Will You Walk With Me Through Sorrow & Anguish

Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament book of Ruth which describes the life of that woman who would be the great grandmother of David the king of Israel. More specifically, today’s passage would be found in chapters one through four of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will come to a period of time that would take place between the time of the judges of Israel and the time when Samuel the prophet would emerge on to the scene in the opening chapters of the book of First Samuel. If you begin reading with and from the opening verses of this particular book you will find that it came to pass during the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. Before we delve any further into the book of Ruth it’s worth noting and considering that what we find and what we read in this particular book describes something which took place during the days of the judges in addition to the people of Israel being delivered into the hands of those who would oppress and afflict them. We know and understand from reading the book of Judges that after Joshua the son of Nun died and went the way of his fathers, and after the elders which outlived him died and went the way of all the earth, there would arise a generation that would not know the LORD, nor would know the great works which Joshua and the children of Israel did in the land of Canaan. There would arise generations in the midst of the land of Israel which would neither know the works which the LORD did for and on behalf of the children of Israel, and which would not know the great works which Joshua and the children of Israel would do in the midst of the land, and in fact, it would only be Gideon who would speak of and mention the works which the LORD their God had done in times and in days past. The entire book of Judges is filled with example after example of the children of Israel doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and we find absolutely no mention of them teaching their sons and daughters concerning the works of the LORD, nor that which Joshua the son of Nun and the children of Israel did in the land of Canaan during the conquest of the land. Nowhere in the book of the judges do we find any account, nor any narrative of the children of Israel speaking to each other and encouraging one another concerning the great and wonderful works of the LORD which He had done for their fathers in the land of Egypt, and even at the Red Sea when He brought them through the waters that were parted and divided before them. What’s more, is that we do not find any mention of these generations speaking unto each other concerning the great works the LORD did in the wilderness, and even how the LORD through Joshua led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, and even in battle against the inhabitants of the land.

As we come to the Old Testament book of Ruth we discover a period of time during the days of the judges when there would arise a famine in the land—a famine that was undoubtedly so severe that it would thrust Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion out of the town of Bethlehem-Judah, and into the land of Moab. It’s quite interesting to think about and consider that which is written and found within this Old Testament book, for in the Old Testament book of Joshua we find the children of Israel entering into the land which the LORD had promised unto them and unto their fathers, while in the book of Judges we find this family of four departing from the land of their ancestors, and departing from the land of their inheritance in order that they might enter into the land of Moab. What makes this so incredibly captivating is when you consider the fact that Moab was mentioned during the days of Ehud as oppressing and afflicting the children of Israel before Ehud would deliver the people of God out of their hands and out from under their oppression and affliction. What’s more, is that this is the first narrative and first account of any of the people of God departing the land of their inheritance because of a famine. What we must understand, however, is that this wasn’t the first time the people of God would leave this land because of a famine that would strike the earth. If you turn and direct your attention to the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find that while this land was still a promise and a future dream in the hearts and souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, there would be three distinct and three separate famines which would thrust the patriarchs of the people of Israel from this land which they sojourned and dwelt in as strangers and pilgrims. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all departed from this land before it would be given unto their descendants, and they would do so because of a famine that would strike the earth during each of their generations. There is within the Old Testament book of Genesis three distinct and three powerful narratives concerning famines which struck the land during the days of these founding fathers and patriarchs of faith, and I invite you to consider their narratives beginning with Abraham, and continuing through to those of Isaac and Jacob:

“And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sisters: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and men servants, and maid servants, and she assess, and camels. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? So I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. Ands Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had” (Genesis 12:10-20).

“And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: and the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her. And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? One of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, he that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: for he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father’s servants had dogged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we are” (Genesis 26:1-16).

“And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all the lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to but corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (Genesis 41:53-57).

“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn Amon those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 42:1-5).

“And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, but us a little food” (Genesis 43:1-2).

“Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goseh, and tho shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: and there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father thither. And he fell upon his brother’s Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover, he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” Genesis 45:5-15).

“And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? For the money faileth. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year. When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? But us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass int eh increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. And they said, Thou hast saved our lives; let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s” (Genesis 57:13-26).

With each of these passages of Scripture we encounter and come face to face that there were three distinct and three different famines which came upon the land of Canaan, and which would force the patriarchs of faith out of the land and into another. During the famine which came upon the earth during the days of Abraham, he and his wife Sarai, and all that he had would journey down into the land of Egypt, and would depart from the land that was sworn unto him as an inheritance and possession. During the days of his son Isaac, there would be another famine that would strike and come upon the earth—one that was entirely different from the one during the days of Abraham, and as a result, Isaac would go down into the land of the Philistines with his wife Rebekah and all that he had. During the days of Jacob there would be a famine that would strike the earth, yet it would not be a famine during his earlier years, but rather during his later years when his sons were grown. There would be a famine that would strike the earth after Joseph would spend roughly thirteen years within the land of Egypt before becoming second in command in all the land next to Pharaoh king of Egypt. There would be seven years of famine that would come upon and strike the earth, and it would be during the second year of the famine that Jacob would send his ten eldest sons down into the land of Egypt to buy corn from Pharaoh and from the Egyptians. This would happen not once, but twice before eventually Joseph would reveal himself unto his brethren, and would reveal that he was their brother whom they had sold into slavery and bondage in the land of Egypt. Eventually and ultimately, Joseph would call for his father and for his entire household, and the households of his eleven sons to come down into the land of Egypt where they would not only dwell in the land with Joseph, but would also be cared for by Joseph. It would be during the days of Jacob and Joseph that the people of God would leave and depart from the land of Canaan for a third time because of the famine. What’s interesting and worth noting is that this third and final time would experience the famine being over in five years, but the children of Israel not departing from the land of Egypt for more than four hundred years. What would begin with famine in the land that would bring the children of Israel down into the land of Canaan would eventually result in more than four-hundred years of slavery for the children of Israel before they would finally and ultimately be delivered out of their bondage and oppression. Oh, it’s absolutely incredible to think about and consider this reality, for it has the ability to dramatically impact how we view the famine which came upon the land during the days of the judges of Israel.

