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.” (Ruth 1:16)
The book of Ruth reveals the road to redemption. It affords an Old Testament picture of a New Testament principle. The road to redemption begins in Moab and ends in Bethlehem—a way out of a place that God called His wash pot and into the place meaning “house of bread.” Chapter one of Ruth focuses on God reaching down in love.
Redemption begins with God’s sovereign act (v.1-4). There was a famine in the house of bread. Elimelech packs up his family and migrates to Moab, seeking greener pastures. Though his name meant, “My God is King,” he was in rebellion against God’s will, walking by sight rather than by faith. Canaan, despite its present woe was to be preferred over Moab and its pervasive wickedness. Its inhabitants were the descendants of Lot’s incest with his daughter. Moabites worshipped Chemosh, offering their little children in fire as sacrifices. “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more….” (Rom.5:20b) Despite Elimelech’s sin, God was still King and in His sovereign grace had chosen to overrule his straying child’s disobedience and reach a Moabite girl who was not looking for God. God, however was looking for her. As I survey my past, I can see how God was working even during my period as a prodigal to reach me—circumstances that He directed to drive me to Himself.
Two weddings and three funerals took place in Moab (v.3-5). The chastisement of God fell upon Elimelech and his sons. They were defiant against God’s will, going where they should not and marrying those they ought not. “The wages of sin is death,” (Rom.6:23a). Yet, without these sorrows, Ruth would have never journeyed to Bethlehem where she would meet Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. She might have become bitter toward God—many do when facing tragedy. She could not have understood what this God of the Hebrews was up to, but later she would. We live life forward, but we understand it backward. All He does is ultimately for glory and good!
With the death of her husband and sons, there is nothing to hold Naomi in Moab (v.6-14). She hears that the famine is over and the feasting has resumed—the House of Bread has become a bakery again. It is time to go back to Bethlehem.
Remember, that when Naomi and her family came to Moab they were in rebellion against God. The counsel of a backslider is to be rejected. Their senses are dulled by their disobedience. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab! Orpah listens and turned back to her demon gods—into darkness forever. Ruth clings to Naomi—grace at work drawing her to redemption (v.15-22). This is the mystery of election—two girls so close, yet separated for eternity—like Cain and Abel; Esau and Jacob; Judas and Peter; the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. Orpah and Ruth both had opportunity to go to the place of redemption, but only one did. Orpah was not made to turn back, nor was Ruth forced to go up. Still, grace drew her. That is what makes redemption to be God seeking undeserving sinners.
Have you reached up the empty hand of faith to the hand of God reaching down with the gift of salvation? Are you Orpah or Ruth?