“But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!’” -Ruth 1:16
Read Ruth 1:15-17
All the talk these days is about leadership—leadership conferences, workshops and magazines. Even a casual glance over Amazon’s stock reveals nearly 34,000 books on leadership. If you don’t like to read or don’t have the time to attend a conference, a 15-minute TED Talk will get you started. Over and over again we hear the same message: be a leader. So prevalent is this emphasis on leading that recent publications focus on converting followers into leaders.
In this leadership world of ours, Ruth stands out as a symbol of followership. Left husbandless and childless in Moab, Naomi faces the prospect of returning home to Bethlehem with hardly a penny to her name. Who, if anyone, would choose to go with her? Not Orpah, who prefers to remain among her own people in Moab. Out of a deep sense of loyalty to Naomi, however, Ruth opts to follow, undeterred even by her mother-in-law’s protests. Together—a leader and her devoted follower—they make the journey back to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem Ruth follows Naomi again. Guided by Naomi’s direction, Ruth woos and marries Boaz. The union produces the ancestor of King David. All this sets the stage for another birth in Bethlehem—an event that would take place hundreds of years later but just a few miles away. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear Ruth whisper as she gazes into the distant future: “Follow the baby wherever he leads.”
Lead us, O God, to humbly follow Jesus like Ruth did Naomi—away from familiar places, through trying circumstances and into an uncertain future.
Debra Brensinger, M.A., Spiritual Director & Adjunct Faculty,
Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary