In reading through the book of Ruth this morning the character of the widow Naomi riveted my attention. What was it about her that caused her daughter-in-law Ruth to love her so? It is a love that is described as “better than that of seven sons.” (Ruth 5:15)
Naomi, by her own admission declares herself unlovable and rejected by the Lord. (Ruth 1:13) In effect Naomi insists her fate is so dire that any continued association with her will bring no good thing. As is often the case those who feel rejected, tend to reject others. She is feeling like a LOSER with a big “L” on her forehead.
Have you ever felt like that? Can you identify? What can anyone who has ever felt like that possibly expect from God? Nothing, nada, zilch! But to the contrary, here we find a wonderful encouragement of God’s love and acceptance nonetheless.
When Naomi decides to return to her native land, Israel, she urges her two widowed daughters-in-law to stay behind in Moab. In a classic contrast of “like” versus ‘love” responses, Orpah kisses Naomi but Ruth clings to her. Kisses can be patronizing but true love clings. Aren’t you glad true love clings? That is God’s kind of love. He clings to us no matter what. No one shall ever snatch us out of His hand. (John 10:28)
And then we see a remarkable thing. God’s love and purpose to bless the seemingly unloved Naomi are manifested from an unlikely source. This woman, a foreigner, albeit a non-Jew, from a different generation and culture, declares her love and loyalty to return to Israel with her. And even more remarkable than that, Ruth does so in terms deemed befitting of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife.
The two salient features of Ruth’s covenant love declaration are the quintessential model for every truly loving relationship. First she asks Naomi to accept her as she is and not reject her. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.” (Ruth 1:16) Unconditional acceptance of another is the mark of God’s kind of love, covenant love; and necessary for any enduring relationship.
And second, Ruth says to Naomi that she is also willing to change for her. This is also a mark of genuine love – the willingness to adjust our lives to please another. In this case it means a change of plans, change of place, change of people and ultimately a change of profession of faith. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
What was it in Naomi that called forth from Ruth such a covenant love commitment – a commitment that ultimately led to her marriage to Boaz, the birth of Obed, and being grafted into the genealogical lineage of Jesus the Messiah?
Was it that Naomi was so lovable? No, that is not the point here. Rather it is the demonstration of God’s unconditional love for the unlovable. That is why and how God loves all of us. (Romans 5:8) And we need to be alert to the unlikely people through whom He does that.
How and through whom is He expressing His love for you today?