Having spent many years working with teenagers, I been evolved in some lively conversations. We have talked about Everything from games and memes, I have no idea about, to food, to shoes, but when you hang in there long enough, the topic of relationships almost always rises. One thing I have noticed through the years is that the kids bring up the seeming lack of loyalty in relationships around them. It’s no secret that changes throughout the teenage years can often result in self-focus, fickle feelings, shifts in friendship groups, and short-lived romantic interests. Unfortunately, the absence of loyalty isn’t just exclusive to the teenage years.
The world we live in has distorted views on loyalty. The more and more people I talk to the more convinced I am that most peoples loyalty lies in their own needs not the others in the relationship. I am not only speaking of marriage, but also friendships, jobs, churches and ministries. With staggering divorce rates, decreasing job longevity, and even a trending lack of commitment to the local church, the priority the world places on personal convenience and fulfillment the evidence of out lack of loyalty is staggering. Ruth chose to be loyal to a mother- in -law and shows us how we can put others needs above our own desires.
Ruth 1:8-18 New International Version (NIV)
8 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. 9 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 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 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? 12 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— 13 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!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 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. 17 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.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
That’s why the story of Ruth is so captivating.
In the first chapter, right smack dab in the middle of personal tragedy, Ruth introduces us to a kind of loyal love that can be a rare find in human relationships. The Hebrew word for Ruth here is hesed, and it’s become one of my most precious words in the Bible. Hesed is difficult to translate to English because there is no single word in English that encapsulates all its meanings. to define hesed we us words such “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” “sacrificial love”, “loyalty,” and “steadfast.” Hesed is one of the richest, most powerful words in the Old Testament. It reflects the loyal love that people committed to the God of the Bible should have for one another. It is not a “mood.”Hesed is not something people “feel.” It is something people DO for other people. The word hesed is displayed throughout the story of Ruth where it is usually translated “kindness.” Love is something we do, not primarily something we feel.
On the way, when Naomi was returning to her homeland, her daughters-in-law must make the difficult decision to stay or to go with the old woman they have grown to love deeply. It would make more sense for Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab – their family ties were in the place they had called home their entire lives, and their chances for remarriage were greater there. In Israel it was doubtful that the young widows would find husbands, and to be a childless widow during this time was considered to be among the lowest of social classes.
Orpah ultimately makes the heart-wrenching decision to stay in Moab, but Ruth clung to Naomi as she promised that Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God would be her God. From the world’s perspective, Ruth had nothing to gain and everything to lose, but bold faith and loyal love often require a walk down a unfamiliar road.
As we study the book of Ruth together, be on the constant lookout for the depth of God’s loyal love as He orchestrates events and details in lives as only He can. Chapter by chapter look for His overwhelming, grace-filled, consistent, fully-redeeming, unconditional love to those who had initially strayed from Him.
My prayer is that we would be open to let God’s hesed toward us change us from within, like Ruth, and cause us to pass onto others what our loving Father has given to us.
Strive everyday to be loyal and more hesed to those that God has given us the pleasure to be involved in their lives.