“Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.” Ruth 1:6-7
If you were journeying on the road from Moab into Bethlehem in 1322 BC, perhaps you would have seen three widow ladies traveling that same road. If you had listened carefully, the story you would hear would almost break your heart. Three widow ladies - one mother-in-law and her two widow daughters-in-law. The older lady is trying to convince the young ladies to go back to Moab and the younger ladies are pleading to go with their mother-in-law to let them continue traveling with her.
And herein we have a picture of three types of people and their approach to God. We have a backslider, one outside God’s family who is dissuaded in her journey, and one outside God’s family who will not be deterred. All three are lost so long as they dwell in Moab. There is only one place to be blessed and that is in the Land of Promise and among God’s people.
Someone might say, “It is narrow to declare a blessing zone that does not include Moab!” And yet this is the nature of God’s covenant. God has promised to bless His people in certain circumstances, situations, and locations. It is foolish to demand God’s blessing when one refuses to position oneself in the appropriate place to receive the blessing. God is free to command His blessing to rest wherever and upon whomever He desires. It is man’s responsibility to recognize God’s desire and position himself accordingly.
Naomi - A Wayward Child of God
The first widow lady on the road to Bethlehem on that day so long ago was named Naomi. She was an Israelite who had been married to a man of Judah named Elimelech. Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, had departed from their hometown of Bethlehem over ten years ago.
Why did they flee Bethlehem? They fled due to famine. They were people of God living in the Promised Land, and yet they experienced famine. Anytime there is famine in Bethlehem, the house of bread, it is due to some spiritual issue that must be resolved.
Rather than accept God’s chastening in the form of famine and examine their own lives, Elimelech, Naomi and sons flew the coup. Unfortunately this is the way many believers try to solve their problems - they just run. This shows a lack of understanding and appreciation for one’s spiritual heritage. Children who are raised in the home of believers without appreciation for their spiritual heritage are often spiritually weak and anemic. Mahlon means “sickly” and Chilion means “wasting away.”
So with the migration of Elimelech and Naomi from the house of bread and into Moab is revealed a common misunderstanding about the blessings of God. Many believe that God’s blessings will follow them wherever they go because of whom they are. They are children of God and God is obligated to bless them wherever they go; or so they believe. This is not true. God’s blessing comes upon those who position themselves in the place of blessing among the family of God. God will not bless you in Moab. The prodigal son was still a son, but as long as he stayed in the foreign land, he would have to eat with the hogs!
And now after all these years, Naomi’s husband and two sons are dead.
- “Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.” Ruth 1:6
When God visits his people, where will He find them? God did not visit those of His people who had backslid and moved to Moab. God didn’t come down to the wayward Israelites in Moab with a special message. When God visits His people and gives them bread, it will come to the house of bread in Bethlehem. And so a confused and bitter widow gets up and begins her journey back to the house of bread.
Mistakes the Backslider Makes On the Journey Home
Consider the mistakes many wayward believers make on their return journey from a foreign land.
1) Believing it is better for those who done know the Lord to never be exposes to truth.
- “And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.” Ruth 1:8-9
Naomi was saying that is was better for Orpah and Ruth to never know Jehovah or become associated with His people. They should simply remain in unbelief and live happy lives with their people. “Ignorance is bliss,” or so they claim. “God won’t hold you accountable if you never know the truth. Better to remain ignorant.” This is unabashed idiocy and is based on their false belief that living for the Lord is hard if not impossible. Consider the source of this cynical attitude. It comes from folks who were willing to sell out their spiritual heritage for a loaf of bread during hard times.
2) An “exclusive” attitude.
- “And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands?” Ruth 1:10-13
Naomi’s attitude said that she would become these girls only connection with God’s people. They could find a husband in Moab, but no one would marry them in Bethlehem. This “exclusive” attitude presumes that the backslider is the only connection between the seeker and God, when this is not at all true. God is eager to welcome a person from any background into His family. That is what the Book of Ruth is all about! And if the Lord feels this strongly toward those outside the family of faith, those in tune with God inside the family will be moved by His Spirit to act accordingly.
3) Blaming God for their own mistakes
- “…nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.”
What a bunch of baggage to put upon a sincere seeker! Rather than recognize that her situation was her own doing, Naomi has the nerve to openly blame her condition on the Lord. And to do so before two heathen girls seeking to join themselves to God’s people. How many potential new converts are turned back by the stinking attitude of backsliders and the lukewarm. Don’t blame the result of your poor decisions on God. There were many families in Bethlehem who decided to stay instead of running when the famine came. If Elimelech and Naomi had stayed, it very well could have been that their two sons would still be alive and Elimelech would be a wealthy farmer.
Orpah - Turned Back by Bitterness
“And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.” Ruth 1:14
After all the weeping and kissing, there was only one daughter-in-law left. Ruth was the only girl left to travel with Naomi. Orpah returned to her people. Many people make a decision to leave the house of their father, and their people, only to be discouraged in the way.
Many people are convinced to journey to the house of bread because of someone else. Orpah was more interested in being with Naomi than she was making a new home in Bethlehem. Perhaps there was a spiritual hunger in her heart to some degree, but we do not know how strong it was. Obviously, it was not strong enough. Her primary concern was for Naomi. She sensed that it was the right thing for Naomi to return to Bethlehem, though she probably did not know why. But she would come along and encourage her mother-in-law.
When Orpah was confronted by Naomi’s bitterness, it was more than her commitment could withstand. The enemy uses many different things to discourage a soul from following through on a decision to live for God. One of the most effective tools of the enemy in this regard is an embittered backslider.
People who have made a decision to live for God, and in the act of backing that decision up, need encouragement. Rather than hearing about how the hand of God has gone out against someone, they need to hear about God’s love and provision for those that serve Him. The Lord always makes a way for those who seek Him. Unfortunately a backslider living in Moab has contact with more potential converts than a child of God living in Bethlehem. So often the only view the unsaved have of the godly life is that presented by embittered souls who left the land of blessing and spend their days poormouthing God.
Naomi committed spiritual abortion by discouraging Orpah in her desire to enter Bethlehem. A potential proselyte to the worship of the one true God was sent back into idolatry by a bitter backslider. Those making a move to serve God need to be encouraged all along the way instead of being weighted down by other’s failures.
© 2008 Nevin Bass. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced for the purpose of resale without written permission.