God of our Mothers

Title: God of our Mothers

Bible Book: Ruth 1 : 1-12

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Mother; Women; Ruth



Daniel C. Roberts, the 35 year-old rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a small rural church in Brandon, Vermont, wanted a new hymn for his congregation to celebrate the American Centennial in 1876. He wrote “God of Our Fathers” and his congregation sang it.

Today, I want to talk to you, not about the God of our fathers, but about the GOD OF OUR MOTHERS.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Like father, like son”? What about the expression, “Like mother, like daughter”? The original expression seems to pertain to the mothers, and as far as I can tell, it was first used by the prophet Ezekiel as a message from God for wayward Jerusalem and Israel saying…

(Ezekiel 16:44) Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

The mother (or in the case of our text today, the mother-in-law) sets an example for the daughter and the child.

Susanna Wesley, born Susanna Annesley, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley and Mary White, and the mother of John and Charles Wesley. She was born on Wednesday 20 January 1669 and died on 23 July 1742. Susanna Wesley was the 25th of 25 children. Her father, Dr. Samuel Annesley, was a dissenter of the established church of England. She met Samuel Wesley and was married on 11 November 1688. Samuel was 26 and Susanna was 19. Susanna and Samuel Wesley had 19 children. Nine of her children died as infants. Four of the children that died were twins. A maid accidentally smothered one child. At her death only eight of her children were still alive. She wrote…

I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe, the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.

During this hour she would inquire after the state of their soul on its journey as well as their progress, fears, expectations, and goals in other endeavors.

She was a great example and pattern to her children.

I don’t know that Naomi, the wife of Elimilech was as committed in her devotion to God as Susanna Wesley was. But there was something in her that ultimately caused her daughter-in-law to say, ‘Thy God shall be my God.’

I want us to think today about the spiritual journey of Ruth, and how she decided to follow the God of her mother-in-law.

I. Let’s Think About The Defilement In Ruth’s History

A. There Was Defilement In The Origin Of Her Lineage

Moab was the product of incest…

(Genesis 19:29-38) And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt. {30} And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. {31} And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: {32} Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. {33} And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. {34} And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. {35} And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. {36} Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. {37} And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. {38} And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says of Moab that it means…

(“from father”), i.e. the incestuous offspring of Lot’s older daughter, near Zoar, S.E. of the Dead Sea (Genesis 19:37). Originally the Moabites dwelt due E. of the Dead Sea, from whence they expelled the Emims. Their territory was 40 miles long, 12 wide. … Israel was forbidden to meddle with them (Judges 11:9,19) on account of the tie of blood through Lot, Abraham’s nephew, for Jehovah gave Ar unto the children of Lot, having dispossessed the giant Emims. It was only when Moab seduced Israel to idolatry and impurity (Numbers 25), and hired Balaam to curse them, that they were excluded from Jehovah’s congregation to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3-4).

Cf. (Deuteronomy 23:3-4) An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: {4} Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.

B. There Was Defilement In The Orthodoxy Of Her Land And Religion

(Ruth 1:15) And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

The word “gods” in this verse is the same word that Ruth uses in verse 16 for “God.” But the plural, ordinary deities of Moab were nothing compared to the supreme God!

gods – Hebrew 430. 'elohiym, el-o-heem'; plur. of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but spec. used (in the plur. thus, esp. with the art.) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:--angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty.

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says that the national deity of the Moabites was called “Chemosh”…

Chemosh – (Hebrews Kemosh´, fire-god‎), the national deity of the Moabites; … he also appears as the god of the Ammonites, but not of the Amorites. Solomon introduced, and Josiah abolished, the worship of Chemosh at Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13). With regard to the meaning of the name, and the position which Chemosh held in mythology, we have nothing to record beyond doubtful and discordant conjectures. … Chemosh (was) worshipped, according to a Jewish tradition … under the form of a black stone; and Maimonides states that his worshippers went bareheaded. … (Chemosh was known) by the sacrifice apparently of children to him (see 2 Kings 3:27).

Cf. (2 Kings 3:26-27) And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. {27} Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

C. There Was Defilement In The Object Of Her Love

The Bible tells us that Ruth was the wife of Mahlon, whose name means “sickly”…

(Ruth 4:10) Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says of Mahlon that he was…

The elder of the two sons of Elimelech the Bethlehemite by Naomi; they removed with him to Moab, where this one married Ruth, and died childless (Ruth 1:2, 5; 4:9, 10). … It is uncertain which was the elder of the two. In the narrative (Ruth 1:2, 5) Mahlon is mentioned first, but in his formal address to the elders in the gate (Ruth 4:9), Boaz says ‘Chilion and Mahlon.’ Like his brother, Mahlon died in the land of Moab without offspring, which in the Targum on Ruth (Ruth 1:5) is explained to have been a judgment for their transgression of the law in marrying a Moabitess.

