Ruth i. 16.—And Ruth said, 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.
The historical things in this book of Ruth seem to be inserted into the canon of the Scripture especially on two accounts:
First, Because Christ was of Ruth’s posterity. The Holy Ghost thought fit to take particular notice of that marriage of Boaz with Ruth, whence sprang the Saviour of the world. We may often observe it, that the Holy Spirit who indited the Scriptures, often takes notice of little things, minute occurrences, that do but remotely relate to Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Because this history seems to be typical of the calling of the Gentile church, and indeed of the conversion of every believer. Ruth was not originally of Israel, but was a Moabitess, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel: but she forsook her own people, and the idols of the Gentiles, to worship the God of Israel, and to join herself to that people. Herein she seems to be a type of the Gentile church, and also of every sincere convert. Ruth was the mother of Christ; he came of her posterity: so the church is Christ’s mother, as she is represented, Rev. xii., at the beginning. And so also is every true Christian his mother: Matt. xii. 50, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Christ is what the soul of every one of the elect is in travail with in the new birth. Ruth forsook all her natural relations and her own country, the land of her nativity, and all her former possessions there, for the sake of the God of Israel; as every true Christian forsakes all for Christ. Psalm xlv. 10, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house.”
Naomi was now returning out of the land of Moab into the land of Israel with her two daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth; who will represent to us two sorts of professors of religion: Orpah, that sort that indeed make a fair profession, and seem to set out well, but dure but for a while, and then turn back; Ruth, that sort that are sound and sincere, and therefore are steadfast and persevering in the way that they have set out in. Naomi in the preceding verses represents to these her daughters the difficulties of their leaving their own country to go with her. And in this verse may be observed,
1. The remarkable conduct and behavior of Ruth on this occasion; with what inflexible resolution she cleaves to Naomi and follows her. When Naomi first arose to return from the country of Moab into the land of Israel, Orpah and Ruth both set out with her; and Naomi exhorts them both to return. And they both of them wept, and seemed as if they could not bear the thoughts of leaving her, and appeared as if they were resolved to go with her: verse 10, “And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.” Then Naomi says to them again, “Turn again, my daughters, go your way,” &c. And then they were greatly affected again, and Orpah returned and went back. Now Ruth’s steadfastness in her purpose had a greater trial, but yet is not overcome: “She clave unto her,” verse 14. Then Naomi speaks to her again, verse 15, “Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.” And then she shows her immovable resolution in the text and following verse.
2. I would particularly observe that wherein the virtuousness of this her resolution consists, viz., that it was for the sake of the God of Israel, and that she might be one of his people, that she was thus resolved to cleave to Naomi: “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” It was for God’s sake that she did thus; and therefore her so doing is afterwards spoken of as a virtuous behavior in her, chap. ii. 11, 12: “And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father, and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” She left her father and mother, and the land of her nativity, to come and trust under the shadow of God’s wings: and she had indeed a full reward given her, as Boaz wished; for besides immediate spiritual blessings to her own soul and eternal rewards in another world, she was rewarded with plentiful and prosperous outward circumstances in the family of Boaz. And God raised up David and Solomon of her seed, and established the crown of Israel (the people that she chose before her own people) in her posterity; and—which is much more—of her seed he raised up Jesus Christ, in whom all the families of the earth are blessed.
From the words thus opened, I observe this for the subject of my present discourse:
When those that we have formerly been conversant with, are turning to God, and joining themselves to his people, it ought to be our firm resolution, that we will not leave them; but that their people shall be our people, and their God our God.
It sometimes happens, that of those who have been conversant one with another, that have dwelt together as neighbors, and have been often together as companions, or have been united in near relation, and have been together in darkness, bondage and misery in the service of Satan, some are enlightened, and have their minds changed, are made to see the great evil of sin, and have their hearts turned to God, and are influenced by the Holy Spirit of God to leave their company that are on Satan’s side to go and join themselves with that blessed company that are with Jesus Christ; they are made willing to forsake the tents of wickedness, to dwell in the land of uprightness with the people of God.
