Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Lessons Learned From Ruth and Naomi

This week for my lesson in Primary I shared the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi with the children. I had heard the story before, but reading it again brought me a new understanding of the real beauty of the story. Let me give you a brief re-telling.

Naomi was married and lived with her husband during a time of famine. Because of the famine, their family moved to Moab. Naomi's husband died, and not long after, her sons married, one to Orpah and one to Ruth. The sons then died, leaving only Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. 

The three women left Moab and went to Judah where Naomi insisted that her daughters-in-law return to their own families because they had already suffered so much. She told them that she could take care of herself, and that the Lord would take care of her. They refused, and Naomi reminded them that she had no more sons for them to marry; she wanted them to go and remarry and find happiness.

Orpah took counsel from Naomi and returned to her home, whereas Ruth staunchly refused, telling Naomi, 

"Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."  (Ruth 1: 16-17)

Naomi realized she could not convince Ruth to leave her, and so the two of them went to Bethlehem where Ruth began working in the grain fields of a man named Boaz. Boaz took notice of Ruth and learned of her devotion to her mother-in-law. He was impressed by her kindness and her love, and eventually married her. They had a son named Obed, and in Matthew 1 we learn that Jesus Christ was a direct descendant of Obed.

I guess the reason that this story really impressed me today was in the realization that Jesus Christ's birth was partially the result of Ruth's actions. She chose to remain loyal to her mother-in-law, and to stand by her in her time of need. It couldn't have been easy; I'm sure she missed her family and had higher hopes for her young life than traveling around caring for an old woman. But her Christlike love for Naomi would not let her abandon her and so she stood by her. Those two verses containing Ruth's impassioned reply to Naomi are two of my favorite verses in all scripture, because they show such a complete and sincere love and devotion. 

It was that love and devotion that drew Boaz to Ruth, and planted the seed of love in his heart for her. And it was their love that created the descendants that would eventually include the Savior of the world.

It gives me pause to consider how my actions influence not only my own life, but the lives of those around me. We never know how significant our example might be to someone else, how making a decision can affect the outcome of our future ancestors. May we all look to Ruth as a righteous example, and remember always how her selflessness and love changed the history of the world. 

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