Sometimes we can be caught in the circumstances of our lives.
The death of Naomi’s husband and sons would have meant a kind of captivity of hardship for Naomi. She has lost not only her family but the ability for her family to generate an income and stability. Even the traditional avenues for a widow are closed to her. In her grief and hopelessness, Naomi offers Ruth freedom from the family bonds that tie her to her mother-in-law. She offers a blessing of God’s [hesed] loving kindness on her daughters-in-law. Feeling like God has already abandoned her Naomi decides to enter into her situation alone. Today we will look at two ways in which there is companionship in Naomi’s hardship – with Ruth and with God.
Instead of taking this freedom from suffering Ruth “clings to Naomi” (dabaq). She leaves behind the bonds of the family but instead binds herself to Naomi out of choice. This relationship reflects the same choice that is shown in Genesis between a husband and a wife. It is a relationship founded on something greater than the bonds of family. Ruth says, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (1:16) Ruth does not stay with Naomi out of family obligation or guilt instead she clings to Naomi with something higher in her mind. She binds herself to Naomi through God.
In the story we are told that Naomi believes that God has abandoned her, “the Lord has gone out against me.” (1:13) Anyone in Naomi’s circumstance could understandably feel the same. Reminds me of the story of Job. The Book of Ruth is one of the few stories in the Bible where God sits stage left. That is, He seems to sit at the edge of the story. Yet it is clear in the story that God does not abandon Naomi but remains at center stage. In the midst of our own suffering, it can feel like God is sitting at stage left, seemingly absent from the pain and challenges we are experiencing. But in Naomi’s life, just as our own, God is never absent from our pain. Instead God is at work in different ways in and through them.
The church too is not a community founded on obligation or circumstance but bonded together through something higher. We are a people who are connected together by God. The church is meant to be the hands and feet of God through even the darkest, seemingly hopeless situations. We do not abandon but cling to one another in hardship.
Christians are a resurrection people. Christ died, entered the depths of hell, and on the other side knew resurrection and new life. In Christ we can know that we are never alone in our hardship but that we are also given the gift of companionship with others to walk with us in the darkness.