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“Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).
This statement has been quoted throughout the ages for the conviction dripping from each syllable. It was declared by Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi. A former idolator, it was amazing how strongly she felt about following her Israelite mother-in-law to a distant land. From her story, we learn several lessons from her character, namely, loyalty, faith, initiative, humility, and excellence.
Loyalty is the first quality we see in Ruth, when her mother-in-law urges her to leave her after the death of her husband, and she refuses because of her devotion and faithfulness to her. Ruth firmly stuck to Naomi as she was leaving for Bethlehem. “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.’” (Ruth 1:16-17). Her loyalty to Naomi is a template of how our loyalty should be to Jesus; we are called to follow Him no matter what, living as He lived, and loving as He loves.
Ruth had unshakable faith in God. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Ruth’s faith was radical. She left everything – her people, country, lifestyle, and religion – to follow the God of Naomi and live among His people for the rest of her days.“Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Her faith made her brave and it was manifested through her actions. She not only declared her decision to follow her mother-in-law’s God, but also acted on it by leaving her idolatrous people and joining His people. This act is supported by James when he says that faith is to be coupled with action. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Lip-service does not do any good, for real, authentic faith spurs action every time.
Ruth was a woman of initiative. She did not sit around and wait for things to happen, but saw opportunities and grasped them. Ruth’s initiative is seen when she says she wants to stick to Naomi and this thread continues when they reach Bethlehem: “And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after the one in whose sight I may find favour” (Ruth 2:2). Whatever she saw needed to be done, she got to it without hesitation, and she was not afraid to get her hands dirty. How different life would be if followers of Jesus had that same initiative; to see a gap that needs to be filled, a heart to be comforted, a soul to be saved, or an attitude to be corrected, and actually did something about it without having to be told or asked.
Coupled with her initiative is humility. Initiative that lacks the humility to seek counsel seldom ends well. Godly counsel is key, not just any any kind. We must be wise to know who to seek advice from. “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20). Though Ruth determined what needed to be done for them to have food to eat, she still sought Naomi’s go-ahead. Only when Naomi gave her consent did Ruth proceed with her plan. Though the idea was hers, she sought counsel and consent from her mother-in-law, willing to accept whatever guidance and verdict she got from her. She did not “lean on her own understanding”, nor should we.“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Finally, Ruth was a woman of excellence. When she did something, she did it well and beyond the call of duty: “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know” (Ruth 2:11). It is this lifestyle of excellence which enhanced her reputation in the city, and won the hearts of the people especially the favour of Boaz who later became her kinsman redeemer and husband: “I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence” (Ruth 3:11).
Ruth’s life is a great example of what it means to follow Jesus. One must die to their flesh and live a life of faith, loyalty, humility, and excellence. Only then will we be able to be transformed and renewed, and be like Christ. After all, He showed those attributes Himself when He walked on earth, and we are called to live as He did to the glory of God. Favour from God comes from when we cease to live out of selfish ambition (which drives us away from faith, loyalty, humility and excellence) and take on the traits of Christ which are espoused by Ruth.