Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm Going Where You Go (Part 3)

Ruth and Naomi, image courtesy of lavistachurchofchrist.org
Ruth commits to follow Naomi

Last week I stated that:

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

“’Look,Naomi said to her, 'your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.'

But Ruth replied, 'Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!' When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.1

Naomi has advised Orpah and Ruth to return to Moab, to their kinsmen and the false gods the Moabites worshipped; she’d also given them both her blessings. It is here that Orpah reluctantly decides to return home, but Ruth saw no life back in Moab. Although she’s never traveled to the promised land of Israel, she embraces it, the people of Israel, and their God; just as she embraced Naomi.

One must be committed to following, to the extent that you will not allow anything to separate you from the one you follow.

May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!2

Commitment to Christ is all-encompassing.

Ruth understood that Naomi was poor in Moab, and that there would likely be no future husband for Naomi in Judah. I don’t know if Ruth considered whether she would ever find love again, or what kind of life awaited her in Judah, but she was committed to the God of Israel and Naomi her mother.

Relationship with God requires commitment.

This is something which I realize is also important in our relationships with others as well; our spouse, our children, our parents, siblings, relatives and friends. It is easy to go the way of Orpah, I know. I’ve amputated relationships in my life, simply because it was the easiest thing to do, but I’ve learned that I did so because I thought it was the "path of least resistance"; I chose the way of Orpah. Many of us, like Peter say,

Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!3

But how far will you go for Christ? How much can you really tolerate to be a follower?

You’ll go as far with Christ as you’ll go with anyone you personally know and no further.

That’s where I draw the line.

That’s how I was. I don’t believe I'm any different than the next guy. I allowed myself to think I loved the Lord, but then He began to ask me questions that I didn’t want to answer, showed me memories which I didn’t want to view.

Salvation cuts both ways. I can’t have His love, and not love. I can’t have His forgiveness, and not forgive. I can’t have His grace, and not give grace. People have disappointed me and hurt me, and even rejected me, but how have I responded? I chose to disappoint, hurt, and reject them and others; but I was really doing this to Christ. That’s why I was so intimidated by the words,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.4

But the truth is that Paul isn’t confident in himself, he’s confident in Christ. It doesn’t mean that Paul led a perfect life; he didn’t. He was flawed just like all of us are. He got extremely upset with John Mark and amputated their relationship. Were it not for Barnabas, the fractured relationship between Paul and Mark may have never gotten repaired. I believe the Lord taught Paul the value and importance of mending damaged relationships.

Many of us reach that place in our life when I finally say, “I’ve decided to follow Jesus… No Turning back, No Turning back.” This is where Ruth found herself. Salvation in front of her, the world she knew behind her.

Naomi was going back to Judah, but for what purpose?

For Naomi, life was now a "bitter pill" to swallow each day she lived; death of loved ones can make a person bitter. Perhaps in her mind, Naomi was going back home to die. Perhaps she saw no purpose in living. Perhaps she didn't understand that God had a plan for her.

But while Naomi may have been going back to her old home to die, Ruth was going to her new home to live.

It was here that Naomi received a glimpse of something which she had possibly never seen before:

When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her…5

Naomi saw determination.

She saw in the eyes of Ruth a woman who could not be persuaded to change her mind. Ruth embraced the spirit of faith that says,

…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.6

Naomi had not asked any questions, but Ruth willingly supplied the answers:
  1. Her commitment secured her willingness to go with Naomi.
  2. Her acceptance expressed her willingness to live with Naomi.
  3. Her conversion revealed her willingness to become a follower of the Living God.
  4. Her faith identified her willingness to become a servant of the Most High God.
  5. Her hope established her willingness to die as a follower of Jehovah.
I thought of these two women, bound together by love and tragedy. Women acquainted with the pain of grief. Women who through the sadness of tears had both come to the same decision; I’m going to seek the blessings of Almighty God. I’m not a woman, but I could identify with their grief, I could feel what loss meant to them. In the midst of my tears, I thought of the words of Ruth. Scripture doesn’t say it, but perhaps Ruth was responding to every reason Naomi gave for her to return to Moab.

You need to go back to Moab Ruth!

Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back.7

Ruth, where I’m going, life will be harder than you’ve ever experienced.

Wherever you go, I will go8

I have no idea where I’m going to live Ruth.

wherever you live, I will live.9

My people have customs and lifestyles far different than those of the Moabites.

Your people will be my people10

We Jews believe in the One true God; Him alone do we worship and serve.

your God will be my God.11

I don’t even know how long I have left to live in this world. Perhaps I will follow my husband and sons.

Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.12

Ruth gave an answer to rebut every possible reason Naomi could think of. But what convinced Naomi of Ruth’s seriousness was her vow:

May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!13

Ruth called upon the name of the Living God to not only hear her words, but to bear witness and honor her words spoken with conviction.

