[Written 4th May 2016]
This teaching is taken from Ruth chapter 1. Let’s see what we can learn from this woman whose very name means ‘companion’ / ‘friend’.
God often uses seasons of famine (lack) in order to introduce Himself to us as our friend and as our family. During the “honeymoon” season, life is good and we experience the blessings of the Lord. But can we really call ourselves friends of God at this stage? Do we really love Him, or are we only “friends” with God based on our circumstances and based on our blessings?
Ruth was “adopted” into the household of Naomi by marriage. As a Moabite woman, she had no right to God or previous relationship with Him. She was not a Jew, but God used a famine in Naomi’s land (Bethlehem), to implement His plan that would change the course of Ruth’s life forever. God had a greater destiny for Ruth – should she choose it.
For 10 years, life was good for this Moabitess. She had her husband, brother and sister in-law and mother in-law. She would have observed the way her Jewish family lived, and learnt closely about this God she was now “associated” with by marriage. However, knowing ‘of’ God is not the same as having a personal relationship with Him.
Being around those who know God is not the same as knowing Him for yourself. Everyone can play the part and do all the right religious acts but the real test of faith, the real proof of our love for the Lord, is when our circumstances change.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7, KJV)
If we lose it all, will we still choose God or will we return to what we knew before? If those we love let us down, abandon us, leave us alone (through death or other circumstances), will we still cling to Christ?
Ruth and Orpah experienced this very test… After 10 years of living with God by “association”, both their husbands died; leaving them both as widows. Here we have two women, both experiencing the same test in life; however, their response to this test is what leads one to become prominent in God’s eternal redemption story, and the other to be but a passing wind in time. Each of us have this same choice to make.
Ruth and Orpah both begin the journey to Naomi’s (their mother in-law) home land, but then comes the time for both their hearts to be tested. It’s time for their love and motives to be examined; time for them to choose to be a friend or acquaintance of God.
Naomi tells both women that they should return to their mother’s houses in hope that they would be able to marry again. At first, the both of them protest and declare that they want to remain with Naomi. It appears to be true love; true devotion. However, a little more examination and we see both their hearts a little more.
Naomi makes it clear that she cannot give what it is they desire (a husband), and if she could, they may be required to wait a really LONG time. It’s here that Orpah made the decision to leave, yet Ruth clings to Naomi all the more. After 10 years of living with a person, one would assume their hearts would be knit, that a new way of living and thinking would now be embedded into a person; however, Orpah’s decision proves that this is not always the case.
Too many of us are like Orpah. Although we have been a Christian for years, we do not allow our hearts to become knit to the Lord’s. We may begin in what appears to be faith, but on further inspection of our hearts, the Lord reveals that it’s not Him that we truly desire, but His blessings. Orpah left because she believed she either could not receive the thing she desired (a husband) through Naomi (representing God’s way) or that she may be forced to wait a really long time before receiving that blessing. Ruth, on the other hand, had a completely different perspective. She loved Naomi. It mattered not to her whether she ever married again, so long as she would be with Naomi – a true companion!
To Ruth, the privilege of remaining a part of the household of God was worth more than any husband she could get by returning to her pagan native home. In a sense, Ruth demonstrated the greatest love that there is – to lay one’s life down for a friend.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NIV)
To lay one’s life down is not only to die physically for another person, but to put down all your desires and wants for the sake of another. Is this not the same thing God said to Abraham who was called a friend of God (James 2:23)?
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Genesis 22:12, KJV)
Ruth was willing to potentially never marry again, so long as she could remain with Naomi as a friend. The thought of going back to her old life; a life without knowing this covenant God that she had come to know, was literally unthinkable to her.
For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His… (2 Chronicles 16:9a, AMP)
God is looking for hearts like Ruth’s; those whose minds are steadfast towards Him. Ruth was 100% devoted to Naomi and everything she represented (a relationship with God). Can the same thing be said of you? Maybe you haven’t come to that point in your walk yet where your faith is tested, but it will come. Just as Abraham’s faith was tested, just as Ruth’s faith was tested… Jesus even asked His 12 disciples if they would abandon Him after many of His other disciples left Him (John 6:66). But the 12 recognised that they had nowhere else to go for the ETERNAL LIFE that they desired.
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. (John 6:68, AMP)
Eternal life is to know the Father and the Son (John 17:3). This world has NOTHING to offer. It may be pleasurable for a time, but in the end it all fades.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17, KJV)
Ruth understood where to place her value. She understood what was the better thing and it was not taken away from her (Luke 10:42). In fact, she was rewarded by being given a place in God’s eternal plan as one of the heroines of the faith. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David, the very line through which Jesus was promised.
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30, NIV)
God wants to give you a part in His eternal redemption story, but it will not happen without a testing of your faith. You must choose whether you want to be a friend or acquaintance of God… Which will it be?
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:20-21, KJV)