In Genesis 50:24–25, we see an interesting command given by Joseph to the sons of Israel near the end of his life. The verses state,
“ 24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” (See also Exodus 13:19).
Joseph, displaying his faith in God’s promise of redemption and believing that his bones would one day walk again in resurrection, lays claim to this promise in his command to have his bones taken with Israel into the promised land. The author of Hebrews affirms that this claim to God’s promise was done by faith in Hebrews 11:22, which states,
“22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”
There are many other examples throughout Scripture (many laid out in Hebrews) showing that throughout Israel’s history, faith in the promises of God was the provision through which God saved His people. Some of these examples are obvious, such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. Others are not so obvious.
One example that may not be so obvious at first is the example we find in Ruth. In the opening verses of Ruth chapter 1, we see the famine having driven Naomi and her family out of the promised land into Moab. After Naomi’s husband and sons die, God visits Israel and relieves the drought, spurring Naomi to return to Israel, her homeland. Naomi’s daughters-in-law wish to go with her, however, Naomi resists, telling them that they would be better off staying behind in Moab and marrying again.
Orpah does turn and go back to Moab, but Ruth does not. Instead, Ruth pleads with Naomi to allow her to go into the Promised Land and in Ruth 1:16, we see a profound statement,
“16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return 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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.”
What is Ruth doing here? Is her plea a simple begging from endearment for her mother-in-law? It’s likely much more than that. Notice again the last phrase in her statement, “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.” Like Joseph, Ruth is laying claim to the promise of God! Ruth, probably taught by her in-laws, understood God’s mercy would be granted to any who would fear the Lord and call on His name and that they would see new life.
What can we glean from a small gem like the one we see here in the opening verses of Ruth? Let’s review a few details surrounding the writing of Ruth:
1. It recounts an event that happened in days when the judges ruled (Ruth 1:1). This was a time of deep spiritual apostacy for Israel, when they, “Did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (Judges 2:11).
2. Ruth was a Moabite woman. Moab was considered a hard enemy of Israel and thus of God. Yahweh does not owe mercy to Ruth the Moabitess; in fact, no Moabite was to enter the assembly of Yahweh to the tenth generation! (Deut. 23:3–4).
Yet despite these facts, that Israel is in deep spiritual apostacy, and that Ruth is considered an enemy of God’s chosen nation, God is still displaying His mercy and faithfully redeeming all who believe from every tribe, tongue, and nation! Just as He is today. No circumstance can thwart His sovereignty, and no enemy is beyond His reach!
All Scripture references are ESV unless otherwise noted.
 James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 309.