True Family and Friends
Ruth • Sermon • Submitted
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There are no two families that are the same in dynamics.
There are no two families that are the same in dynamics.
Every family has experienced brokenness is some way. Whether it is due to death, divorce, separation, or remarriage, each family is different. Some families come together through friendship, partnerships, and also through the church relations. The word family does not alway mean blood relations, but a joining together in the eyes of God through the love of Christ. Family can be a group of friends that hold each other close, and are closer than family. Some friends feel like a part of our family because they have always been around.
A growing trend for Thanksgiving is when a group of friends get together and have a “Friends-giving” meal. This gathering is a time of fellowship and being thankful for those in your life who chose you! And it is a time to say to your friends, “I chose you and call you family.”
For the next three weeks during this time before Thanksgiving, we will be taking a close look at the Book of Ruth. This is a short book tucked between Judges and 1 Samuel. As a matter of fact, historically, that is when this story happens. After Moses leads the Hebrew nation towards the land that was promised to Abraham’s descendants, Joshua took over leadership and guide them into their new settlement. Then there was a series of Judges, since this nation did not have a king. Each judge ruled as Moses, both prophet and leader. The people’s republic was falling apart and they really wanted a King. The prophet Samuel was born who would begrudgingly ask God to give the nation of Israel a king. But let’s back up a little. Before Samuel and towards the end of the time of the Judges, our story takes place. What is interesting is that the name Elimelech means “God is King.” Maybe God is telling us something here. No name is given without reason. Ruth, our main character is the daughter-in-law to Naomi. Naomi fled Israel with the guidance of her husband for economic reason due to the famine, along with their two sons. Unfortunately, her husband Elimelech passed away leaving her to care for their two sons alone. Since women were not permitted to work or earn an income, the two sons worked to provide for the household. The sons both married women from the region where they lived, in Moab. Unfortunately, although we are not sure what happened, the two sons passed away. This leads us to our passage for today.
Pray and Read Ruth 1:6-22
Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she 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 press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
It is interesting that she says “Mother’s house” and not Fathers house. In a patriarchal society like Israel, Moab and most regions of the time, it would have been more appropriate to say, “return to your father’s house.” Yet, in this situation, Ruth and her sister-in-law have grown an attachment to Naomi, close enough to call her “mother.” Therefore, I believe that Naomi is reminding them both that they have family away from her. Naomi cannot support them, legally or ethically. However, Ruth believes in the definition of family that I gave in the beginning. For Ruth, Naomi was family. For Ruth, she was attached to Naomi. It was in that moment that Ruth choose to stay with Naomi, regardless of the consequence for her own life. With this vow to Naomi, Ruth leaves behind all she knows, and chooses the life of a slave girl.
Naomi knew what was likely to happen to her when she returns to Bethlehem, Israel. She would have to find her husbands family and live in the house of the next of kin. She would most likely have to earn her keep with chores and other jobs on the homestead or property. The idea of bring a woman from another culture into that situation was not ideal to say the least. For Ruth, it meant that she would be property of the kinsmen, with no legal or moral ties to family otherwise. Ruth could be bought and sold. Naomi bitterly tells Ruth and Orpah the other daughter-in-law this true. Naomi is emotionally drained and with the name of Mara that she gives herself, she says that she is mad at God for putting her in this situation. For Ruth, truthfully, any other decision that she could have made would have been better for her than the one she made. Orpah made a good decision to go back to her family. I find no fault on Orpah for choosing to leave Naomi. Naomi asked them both to leave and gave very good reasons for doing so. Yet nothing can deter Ruth from leaving her way of life behind and choosing to follow Naomi into a world unknown. She agreed to walk into what was undoubtedly a bad situation. She knew that she wouldn’t know anyone but Naomi, and that the way of live way of life would be very different than anything she had experienced before.
Yet there seems to be something that Ruth knows that maybe Naomi in her bitterness has forgotten. The God of Naomi’s people is alive and works among His people. God of Israel provides. Ruth chooses not only Naomi, but her culture, and her God. Naomi says that God has turned against me. Ruth says, I am going to turn to your God.
That is one of the wonderful things about family is that they know you often times better than you know yourself. True family, like Naomi, is going to be honest with you. Real family knows when it is okay to let go and when you need to hold on. Real family loves in the worst of circumstances and rejoices with you in the best of times. Family, like Ruth and Naomi, isn’t family just by name or relations, but by actions and promises. Ruth is willing to not only take risks for her own sake but for the sake of Naomi. Ruth is a true friend and vows to stick Naomi wherever she goes. Ruth, knowing the consequences, chooses Naomi over she own biological family, friends and the way of life she knows.
Who do you Choose?
Who do you Choose?
Do you have a person like Ruth in your life? Are you like Ruth to someone else? Who can you be honest with? Who has your back? Who do you love so much that you would do anything for? Who really is your family?
Who do you want sitting around your table this Thanksgiving? I chose you! We are having a few fellowship times as a church where we can gather and be thankful for all that God has done and brought us through this past year. We even have a chance to tell those in our community who are often times overlooked, that we chose them! That we choose them to be at our table and that we are thankful for what God is and can do in their lives. Every shoe box that we pack is an expression of thanks to God for all that He has given to us, as we give from what we have been given.
Church family is suppose to be like the family of Naomi and Ruth. We chose to fellowship with each other, to be honest with each other, to support and encourage one another. I pray that you have that kind of relationship with each other. I pray that you have someone, or a few someones, even outside of our church family that you can say you chose them as your true family and friends. Let’s give thanks for our friends and family. And also, ask God how you can be a true friend and family to others in your circle.
In the Name of God the Father, Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen