Ruth: A Guide for Life’s Troubled Times
by Brian Bailey
"The Tipping Point in Two Lives"
And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law but Ruth clung to her. (Chapter 1:14)
This turns out to be the point of supreme decision in the lives of Orpah and Ruth. Will they go to Israel, to the one true God, or will they return to idolatry. Which God would they serve? It is the same choice we all face: whom will we follow?
What did Jesus say time and time again in the gospels about being a follower?
…"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)
We really don’t get what Jesus was saying here about the cross. We tend to romanticize it and totally miss the impact of what is being said.
The cross was an instrument of torture and execution! It is the same as if Jesus said we are to take up our electric chair or our lethal injection gurney and follow Him.
Jesus’ contemporaries understood the gruesome word picture it was. Jesus is saying if we follow Him we must die to ourselves. We must kill our own wants and desires and take on His. We exchange our priorities for Jesus’ priorities: our plans for our life or His plans for our life.
“Thy will be done often means my will be undone.” Elisabeth Elliot reminds us.
Jesus told us to count the cost of discipleship.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple(Luke 14:26-33).
On one level it is very frightening, because when we surrender control of our lives to Jesus, we are giving Him carte blanche. He does have a wonderful plan for our life, but Jesus’ definition and our definition may not coincide. Discipleship is costing people all over the world today where Christianity is hated.
Naomi certainly didn’t believe at this point in chapter one that there was a wonderful plan for her life.
Life is best understood when we look in the rear-view mirror at events past. At this point in the mirror, all she saw was suffering and loss and the view out in front was not any better either.
Naomi wanted a better life for her two daughters-in-law and saw that they could possibly pay a price for being foreign women in Israel. Humanly speaking, they had a better chance for happiness in Moab among their own people than they did with God’s people.
As Naomi spoke her soliloquy, Orpah and Ruth both had to count the cost. They had to ask themselves whether they would stay with Naomi and her God and culture or go back to their native gods and culture. Would they face a possibly bleak difficult future in Israel or a probably easier life in Moab? Would they live a life of self-sacrificing love for Naomi or take care of themselves?
We read that Orpah kissed Naomi. It was the kiss of “goodbye;” she had made her choice. Orpah was going to her homeland; she was choosing a life for her own good as she saw it. Orpah took the short-term sure thing and missed the blessing of God. We have all done that at one time or another. After all, self-sacrifice is a dirty word in our culture.
Media mogul Ted Turner was once reported to have said, “Christianity is for losers.” He’s righ,t you know. We are about the task of losing ourselves that we might gain what is truly significant in light of eternity.
In this American culture today it is all about Self-Actualization, but in Christianity it is about Self-Dying.
We have lost touch with the truth that it is only in thinking of what is best for another, in self-sacrifice, that our lives become truly significant. The biblical path for greatness is bound up in allowing ourselves to be of the least of these, to be last and the servant of others.
On the night when Jesus shared his last supper with the disciples He washed their feet. The power of His actions was beyond measure.
We read in John’s gospel, that knowing God had given all things into Jesus’ hands and that He had come from God and was going back to His father—He got up and performed the most menial task a slave could be assigned to do. When Jesus began to wash the first disciple’s feet you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Jesus took this step because no one else in this group of individual kingdom builders would stoop to do it.
The path to spiritual maturity and effectiveness in God’s eyes is that of being a servant to His kingdom. This is not our way or the way of the rulers of this present age, but it is God’s way. Orpah chose to seek her own best interest and faded into insignificance in the Bible and human history. Orpah chose to walk away from God back to a pagan religion.
We too, must come to that moment of supreme decision where we decide if we are Christ’s or our own. Jesus will be Savior and Lord in our lives or he will be nothing in our lives.
Surrender must be complete! You cannot be partially surrendered. He demands unconditional surrender.
At the end of World War II the Axis powers tried on occasion to negotiate a partial surrender but the Allies held out for total surrender. There could be no compromise; the evil that had pulled the world into a conflict that killed millions upon millions had to be eradicated. It was all or nothing.
Ruth’s supreme decision was to stay with Naomi. We read in verse 14 “…but Ruth clung to her [Naomi].” The entire book of Ruth hinged on what Ruth did here. It is no exaggeration to say that much of the rest of the Bible hinged on what Ruth did here.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
When life as she knew it came apart at the seams Ruth clung to a person she loved most dearly: Naomi. Who or what do we cling to when our life comes apart? What do other people cling to?
To use a metaphor, have you ever felt like you put your ladder against the wrong wall in life?
Read previous chapters in Brian Bailey's Ruth series:
Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41