But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
Ruth 1:11 (NASB95)
Of all the big questions in the Bible, this is one of the most poignant. Naomi had lost it all. She had lost her land when she and her husband had fled Judah to escape a famine. She had lost her husband. She had lost both sons in a foreign land. To her way of thinking, she had nothing to offer anyone.
In defeat, she had decided to return to her homeland and cast her fate upon the mercies of her distant relations. As was customary, her daughters-in-law began to follow her. Their task was to see to Naomi’s need. Suddenly, Naomi stopped. Turning to her daughters, she ordered them to return to their families, to the traditions of their own people, to the gods they had grown up with. One, Orpah, did just that. The other, Ruth, stubbornly refused to leave. After several failed attempts to sever ties, Naomi again asks why Ruth would follow. Ruth replies with her famous answer:
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and 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. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth had seen something in Naomi that impressed her. Don’t get the picture wrong. Both girls loved Naomi. They both wept bitterly at their mother-in-law’s order to return home. Both clung to her. Only one returned. Only one stubbornly refused to let distance separate them. What did Ruth see that Orpah did not? Why was that such a strong draw that she would refuse a rosy future for one of life-long widowhood?
While we can never be certain, we can surmise a few answers. If circumstantial evidence is good in court, we can certainly use it here.
Ruth saw a woman in Naomi who was dedicated to her husband. She left everything she knew to follow him into a foreign land. Ruth saw a strong woman. Naomi survived not only the death of her husband, but the loss of her two sons – her only family. Ruth saw strength there as well. I believe Ruth also saw where that strength came from – Naomi’s undying faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is not easy keeping the faith in such circumstances. Separated from her people, her spiritual structure, and surrounded by people who did not believe in the One True God, Naomi’s faith did not falter. When most of us would have been shaken to the core and at least seriously doubted God’s faithfulness to us, Naomi did not waver.
I believe Ruth also saw Naomi’s love: her love for her husband, her love for her sons, and her love for her daughter’s-in-law. This kind of love drew Ruth into its vortex and would not let her go. Ruth would have been bereft without it. It was a covering for her that, if removed, would have left her feeling lost and adrift.
It is all of this that initiated Ruth’s stubborn refusal to return to the home of her parents. She wanted what Naomi had. She knew it was not to be found in the home of her parents. It was to be found in the land of Naomi, in the land of Israel, in the hearts of Naomi’s people. Once that had been determined, there was no turning back for Ruth.
And so it should be with us. It is not so much what we say to people that matters. It is how we live our lives, how we live our faith that counts. The words we say about the Gospel can be transient. People hear them and may or may not remember them. It is the actions that accompany the words that make the desired impression.
I once had a Sunday school teacher whom I greatly admired, that is until I went to work for him one summer. It was then that I heard him swear like a sailor. I saw his deceptive practices. His faith was not as real as I thought. That reality dimmed his testimony. I doubt that his actions encouraged anyone outside our church family to follow Christ.
We must show people our faith. Action speaks louder than words ever will.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ru 1:11). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ru 1:16–17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.