Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm Going Where You Go (Part 2)

Naomi and Ruth, image courtesy of Stephen Bautista Art Ministry, stephenbautista.com
Naomi and Ruth, image courtesy of stephenbautista.com


Last week I shared my thoughts that Naomi’s grief left her feeling empty because:
  1. She had no husband.
  2. She had no sons.
  3. She had no life.
Naomi didn’t understand her purpose.

So many of us get entangled, and mired in life to the extent that we lose sight of God’s purpose for us. I fail to understand that every situation or event that occurs in my life does not come as a shock and surprise to Almighty God; He uses these occurrences to establish and define purpose in me. If I become too focused on the situations and events that occur in my life, I cannot discern His divine purpose for me.

I asked myself,

How was it that these two women (Orpah and Ruth) bonded so closely with Naomi?

What was it about Naomi that these two women looked to her for support rather than from their own kinsmen?

I wondered if Naomi had unknowingly become a mentor to Orpah and Ruth; teaching them about the God of Israel. It’s nothing but speculation on my part, but perhaps Naomi never forgot about the land of promise and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps she taught these young wives of the unsurpassing love of God for Israel. Perhaps during the course of each day, they watched and listened as Naomi prayed, sang and lived the life of a devout Jew. Perhaps for them, no one had ever treated them with such dignity, love, and respect.

Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.1

Verse 7 here, clearly emphasizes that Orpah and Ruth were not biological relatives of Naomi; they were Naomi’s daughters-in-law. There was no blood tie between these women, yet there was a bond; both Orpah and Ruth loved Naomi. They had come to love her as if she were their biological mother. Naomi had gone beyond being pleasant (as her name indicates) to these two young widows, they looked to Naomi for direction, encouragement, and understanding.

Initially, Naomi welcomed both Orpah and Ruth to accompany her to Bethlehem, but something changed along the journey. Perhaps she began to ponder the hardship she would face of not only being a poor widow, but an Israelite who brought foreigners into the land of promise. She then advised them to return to Moab, to their own people, and their own gods.

"But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept."2

Why would Naomi advise these women who looked to her as their mother to go back to Moab?

Some theologians and scholars believe that God used Naomi to test these two women. These three women walked together along the road between Moab and Judah; a journey that could not be easy for women travelling alone. I thought about where Orpah and Ruth came from and it took my mind back to hundreds of years before them when Lot and Abraham waked in unison until they came to Bethel, a place Abraham called, The House of God. Quarreling between the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot erupted and Abraham (a man of peace), said to Lot:

"Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me…"2

And now, hundreds of years later, two women who descended from the incestuous relationship of Lot and his oldest daughter are walking along with a descendant of Abraham and Sarah; they do not quarrel, there is genuine love and affection. As an African American, I have no history to reflect upon; there is both sadness and shame when I reflect on that thought. I think there would also be a sense of sadness and shame for anyone who knew they descended from a father and daughter. Yet God chose to use the sadness and shame of Lot’s sin in His plan of salvation. This tells me that no sin, no matter how shameful is too great that God won’t forgive. Perhaps God wants to test their resolve and commitment to become true followers.

Will you keep the commandments?

Jesus was asked by a man what he must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus revealed obedience to the Law of God was the first step, the man answered that he obeyed the commandments from his youth. Jesus then told the man,

"'One thing you lack,' he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"3

Discovering God’s purpose for my life and living out that purpose are the result of choice and commitment.

I will talk more on this topic next week.

Almighty God and Father,

I bless Your holy name. Your mercy endures forever Lord. I am learning that following You requires my comittment, faith and determination. Even though it makes no sense, it is so easy to turn away from Your grace and love; deluding myself to think that life without You would somehow be better. I've been there and done that Lord; I now see the futility of my efforts. I'm at the place of dependence now and I'm so thankful that I can depend on You. As I follow You, I pray that my life reflect Your Son, Jesus Christ, so that others may have the opportunity to know and experience Your love, grace, and salvation. I give You glory and praise, You are worthy of so much more. Look on the needs of those who cry out and those who in the silence of their lives, You still hear their voice. Whatever the situation calls for my Lord, direction, encouragement, blessing, healing, or opening a closed door, we ask that Your will be done in our lives; this day in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sunday's

Footnotes:
  1. Ruth 1:6-7, NLTB
  2. Ruth 1:8-9, NLTB
  3. Mark 10:21, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  8. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6

17 comments:

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

I love the Naomi story. Very interesting how they came and stayed together

sarah said...

