A FAITHFUL RETURN TO JUDAH
Naomi chooses to return to Judah The famine in Judah had ended (Ruth 1:6). The Lord’s blessings had returned to Judah. The Lord had given them bread. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab (Ruth 1:7-9). As they were on their way to leave Naomi encourages them to return to their mothers’ house, and for them to find rest in the homes of future husbands; Naomi also prays God’s blessings upon them to treat them kindly, because their kindness to her. This prompted sorrowful displays and great affection from them.
Ruth chooses to return with Naomi – At first, both daughters-in-law desire to go with Naomi. They were willing to return with her to her people. This speaks highly of their love for Naomi and for their duty they felt as daughters-in-law. Naomi sought to persuade them from returning with her. She told them she has no sons to offer them. She is too old to have a husband and if she did marry and have sons, would they wait until they were old enough? It grieved Naomi to see them suffer because of God’s chastisement of her.
But Ruth cannot be dissuaded; she is determined to return with Naomi. Weeping, Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and leaves. But Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, and Naomi tries once again to persuade her to return, but Ruth had made her decision to follow Naomi and live in the will of God and she was determined with everything she had to follow through on that decision.
Ruth’s noble choice:
1) To go wherever Naomi goes
2) To live wherever Naomi lives
3) To make the people of Naomi her people
4) To make the God of Naomi her God
5) To die and be buried where Naomi is buried
6) To let nothing but death come between them and fulfilling God’s will for her life
Our choice: – will we choose to follow God like Ruth chose to follow Naomi? Will we choose to live where God wants us to live, to do what God wants us to do, and determine, like Ruth did, to let nothing deter you from it?
THE TESTIMONIES OF NAOMI, ORPAH AND RUTH
The testimony of Naomi (Ruth 1:6–15) God visited His faithful people in Bethlehem, but not His disobedient daughter in Moab. Naomi heard the report that the famine had ended, and when she heard the good news, she decided to return home. How sad it is when people only hear about God’s blessing, but don’t experience it, because they are not in the place where God can bless them. Are you where God can bless you?
Are you blessable? Are you in the Lords will so He can bless you? He will not bless you if you are living outside His will. Whenever we have disobeyed the Lord and departed from His will, we must confess our sin and return to the place of blessing. Abraham had to leave Egypt and go back to the altar he had abandoned (Genesis 13:1–4), and Jacob had to go back to Bethel (Genesis 35:1). The repeated plea of the prophets to God’s people was that they turn from their sins and return to the Lord. (Isaiah 55:7 – Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.)
Wrong motives. Naomi’s decision was right, but her motive was wrong. She was still interested primarily in food, not in fellowship with God. You don’t hear her confessing her sins to God and asking Him to forgive her. She was returning to her land but not to her Lord.
But something else was wrong in the way Naomi handled this decision: She did not want her two daughters- in-law to go with her. If it was right for Naomi to go to Bethlehem, where the true and living God was worshiped, then it was right for Orpah and Ruth to accompany her. Naomi should have said to them what Moses said to his father-in-law, and that was to come with (Numbers 10:29). Instead, Naomi tried to influence the two women to go back to their families and their false gods.
Cover up? Why would a believing Jewess, a daughter of Abraham, encourage two pagan women to worship false gods? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that Naomi didn’t want to take Orpah and Ruth to Bethlehem because they were living proof that she and her husband had permitted their two sons to marry women from outside the covenant nation. In other words, Naomi was trying to cover up her disobedience. If she returned to Bethlehem alone, nobody would know that the family had broken the law of Moses. (Proverbs 28:13 – He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.)
True repentance is needed. When we try to cover our sins, its proof that we really haven’t faced them honestly and judged them according to God’s Word. True repentance involves honest confession and a brokenness within. Instead of brokenness, Naomi had bitterness. The tragedy is that Naomi did not present the God of Israel in a positive way. In Ruth 1:13, she suggests that God was to blame for the sorrow and pain the three women had experienced. Had Naomi been walking with the Lord, she could have won Orpah to the faith and brought two trophies of grace home to Bethlehem. But instead Orpah may be in Hell today because of Naomi’s sinfulness and lack of repentance at this time in her life.
