A story of redemption, love, hope, and restoration
We’re finally going to start looking at the life of Ruth! Now that we have sufficiently set the stage and looked at the background of the story through the eyes of Naomi and Elimelech’s lack of faith, it is time to bring Ruth into our study.
“These[Mahlon and Chilion] took Moabite wives;
the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth.”
So Mahlon and Chilion, Elimelech and Naomi’s two sons, both took Moabite wives. Later on we learn that Mahlon was married to Ruth and Chilion to Orpah. So Ruth and Orpah became sisters-in-law. They were both from Moab, but they have two vastly different stories.
Both Ruth and Orpah lived with Naomi after the death of their husbands, and the three became close. So when Naomi decided to return to Judah, the two sisters started the journey with her. However, at some point in the journey, Naomi decided that it would be better for both girls to return to their homes and try to find husbands among the Moabites. At first both Orpah and Ruth resisted, but after some more persuasion and many tears Orpah decides to go back.
Why? Why did Orpah decide to return to Moab? Why didn’t she hold fast like Ruth did? She resisted Naomi’s command only once, and then gave in. What was waiting for her in Moab? These are unanswerable questions, but are valuable to consider. We often forget about Orpah in this story centered on the faithfulness Ruth, but when we put the two sisters-in-law together we see two very different stories. Orpah’s willingness to return to Moab and the gods of her people reveal a lack of genuine faith in the God of Israel. She started on the road to the Promised Land, but at the first opportunity to turn back she took it.
Contrast that with Ruth’s testimony. Ruth didn’t accept Naomi’s command to return home. Rather she declared that Naomi’s home would be her own, that her people would become her own, and Naomi’s God her God.
“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.”
Some believe that Ruth stated this out of extreme loyalty and love for Naomi. However, I’m sure that Naomi wasn’t the easiest person to live with. Her sorrow and bitterness would drive anyone crazy! So it makes us wonder what type of family did Ruth come from that caused her to love her mother-in-law more than her own mother? Why didn’t she want to return to her parents’ home? Was she running away from something in her past? Or did she cling to Naomi and determine to go with her to Judah because she actually believed in the living God?
This is what I think promoted Ruth to declare her unwavering loyalty to Naomi. She could have easily returned to Moab with Orpah and remarried a fellow Moabite, raised a family, and lived a happy life, but she didn’t choose that. Ruth chose to go against her mother-in-law’s wishes and continue on in the journey. She was giving up the possibility of remarrying and raising a family—for who in Bethlehem would marry a foreigner?—for a life of scraping by on the generosity of others.
Both Orpah and Ruth were given the same options, but each chose differently. It wasn’t a matter of love for Naomi, because both girls were close to their mother-in-law. It was a matter of faith. Orpah didn’t have the faith in God to keep her on the path to Israel, but Ruth did. And Ruth’s faith strengthened her to deny the strong command of her mother-in-law to return home, and to face an unknown future among a foreign people.
So now the question is…are YOU an Orpah or a Ruth? Are you allowing the persuasion and opinions of others to dictate your life and faith? Are you willing to stick close to God no matter what other people think or tell you to do? Is the lure of pleasure and security keeping you from staying on the straight and narrow road? Are you ready to trust an unknown future to a known God?
Ruth chose the God of Israel over a life of comfort and ease among her own people and family. She put her faith in God, and He richly blessed her. She was chosen to become the great-grandmother of the man after God’s own heart and the greatest king of Israel, David, who is listed within the genealogy of Jesus, the King of Kings. May this be our story, and may we join Ruth in choosing God over the things of this world, and thus be counted among His children and heirs with Christ in the kingdom to come.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”