I have been preaching through the book of Ruth. One theme that runs through the book is God’s concern for the poor and the destitute. When Ruth and Naomi returned from Moab, they had nothing except the clothes they were wearing. Naomi, an older widow, wasn’t able to return to her father’s house. Young widows were instructed to return to their father’s house for security and protection. But Naomi didn’t have that luxury. Although the text doesn’t explicitly say that Naomi’s parents were no longer living, we can make that assumption because they are never mentioned in the book.
Her condition was dire, to say the least. It’s possible that Ruth knew that and felt obligated to stand by her mother-in-law even after the death of her husband. Orpah, the other daughter-in-law, chose to return to Moab, to her family, and to her god Chemosh. And that was perfectly acceptable and common in those types of situations.
Whereas Orpah did the natural thing, Ruth did the spiritual thing by staying with Naomi. However, that decision came at a price. Ruth left her mother and father, family, country and her god; and headed with Naomi to Israel as a foreigner with very little. Although foreigners were treated well, they were nonetheless foreigners at the bottom of the social scale. But, the divine hand of God led Ruth to the field of Boaz. Boaz, in turn, provided Ruth with the opportunity to gather wheat and barley to eat. Not as a second class citizen, but as one of the servants, even though she really wasn’t a servant. Ruth received the grace of God because of her actions towards Naomi, a woman who was destitute. As I think about this dynamic, I think about those living in poverty or those who are standing on the street corner asking for money. Is God testing us? Are those people put in our path for a reason? Is God wanting to see how we will respond? I don’t know the answer to those questions. But, I do know that people who help poor people lend to the Lord and He will repay them. Maybe we need to change our perspective the next time we see someone in need.
Dr. Michael J. Frazier