For whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
Sometimes, when I read the lessons and Psalms during the Daily offices, a particular line or paragraph just jumps off the page at me. This particular quote from the Old Testament book of Ruth was one of the lessons for Morning Prayer this past week and may be familiar to some of you. This is one of those lines that I almost always stop and re-read over and over again. On occasion, it brings a tear to my eye.
One of the reasons why I get kind of emotional over this is somewhat obvious; For whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. The level of devotion, dedication and loyalty that this expresses is just staggering. It is total submission. You get a better idea of this if you know the rest of the story.
You see, Ruth was married to an immigrant. A Hebrew man named Elimelech had taken his wife and two sons and moved to a land known as Moab. Ruth, a native of Moab, was married to one of those sons. But when Elimelech and his sons all died, the women were left in a bit of a quandary. Naomi, the mother, had no choice but to return to her home country in the hope that her family there would care for her in her old age.
But Naomi’s daughters-in-law, well they were already home. They were still young, still of marrying age. It would not have been too terribly difficult for them to return to they’re own parents and to find new husbands right there in Moab. And in fact, that’s what one of them did.
But not Ruth. No, Ruth tells her mother-in-law, “I’m staying with you”. Now, just a quick poll, how many of us, if our spouses had passed on, would have chosen to go with their mother-in-law, rather than return to our own families? This is what Ruth is doing; she’s saying that when she married, she made a commitment, not only to Naomi’s son, but to Naomi as well. Ruth has tied her destiny to Naomi and to the God that Naomi worships. For whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
Ruth gives up certainty for uncertainty. She gives up comfort for discomfort. She gives up familiarity to enter into a land, a people, a culture, a situation about which she is almost totally unfamiliar. And she is steadfast about it. Make no mistake; Ruth is going with Naomi, no matter what.
Why would she do something like this? Well, Scripture doesn’t really tell us, but I think that Ruth had some sort of knowledge, some sort of trust, that this was what she was supposed to do. I think that Ruth knew that the path wouldn’t be easy, but that the outcome was going to be OK, because it was in God’s plan.
This is another of those “wow” moments for me. You see, when we hear of characters in Scripture doing extraordinary things in the name of God, we always tend to think that these are likewise extraordinary people. Of course they do great things because they are great. We forget that most, if not all of these characters are no different than you and I. In fact, some of them came from much more humble origins.
Just look at the twelve Apostles. No, let’s narrow it down; just look at St. Peter; The man who is known in the Roman church as the first Pope. A fisherman. A very simple man who had been going about his business trying to make a living and provide for his family. I can imagine that Peter rarely gave a thought to politics, to the Roman occupation of his country, even to the hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees. I’d be willing to bet that Peter didn’t even think of himself as a particularly religious man. And then he met Christ.
Ruth is just as humble and even more relevant to us. Other than her devotion to her mother-in-law, there is nothing extraordinary about her. Scripture does not tell of her performing miracles or some other great feat. Rather, we are told that Ruth cares for Naomi and works in a field to gather food, allowed to do so by someone’s act of charity. You get the impression that they are just barely getting by on that era’s version of welfare. The only other thing that Scripture tells us is that she meets a man, marries him, and eventually has a son.
That’s it. Get married and have a baby. So what’s so special about Ruth? What’s so different between Ruth and you? She remains humble, she cares for her family. Just like any one of us! We can all do that, can’t we? Haven’t we already?
But now I have to get back to that first thing. That decision that Ruth made; For whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. It was a crossroad in Ruth’s life and she chose to trust in God. And that is a crossroad that we all are faced with at sometime in our lives. And how we choose indicates our level of trust in God. How we choose indicates our willingness to be a part of His plan. How we choose makes all the difference in the world no matter how humble or ordinary or unworthy we think we are.
You see, Ruth’s story is an example of the power that we have as Christians. By our life, by our example, by our decisions, we can eventually make all the difference in the world. Ruth’s story tells us why we must always talk about our faith. Ruth’s story tells us why we must never fail to witness to our family, our friends, even to strangers. Ruth’s story tells us how even the most ordinary among us can change the world. Ruth’s story tells us why we must trust God.
Some of you still might not be seeing this. Let me wrap this up. Ruth, the common, humble girl from Moab did nothing more special than submit to God by remaining devoted to her mother-in-law. She wound up remarried and gave birth to a son named Obed. That’s all she did.
Of course Obed also had a son named Jesse. And Jesse had a son named David. You might best remember David from his little engagement with a guy named Goliath. Or from his forty year reign as King of Israel. Or from the generational line that he started that wound up including a certain carpenter’s son in Nazareth. And all this started with the humble devotion of one woman. How will you show your devotion; and how will it change the world? For whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge : thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.