And Ruth said, Insist not on me forsaking thee: for whither thou goest, I will go. Ruth's mind was made up. Her heart would not be wrenched away from her mother-in-law. The length of the journey, its dangers, and the inevitable fatigue accompanying it, moved not, by so much as a jot, her resolution. Had not her mother-in-law the same distance to travel, the same fatigue to endure, the same perils to encounter? Might not the aged traveler, moreover, derive some assistance and cheer from the company of a young, ready-handed, and willing-hearted companion? She was resolved. Nothing on earth would separate them. Wheresoever thou lodgest, I will lodge . A better version than Luther's, "Where thou stayest, I will stay" ( wo du bleibest , da bleibe ich auch ). The reference is not to the ultimate destination, but to the nightly halts, לוּן is the verb employed; and it is rendered "to tarry all night" in Genesis 24:54 ; Genesis 28:11 ; Genesis 31:54 ; 19:6 , etc. It is the Latin pernoctare and the German ubernachten , the former being the rendering of the Vulgate, and the latter the translation in the Berlenburger Bibel . Thy people (is) my people, and thy God my God. There being no verb in the original, it is well to supply the simplest copula. Ruth claims, as it were, Naomi's people and Naomi's God as her own already.
I. Ruth was fixed in her desire and determination to CAST IS HER LOT WITH HER DESOLATE AND DESTITUTE MOTHER - IN - LAW . The absolute unselfishness of this determination is noteworthy, for—
1. Be it noted that Naomi was not one of those who are always murmuring and complaining because they do not receive sufficient consideration.
2. Still less did she claim as a right, or urge as a duty, that her daughter-in-law should become her companion in travel, and wait upon her as an attendant.
3. On the contrary, she was careful to put Ruth in an attitude of entire freedom, so that, if she had a secret wish to go back to her Moabitish friends, she could have gratified her desire without laying herself open to the imputation of coldness or ingratitude.
4. Ruth was tested nevertheless, as all of us in our respective relations have either already been or will be. Eve, for instance, was emphatically tested. So was Adam. Abraham too . Joseph also. Very particularly the second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, when he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness. Judas was tested when the demon of cupidity entered into his heart. So was Peter when he stood warming himself at the fire in the court of the high priest's palace. All who are tried are tested. And all men without exception have to endure trial and tri als. It was as regards the strength of her attachment to her mother-in-law that Ruth was tested. Not only did Naomi hold out no hopes of home-comfort in Judah, she expressly said, dissuasively, when Orpah had gone back, "Behold, thy sister-in-law has gone back to her people, and to her Elohim: return thou after thy sister-in-law" (verse 15).
5. Ruth stood the test. Not so did Eve. Not so Adam. But Abraham stood it. So Joseph. Emphatically did Jesus stand it, so that lib knows how to succor those who are tempted. Judas did not stand the test Nor at first did Peter, though afterwards He repented, and, when reconverted, was able to strengthen his brethren. Ruth, for love to Naomi, was able to say in her heart, "Farewell, Melchom! Farewell, Chemosh! Farewell, Moab! Welcome, Israeli Welcome, Canaan! Welcome, Bethlehem!" (Fuller).
6. She witnessed a good and most noble confession of love and devotedness (see verses 16, 17). She said, "Insist not on me forsaking thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; wheresoever thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people is my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. So may Yahveh do to me, and still more, if aught but death part thee and me." "Nothing," says Matthew Henry, "could be said more fine, more brave." " Truly ," says Dr. Kitto, "the simple eloquence of the mouth that speaks out of the abundance of the heart never found more beautiful and touching expression than in these words of this young widow" ('Daily Bible-Illustrations'). "Her vow," says S. Cox, "has stamped itself on the very heart of the world; and that not because of the beauty of its form simply, though even in our English version it sounds like a sweet and noble music, but because it expresses in a worthy form, and once for all, the utter devotion of a genuine and self-conquering love. It is the spirit which informs and breathes through these melodious words that make them so precious to us, and that also renders it impossible to utter any fitting comment on them". Be it borne in mind that something of the same enthusiasm of love, that dwelt in the heart of Ruth, should be found in the center of every home . Wheresoever a heart is swayed and dominated by the might and mastery of a great affection, the entire character becomes clothed with mingled dignity and beauty.
II. THE ENTRY OF THE TWO WIDOWS INTO BETHLEHEM . There was no more talk, no more thought, of turning back. The hearts of the two widows were locked together forever. Hence they traveled on from stage to stage, until, worn and wearied, they entered Bethlehem.
1. Note the effect on the citizens, especially the female portion of them (see verse 19). Naomi, passing along through the streets, was recognized. The news flew from individual to individual, from house to house, from lane to lane. There was a running to and fro of excited mothers and maidens. All were eager to see the returned emigrant, and her pensive Moabitish companion. Her old acquaintances, in particular, when they had seen and identified her, broke up into groups, and talked, and said, Is that Naomi? That, Naomi I Is this Naomi? This, Naomi! "So unlike is the rose when it is withered to what it was when it was blooming."
2. Note the effect on Naomi herself. As she looked on old scenes, and witnessed the excitement and commotion of old neighbors and acquaintances, her heart felt overwhelmed within her, and she said to the sympathizing friends who clustered around her, "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (see verses 20, 21). But it surely will be permitted to us not only to mingle our tears with those of the afflicted widow, but likewise to pause reverently ere we unreservedly accept or endorse her attribution of all her trials and woes to the hand and heart of the Lord. It should nevertheless be borne in mind that even those trials that come most directly from men's own acts or choices come to pass by the permission of the Almighty, and are so overruled by him that they will be made to work for good to them who love him ( Romans 8:28 ).
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
For simple pathos and unstudied eloquence, this language is unsurpassed. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Here is the fervent outpouring of a true heart. Love and resolution are at their height. Thousands of human souls have expressed their mutual attachment in these words. They are not words of extravagance or of passion, but of feeling, of principle, of a fixed and changeless mind. Constancy must be admired, even by the inconstant.
I. THERE WERE INFLUENCES OPPOSED TO RUTH 'S CONSTANCY .
1. Early associations and friendships would have tied her to Moab.
2. The entreaty of Naomi that she would return set her perfectly free to do so, if she had been disposed.
3. The example of her sister-in-law, Orpah, could not but have some weight. Orpah had been, like Ruth, kind alike to the living and the dead, yet she wept, kissed her mother-in-law, and returned.
4. The religion of her childhood could scarcely have been without attractions for her. Could she leave the temples, the deities, the observances of her earliest days behind?
II. THERE WERE MANIFESTATIONS OF PIOUS CONSTANCY IN RUTH 'S RESOLVES .
1. She would go with Naomi, though by an unknown route.
2. She would dwell with Naomi, though in an unknown home.
3. She would die with Naomi, though to be buried in an unknown grave.
III. THERE WAS A RELIGIOUS FOUNDATION FOR RUTH 'S CONSTANCY .
1. Apparent from the resolution—"Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
2. Apparent from the adjuration she employed—"The Lord do so," etc.
IV. THE TRIUMPH AND RECOMPENSE OF RUTH 'S CONSTANCY .
1. Her fidelity and devotion were reciprocated by Naomi.
2. In the providence of God Ruth was rewarded by an honorable position and a happy life.—T.
"Entreat me not to leave thee." A mother and a daughter-in-law are to go together. The daughter wishes it, and petitions with most eloquent ardor that it shall be so. A mother-in-law is sometimes—alas, too often—the subject of criticism and satire. It is a difficult position to fill, and many bitterly unkind and untrue caricatures have been made upon the relationship. In this case Naomi had made herself beloved by both Orpah and Ruth, and it was only through Naomi's words, "Turn again," that Orpah went back; for they had both said, "Surely we will return with thee unto thy people." Ruth, however, remained firm, and her fidelity has made these words quickening to many undecided souls.
I. ENTREATY MAY PROVE TOO EARNEST . "Entreat me not." It is the language of a heart that feels what limits there are to the power of resistance within us. Test may turn in unwise hands into overpowering temptation. Naomi knew where to stop, and Ruth remains to us a picture of heroic devotion. Orpah failed in courage, but was not destitute of affection, for her farewell is accompanied with a kiss of love. In her character we see impulse without strength. But "Ruth clave unto her." And it was no light sacrifice to leave fatherland and home. We can hardly call the test at first a religious one, for it is evident that Ruth's love for her mother-in-law was the immediate occasion of her cleaving to her, and leaving the Moabitish gods. In time, doubtless, her nominal faith turned into a living heritage.
II. LOVE CREATES THE FINEST ELOQUENCE . There is no utterance in the Old Testament more pathetic and melodious than these words. They are idyllic in their eloquence. There is nothing stilted or artificial in them, and they have in them a rhythm of melody which is more beautiful than a mere rhyme of words. Courage and sacrifice, love and devotion, breathe all through them. They condense too all that is prophetic of coming experience—the lodging and the loneliness, the weary pilgrimage and the grave in a foreign land. The mind cannot frame sentences like these without the glow of a sincere and sacrificial heart. We feel as we read them what grandeur there is in human nature when love evokes all its depth of power. It is not a skilful touch that can do this, but a soul alive to the calls of love and duty.
III. NO TRUE LIFE WAS EVER LIVED IN VAIN . It was what Naomi had been to her, what she was in herself, that made this sacrifice possible. Love creates love. The charm of friendship may be merely intellectual, and then, after the feast of reason, all is' over. But Naomi's character was rooted in religion. She did not carry the mere roll of the prophets in her hand; she carried the spirit of the Holy Book in her heart. Ruth had never been in synagogue or temple; she had listened to no Rabbi, and never sat at the feet of the doctors; but as "the earliest piety is mother's love," so the character of a true mother is a stem around which the tendrils of the young heart climb to the mother's God. None of us liveth to himself. And so from the flower of piety, the seed drops into other hearts, and brings forth fruit after many days.—W.M.S.