Matthew Henry said of the family’s move to Moab…

It is an evidence of a discontented, distrustful, unstable spirit, to be weary of the place in which God hath set us, and to be for leaving it immediately whenever we meet with any uneasiness or inconvenience in it. It is folly to think of escaping that cross which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it. Or, if he would remove, why to the country of Moab? If he had made enquiry, it is probable he would have found plenty in some of the tribes of Israel, those, for instance, on the other side Jordan, that bordered on the land of Moab; if he had had that zeal for God and his worship, and that affection for his brethren which became an Israelite, he would not have persuaded himself so easily to go and sojourn among Moabites.

II. Let’s Think About The Decision Of Ruth’s Heart

(Ruth 1:16)

And Ruth said, Entreat 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:

A. Notice The Ramifications Associated With Her Decision

Her decision affected her place, her people, and her profession.

Adam Clarke wrote…

[And Ruth said] A more perfect surrender was never made of friendly feelings to a friend: I will not leave thee-I will follow thee: I will lodge where thou lodgest-take the same fare with which thou meetest; thy people shall be my people-I most cheerfully abandon my own country, and determine to end my days in thine. I will also henceforth have no god but thy God, and be joined with thee in worship, as I am in affection and consanguinity. I will cleave unto thee even unto death; die where thou diest; and be buried, it possible, in the same grave. This was a most extraordinary attachment, and evidently without any secular motive.

The Targum adds several things to this conversation between Naomi and Ruth. I shall subjoin them: “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee,” for I desire to become a proselyte. And Naomi said, We are commanded to keep the Sabbath and other holy days; and on it not to travel more than two thousand cubits. And Ruth said, “Whither thou goest, I will go.” And Naomi said, We are commanded not to lodge with the Gentiles. Ruth answered, “Where thou lodgest,” I will lodge.” And Naomi said, We are commanded to observe the one hundred and thirteen precepts. Ruth answered, What thy people observe, that will I observe; as if they had been my people of old. And Naomi said, We are commanded not to worship with any strange worship. Ruth answered, “Thy God shall be my God.” Naomi said, We have four kinds of capital punishment for criminals; stoning, burning, beheading, and hanging. Ruth answered, “In whatsoever manner thou diest, I will die.” Naomi said, We have a house of burial. Ruth answered, “And there will I be buried.”

B. Notice The Resolve Associated With Her Decision

(Ruth 1:18) When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

steadfastly minded – Hebrew 553. 'amats, aw-mats'; a prim. root; to be alert, phys. (on foot) or mentally (in courage):--confirm, be courageous (of good courage, stedfastly minded, strong, stronger), establish, fortify, harden, increase, prevail, strengthen (self), make strong (obstinate, speed).

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says…

As she insisted strongly upon going with her (hit­°ameets, to stiffen one's self firmly upon a thing), Naomi gave up persuading her any more to return.

She had made up her mind! I think I’ll just go with God!

C. Notice The Route Associated With Her Decision

(Ruth 1:19) So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

This was a journey of some 70 to 75 miles that led northward up around the Dead Sea. The destination was Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” What a beautiful picture of a sinner who leaves their old life and makes their journey to the house of God, going on an upward path that crosses beyond the place of deadness.

III. Let’s Think About The Destination With Ruth’s Husband

A. In Connection To Boaz, There Was A Work In Ruth’s Life

(Ruth 2:2-8) And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. {3} And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. {4} And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. {5} Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? {6} And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: {7} And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. {8} Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:

B. In Connection To Boaz, There Was A Wedding In Ruth’s Life

(Ruth 3:11) And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

(Ruth 4:9-13) And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi. {10} Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. {11} And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: {12} And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman. {13} So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son.

C. In Connection To Boaz, There Was Worship In Ruth’s Life

(Ruth 4:14-17) And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. {15} And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. {16} And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. {17} And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

restorer – Hebrew 7725. shuwb, shoob; a prim. root; to turn back (hence, away) trans. or intrans., lit. or fig. (not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point); gen. to retreat; often adv. again:--

nourisher – Hebrew 3557. kuwl, kool; a prim. root; prop. to keep in; hence to measure; fig. to maintain (in various senses):--(be able to, can) abide, bear, comprehend, contain, feed, forbearing, guide, hold (-ing in), nourish (-er), be present, make provision, receive, sustain, provide sustenance (victuals).

Easton’s Bible Dictionary says that “Obed” means — serving; worshipping.


Chuck Swindoll wrote…

I know of no more permanent imprint on a life than the one made by mothers. I guess that’s why Mother’s Day always leaves me a little nostalgic. Not simply because my mother has gone on (and heaven’s probably cleaner because of it!), but because that’s the one day the real heroines of our world get the credit they deserve. Hats off to every one of you!

More than any statesman or teacher, more than any minister or physician, more than any film star, athlete, business person, author, scientist, civic leader, entertainer, or military hero . . . you are the most influential person in your child’s life.

Never doubt that fact!

There would never have been an Isaac without a Sarah, a Moses without a Jochebed, a Samuel without a Hannah, a John without an Elizabeth, a Timothy without a Eunice, or a John Mark without a Mary.

A mother’s influence is so great that we model it even when we don’t realize it, and we return to it---often to the surprise of others.

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