The story of Ruth is one of the most endearing ‘love stories’ in the Bible. It’s a story that starts out with devastation and despair but end s with hope and joy. It’s a story of a young widowed Moabite woman whose love for her mother-in-law through immense difficulties stands as a beacon of hope commitment and love for all time. It’s a story that illustrates what real love is….that lives the code of I Corinthians 13. Ruth’s is sacrificial love; a serving love; a determined love that endures regardless of the circumstances and yet Ruth was not a Jew! Yet, just as she is grafted into God’s people and ultimately becomes the grand-mother of King David, so her story highlights God’s intention to adopt into his family all those whose hearts are pure and truly seek after him, no matter what their ethnic background.
Today’s story comes from Ruth 1:1-18. It sets the scene for what is to come. It starts with Naomi’s bitterness over losing her husband and sons, while living in a foreign land and the problem that she faced without any form of support. Faced with such a bleak future she is forced to make the bitter journey back to her own people…but Ruth refuses to let her go alone. There is something about Ruth’s words that are timeless. To Naomi’s urging to go back, she replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (v16).
Ruth had no idea what she would face. As foreigner – in a patriarchal society – she had no means of support – yet she was willing to sacrifice her on comfort and security out of love and respect for mother-in-law. Ruth showed true grit! She was determined to follow through with she started…it took a lot of courage; humility; determination and grit!
Grit and determination is something that I have said recently characterises successful leaders. Being willing to persevere and continue to work towards a vision, while overcoming difficulties is essential no matter what the goal. I head recently that most people who completed Phd’s were not the ones who got the best University entrance scores – but those battlers who were willing to put in the hard work to achieve the accolades.
Ruth’s faith in her adopted God is an underlying element to the story. To trust God, to persevere, to work hard and to be honourable before God and the community…ultimately brought a blessing to Ruth (and Naomi) that went far beyond her expectations. Her marriage to Boaz brings a happy ending to a story that starts in bitterness and tears. Like the Psalmist Ruth was able to proclaim: ‘you turned my mourning into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and gave me joy’ (Psalm 30:1).
Even in the midst of our most desperate moments – God reminds us that there is hope. This hope is not just about the future – but inspires us to keep on serving God and loving others, right where we are….because rewards our perseverance.