But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, where you stay I will will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth’s husband and his brother were dead. Her father-in-law was also dead. All the men in the family–dead. This was a worrisome time to be a woman. Options were few. When Ruth and Orpah (not to be confused with Oprah) attempted to follow Naomi (the mother-in-law), she told them, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me–even if I had has husband tonight and gave birth to sons–would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
It was not the custom for widows to return to their father’s house. Once they were married off and the dowry was paid, the father was released of his duty to his daughter. To come home as a widow would have added another mouth to feed. Perhaps that is one reason Ruth refused. Initially, Orpah “cried bitterly.” This is such a testament to Naomi’s character, that both her daughters-in-law ached to stay by her side.
We often hear of Ruth and her faithfulness, which is definitely worth mentioning. Her words to Naomi are often repeated at weddings as the ultimate symbol of the truest love. But I often wondered about Naomi and what actions she must have done to warrant such a devotion from her daughters-in-law. Ruth’s speech is a testament to her character, but it is also a testament to Naomi’s.
Dear Jesus, please let me be the kind of woman to warrant such love and devotion–whether from my daughters or my future daughter-in-law. Let them say of me “I will follow you.”