I love the way Ruth connected with her dgts. in law and they with her. I've connected some unlikely people myself and know the bond that nothing can cut through. It's great.

Sharon Kirby said...

Never thought about this story in this way - the Moab connection, and God using Naomi to test the women. Really good.

Ruth stayed, and became an important (and Scripturally mentioned, I might add) member of Jesus' family tree. Because she obeyed the God of Israel, because she followed Him faithfully into an unknown land and future.

May I have the same courage and determination!

GOD BLESS!

Judy said...

Hi MTJ,

Thanks for sharing this very thought-provoking post about Ruth and Naomi. It showed me that in the intimate moments of our lives, God is doing a work we may not recognize. According to this story, God has a reason for everything we go through. He brings certain people into our lives, keeps us in certain circumstances longer than we want to be in, and works everything together for our good and for His plans and purposes.

If only I can remember this and take it to heart as I'm going through very tough and trying times. I wouldn't complain as much and would be able to withstand it. Oh well, that's my fallen nature I suppose. Thank goodness God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Blessings,
Judy

Joan said...

Hi MTJ:

I like what you said here - "I fail to understand that every situation or event that occurs in my life does not come as a shock and surprise to Almighty God; He uses these occurrences to establish and define purpose in me. If I become too focused on the situations and events that occur in my life, I cannot discern His divine purpose for me."

Too often, I focus more on my circumstances than the One who holds my destiny. I agree - He uses and allows situations to conform us to His image and yes, to define His divine purpose for our lives.

I had never thought about God using Naomi to test Orpah and Ruth - certainly that is possible, especially as Orpah turned back, but Ruth remained.

Blessings,
Joan

Whidbey Woman said...

Wonderful post. You are a truly gifted writer.

Karen said...

This is one of those stories that speaks to me! I learn something new every time I read it. Thank you for reminding us that we each have a God-given purpose, regardless of our ancestry or present circumstances. God bless you!

Charlotte said...

As you know, we don't have very many men who share with us on Spiritual Sundays. I'm so glad you share with us regularly. I always appreciate your insight. You are a blessing to many.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Charlotte

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I wish that there were my relationship like Naomi had with her daughter in laws. I'm blessed to have a wonderful mother in law. Thank-you so much for writing this and I will look forward to next week.
Blessings,
Ginger

Pamela said...

I love the stories of trial and suffering in the Bible. It gives me something to hold onto when I am facing a dark time. Corrie Ten Boom said, "If God sends us on strong paths, He sends us strong shoes." This post encouraged me to be faithful in the "whatevers."

Blessings,
Pamela

bettyl said...

Thanks so much for sharing this insight.

Crystal Mary said...

These two women are a wonderful example, I am always thrilled with their story of courage trust and love. I needed to re-read this today, it has helped me see my own part in a larger picture..thankyou.
Crystal Mary

Patti Hanan said...

The story of how Ruth stays with Naomi has always touched me. It is amazing how God used this faithfulness and made them part of the lineage leading to Jesus. God rewards faithfulness. I was encouraged by your insightful post.

growup318.com said...

The book of Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible! Thank you for this mini-series.
Blessings,
Heather Joy

Anonymous said...

I too have always loved the story of Naomi and Ruth...never looked at it quite this way in the shadow of a past that decrees condemnation over salvation...Your post reminds me that God's decree (Word/Verdict)over our lives supersedes all others! I believe this Grace, Truth, Faith, and Understanding enables us to persevere through the tough times when the nay-sayers or my past have A LOT to say! I can confidently know I am redeemed from the curse. I a saved by Grace, through faith in Jesus Chris my Lord and Savior! What can my past say to that? It is silenced.

I love you Daddy and was really encouraged by your post!

Renee said...

This story is so touching. Your insights gave me an expanded perspective on it, if that makes sense. I try to remember that nothing surprises God. He may not purpose something that happens in our lives, but He uses it for His purpose and good!

B. Niles said...

Amen, MTJ. It's so important to know our purpose and walk in it. Something that troubles me is when we hear God's call, we know God's direction for our lives, but we allow circumstances and pain or loneliness and discouragement or even the lure of the grass looking greener on the other side, to pull us out of God's will and purpose.

In some cases it's the lust within, in some the temptation of the enemy to draw us away and destroy us and in some other cases, our faith is simply being tested and matured.

Lord, help us to know your will, your purpose for our lives and to stand.

God bless you MTJ. Continue to stand.