Finding Fierce Friendships Ruth 1:1-22
- September 9th, 2019
Our friendship series continues. And this week we will take on a big question: Why does friendship get harder in adulthood?
We have some help imagining adult friendships from the story of Ruth and Naomi
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
6Then 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. 7So 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. 8But 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. 9The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11But 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? 12Turn 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, 13would 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.” 14Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16But 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. 17Where 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!” 18When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
19So 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?” 20She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. 21I 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?” 22So 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.
A little context goes a long way toward understanding this story. It comes from the time of the judges in Israel’s history. After Israel entered the Promised Land but before the rise of the monarchy, the 12 tribes of Israel functioned less like one nation and more like a decentralized network of 12 small nations. And, at least as portrayed in the Book of Judges, this left people vulnerable both to enemy armies and to various kinds of agricultural failures.
Case in point: there is a famine in the land. A man named Elimelech lives in Bethlehem (future birthplace of King David and, eventually, Jesus). But the famine means a depressed economy –no work, no food. So Elimelech does what desperate people often do –he migrates to another country (neighboring Moab, which is in modern day Jordan) in search of work. And he takes his family with him.
But then Elimelech dies in this foreign land. And that leaves his wife in dire straits. He two sons marry Moabite women –and the sons die, leaving Namoi and her two foreign born daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.
Naomi hears things are better now back home and she wants to return. She implores her foreign daughters-in-law to stay. Orpah does. Ruth does not.
I find it interesting that Ruth’s declaration of loyalty to Naomi is often read at weddings: Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17Where 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!” We tend to associate that level of passion and commitment with romantic love.
But can we imagine bringing a similar level of passion and commitment to our friendships? Particularly as adults?
Can friendship be fierce?
That is what we will be exploring this weekend. See you in church!