Standing on a sandy hill, the dark-haired Moabitess stared at the sea. Never before had she ventured more than a day’s journey from her birthplace, but here she was. On the sea of salt before her, the water rippled just the same as the river back home, and yet everything had changed. Even the air smelled different.
The memory of Mahlon had died to a dull ache. She thought of him a hundred times a day, but she no longer felt that a part of her heart had been torn out.
“You’re still young,” her mother had said a week after the funeral. “You can find a good Moabitish husband and have children this time.” But Mahlon’s family had something none of her Moabite friends had—a god who really seemed true. Could she be happy in a family where they did not recite the Shema before dinner—”Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord...” Yahweh had been more real to Mahlon than Chemosh or Nebo had ever been to Ruth’s parents.
And yet—to move to a new land that she had never seen, where the people spoke a strange language. Orpah said it was too much to think that they could find husband or home in that strange land of the strange God, and Orpah was a sensible woman. Orpah had taken Naomi up on her request for company on her journey, but the further they had travelled, the more doubts she had expressed.
The evening before, the three women had arrived at the western border of Moab. When they arose this morning, Naomi had once again told her daughters-in-law to go home. Orpah had already left. Now Ruth had to make her own final decision. Falling on her knees, she prayed to Yahweh as Mahlon had. With her hands raised to heaven, she cried, “Lord, I know that you are worshipped truly in the land of Judah and not in this land. I want to serve you, but I want a family and happiness as well. Please help me to choose rightly.”
Brushing tears from her eyes, Ruth got to her feet again and shook the sand from her dress. She walked down the hill toward the sea—toward Judah. As she gazed at the rippling water, a sedge of cranes flew by, heading west across the sea. Ruth thought of the ancient men her mother had tried to pair her up with back in Moab, and she thought of the tales of plenteous grain in Judah. She remembered the time Orpah’s practicality had almost kept them from meeting Mahlon and Chilion, and she remembered Naomi’s blessing at their double wedding and the love she had shown ever since they met. With relief, she realized that she had made her decision and that she felt perfectly at peace.
Reentering the inn, she found Naomi and told her, “I’ve made up my mind. Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”