17 September 2014Ruth 1:1-18
"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.'" (v. 16)
According to verse 1, the story of Ruth is placed at the time of
the judges (approx 1380 to 1050 BC). In the book of Judges there
was unfaithfulness, which led to failure and oppression, and then
God raised judges to deliver the people, but after being saved they
turned away from God again. As we still see today when there is
political instability, unfaithfulness and violence, the poor are
the ones who suffer most and migration is still a common
In contrast to the expectations of the time we have this amazing picture of faithfulness in Ruth. Widows were at the bottom of the economic pile, and yet here we see faithfulness and loyalty which mirrors that of God.
The commitment by Ruth that we see in verse 16 is radical. It goes far beyond what can be expected and is not at all in her own best interests. Pledging yourself to another, knowing that you are aligning yourself with poverty; that you will be an outsider in a foreign country; and accepting a god who appears to have abandoned people is an incredibly humbling and powerful statement of loyalty.
In this declaration by Ruth we see a beautiful illustration of what it means for God to be on the side of the poor. Like Ruth, God demonstrates faithfulness and loyalty without seeking a reward. Christians see that supremely in the self-giving of Jesus to death on the Cross.
There is also a strong message about power in this story which connects with the teaching of Jesus. Both Ruth and Naomi are supposedly powerless within their culture and situation. Yet Ruth takes the initiative, and through her loving commitment and service becomes powerful. This has echoes of the way Jesus models power and what he demands of disciples. A good example of that would be from the Last Supper where he washes the disciples' feet (see John 13) and directs his followers to do the same. In this stunning verse from the Old Testament Ruth is an amazing example of how to follow Jesus.
- Where do you see declarations of loyalty and support for the poor today, such as that Ruth made?
- How do you think Jesus expects you to be a servant? What is the equivalent for you of making a declaration like Ruth's, or washing people's feet?
- Reflect on your own experiences of loyalty and commitment. How do you feel about them? How have you responded?