The lines in Ruth 1:16 -17 have often been quoted at weddings as the bride declares to the groom, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”
But isn’t it interesting that Ruth was not talking to her groom at all, but rather to her mother-in-law? Ruth’s declaration of unqualified love to Naomi was exactly what impressed Boaz, the man who would later become her husband.
Yet, Ruth herself was quite unqualified. She lacked the qualifications to become the wife of a great man of Bethlehem, and certainly she lacked the qualifications to be the great grandmother of King David, and one of only five women mentioned in Jesus lineage! Let’s look at her resume.
Ruth was a Moabitess. Her ancestor Moab was the son of Lot. You remember him - he was Abraham’s nephew who greedily settled in Sodom because it looked like the land was the best around. But Sodom was wicked, and God destroyed it. Yet because He loved Abraham, God saved Lot and his daughters, while Lot’s wife was killed for disobedience. Lot ended up living in a cave with his daughters, and in desperation, the girls got him drunk two nights in a row so that he would impregnate them. His oldest daughter gave birth to a son and named him Moab.
The Moabites did not worship the God of Abraham, but worshipped the detestable god, Chemosh, who required human sacrifice, among other horrific things, and Baal of Peor who it is believed required sensual indulgence as a form of worship.
Several generations passed, and Abraham’s descendants were escaping from Egypt. As they passed through the land of the Moabites, they expected, or at least hoped, that their relatives would kindly let them pass through. On the contrary, Balak, King of Moab, was so terrified of the Israelites that he hired Balaam, a prophet, to come and curse the people of God. But God would not allow His people to be cursed, so Balaam blessed them instead! (See Numbers 22-24)
However, in Numbers 25 the Moabites, along with the Midianites, managed to infiltrate the Israeli camp with promiscuous women who turned the hearts of the men away from God and toward Chemosh and Baal of Peor. Consequently, in Deuteronomy 23:3, God declared that no Moabite would be able to enter into the assembly of the Lord until ten generations passed from this event!
This was the heritage of Ruth. She was only two or three generations into this ten generation punishment. She was certainly not someone that a respectable, God-fearing Jewish man would seek for a wife! But because of her unqualified love for Naomi, and the fact that she rejected the detestable gods of her people, she was shown unqualified love and acceptance by Naomi, Boaz, and the Lord.
What a beautiful love story!