The Loving Duty
Naomi was a devoted woman. She remained with a husband that didn't honor her faith, a man that consistently made lousy choices for their family. Elimelech in essence plunged his wife and sons into a life surrounded by depravity.
The Moabites were an idolatrous, superstitious, self satisfied and proud people. They were also wealthy, which is what drew Elimelech's full attention. (1 Kings 11:7, Jer. 27:3,9, Jer. 48:11, Jer. 48:29)
Yet Naomi did not forget God.
Naomi suffered the consequences of her husband's choices, just as others' sins affect us and our sins affect others. It is only with closed eyes and heart that we can believe our sins only affect ourselves.
In her deepest grief Naomi arose with a single hope: to return to the land of her people, to be near them again and to surround herself with those that loved God. Naomi had continued to live her faith while in Moab. She had taught her daughters-in-law about the living God of Israel. And her daughters-in-law held her in high esteem. They loved her.
When Naomi left Moab both of the young women went with her, as was the custom of the day. When a young woman married she became more a part of her husband's family than her own. They were bound to this woman in love and in duty. Naomi allowed the girls to travel out of the city with her, to feel some of the pinch of leaving what they held dear, what was familiar to them.
Then Naomi instructed them both to turn back. Naomi was returning to Judah with the hope of finding mercy but she offered no hope of an easy life to Ruth or Orpah.
Naomi 'freed' them from their duty to her, and prayed for them that the Lord would bless them with husbands and rest in Moab. Still they persisted.
'Surely we will return with you to your people!'
So Naomi turned up the heat. She told them in no uncertain terms what they could expect--laying it out loud and clear. Turn back or face living the rest of your lives alone, without the comforts and identities that the rest of the world enjoys. Without security, without hope, without companionship... you are Moabites! Go home to your families and your own gods!
Wow! Is Naomi actually encouraging them to go back? To turn away from the True and Living God?
In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us:
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."Luke 9:57-62 says:
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then He said to another. "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
In Luke 14:26-35 Jesus says:
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it...lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.
So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Salt is good; but if the salt has lost it's flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Naomi was instructing these devoted young women to count the cost, just as the Lord instructs us. This isn't about following a good cause or knowing what's right and doing it from a sense of duty only. That sense of duty is not enough to carry us through.
Ruth 1:14 “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”
Orpah in the end was not willing to step out and leave the familiar. She counted the cost and it was too great. Her devotion to Naomi only went so far.
What is the Lord asking of you? Are there difficulties that He has brought into your life? All of us come face to face with obstacles that have the potential to make us want to shrink back from following Him. The big question is, will you kiss Him and turn away? Or will you cling to Him?
We must seek Him first with all our hearts. The more we know Him the more we love Him. Love alone has the power to keep us from turning back.
Love alone will keep us moving forward. Love alone will enable us to walk through the hard things and in the end to stand and say that God is good.
Daily I come to Him, to remember Him, to love Him. This is the One I love. The One that created me, that came to earth to show me the way. The One that took my sins to the cross for me and rose again calling my name. The One that suffered in my place and wrote my name in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Is there more He must do for us to win our love? Must He make our lives easy? Filled with creature comforts? Health? Money? Relationships of our choosing? Make our lives free of conflict; fulfill what we think is best?
Cinderella is a universally known story. We love it! The neglected, misused servant girl taking her rightful place as a princess. It's our story. This world is something like the mean stepmother's house after all. The problem is we all want Heaven on earth... NOW. We want to be princesses instead of servants. Of course, we picture ourselves as kindly princesses that would bestow kind words and deeds upon the poor lost souls that got near enough to get our attention. But to actually serve? And not only serve, but to be ridiculed and belittled while we do so?
Sounds a lot like Jesus doesn't it? He served, while they mocked him. He loved while they ripped His body with a cat-o-nine-tails. He prayed for them while His heart was breaking.
Count the cost. We are not of this world and God is not a fairy godmother, waiting at our beck and call to fix all our woes.
Cling to Him. He understands our sorrows. Cling to Him. He walked the same road. Cling to Him and He will refine you as you go through the fire. He is trustworthy and faithful.
Orpah turned back. She has a few verses with her name and is a lasting example to us of what self-love looks like. Ruth clung to Naomi; left all that was familiar and ended up with a whole book written about her. Not only that, God grafted her into the lineage of Christ! And it was all for love.
Lord, we thank You that You have loved us with an everlasting love. A love that we cannot comprehend. Make us strong. Show us Yourself and stir our hearts up in love. Help each one of us to lay aside all and follow You. Help us to never shrink back from the things You call us to, but to persevere daily. Make us like You Lord.
In Jesus name we come.
1) What is the Lord asking of you? Are there difficulties that He has brought into your life?
2) What obstacles have the potential to make you want to shrink back from following Him? How have you overcome them?
3) What cost is there for you as the Lord's disciple?
4) We must seek Him first. How do you do this in your daily life?
5) As Ruth had Naomi to guide and help her, do you have someone to whom you are accountable?
6) In what ways do you serve the Lord? Have you found joy in this service?