I am a sucker for a romantic movie, and my favourite one of all time is The Choice (closely followed by The Notebook). Both movies feature couples whose love beats all the odds and whose choices affect their entire lives.
We find a similar love story in the book of Ruth, a woman who was faced with a series of choices that would change not just her life but the lives of all mankind. But first let me give you a bit of the backstory.
The story of Ruth was written at the same time as Judges, and in this book we learn that the Israelites had no strong spiritual leadership. There had been several Judges appointed to bring law and order, but they had failed, and now ‘everyone did whatever seemed right to him.’ Judges 21:25
We all know that a lack of leadership can lead to vigilante style law. A lack of rules leads to rebellion, and this was certainly true of Israel at this time. This was not a stable economy, or safe society. A famine had broken out and the book begins with choice number one; Elimelech decides to flee his home town of Bethlehem with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion.
Elimelech chooses Moab
After leaving Bethlehem, Elimelech settles in the land of Moab, but shortly after dies. His sons remain in Moab and take Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah, however both of Elimelech’s sons die, leaving Naomi and her daughters in law destitute. In this day and age, it was not safe for a woman to be alone. Not only could she not provide for herself, but she could not protect herself either. Despite her deep grief at losing not only her husband, but her two children also, Naomi makes a choice to trust God. She decides that she will return to her homeland of Bethlehem upon hearing that ‘the Lord had paid attention to His people’s needs by providing them food.’ Ruth 1:6
Naomi chooses God
In choosing to trust God, she chooses to return home, but the she goes on to do another very selfless act. She tells her daughters to return home to their families. After many tears, Orpah decides to leave and is never mentioned again. Ruth on the other hand chose to stay and her name is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.
Ruth chooses Naomi
So much can hang on one decision. Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi was not made on a whim, it was made on the basis of the faith she saw rise up in her mother in law despite such abject grief. It was made on the realisation that God could and would help her, if she followed Him. That even in her darkest days, through the hardest moments, God was still God. This challenges me so deeply. On my darkest days, can I truly say that my words and actions reflect God and who He is? Do my life choices speak of the faith that rises up in me in response to difficult circumstances?
Do others see God’s hand in our choices? Our faith in our responses?
Ruth didn’t just stay with Naomi, she left all that she knew behind. She chose to embrace a culture and a God that she had not been brought up in, she left was her family home. Ruth also went one step further in making vows to Naomi. These were a covenant promise before God. She vowed to travel with Naomi, to live with her, to make Naomi’s people her people, to worship Naomi’s God, to die where she dies and be buried where she is buried.
Those are some pretty big promises to a woman who is not a blood relative. But what happens next just blows my mind. As Ruth left her bloodline, God placed her in His royal line. Because of the choices that Ruth made, she became the great grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
As I reflected on this, I wondered how God felt toward Ruth, and why she was chosen for such a great honour. In the movie The Choice, local ladies man Travis meets his neighbour Gabby and is totally captivated by her. She gets under his skin in a way that no one else ever has, and he has a phrase he uses with her; ‘You bother me, baby.’ I believe that Ruth bothered God. I believe that she was so loved by God, that He could see her beautiful heart and He wanted to honour the choices she made.
This is just the same for us today. YOU bother God. You bother Him so much that He wrote the greatest love story in the world; He sent His Son to die for you. God sees your heart and He wants to use you to show His love and mercy the world over. He wants to place you in locations and situations that you could barely imagine just so He can pour His grace and favour into your life. You bother God, and maybe, just maybe this is the time you need to choose Him to be at the centre of your life.