Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (Ruth 1:1)
In Ruth chapter 1, verses 1-5, we are given a historical overview of the family of Elimelech and his family–Naomi, their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and their wives, Orpah, and Ruth. Elimelech moved his family from Bethlehem, Judah, to Moab because there was a great famine in Judah. The Bible does not tell us whether or not God instructed him to move to the heathen country of Moab. But he made a decision against God’s requirement for the separation of the Nation of Israel–His royal priesthood from unbelievers.
God’s Command from Moses’ time: When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands…For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands…” (Ezra 9:1-2)
Since the Jewish father had to give approval for the marriage of their children, Elimelech agreed for his two sons to marry pagan women–Moabites.
Who were the Moabites? The Moabites were a pagan nation, which means they did not worship or serve God [YHWH]. Idolatry was one of the innate characteristics of all the nations surrounding Israel, and Chemosh was the national god of the Moabites (Numbers 21:29). But like all other pagan nations, the Moabites were polytheistic (Judges 10:6), and through much of their history, they were hostile toward Israel. https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/who-were-the-moabite-people-in-the-bible.html
As the story unfolds, Elimelech and his two sons die. Three women, Naomi serving the one true God, and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, from pagan ancestry, were left to fend for themselves. From our perspective, we would probably imagine that life would continue without any significant problems. But in biblical times, women entirely depended on their husbands and sons for provision.
“And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each to her mother’s house…So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.'” (Ruth 1:8-9).
Can the life of a faithful believer have an influence on unbelievers? “And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” (Ruth 1:10). But Naomi answers, “But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?” (Ruth 1:11).
One Returns and One Stays
“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.'” (Ruth 1:14-15).
Both women accepted and worshipped the true God while among believers. Even so, only one woman was truly converted. How do we know that Orpah did not have a whole heart, mind, and soul conversion? Orpah represents individuals who believe in God, but once their circumstances change, the faithless condition of their hearts is revealed. This believer has faith in God when all-is-well but quickly takes another direction [away from God] when faced with adversity.
“But Ruth said: ‘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.'” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Ruth represents the believer [the faithful remnant] who has faith and courage, despite the bleak appearance. They blindly follow Jesus through every vicious storm of trials and sorrows. How is this possible? Because they gave Jesus their whole heart. Yes, these followers cry many tears, often becoming discouraged, but stay on the path of righteousness with trust and determination. They are loyal, committed, obedient, diligent in prayer, and believe in God’s promises. “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14 NLT).
Further study of the book of Ruth reveals that God brought restoration and gave supernatural blessings that neither Naomi nor Ruth could ever anticipate. Yes, the righteous receive God’s divine favor when we obey: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this, Says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven, And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.'” (Malachi 3:10).
There are many Naomi’s and the Ruth’s [not gender specific]–faith heroes of today who have dedicated their hearts, souls, and minds to discipleship. To Jesus Christ, they proclaim, “Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Psalm 143:10).
It’s a matter of our hearts. Either we give all or nothing–there is no middle ground. “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Prayer: God, we desire unwavering faith in your love, power, and existence. We commit our hearts and will faithfully serve you with love and loyalty. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.