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Your God Shall be My God (Like it or Not)

June 4, 2012

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 by my people, and your God my God.”

These words from Ruth 1:16 are familiar, easily the most familiar from the entire book, mostly because they are read at weddings.  Of course, Ruth is making these promises to her mother-in-law, not to a husband.  I have a feeling fewer brides would choose these words if they were fully aware of the context!

Speaking of context, these words hit me in a new way as I prepared for a Bible study I’m leading on Ruth.  Not only does Ruth promise to leave behind her homeland (Moab) to go with Naomi to a place she’s never been, a land where her mother-in-law is the only soul she’ll know, she promises to take Naomi’s God as her own God after Naomi makes the explicit claim that “the hand of the Lord has turned against” her (1:13).  Your God will be my God, even though lately he ain’t been much of a God for you.  That’s what Ruth says.

Naomi has been sojourning in the land of Moab.  While there, her husband Elimelech dies.  Her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, die.  She has become a woman without a future.  And she blames God.

Who hasn’t been there before?  Who has not suffered loss and thought (perhaps in anger, perhaps with shame), “The hand of the Lord has turned against me?”

It is important to confess that God is good and works only good for us.  But it is equally important to acknowledge that it doesn’t always feel like this.

When we are brought low, into dry and empty places in our lives, we need someone like Ruth.  We need someone who will journey with us, who will keep faith with us, who will keep faith for us.  Someone who will say, “I know God doesn’t seem much worth praising, thanking, or believing right now, but I’ll go ahead and do it with you anyway.”  Someone who will hang in there with us and stick it out.  We need Ruth, who takes Naomi’s God as her own, like it or not.

There is no use pretending that we will not walk in Naomi’s shoes from time to time.  We will suffer loss.  And we may well blame God, even if we don’t verbalize the feeling.  That’s why we need Ruth, and that’s why we are called to be Ruth.  Because Ruth walks with Naomi, the mother-in-law is able to survive, thrive, and experience joy and fullness from the hand of the Lord.  By the end of the story, Naomi is able to hear her neighbors say, “Blessed be the Lord” (4:14).  She is able to hear these words and make them her own.  She is able to come home to her God.  Because God is good, yes, but also because Ruth walked with her on the journey back to joy, fullness, and faith.

From → Scripture

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