June 2, 2024 . . . “Bible promises: Where you go, I will go” Ruth 1:16

June 2, 2024 . . . “Bible promises: Where you go, I will go” Ruth 1:16

June 02, 2024

“Bible promises: Where you go, I will go”

Ruth 1:16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Eighty three years ago, in the winter of 1941, history says Hitler’s armies had already overrun France as well as Norway and Denmark. And while Great Britain had, so far, survived his air assault, they were expecting him to strike again. They just didn’t know where or when. His submarines were sinking their ships as fast as they could build them, and it wasn’t clear how much longer they could hold.

Meanwhile, in the United States, while most people sympathized with Great Britain, they didn’t want to go to war. So that’s when recently re-elected President Roosevent sent a man named Harry Hopkins to England to gather more information.

Now Harry, the son of a harness-maker and handyman, wasn’t on anyone’s list of likely candidates for such a job. He smoked too much, drank too much, and was in generally poor health. He usually looked like he had just gotten out of bed--his hair was unkempt and his hat and his clothes were rumpled. But in spite of all that, he had an amazing ability to find out what needed to be done and he got it done.

So off he went to visit Prime Minister Churchill.

Now Harry Hopkins was a man of few words. So when he attended a dinner party hosted by Churchill, not to mention a variety of generals, government ministers, and other important people, it was a surprise that he would even speak. Still, since he was such an important guest, they persuaded him to stand up and say a few words.

This is what he said: “I am not here to make speeches. I am here only to report what I see to the president. But now that I am here and on my feet, perhaps I might say in the language of the old Book: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’ Even to the end.”

And as tears began to fall from Churchill’s eyes, a member of his staff said, “The words seemed to us like a rope thrown to a drowning man.”

So far in our study of Bible promises, we’ve looked at the Bible’s very first promise in Genesis chapter 3. It’s where God Himself said to the serpent in the garden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

After Noah landed on Mount Ararat, God said: “I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).

And He said to Sarah: “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14).

Count them and you’ll find as many as eight thousand eight hundred promises in the Bible, from God to man, from man to man, and from man to God.

And here in the book of Ruth, we find yet another promise from a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. It’s in chapter 1, starting at verse 15: “And Naomi said, ‘See your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’ And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more” (Ruth 1:15-18).

If you think about it, in all of ancient literature, there’s no book like the book of Ruth, for while there are plenty of short stories, even some whose main characters are women, there are no other books from the ancient near east that focus entirely on a woman or women as the main characters. It’s plain, but emotional. It’s simple, yet profound.

It’s even different from any other book in the Bible, for if you were to page through its four short chapters, you’ll never find a dream, a prophecy, an angel, or a vision. As one commentator wrote, “It’s concerned with the almost mundane details of ordinary life. It’s rustic and plain.”

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find so much more, for it’s there that you’ll find a story about a pagan girl named Ruth who suddenly became part of the covenant people of Israel, pursued by the grace and the love of God.

As the book opens, we meet a man named Elimelech, as well as his wife and two sons, who lived in the days of the Judges. As it says in the very first verse: “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).

Moab, it said. So where’s Moab?

It’s a country that lies just to the south and east of Israel, on the other side of the Dead Sea. But it wasn’t a good place to be. The people who lived there were known far and wide for their lawlessness, immorality, and violence. As one commentator wrote, “They were an obscene, pagan people who lived in an obscene, pagan place.”

And since they hated God and His people, God had something to say about them. He said in Psalm 60: “Gilead is Mine and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim is My helmet, Judah is My scepter. But Moab is My washbucket” (Psalm 60:7-8).

And how did Moab and its people get their name? It’s one of the saddest stories in all of the Old Testament! You see, there was a man named Lot who had two daughters. And one night, one daughter said to the other--and I’ll say this as tactfully as I can--she said, “Our father is old and there aren’t any other men around. So let’s get him drunk, sleep with him, and have his children.”

So that’s exactly what they did! And the child born to the eldest girl, she named “Moab,” a name that meant, “From the father.” You can read all about it in Genesis chapter 19.

But that’s where Elimelech went, to Moab, with his wife and two sons--a lawless, immoral, God-forsaken washbucket.

