Because Of Her
Topic: Appreciating Women Scripture: Ruth 1:11–1:18
There are lots of elements of life that we take for granted on a daily basis, i.e., hot, running water, air conditioning, the convenience of a department store; and who could forget, the almighty Wi-Fi. But while all of those things and more are staples and constants in our lives, it’s hard to say we wouldn’t be the same person if they had been missing from our story. Maybe Wi-Fi is the exception. But there’s one ever-present reality in life that I think we often take for granted, and without, we would likely be tremendously different people. I’m talking the influence and reach of the women in our lives. Time magazine published a fascinating article last year titled, “A Day Without A Woman.” The article gives the reader a glimpse into what the world would look like without women. Now, we can come up with a list of a few relatively obvious things. But let me share a few that stood out to me. Without women, America would be without:
- Three-quarters of the country’s public-school teachers.
- 91% of all registered nurses.
- 60% of all accountants.
- 55% of all undergraduate students enrolled in 4-year universities.
- 75% of all pediatric doctors.
- And around 36 million (well over half) of the people who have volunteered for nonprofit and charitable organizations.
Regardless of whether we are thinking about education, finances, physical health, altruistic action, or even future generations, the story of everyone in the world would be drastically altered, without the presence of women in our lives. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the personal, tender, familiar relationships that impact family and friends. It is likely that every single one of us can look back on our lives and say “Because of Her” and then share the litany of ways one or a few significant women have shaped our stories.
Today is Mother’s Day. A day where we try, as best as we are able, to recognize, celebrate, remember, and honor our mother’s. Whether it’s with macaroni art, breakfast in bed, a sentimental greeting card, or a spa day…we try to do something to show the mothers in our lives just how much they mean to us. And the reason why is evident in ways we can’t always vocalize, our lives are changed Because of Her.
Losing my mother at a young age forced me to miss out on a host of memories many of you likely have but watching Caitlin be Isaac and Levi’s mom has been more of a reaching blessing than I could imagine. Because of her, I never have to worry about our boys when I head into the office. Because of her, I get to see examples of God’s tenderness and gentle love. Because of her, I’m able to live into my call as a pastor. And even though your memories and circumstances might be different, we all have our own Because of Her moments and blessings.
And one of the most powerful aspects of this truth is, that sometimes, the Her isn’t only our birth mother. The impact and efficacy of a woman’s role in our lives can come from many places. A grandparent. An aunt. A dear friend. A mentor. A teacher. And I believe the single most lasting, powerful, meaningful gift any person can give to another is sharing the truth and power of Christ’s love, both in their words and in the life they live. And we see that in our first text. The apostle Paul is moved and filled with joy when he is writing to Timothy, and recalls the faith of Timothy’s grandmother and mother, and how their faithfulness to the Lord formed and fostered a legacy that is now being lived out in this new, young leader. Because of Lois and Eunice, Timothy was prepared to become one of the most influential leaders in the early church. If that’s not a Mother’s Day sermon text, I don’t know what is. But there’s another text I want to look at as well.
It’s a moment between two women in the Old Testament. A moment that is sometimes even used in marriage ceremonies. It spotlights the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. This account takes place during the time of the Judges. The Judges were unique leaders that often played a role of leadership mixed between revolutionary, military, and political. Overall, this was a dark period for the people of God, and perhaps, the most disappointing, regarding how faithful the people were to God. We're in the book of Judges (which comes right before the book of Ruth). Judges is a cyclical story of God’s people, wandering from Him, being conquered or enslaved by an enemy. God's people cried out for help, and then God sent a Judge to free the people, and then the people wandering from God, yet again. This was a low point for God’s people. But within this series of sad events, we get to witness something remarkable in a foreign woman, named Ruth.
The book of Ruth opens by telling us that there is a great famine in the land, which it was so bad, the Israelites were leaving home and going to foreign countries to survive. Naomi and her husband and their two sons were included. So as a family, they relocated to Moab, clear across the Dead Sea from their home. We learn that Naomi’s husband died shortly after the move and that her two sons both married Moabite women, again foreigners. Ten years go by, and both of Naomi’s sons pass away. Naomi has now lost her husband, and both her sons and remains only with the two women who married her sons.
Naomi later learns that things have improved back home where, she came from, before the famine, and so Naomi and her two daughters-in-law prepare for the journey back to Naomi’s home. In what has to be a painful act of selflessness, Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to go back to the home of their mothers, and the land they know. She thanks them for their kindness, and gives them a blessing to receive the same kindness, and the hope that they will find new husbands, and start new chapters in their lives. And that’s when we come to our second text for this morning. I’m going to read Ruth 1:11-18.
* Read Ruth 1:11-18 *
When we open the pages of Scripture, we have to remember that we are entering the personal accounts and moments of real people with real emotions. We glimpse into the circumstances of real people during periods of celebration and sorrow, joy and fear, loss and hope. And this interaction, in the story of Ruth and Naomi, allows us to witness a tender moment of affection and devotion that is truly unique and moving. Ruth offers her mother-in-law, Naomi, an incredible gift in her allegiance and selfless love.
There are several things we know from this exchange. We know that Naomi is filled with a deep sorrow. Her heart is broken, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that her will to go on is broken too. Naomi even shares that she feels God is against her. So we know, to a degree, what is happening with Naomi. And we know what Ruth says, and that gives us a glimpse into her heart. Ruth had a decision. She could kiss this older woman goodbye, just as Orpah did, and start a new life, or she could align her story with Naomi’s. And that is precisely what Ruth does. Where Naomi goes, where she rests, who her people are, the God she worships, even where Naomi dies. Ruth attaches herself to those circumstances. So we also know, to a degree, what is going on with Ruth.
What we don’t know is the "why". Why is a young woman like Ruth willing to make such a gesture and sacrifice? The first chapter of Ruth only gives us the cliff notes of the relationship between these two women. But Naomi must have left a profound impact on Ruth’s life. Because of Naomi, Ruth does the unthinkable. Because of her, Ruth chooses a leap of faith over the cultural norm. Because of her, Ruth embraces diversity instead of returning to her corner of the world. Because of her, Ruth begins seeking and worshipping the Living God of all creation. Naomi’s story may have contained several tragic chapters, but because of her, Ruth’s story is one saturated with inspiration. Something about the presence and influence and affection of this older woman fostered and produced a remarkable quality within Ruth. A quality that would be passed down in her family and that would fashion an incredible legacy. Ruth’s son would become the grandfather of King David and out of that lineage would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Whether it be a mother (like Eunice), a grandmother (like Lois as in the case of Timothy, a teacher, friend, many of us are blessed because of the women the Lord has placed within our stories.
So my encouragement to you is - to praise God for blessing you with those women, whoever they may be. And then let those women know what an impact they have made in your life. Your mother, sibling, friend, mentor. Whatever role the Lord has asked her to play in your story, let her know that you are thankful and that you are who you are today, Because of Her.