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11th October 2023


Ruth part 2,
Going Home, a poem by Mary Birch

Naomi, mourning set out for Judah,
He sons’ widows, Ruth and Orpha began to journey with her
But before long
Naomi saw that this was wrong.
She said, “With me you will only spoil your life.
Go home another man to wife.”
Orpha, with many tears obeyed
Faithful Ruth she could not persuade.

“Do not beg me to forsake you
I will go where this road takes you.
Your kin will be my kinship
Your God with you I’ll worship.
May he punish me severely
If aught but death parts you from me!”


When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— Would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Ruth 1:6-22


Naomi realised there was nothing left for her in Moab. The famine which had swept Judah was in the past and she longed to go home to the people and places she had left behind. As widows all three women were vulnerable. They could not get jobs and would have to fall on the mercy of family. Naomi released the girls from any debt they may have felt and Orpha left to go back to her father’s house.
Ruth though could not. She felt such love for her mother-in-law that she could not bear to see her journey on alone; old and saddened as she was. Ruth words to Naomi have echoed down through the ages as a beautiful example of faithfulness and love.

I have come to realise over the years that one of the best gifts we can give to others doesn’t cost money, isn’t about good advice or sympathetic words but is simply our time and our attention. As Ruth spoke these words to Naomi she was offering to stay with her, to journey alongside her; indeed, simply to be there.

I imagine Naomi was overwhelmed with gratitude and suddenly, in spite of the situation in which she found herself, there was hope. There was a companion who would be there. Friendship is incredibly valuable and often sadly overlooked. We have very many songs about romantic love but the constancy of a friend is so often undervalued. Hold on to your friends, make time for them, make space for them; they are a gift from God to you.

For Reflection

  • How can I strengthen and cultivate the friendships that God has given me?
  • Are there people in the church or other groups that God is calling me to spend more time
  • with?
  • How much time am I investing in the friendship I have with Jesus?

A song related to this theme:


Prayer

Lord we thank you again today for the friends you have given to us.
Thank you for shared experiences, thank you for the care we have received and the care we have been able to show.
Thank you for those people with whom we can have honest conversations and share our hopes and dreams and fears.
Make us mindful of those who are lonely or afraid or anxious and give us the time and the space to be there for them. Make us eager to listen and slow to speak.
Thank you that we can call ourselves friends of God and help us to bring others into that relationship too.
Amen

Written by Sue Allen

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