Naomi and Elimelec left Judah because of a drought to settle in the land of Moab. The land of promise had become parched and barren, causing them to seek sustenance in a foreign land without promise – a common response to a seemingly natural occurrence. Elimelec and Naomi had two sons, and each married a daughter of Moab, Orpah and Ruth. Later, Elimelec died, leaving Naomi a widow dependent on her sons. Then her two sons died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law seemingly alone with out support. It was then that she arose to return to the land of promise. However, Naomi was without hope or faith, saying, “The hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” So she sent her daughters-in-law away to return to their mother’s house that they might find new husbands.
However, Ruth would not do so. She clung to Naomi (same word that is used in Genesis, “that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife”). Ruth declared, “where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Where did Ruth find the faith to commit to a vow to which no one would hold her? Having little visible means of support, Ruth would place her trust in the God of her husband to sustain her and her mother in law.
Ruth followed Naomi to her home, but for Ruth it was a foreign land. To feed herself and Naomi, she worked gleaning the grain left behind by workers in a stranger’s field. However, Boaz would notice her and respond with a blessing, “May your wages be full from the Lord the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” Though Naomi had seen herself going out from the Promised Land full and returning empty with the hand of God against her, God would, in one event after another, more than fulfill every promise. So Naomi and Ruth came to understand that God indeed had not withdrawn his kindness (devotion) from them. They had become empty vessels whose lives would be filled with the blessings of God and through which God would bless the world.