What are the conversations like in Naomi’s household as resources and hopes dwindle? What do they say as they consider leaving Moab? What’s discussed when the jungle looms before them? At Naomi’s second urging, Orpah changes her mind, kisses Naomi goodbye, and trudges back up the path into Moab. After watching her go, Ruth stands her ground, and makes a vow: Do not press me to leave you…Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God (v. 16). When we hear this vow in wedding ceremonies many don’t realize it was first made by a non-Israelite daughter-in-law to her husband’s mother.
The relationships between mothers and daughters-in-law are almost universally regarded as difficult. In some cultures, a daughter-in-law is in actual servitude to her husband’s mother until the older woman’s death. It’s reasonable to believe that Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law is highly unusual.
Probably all of us have made some type of vow—intentional or not. I won’t ever do that to my children! When I grow up I’ll never treat them like my parents treated me. As Daniel Bagby once pointed out, our lives may be shaped by vows we’re not even aware of having made. A boy who heard his father teased about driving an old car vowed to himself that he would never be embarrassed by his automobile. He becomes an adult who keeps trading cars because he’s never satisfied with the one he has.
Ruth makes an utterly unexpected vow of loyalty to Naomi, Naomi’s people, and Naomi’s God. What a risky commitment she makes. But what a difference it makes as well.
To whom or what are you most loyal? What vows, spoken or unspoken, control your life? What vow do you still need to make?
God, help us believe that our first loyalty should be to you. Help us in the hard work of being faithful. May our trust in you deepen as we live in such a way that others want to know the God we serve. Amen.