point, Naomi was pretty much alone, not having a husband or kids around, and she heard that life in Judah was good again. So she and her daughter-in-laws packed up and headed to Judah. But on the way, Naomi told them to return to their mothers, speaking blessings over them for their kindness. They said they didn’t want to, but Naomi told them to return as she was out of sons for them to marry. One kissed her goodbye, but the other did not.
“But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi…. [She] replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’ When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more” (Ruth 1:14, 16-18, NLT).
I kept thinking about a scripture for the New Year blog post, and I kept coming back to two scriptures, one being this one from Ruth.
The devotion Ruth demonstrated towards Naomi is one that we as humans often reserve for other humans.
And trust me, I am the last person who needs to be talking about this and the first who needs to hear it. I pre-order albums by bands I like without having heard a single note or lyric because I just really like the band. I’ll watch a movie or a show just because I adore an actor who plays in it. And I’d rather not even think of how much money I’ve spent on shirts and jerseys of certain teams or players. I understand – probably better than anyone – this weird sense of an almost sacred devotion to other people.
Unlike my devotion, which is probably more pathetic than anything else, Ruth’s devotion was hopeful and encouraging. I don’t know what Ruth’s relationship with her own mother was like, but we have no reason to believe it wasn’t good. Given how loving and kind Ruth was, I’m inclined to think her mother was the same way. So Ruth’s devotion to Naomi was strong because she chose her over someone else she loved.
What’s really remarkable about Ruth staying with Naomi was that she was a Moabite leaving Moab. Everyone regarded Moabites with disdain. They were seen as barbaric and dirty and awful. Their lineage is traced back to when Lot left Sodom and his daughters conceived with him. They had a history of being oppressive enemies of the Israelites for a very long time. Ruth was taking a big step in leaving both a place that was familiar and free of prejudice towards her. She was really leaving her comfort zone.
In this new year, whether you’re glad it’s here or are starting it with a feeling of hopelessness, we can all aspire to have Ruth’s devotion, but instead of directing it towards another person, we should demonstrate it towards God.
I know it’s hard to choose God over something else. I’m not going to act like it’s not. It’s a product of the fall of man. We naturally want to put people and things that we can see and touch and immediately and definitely behold the greatness of above a God we sometimes have to look for and who doesn’t always lead us to such seemingly great places.
But we can step out of that fondness and familiarity, that sense of happiness and safety, and step into a deeper understanding and a deeper relationship with God. Not because the year is new, but because it’s a time when there’s a big sense of starting over and betterment. It’s a good thing to start at any time.
The other scripture I kept coming back to was John 10:10, where Jesus says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (NLT).
But I’m a big fan of the NRSV translation of this verse, which says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
This is where your love and devotion to God lead you – rich, satisfying, life abundant. Oh, it’s challenging, but anything worth having is. Life abundant never comes easy, but it’s certainly a reward worth fighting for. And with God, it’s a guarantee.
By Carrie Prevette