God Himself bears witness to our comittment.

I will talk more on this next week.

Heavenly Father,

Your face I seek. Morning and night I cry unto You, knowing You hear my voice. Where can I go and whom could I seek to hear me but You? You are my Light, more brilliant than the morning sun. Your holiness glows brighter than the moon. You are my refuge and my strength. In You I have peace and salvation through Jesus Christ, Your holy Son. You are teaching me that following Christ meets with resistance, but I know now that I am committed to following Jesus, for me now, there is no turning back. I want to thank You Father for hearing and answering our prayers. You are not like other gods that sit idly by, unable to observe because they have no eyes to see, unable to speak because they have no mouth or words to utter, unable to hear because they have no ears, unable to comfort because they have no arms or hands to hold us.

You are the Living God, strong and mighty! You are Jehovah Jireh, The Lord who provides. Today, I will praise You with my whole heart, and declare Your righteousness. You bear witness to the life I live. Forgive me of my sins, and direct my steps that I may walk in a manner pleasing to You. In Jesus name. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. Ruth 1:15-18, NLTB
  2. Ruth 1:17, NLTB
  3. Mark 14:31, NASB
  4. 1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV
  5. Ruth 1:18, NLTB
  6. Hebrews 11:1, NASB
  7. Ruth 1:16, NLTB
  8. Ruth 1:16, NLTB
  9. Ruth 1:16, NLTB
  10. Ruth 1:16, NLTB
  11. Ruth 1:16, NLTB
  12. Ruth 1:17, NLTB
  13. Ruth 1:17, NLTB

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. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. 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
  8. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  9. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


14 comments:

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

This has been a thoughtful series of Naomi, Ruth, etc. This is the true meaning of our commitment with God.

Sherry said...

great post. It is true that we can't give to others any more than we are willing to give to God. Makes a person rethink their relationship both with God and others. Thank you.

Patti Hanan said...

Another great post! I found your warning against going the way of Orpah helpful. That is a great warning. Following Christ requires commitment.

Charlotte said...

I love this love and commitment. So many lessons to be learned in these scriptures. Thank you for sharing.
Blessings,
Charlotte

sarah said...

beautiful post. Wishing you a happy Easter.

Sharon Kirby said...

Such wonderful insights! I especially liked how you broke down Scripture as Ruth's responses to protests Naomi might have said. I thought that was so powerful.

I have determined that where the Lord leads I will follow - in His strength, there will be no turning back!

Have a wonderful Easter! Thank the Lord for His gracious and merciful gift of salvation!

GOD BLESS!

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I wish more people here today would have that kind of commitment. I have enjoy your post about Naomi and Ruth,thank-you.
Blessings and Happy Easter,
Ginger

Whidbey Woman said...

Such a lovely post! Thank you, and Happy Easter!

Joan said...

MTJ:
Your words here struck a chord with me, “People have disappointed me and hurt me, and even rejected me, but how have I responded? I chose to disappoint, hurt, and reject them and others; but I was really doing this to Christ.”

I think of the scripture, in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"

Oh the times that I have done things to “the least of these.” Like you, I’ve taken the way or Orpah – the path of least resistance. Lord, forgive me.

I’ve certainly enjoyed this series on Ruth. Blessings to you on the glorious weekend as we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.

Wanda said...

Wishing you a Happy Resurrection Day!

Pamela said...

I have been enjoying and learning from your series on Ruth. Today, the truth of embracing the Promised Land stood out to me. Commentment to a place she had never been. In the beginning of our walk with God we don't know much about Him and His ways -- just that we have chosen the way of truth.

Trust you are basking in God's presence this Easter Sunday.

Pamela

Lloyd said...

Thank you MTJ for sharing one of the Bibles greatest love stories. May our Lord shine upon you and your family this Resurrection Day. God bless, Lloyd

Charlotte/For Such A Time As This said...

I love this story and all the hope it gives us. Thank you for sharing it! Hope you have a very blessed day today...celebrating together that our Redeemer lives!

Pain to Purpose said...

I've been catching up on your posts and I really enjoyed all three parts. Great writing! Ruth truly is an amazing book. When you said, "I can’t have His love, and not love. I can’t have His forgiveness, and not forgive. I can’t have His grace, and not give grace." something really stirred within me. It took a long while for me to come to that place. For years I loved Christ, but didn't really love other people. I accepted God's forgiveness of my sins but wouldn't dare give anyone else a pass who had wronged me. And grace? I don't think I really knew the meaning of the word. It wasn't until I went through my separation with my husband that I grasped these concepts with my heart and life. The pain has brought me to a whole new level with eyes to see things in a clearer way. I know I would have always gone to heaven because I accepted Christ, but now I know I will have a life of victory because of love, forgiveness and grace.
Can't wait to see what you'll write about next!
Carrie