But Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16
I will go – “From a cultural perspective, Ruth has chosen death over life. She has disavowed the solidarity of family; she has abandoned national security; and she has renounced religious affiliation. In the entire epic of Israel, only Abraham matches this radicality, but then he had a call from God.”
If Abraham had a daughter, it was Ruth. The themes of hesed, faithful loyalty, personal sacrifice and action that reflect God’s character are vibrantly present in both people. In fact, Ruth is more like Abraham than his own son, Isaac. Furthermore, Ruth is a Gentile who decides to enter into fellowship with YHWH just as Abraham was a Gentile who decided to act upon God’s call. Both leave behind lives of expected conformity and security to journey to “a land I will show you.” But, as Trible notes, Abraham had a call from God. Ruth makes a life-altering decision without God’s specific direction. The power of hesed is her only motivation.
We should notice that Naomi holds up Orpah as the model of rational action. “See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods” (v. 15). Naomi’s motivation might be good. She is concerned about the welfare of Orpah. But she is willing to send Orpah back to Chemosh, the pagan god of Moab, in order to achieve security. There is no emphasis on following the one true God at any cost. In fact, when Ruth declares her conviction to go with Naomi, Naomi tells her that she is crazy. Doesn’t Ruth know what this means? Doesn’t she appreciate the potential difficulties, the obvious threat, the danger? Naomi is focused on just one thing – security. Worship of the true God takes a distant second place.
But Ruth decides. It is her decision that propels the story forward. Regardless of the warnings, regardless of the expected hardships, Ruth will not be deterred from the inner call on her life. She establishes a new standard of obedience, even exceeding the obedience of her distant spiritual father, Abraham.
“I will go.” Elek. “Go out!” Lek-leka. Both from the same root, yalak. Ruth follows in the footsteps of God’s chosen man, perhaps because, even without knowing it, she is God’s chosen woman.
Do you need a “calling” to go out? Or are you like Ruth – committed because it is what you must do even if you don’t hear a word from the Lord?
Topical Index: yalak, to go, Abraham, Genesis 12:1, Ruth 1:16, I will go, calling
 Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, p. 173.