Celtic Evening Prayer November 3



Scripture: Ruth 1: 1-18 Nigel Bunce

I quote here from John Holbert 

The tragedy here is a famine, a not uncommon occurrence in the southern deserts of Israel. As a result of the famine, a typical Israelite family of four had to leave their home in Bethlehem.  They moved to Moab, across the Dead Sea. But the family’s hardships became worse when Elimelech died. The two sons of his widow, Naomi, married local women, but later, both sons also died.  That left three widows, two of whom were foreigners. Here is a famine indeed in a place where men call the tune.

Eventually Naomi resolved to go home. Surprisingly, her two daughters-in-law decided to go with her. But Naomi insisted that she return to Israel alone.  Orpah knew that Naomi did not want her.  So she returned to Moab.

“But Ruth clung to her” (1:14). And this is the great and mysterious driver of the story. Why did Ruth stay with Naomi, who plainly wanted nothing more to do with her? The verb “clung” is the same as in Genesis 2.  Where, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife.”

Ruth now utters one of the Bible’s greatest speeches. We often hear it at weddings. But, we must remember the exact context to recover its wonder. Naomi had clearly dismissed Ruth. She plainly wasn’t in any of Naomi’s future plans. Yet, Ruth says, “Do not force me to abandon you, or to turn away from following you” (1:16).

Ruth goes on to say that she will go wherever Naomi goes, will live where Naomi lives, will accept Naomi’s people as her own, will receive Naomi’s God as her God, will die where Naomi dies, will be buried where Naomi is buried, and concludes these words with an oath calling on YHWH to strike her if even death were to part Naomi from her (1:16-17).

This is a truly beautiful story of radical devotion.  Even though Nami didn’t welcome Ruth’s devotion to her.  Yet Ruth still clings to Naomi and vows grandly never to leave. In short, Ruth models the unbreakable love of YHWH, who promises never to leave us alone.

For more on this story, see Ruth; a story of unwavering love, by John Course.