The testimony of Orpah (Ruth 1:11–14) The two daughters-in-law started off with Naomi (verse 7), but she stopped them and urged them not to accompany her. She even prayed for them (verse 8–9) that the Lord would be kind to them and find them new husbands and give them rest after all their sorrow. But of what value are the prayers of a backslidden believer (Psalm 66:18 – If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:)? Three times Naomi told Orpah and Ruth to return (Ruth 1:8, 11–12). When she saw them hesitating, Naomi began to reason with them. “I’m too old to have another husband and have another family,” she said. “And even if I could bear more sons, do you want to waste these next years waiting for them to grow up? You could be in your mother’s house, with your family, enjoying life.”
Orpah was the weaker of the two sisters-in-law. She started to Bethlehem with Naomi, kissed her, and wept with her, yet she would not stay with her. She was “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34), but she made the wrong decision and turned back. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but we wonder whether her heart was really in it, for her decision proved that her heart was back home where she hoped to find a husband. Orpah left the scene and is never mentioned again in the Scriptures.
The testimony of Ruth (Ruth 1:15–18) Naomi was trying to cover up; Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel (2:12). She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith.
In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws, Ruth had come to know the true and living God, and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land, she wanted to live in His will and live where He wanted her to be, in the midst of His will, even though that meant moving to a foreign place to her.
Ruth’s conversion is evidence of the sovereign grace of God, for the only way sinners can be saved is by grace (Ephesians 2:8–10). Everything within her and around her presented obstacles to her faith, and yet she trusted the God of Israel.
Her background was against her, for she was from Moab where they worshiped the god Chemosh (Numbers 21:29; I Kings 11:7, 33), who accepted human sacrifices (II Kings 3:26–27) and encouraged immorality (Numbers 25).
Her circumstances were against her and could have made her bitter against the God of Israel. First, her father-in-law died, and then her husband and her brother-in-law, and she was left a widow without any support. Ruth could have thought if this is the way Jehovah God treats His people, why follow Him? Ruth dearly loved her mother-in-law, but even Naomi was against her, for she urged Ruth to return to her family and her gods in Moab. Since Elimelech and Mahlon were now dead, Ruth was technically under the guardianship of Naomi, and she should have obeyed her mother-in-law’s counsel. But God intervened and graciously saved Ruth in spite of all these obstacles. (Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;)
God delights in showing mercy and often He shows His mercy to the least likely people, the least likely at least in man’s eyes, in the least likely places. This is the sovereign grace of the God. Ruth’s statement in Ruth 1:16–17 is one of the most magnificent confessions found anywhere in Scripture. First, she confessed her love for Naomi and her desire to stay with her mother-in-law even unto death. Then she confessed her faith in the true and living God and her decision to worship Him alone. She was willing to forsake father and mother and her home, where she grew up (2:11) in order to cleave to Naomi and the God of her people. Ruth was “stedfastly minded” to accompany Naomi and to follow God’s will (1:18) and live in Bethlehem with God’s people.
How about you, will you commit to be “stedfastly minded” to do and follow the will of God?
When you read the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1, you find the names of five women, four of whom have very questionable credentials: Tamar committed incest with her father-in-law Judah (Genesis 38:3); Rahab was a Gentile harlot (Joshua 2:5); Ruth was an outcast Gentile Moabitess (Ruth 1:5); and “the wife of Urias”, Bathsheba, was an adulteress (II Samuel 11:6). How did they ever become a part of the family of the Messiah? – Through the sovereign grace and mercy of God! (II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.) .
This account in God’s Word certainly illustrates the need to make choices in the center of God’s will no matter where that decision will lead us to. We need to always seek to make decisions after God’s will for our life; regardless of what that decision may lead to or where that decision may lead to, in this case it lead Ruth from her home in Moab to a land she had never been to and that was Judah, but Ruth was willing and determined to do and to go anywhere God lead her to. How about us, are we like Ruth in that regard? Are we willing to do whatever the Lord calls us to do and are we willing to go wherever the Lord calls us to go?
Ruth made a choice, to leave her family, to leave her land, to leave the familiar in pursuit of the divine. She put the eternal above the temporal, she put God’s will above her own, she put His wisdom above what she or others may have thought best. Ruth put her full trust, her full confidence, her full faith in God and stepped out on that faith to go where He was leading, and to do what He was having her to do; and this lead her to great blessings in her life and blessings for even us today.
Sometimes the choice is not between right and wrong, but between the good and the better or the best. Yet any choice we make will be the right one if made with these words of Jesus in mind: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.