I’m With You

I don’t know where you’ve been in life, what experiences have touched your heart;  what you have lost, and what you have left; what you have reluctantly had to let go, as you stay behind…

The story of Naomi, and her daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth is heart-wrenching.

Ruth has had to leave her home, but has managed to make a life in Moab.  Her husband has died, but she has found fulfilment in the lives of her sons and their chosen wives, and then the sons have both died and the three women are left.

Ruth 1:1-18

Ruth Is Loyal to Naomi

1-2 Before Israel was ruled by kings, Elimelech from the tribe of Ephrath lived in the town of Bethlehem. His wife was named Naomi, and their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. But when their crops failed, they moved to the country of Moab.  And while they were there, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with only her two sons.

Later, Naomi’s sons married Moabite women. One was named Orpah and the other Ruth. About ten years later, Mahlon and Chilion also died. Now Naomi had no husband or sons.

6-7 When Naomi heard that the Lord had given his people a good harvest, she and her two daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab and go to Judah. As they were on their way there, Naomi said to them, “Don’t you want to go back home to your own mothers? You were kind to my husband and sons, and you have always been kind to me. I pray that the Lord will be just as kind to you. May he give each of you another husband and a home of your own.”

Naomi kissed them. They cried 10 and said, “We want to go with you and live among your people.”

11 But she replied, “My daughters, why don’t you return home? What good will it do you to go with me? Do you think I could have more sons for you to marry? 12 You must go back home, because I am too old to marry again. Even if I got married tonight and later had more sons, 13 would you wait for them to become old enough to marry? No, my daughters! Life is harder for me than it is for you, because the Lord has turned against me.”

14 They cried again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth held on to her. 15 Naomi then said to Ruth, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and to her gods! Why don’t you go with her?”

16 Ruth answered,

“Please don’t tell me
to leave you
and return home!
I will go where you go,
I will live where you live;
your people will be my people,
your God will be my God.
17 I will die where you die
and be buried beside you.
May the Lord punish me
if we are ever separated,
even by death!

18 When Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her, she stopped urging her to go back.

And so Naomi decided to do the only thing she can see, to leave Moab and return to her birth place in Bethlehem.  Orpah and Ruth prepare to go with her, but Naomi does not want to tear them away from their own mothers and family.  Orpah decides, reluctantly, to stay. Ruth will not be swayed, and goes with Naomi.

There seems to be no condemnation of Orpah for staying.  It was her choice, Naomi felt she had no right to drag her away.  Of course, we are reading this with hindsight, we know the end of the story, and what happened because Ruth went with Naomi, but she couldn’t have known that at the time.  What we have is her beautiful song of commitment.  Ruth promises to go with her, not just back to Bethlehem, but wherever she goes.  She vows to take on Naomi’s life, her people and her God.  She is throwing in her lot.  What a commitment.

I’ve seen two different analogies of this:

  • I’ve heard it used at weddings, where a man and a woman promise to follow each other faithfully, to make their lives and aims as one
  • and I’ve heard it used as an illustration of our commitment to God.  I’m going to go where you are, where you call me, and make your place mine, your people mine.

But I think there is also a third way.  A commitment to those we journey with – in faith and in life.  Yes I’m willing to journey with you to where you’re going, to love the people here, to be a part of this life.

Yesterday, we spent some time as our church considering our “mission statement“.  When you spend some time thinking about your purpose and objectives, I guess the next question is,

Am I in?

Do I agree with this?  Am I throwing my lot in with it?

The same is true with any community we join.  Am I in it for the long haul?  Am I here whole-heartedly?

As I reflect on these verses from Ruth, it brings to mind the question of who and what I commit to – and how:

  • Am I with you?
  • Are my objectives yours?
  • Will I walk alongside you?
  • Will I love those you love?
  • and how will I follow God here?

Those are questions that apply in most realms of life.

~ in the communities we live in

~ in the activities we join

~ in our friendships

~ in our churches

~ in our relationship with God

How will you answer?

16 Ruth answered,

“Please don’t tell me
to leave you
and return home!
I will go where you go,
I will live where you live;
your people will be my people,
your God will be my God.

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