We return to our story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah after their husbands have died. In verse 6, we see the first good news, "that the Lord had visited his people and given them food." Naomi decides it is time to go back to Israel, but she releases her daughters-in-law and tells them to go back home and find rest and a husband. (verse 9). They both told Naomi that they would stay with her and they all cried together. In verses 11-13 Naomi basically says, "Why bother going with me?", "Leave me alone". She is pleading for isolation.
Orpah kisses Naomi goodbye, but Ruth "clings" to her. She is attaching herself to Naomi. Naomi tries again to get Ruth to stay by appealing to Ruth's old way of life. Ruth responds with, "where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried." She was fighting to stay with Naomi.
Ruth had endured three pleas of her mother-in-law to go home to Moab, but she chose life with Naomi over her family, her national identity, and her religious idolatry. In one of the most beautiful expressions of commitment in all the world's literature, she tied her future to that of Naomi. Like Abraham, Ruth decided to leave her ancestors' idolatrous land to go to the land of promise. Ruth did this without the encouragement of a promise. In fact, she made her decision despite Naomi's strenuous encouragement to do otherwise!
Ruth was fighting against isolation and for congregation. We need to build the kinds of relationships that make a "clinging love" possible. We must fight for friends in the flesh instead of online or virtual friends. We must find community.
When Ruth and Naomi returned, the people in her hometown were stirred into a frenzy when they saw her. Naomi was so distraught that she asked the people to call her "Mara" which means "bitter". She saw nothing ahead but the loneliness, abandonment, and helplessness of widowhood. She fixed her gaze on what was gone instead of who was by her side. We must be careful not to do the same in times of calamity.
But the chapter ends with hope..."And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest"