“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me” (Ru 1:16, 17)
Naomi was once a happy wife and mother. There was a season of famine in the land of Judah. Her husband made the decision that the family should go across the river to the land of Moab. It seems that he wanted to stay there just for a short time. The Moabites were ‘far relatives’ but also enemies of the Jews. God said that they should not be allowed to enter the congregation of God’s people. This is because they refused to welcome, feed and encourage them, when escaping from the bondage of Egypt. Later, they hired a false prophet, Balaam to curse and bewitch them. The people of God were not to seek their friendship or to pray for their peace, prosperity, health, rest, favor and happiness (Deut 23:3-6). Elimelch made the rash decision to take his family ‘abroad’, to live among a people Jehovah has rejected. Imagine being an immigrant among men that you can never visit in their homes, eat with, invite to your ‘church’ or pray for. Is that not worse than famine?
When Naomi left Bethlehem, according to her testimony, she was full. There was famine in the land but they were not the worst. Elimelech was impatient. He was afraid of death by starvation. Running away from death, he died in the land of Moab. Mysteriously, his two sons died too. Naomi sees this tragedy as judgment from God. Then one day, she hears that things are better now back home. She decides to go back to Bethlehem, which in Hebrew it means ‘the House of Bread’. This is the best decision she could have made. She is ‘empty’ now; she has lost all things but she still has her God. A backslider should go back to the point of error and deception and seek God and His mercy once more.
Her two Moabite daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth, decide to follow her. She tries to convince them to go back to their families for there is no hope for marriage in her home land. She paints a very dark picture about the future. She cannot promise them any good thing. There shall be no reward for serving her. Half way down the dusty road Orpah eventually decides to go back. She kisses Naomi ‘good by’ and weeps for the pain of final separation. Religious people shall follow Christ for a season but eventually, like the rich young ruler, shall go back to ‘her gods and to her people’.
This is now the moment for Ruth to shine like the morning star in the darkest night. She proves to be a true servant of God and of Naomi. Gentle and firm in the same time, in a wonderful speech filled with eternal glory and true love, she pleads with Naomi. Love is her choice! They shall be tighter to the end of time! She chooses to share in the destiny of Naomi. Mentor and disciple, they shall run the race together, until the very end! They will share in the sufferings and also in the hope of the glory of Jehovah. The people of God who by law are to reject her as a wicked foreigner, they shall be ‘her people’. Naomi’s house, be it a palace or a hut, shall be her shelter too. This is her dream: to live in a Christian home, to read the Bible to her children, to pray and to worship God with her husband, to take care of Naomi. She releases Naomi from any pledge of personal reward. She accepts the responsibility to be a servant for Naomi, without a salary, or the promise of future husband or children. If there is a God in heaven, as Naomi says it is, then that God shall be her reward. His mercy shall sustain her. His grace shall strengthen her. We know that her love, her faith, her commitment and wisdom was at last rewarded by Jehovah. She got married to the prince of Bethlehem, Boaz the Redeemer. Their son became the grandfather of King David and he was in the line of the Messiah. God’s rich and glorious mercy spoke on her behalf: “I will call My people who are not My people; and I will call My Loved One who is not My Loved One” (Rom 9:25)
Do you say that you love God? Do you say that you are a servant of Christ? The Christian confession shall be tested in the hour of affliction. The call of God to serve Him has to be proven in the fire of opposition, rejection and loneliness. The Cross has to be carried. The persecution has to be endured. The religious kiss of Orpah is too cheap to fulfill your destiny. Religion is not enough! You need Christ and Him Crucified! Except you break your ‘alabaster box’ and pour the oil on the feet of the Master, you will not be able to finish the race you have started. A true servant of God is faithful to his master until the very end. It is easy to ‘confess’ Christ to men. But this confession has to be tested by fire. Men and angels have to see that beneath the dirty soil there is a lump of pure gold as an acceptable offering to your King.
If you want to be my friend, if you want to marry me, if you want us to be together…then know this, Christ in me is all I have; above titles and fancy clothes, above gifts and hugs, above smiles and dreams to be shared, Christ is the best treasure I have. If my Jesus is not enough for you, then please go away; follow Orpah, for my simple life will disappoint you at last. The earlier you kiss me good by the better… But if the hope of glory in me is all that you desire, if my God shall be your God, and my people shall be your people then fear not, follow me! And you shall find all things you had to forsake in the past; your sacrifice will not be in vain; your dream will come true and so much more… to the end of time we shall dance between the stars, we shall teach angels to tango and heaven will be our eternal home…
This is my promise! This is my pledge!”
In Christ I declare:
I am a child of God!
I am servant of God!
I shall finish the race!
Christ is my reward!
In Jesus name