Thy People My People
(RUTH 1:16) And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: 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: Today's text takes us back to the days before Israel had a king, back to “...the days when the judges ruled...” (RUTH 1:1), a four hundred and fifty year period from Joshua's death to Samuel's life (ACT 13:19-20). In those days of which it was said that “...every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (JDG 21:25), we find a woman who did right in God's eyes. King Lemuel later asked, “Who can find a virtuous woman?...” (PRO 31:10). Ruth was such. Her future husband told her, “...all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman” (RUTH 3:11). Since she is expressly named a virtuous woman in Scripture, her attitude and conduct command attention. Our text today sets forth the character trait which most distinguished her. Ruth was a Moabitess (RUTH 1:22), born unto a people which lay under an ancient censure: (DEU 23:3) An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: As the Book of Ruth makes clear (note our text today), Ruth became a proselyte of the faith of Israel, distancing herself from Moab's idol god, Chemosh (1KI 11:7), and joining herself to “...the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (RUTH 2:11-12). The LORD in turn did in due time join Himself to her in a very special sense: from Ruth would spring forth Israel's royal line and Israel's royal line would bring forth Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost-conceived Savior (MAT 1:20) through Ruth's distant descendant, Mary. The Son of God is (concerning the flesh) also the distant son of Ruth. Ruth's resolute diligence to embrace the true God and His people was well rewarded: He indeed “...is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (HEB 11:6). In the earlier verses of this chapter Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, had given discouragements to Ruth and her sister, Orpah, both of whom had professed fidelity to Naomi and her people, Israel (RUTH 1:8-13). The price of that high calling eventually proved to be more than Orpah was willing to bear, so “...she kissed her mother in law...” and went “...back unto her people, and unto her gods” (RUTH 1:14-15). The pull of her homeland and its customs was to her greater than the desire to identify with the true God and His people. So, too, many who profess faith in Christ are not like Abraham who was “...fully persuaded...” (ROM 4:21) but are like King Agrippa, who, knowing and believing the truth, would only say, “...Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (ACT 26:27-28). In contrast to her sister, Ruth saw in Naomi an identity with the true and living God, and so “...clave unto her” (RUTH 1:14). She had, in effect, counted “...all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ...” (PHIL 3:8). She had seen the great value of the kingdom of God, that treasure hid in a field, that pearl of great price which is worth selling all to acquire (MAT 13:44-46). Nothing, not the fond memories of her upbringing in Moab, nor the affection or company of her own kinfolk was going to overpower her desire for Naomi, Naomi's people, Naomi's God. It is noteworthy that Ruth deemed identity with Naomi's God as being inseparable from Naomi's people (per our text). Those who align with Christ the Head must also align with His church, the body and prefer their company above all others. David said, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (PSA 119:63). Though such believers might be made a “...gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions...” yet there is great blessing in becoming “...companions of them that were so used” (HEB 10:33). When the distracting allure of one's homeland or family is set before the believer, the Holy Spirit sets forth Orpah and Ruth. Orpah's heart was still towards Moab and her people (and their gods!), where the stigma and affliction associated with Naomi and her God would not be borne. “Remember Lot's wife” (LUK 17:32), said Jesus of a similarly reminiscing woman who became the wrong kind of salt of the earth and a pillar in the community (GEN 19:26). By contrast, Ruth's heart was towards Naomi, her people and her God. The spirit which animated her animates all great saints. She walked in the spirit of Moses, who chose “...rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches...” (HEB 11:25-26). Believers do well to consider the place and family of their birth to be God's chosen foster parents for them but God desires to show them their true country (a better and heavenly country, HEB 11:14-16) and their true family: those who with elder brother Jesus deem God's will their top priority. Jesus Christ said: (MAT 12:50) For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Children of grace may well be called, like Abraham, to forsake the land of their nativity and remove from one place to another as God requires (HEB 11:8) and a fundamental term of discipleship to Jesus Christ is that His interests must outweigh those of one's natural family (MAT 10:37). But for those like Ruth who forsake lands, family or friends for the gospel's sake, the Savior gives this promise: (MAT 19:29) And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Luke's gospel assures that some of this reward even pertains to this present time (LUK 18:29-30). God may single one out of a family by a solitary call for favor and discipleship, as He did Abraham (I called him alone, ISA 51:2), but “God setteth the solitary in families...” (PSA 68:6) --- new families, better families, families of faith. There is no better company, no better family than those who are “...of like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2PE 1:1).