And sometimes this proves a final parting or separation between them and those that they have been formerly conversant with. Though it may be no parting in outward respects, they may still dwell together and may converse one with another; yet in other respects, it sets them at a great distance one from another: one is a child of God, and the other the enemy of God; one is in a miserable, and the other in a happy condition; one is a citizen of the heavenly Zion, the other is under condemnation to hell. They are no longer together in those respects wherein they used to be together. They used to be of one mind to serve sin and do Satan’s work; now they are of contrary minds. They used to be together in worldliness and sinful vanity; now they are of exceeding different dispositions. They are separated as they are in different kingdoms; the one remains in the kingdom of darkness, the other is translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. And sometimes they are finally separated in these respects; while one dwells in the land of Israel, and in the house of God, the other, like Orpah, lives and dies in the land of Moab.
Now ’tis lamentable when it is thus. ’Tis awful being parted so. ’Tis doleful, when of those that have formerly been together in sin, some turn to God, and join themselves with his people, that it should prove a parting between them and their former companions and acquaintance. It should be our firm and inflexible resolution in such a case that it shall be no parting, but that we will follow them, that their people shall be our people, and their God our God; and that for the following reasons:
I. Because their God is a glorious God. There is none like him, who is infinite in glory and excellency. He is the most high God, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. His name is excellent in all the earth, and his glory is above the earth and the heavens. Among the gods there is none like unto him; there is none in heaven to be compared to him, nor are there any among the sons of the mighty that can be likened unto him. Their God is the fountain of all good, and an inexhaustible fountain; he is an all-sufficient God, able to protect and defend them, and do all things for them. He is the King of glory, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle: a strong rock, and a high tower. There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rideth on the heaven in their help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is their refuge, and underneath are everlasting arms. He is a God that hath all things in his hands, and does whatsoever he pleases: he killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up; he maketh poor and maketh rich: the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s. Their God is an infinitely holy God; there is none holy as the Lord. And he is infinitely good and merciful. Many that others worship and serve as gods are cruel beings, spirits that seek the ruin of souls; but this is a God that delighteth in mercy; his grace is infinite and endures forever. He is love itself, an infinite fountain and ocean of it.
Such a God is their God! Such is the excellency of Jacob! Such is the God of them who have forsaken their sins and are converted! They have made a wise choice who have chosen this for their God. They have made a happy exchange indeed, that have exchanged sin and the world for such a God!
They have an excellent and glorious Saviour, who is the only-begotten Son of God; the brightness of his Father’s glory; one in whom God from eternity had infinite delight; a Saviour of infinite love; one that has shed his own blood and made his soul an offering for their sins, and one that is able to save them to the uttermost.
II. Their people are an excellent and happy people. God has renewed them, and instamped his own image upon them, and made them partakers of his holiness. They are more excellent than their neighbors, Prov. xii. 26. Yea, they are the excellent of the earth, Psalm xvi. 3. They are lovely in the sight of the angels; and they have their souls adorned with those graces that in the sight of God himself are of great price.
The people of God are the most excellent and happy society in the world. That God whom they have chosen for their God is their Father; he has pardoned all their sins, and they are st peace with him; and he has admitted them to all the privileges of his children. As they have devoted themselves to God, so God has given himself to them. He is become their salvation and their portion: his power and mercy and all his attributes are theirs. They are in a safe state, free from all possibility of perishing: Satan has no power to destroy them. God carries them on eagle’s wings, far above Satan’s reach, and above the reach of all the enemies of their souls. God is with them in this world; they have his gracious presence. God is for them; who then can be against them? As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so Jehovah is round about them. God is their shield and their exceeding great reward; and their fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And they have the divine promise and oath that in the world to come they shall dwell forever in the glorious presence of God.
It may well be sufficient to induce us to resolve to cleave to those that forsake their sins and idols to join themselves with this people, that God is with them, Zech. viii. 23: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” So should persons as it were take hold of the skirt of their neighbors and companions that have turned to God, and resolve that they will go with them, because God is with them.
III. Happiness is nowhere else to be had, but in their God, and with their people. There are that are called gods many, and lords many. Some make gods of their pleasures; some choose Mammon for their god; some make gods of their own supposed excellencies, or the outward advantages they have above their neighbors: some choose one thing for their god, and others another. But men can be happy in no other God but the God of Israel: he is the only fountain of happiness. Other gods can’t help in calamity; nor can any of them afford what the poor empty soul stands in need of. Let men adore those other gods never so much, and call upon them never so earnestly, and serve them never so diligently, they will nevertheless remain poor, wretched, unsatisfied, undone creatures. All other people are miserable, but that people whose God is the Lord.—The world is divided into two societies. There are the people of God, the little flock of Jesus Christ, that company that we read of, Rev. xiv. 4. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” And there are those that belong to the kingdom of darkness, that are without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. All that are of this latter company are wretched and undone; they are the enemies of God, and under his wrath and condemnation. They are the devil’s slaves, that serve him blindfold, and are befooled and ensnared by him, and hurried along in the broad way to eternal perdition.
