Ruth 1 vs 16 - 18 & 22
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 realised that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
We all know the importance of timing from the comedian seeking a response from his audience to the government minister trying to bury a bad news story on a busy news day. Naomi was left without family support in a hostile country and her only option was to return to Bethlehem, to her own people and kinsmen in the hope of finding support there. It was a mark of exceptional love and devotion that Ruth could not be turned back even by Naomi’s pleading yet that must surely have been a comfort to her and a hint of God’s grace of which more was to come. Timing you see is everything and Naomi arrived home at the beginning of the barley harvest. She had gone to Moab with her family because of famine, but returned with only a daughter in law as the harvest began in her homeland. It looks like a welcome home, a sign of better days and for these widows while the grace of God will soon be revealed his purposes will only be understood in the days well beyond their lifetime.
Waiting for God to move especially when the circumstances we face are difficult or painful can never be easy. Some of us have experienced that most acutely and sometimes it is only looking back on events with the distance of time that we can see when and how God lifted us and can trace his grace in what seems to others as small blessings. In the moment however, our distress is too great and simply surviving takes all our effort. The New Testament letter of1st Peter was addressed to suffering Christians and in that Peter writes “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” He offers no explanation, no platitudes to answer their distress but writes this...” Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Naomi and Ruth did not know it but at that point despite all their sorrow they stood at the very centre of God’s purposes for Israel and for all creation.