Scripture Reading: The books of Ruth and Judges
There are two books in the Bible that carry the names of women. This doesn’t mean that women wrote these books. All the Bible was written “by holy men of God, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Esther is the other book that carries a woman’s name. We will study Esther in another lesson.
The book of Ruth is often called a “love story.” Indeed, it is a love story. There is perfect love between Ruth and Boaz; also there is perfect love shown of the redeemer in this book. The most important truth in this book is the study of the redeemer, who is a type or picture of the great Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. (As you read the book of Ruth along with this lesson, don’t miss that point of the study of the Redeemer.) However, we will look at the book through Ruth and the other women in this book.
When we study the book of Ruth, it is best to go back and look at the book of Judges, especially the first part. What happened in the book of Ruth took place during the times of Judges. In looking at Judges, we see that God had given 13 Judges to serve and help the nation of Israel. However, we find an outstanding Scripture in chapter 17 verse 6, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” This caused the nation much trouble, and certainly trouble for the individuals who practiced this.
Seeing the times of the book of Judges gives us a clue to the start of the book of Ruth. In the first verses we read about a man named Elimelech. Right off we see this man “doing that which was right in his own eyes.” We have no Scripture telling us that he prayed about moving, or asking God’s direction. There was a famine there in Bethlehem-Judah and Elimelech took his family and moved to Moab. The Moabites were descendents of Lot. They were sinful people and worshipped idols. Elimelech didn’t consider the fact that he was taking his family from a land that God had given the Israelites; a land that worshipped the true God. He didn’t consider the fact that his sons would only be associated with young people who did not honor the true God, but worshipped idols. Like so many today, he was thinking of the material needs of his family, instead of the spiritual needs. What a bad choice he made! He and his family suffered because of it.
Even though our study is about women, we certainly can get some lessons from Elimelech. We should always put God first in our lives. Think of the spiritual above the material and let Him be our Guide in all things.
Though our study is mostly about Ruth, we will consider three women of the book of Ruth. The first one mentioned is Naomi. Naomi was the wife of Elimelech. She was a good wife and went along with him to Moab. There were lots of sorrows there for Naomi. First of all her husband died. Then the two sons married Moabite wives, and they dwelt there in Moab 10 years. Then the two sons died. Naomi was left alone with her two daughters-in-law, who were Moabites. We read all this in the first five verses of the first chapter of Ruth.
When Naomi found herself alone in the land of Moab, decisions were hers to make now. She decided to go back to her own country. The only problem was that she would have to leave her two daughters-in-law. Thus far, we have seen Naomi as the patient obedient wife, and her good relationship with the two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. We will see that Naomi had born a good testimony to them.
She had told them about the God of Israel. She had shown love to the young ladies. Though we are not told, we see the results of a good life by Naomi in front of the Orpah and Ruth. Their relationship and love toward their mother-in-law, shows what kind of life Naomi had lived. We can get a lesson from this. No matter how hard the times, there is some work to do for our Lord. When we read the final chapters of this book, we see how far-reaching Naomi’s testimony to Ruth was. When Naomi started to leave, Orpah and Ruth were ready to go with her. However, in verse 8 of chapter 1, we see that Naomi talked with Orpah and Ruth and told them to go back to their own families. She told them how much she appreciated their being so good to their husbands (her sons) and how good they had been to her. Then she kissed them and told them to go back to their families. They both cried and didn’t want to leave her. She reminded them they were young and would want to marry again, and that she had no more sons. After much sorrow and crying, Orpah kissed Naomi and left. Ruth refused to leave her.
Although Naomi must have taught the girls much about the God of Israel, the true God, she did give Ruth some wrong advice. In verse 15, Naomi said,
“Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods; return thou after thy sister-in-law.”
Ruth came back with a wonderful answer in verse 16,
“And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:”
Ruth had learned much about the one true God, and didn’t want to go back to the idols of Moab. What a wonderful testimony that she would be ready to leave her native country and family, along with idol worship, to go to Israel and worship the true God. When Naomi saw that Ruth would not be moved from this stand, she took Ruth and the two went back to Bethlehem.
When they arrived back, Naomi told the people that greeted them, not to call her Naomi, which means “Pleasant,” but rather call her Mara, which means “Bitter.” She said that she had gone out full, and came back empty. She was thinking of her husband and sons. She felt some bitterness about being so alone, but she didn’t know that the Lord had many good things in her future. She didn’t know what the Lord had in store for her through Ruth.
We know that Orpah didn’t want to leave Naomi. She cried and tried to go with her. However, she was persuaded to go back home to her family. It makes us wonder if she had really accepted the real God that Naomi had told the girls about. Or did she just love Naomi because she had been so good to them, and didn’t want to part from her? We really don’t know. However, we can get some applications to our lives today from Orpah.
Some people today want to go along with Christians and do as they do, and yet never really have the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Sometimes, we just like some Christian or like their way of life, but don’t know the One that we must receive in order to be a real Christian. Other people may really accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour, but when trouble comes or decisions to be made, they will yield to their own wills. Whatever was the case with Orpah she chose to go back to her family, and back to idol worship. We never hear of Orpah again. How sad her life must have been if she had, really learned of the true God and yet had no one to talk to about Him.
Today there are some who do worship idols. Some people do bow to a statue, but there are other idols in many lives. In 1 Timothy 6:10 we read,
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Although most of us would say that we do not love money and certainly wouldn’t worship money, yet so many give most of their lives in trying to get more and more money. I have seen many people who have desired to go to hear the Word, after they are older and are not able to get out and go to hear the Word. Some of these spent their young years and their youthful strength in making money with no time for the worship or study of God’s Word. Sometimes by then it is too late. This does not mean that this person isn’t saved; but rather that the wrong choice was made in putting other things first. In 2 Timothy 3 we read,
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” (vs. 2) and “…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” (vs. 4)
Some get caught up in entertainment or social lives that take them from worship of our Lord, or from studying His Word. Satan attacks Christians in this way. He cannot take our eternal life from us, but he certainly wants to keep us from serving our Lord.
I pray we will all be like Ruth and make the choice of serving our Wonderful Lord and Saviour. Ruth didn’t know where the path would lead, but she made the right choice.