IV. When those that we have formerly been conversant with are turning to God, and to his people, their example ought to influence us. Their example should be looked upon as the call of God to us to do as they have done. God, when he changes the heart of one, calls upon another; especially does he loudly call on those that have been their friends and acquaintance. We have been influenced by their examples in evil; and shall we cease to follow them when they make the wisest choice that ever they made, and do the best thing that ever they did? If we have been companions with them in worldliness, in vanity, in unprofitable and sinful conversation, it will be a hard case, if there must be a parting now, because we be not willing to be companions with them in holiness and true happiness. Men are greatly influenced by seeing one another’s prosperity in other things. If those whom they have been much conversant with grow rich, and obtain any great earthly advantages, it awakens their ambition and eager desire after the like prosperity. How much more should they be influenced, and stirred up to follow them, and be like them, when they obtain that spiritual and eternal happiness that is of infinitely more worth than all the prosperity and glory of this world!
V. Our resolutions to cleave to and follow those that are turning to God, and joining themselves to his people, ought to be fixed and strong, because of the great difficulty of it. If we will cleave to them, and have their God for our God, and their people for our people, we must mortify and deny all our lusts, and cross every evil appetite and inclination, and forever part with all sin. But our lusts are many and violent. Sin is naturally exceeding dear to us; to part with it is compared to plucking out our right eyes. Men may refrain from wonted ways of sin for a little while, and may deny their lusts in a partial degree, with less difficulty; but ’tis heart-rending work, finally to part with all sin, and to give our dearest lusts a bill of divorce, utterly to send them away. But this we must do, if we would follow those that are truly turning to God. Yea, we must not only forsake sin, but must, in a sense, forsake all the world: Luke xiv. 33, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That is, he must forsake all in his heart, and must come to a thorough disposition and readiness actually to quit all for God and the glorious spiritual privileges of his people, whenever the case may require it; and that without any prospect of any thing of the like nature, or any worldly thing whatsoever, to make amends for it; and all to go into a strange country, a land that has hitherto been unseen; like Abraham, who being called of God, “went out of his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, for a land that God should show him, not knowing whither he went.”
Thus it was a hard thing for Ruth to forsake her native country and her father and mother, her kindred and acquaintance, and all the pleasant things she had in the land of Moab, to dwell in the land of Israel, where she never had been. Naomi told her of the difficulties once and again. They were too hard for her sister Orpah; the consideration of them turned her back after she was set out. Her resolution was not firm enough to overcome them. But so firmly resolved was Ruth, that she broke through all; she was steadfast in it, that, let the difficulty be what it would, she would not leave her mother in law. So persons had need to be very firm in their resolution to conquer the difficulties that are in the way of cleaving to them who are indeed turning from sin to God.
Our cleaving to them, and having their God for our God and their people for our people, depends on our resolution and choice; and that in two respects.
1. The firmness of resolution in using means in order to it, is the way to have means effectual. There are means appointed in order to our becoming some of the true Israel and having their God for our God; and the thorough use of these means is the way to have success; but not a slack or slighty use of them. And that we may be thorough, there is need of strength of resolution, a firm and inflexible disposition and bent of mind to be universal in the use of means, and to do what we do with our might, and to persevere in it. Matt. xi. 12, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”
2. A choosing of their God and their people, with a full determination and with the whole soul, is the condition of an union with them. God gives every man his choice in this matter: as Orpah and Ruth had their choice, whether they would go with Naomi into the land of Israel, or stay in the land of Moab. A natural man may choose deliverance from hell; but no man doth ever heartily choose God and Christ, and the spiritual benefits that Christ has purchased, and the happiness of God’s people, till he is converted. On the contrary, he is averse to them; he has no relish of them; and is wholly ignorant of the inestimable worth and value of them.
Many carnal men do seem to choose these things, but do it not really: as Orpah seemed at first to choose to forsake Moab to go into the land of Israel. But when Naomi came to set before her the difficulty of it, she went back; and thereby showed that she was not fully determined in her choice, and that her whole soul was not in it as Ruth’s was.