The story of Ruth is one of my favorite stories in the Bible.
These two women, Ruth and Naomi, whose husbands had abandoned them by death, and who the system has abandoned because they had no husbands, come together and, trusting God, figure out how to get on with their lives.
There is one place in the book Ruth addresses Naomi with the famous line, which for some unknown reason we use at weddings, even though it is totally out of context, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
Ruth is a love story...not just between two women (a mother and daughter-in-law of all things...those relationships are not really famous for love, are they?) or just between Ruth and Boaz. It’s really a love story between Ruth and God...and how even outsiders are loved by God and used to fulfill God’s promises (for within Ruth’s lineage the two greatest kings in Israel would be born – David and Jesus!)
Part of what is interesting to me is that when Ruth says, "...my God..." she does not use the name Elohim, which is what a foreigner or nonbeliever would use. She uses Yahweh – the name only a believer, one who knew and loved God – would use.
Ruth uses the intimate name for God, the Hebrew term used by folks who know and love and are in relationship with God. Ruth, this Moabite woman, uses the “insider” term when choosing to follow the God of Naomi.
Ruth knew God through the witness of Naomi. It was evangelism at its purest. Somehow, through Naomi’s life of faith, Ruth came to know God. When offered the option to return to her own people and her own gods, Ruth chose the God of Naomi, the God of Israel.
It’s not a unique way for someone to know God through the life of another. Indeed, I believe that it is the most common way for people to learn about who God is and about God’s acceptance and love.
It’s frightening, really, to think that people will know God – or not know God- because of how we live our lives. But this story shows it, and each of us can tell the names of the people who lived their lives in such a way to show us God. Whether they are parents, spouses, friends, children, or co-workers, we know the folks in whom we saw God and experienced God’s acceptance and love.
The big question is if our own names will come up when others are remembering those who have demonstrated God’s love to them.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.