So what did it mean to move to Moab? Since they lived so far from the Promised Land, it meant they couldn’t worship at the Tabernacle anymore, they couldn’t bring their offerings, and they couldn’t keep the feasts as commanded by Law. They totally removed themselves from everything that stood for God.

And worse yet, not only did they move there, they stayed there. Before long, days turned to weeks, that turned to months, that turned to years. And before they knew it, ten years had passed, and they were farther away from the Lord than they ever could have imagined. And the only thing they had to show for it was the death of Elimelech and his two sons--three tombstones in a washbucket.

Let’s stop there for just a moment, because there’s a lesson we ought to learn. I don’t know what your story is. Maybe once, a long time ago, you were close to the Lord. There was no one more important to you than Him. But little by little, you slipped away and you found yourself living more and more like the world around you. You never thought it would happen. It happened so gradually. But all of a sudden, there you were, living far from God, out in the land of Moab. And you wondered how you could ever come back home.

But there’s more, for the story goes on. For there stands Naomi, wife of Elimelech, left all alone with her two widowed daughters-in-law--Orpah and Ruth.

Imagine how hard it must have been! Poor Naomi looked back to only ten years before when everything was so different. Once there was laughter and joy in their homes, but now there was only sadness and depression. Once there was a husband and two wonderful sons. Now she was all alone.

And in her misery, she made a decision. She would go back to her family and friends, to her people and her God. She would go back to Bethlehem.

So off she went and, for a while, both Orpah and Ruth followed behind. At first, Orpah stood with Naomi and cried, until, finally, she kissed her and said goodbye.

But Ruth wouldn’t let go. She clung to Naomi as dear as to life itself. She wouldn’t walk away. She couldn’t walk away. She loved her too much to say goodbye.

So with tears streaming down her face, she said some of the most beautiful words anyone has ever spoken. She said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Then what happened when they finally made it to Bethlehem? The Bible says the whole town was stirred up because of them and all the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Ten years and the death of her husband and two sons had taken an awful toll.

Even worse, she said: “Don’t call me Naomi! Call me Mara, call me bitter, because of what the Lord has done to me” (Ruth 1:20).

But if you know the rest of the story, you know that soon everything changed, for in just a short time, Ruth met a man named Boaz. And just as soon as they married, they had a son, and Naomi became the proudest grandmother in town.

Even more, that little boy grew up and had a son. Then he grew up and had a son, a boy whose name was David. And David grew up to become king over all of Israel.

Then in time, David had a son, who had another son, who had another son, till someday, Joseph and his wife, Mary, had a Son named Jesus.

It was all part of His plan.

In a town called Zagreb, Croatia, just south of Austria and Hungary, there is what’s been called “Europe’s most innovative museum.” It’s the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Twenty years ago, when Olinka Vistika and Drazen Grubisic were going through a particularly rocky time in their relationship, they had an idea. They said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place where everyone on the planet could send objects after a breakup?” a sort of global archive of failed romances. Then a few years later, after a few friends donated items left behind from their breakups, the collection was born. Today, some one hundred thousand people visit there every year, making it one of the most popular museums in all of Croatia.

So what would you find if you were to visit there? Actually, you’d find quite a lot of things that were important, at one time or another, to broken relationships, like a love letter that was never sent, a bottle of wine that was never drunk, and a wedding dress that was never worn. You can even stop in their gift shop and pick up an eraser, a “bad memories eraser,” or a bookmark that says, “Turn over a new leaf,” or a sign that says, “You are perfect! It’s just bad timing.”

As a sign reads when you enter: “The Museum of Broken Relationships explores broken love and other human relationships, what they mean to us, what they tell us about what we share, and how we can learn and grow from them.”

And the reason people give such items, they say, is to find relief and closure and the opportunity to tell their story.

We live in a broken world, with broken people, with broken bodies, who do broken things. And while the faith we have in Jesus doesn’t take away our tragedies, it does give us a place to find strength and relief.

Come to the cross where He suffered and died. Stand beside His open tomb. Then remind yourself that even though suffering is so often hard to understand, it’s never, ever, ever without a plan.

Grant, dear Father, that Ruth’s story may also be our story, a story of redemption, love, grace, and hope, for Jesus’ sake. Amen