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Ruth or Orpah

The wonderful story of Ruth takes place in the days when the judges ruled over Israel and is a beautiful gem that brightens up the terribly dark days into which it is set. Following the death of her husband and her two sons in Moab, Naomi decides to return home to Bethlehem in Judah. She had taken refuge in Moab following a famine and both her sons had married Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth. But, in the ten years that she had spent in Moab, all three men in her life, her husband and two sons, had died. Now, a broken woman, she decides to make the return journey back to Judah as she has heard that food was now available back home.

In chapter one, we encounter Naomi setting out for home and seeking to encourage her daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life for themselves in Moab. After quite some persuasion, Orpah does eventually accede to her request but Ruth is fervently committed to staying with Naomi and makes the incredible declaration we read above. The writer never once seems to suggest that Orpah has acted wrongly in doing as her mother-in-law insisted upon. Naomi was genuine in her exhortation, and this would, after all, seem entirely reasonable and sensible given the situation. But Ruth acts in a manner entirely above and beyond what might have been expected. Not only does she refuse to leave Naomi, but she effectively promises to walk away from every aspect of her old life, her home, her people, even her God. What she’s choosing here is to begin a new life as one of God’s people. She even entrusts her eternal destiny into the hands of Naomi and her God: “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried” V17.

One might even see in Ruth and her commitment to Naomi, the kind of commitment Jesus asked of his followers: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23.

We never hear anything more of Orpah’s story; perhaps she did indeed return home, settle down and maybe even remarry. Hers was indeed the sensible route. But the story of Ruth’s selfless life continued, and we see how incredibly God worked behind the scenes to bless her commitment and to bring about His plans and purposes through her. I won’t spoil the brilliant story but just to say that Ruth brings new life to Naomi in the most incredible and far-reaching way.

Sometimes the life of faith demands more than simply taking the sensible, expected path. More often than not, our commitment to Jesus will make demands of us that will stretch us. Sometimes those around us, who genuinely have our best interests at heart, will counsel us to walk the logical road. But the story of Ruth reminds us that when we do indeed put our trust in God, even if that demands great sacrifices of us, it’s always worth it and enables us to live a bigger story!

Prayer: Dear Father God, I pray that I will not settle for a sensible safe existence but rather that you will help me live a life of faith. I pray that I might choose the obedient path, and experience the wonder, of denying myself and taking up my cross daily knowing that that really is the most abundant life that I might live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


 

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Scripture

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried….”
Ruth 1:16f, NIV

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Today's Writer

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.

John Sainsbury


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