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 the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” (Ruth 1: 1 – 5)

When our family was considering a move to the west coast and Oregon, I was not sure what I would find on the west coast. While it seems silly and foolish now, I wondered if the Divine would make a place for me here. I prayed that I would be able to look up and see that the Divine would provide for me.

I am pretty sure that Naomi had some fears moving away from the land of Judah. Would they find a life there? After all, it was not the Lord’s land. That is where Naomi and I made our error, not realizing that all places are the Divine’s. Then, when both her husband and her sons were dead, it must have seemed that earlier misgiving had proved true. And then there were her daughters-in-law to consider. If she would be hard pressed to provide for herself, how could she provide for these young women who had gone from their father’s household directly to her husband’s household – who was no longer there to provide; and to a household that had no husbands for them.

“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 considered 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.” (Verses 6 – 13)

Remember, beloved reader, Naomi’s daughters-in-law were only 10 years married – perhaps as young as 15 years old or younger? Only now would they be coming into their full womanhood. There was still life ahead for them, and Naomi wanted that for them.

“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!”” (Verses 14 – 17)

But faith stands firm. Deeply anchored, Ruth knew she had found a faith that would sustain her for a lifetime. And that faith was introduced to her my her mother-in-law; and Ruth would not abandon that faith or the woman who nurtured her in it. Now of course, I am taking some liberties here; it may be that Ruth had other reasons for not returning to her home of origin. But is this is a moral teaching story, as it is supposed, do you now think my slant on it feeds into the teaching? And knowing how the story turns out, does my slant streamline well into what happened for Ruth?
“When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.” (Verse 18)

Imagine, beloved reader, if Naomi had gone back to her homeland without Ruth? What do you think would have happened to her? The plight of an older widowed woman was not pleasant. But Naomi now had a mission and a purpose – to make sure that Ruth had the lifetime she deserved and that Ruth’s devotion would not go unrewarded. Maybe the story of Ruth is not just a teaching story for young women, but an encouragement to older women to not give up but step out in faith confident that the Divine will provide! Shalom & Selah!