As you read the words which are written and recorded within the book of Ruth you will find that during the days of the judges of Israel there was a famine that came upon and struck the land of Israel, and one that would drive this family of four out of the land of promise, blessing and inheritance, and into the land which was not theirs. What so intrigues and captivates me about the Old Testament book of Ruth is that it describes a period of time during the days of the Judges when a famine would strike the land—this in addition to the children of Israel being sold into the hands of their enemies. As if it weren’t enough for the people of Israel to be sold into the hands of their enemies and adversaries, there would also be a famine that would strike and come upon the land—one that would cause this family of four to depart from the land and enter into the land of Moab. Centuries later this family of four would depart the land that now belonged to the people of God, and would be given unto them as an inheritance and possession. The book of Ruth describes a period of time during the days of the judges when in addition to being sold into oppression and affliction among their enemies and adversaries, they would also experience a famine. We don’t know and we aren’t aware of whether or not any one else from among the tribes of Israel departed from the land during the days and time of the famine, but we do know that this family of four would depart from Bethlehem, and would depart to enter into the land of Moab. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous and captivating reality, for it has the power to alter and shift how you view this Old Testament book. It would be during the days of the judges when not only would their enemies spoil and plunder them, but when a famine would strike the land, and would cause this family of four to depart from the land and enter into the land of Moab—enter into a land that was not theirs for an inheritance or possession. The book of Ruth describes a time period during the days and time of the judges when a famine would strike and come upon the land—one that would cause this family to depart from the place of inheritance and enter into a place that would not and did not belong to them. Much like Abraham, and much like Isaac and Jacob who departed from this land centuries earlier because of a famine that would strike the land and entered into a land which was not their own—Abraham and Jacob entering into the land of Egypt, and Isaac enter into the land of the Philistines—this family would depart from the place of promise, the place of provision, the place of blessing, and the place of inheritance and possession in order that they might be cared for, sustained helped during this time. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that this family might not have been the only ones that thought to depart from the land of Israel during the days and time of famine, and that if this family departed, it might very well be understood that there were other families that might have departed from the land because of the famine.

DEPARTING FROM THE PLACE OF INHERITANCE TO SEEK PROVISION! DEPARTING FROM THE LAND OF PROVISION TO SEEK SUSTENANCE! WHEN FAMINE DRIVES YOU OUT OF THE PLACE OF PROMISE AND INTO A LAND NOT YOUR OWN! WHEN FAMINE THRUSTS YOU FROM THE PLACE OF INHERITANCE AND INTO THE PLACE OF UNCERTAINTY AND DOUBT! WHEN FAMINE BRINGS TO THE PLACE OF TRADING PROVISION, PROMISE AND BLESSING FOR UNCERTAINTY, DOUBT AND QUESTIONS! As I sit here and consider the words which are written and found within the Old Testament book of Ruth I can’t help but think about it as a contrast of two different women who’s lives would become united and intertwined by marriage. As you read the words that are found within this book you will find the narrative of Naomi who would leave Bethlehem-Judah during a time of great famine in the land for the land of Moab. Naomi would leave Bethlehem-Judah which was the land of inheritance, promise and blessing during a time of famine with her husband and her two sons, and would dwell in the land of Moab for a full ten years. It’s worth noting that while Naomi, her husband and their two sons lived and dwelt in the land of Moab both sons would take unto them wives from among the Moabite women. In the course of time, however—not only would Elimelech die and go the way of all the earth, but so also would their two sons. Eventually and ultimately Naomi would be left a widow—and not only a widow, but a widow without any either of her sons. There would come a point in time where she would be left with only her two daughter in laws—Orpah the one daughter in law, and Ruth the other daughter in law. Naomi would then seek to return to Bethlehem-Judah when she heard that the LORD had faithfully entreated His people, and there was once more bread in Bethlehem. What we must understand concerning this passage of Scripture is that it is a contrast between two women, for one woman would leave her native land during a time of famine, while another woman leave the land of her nativity during the time of grieving and mourning. Naomi would leave the land of Israel during a time of famine that struck the land in order that she might enter into the land of Moab, while Ruth would leave the land of Moab during a time of grieving in order that she might follow in the path of Naomi who was her mother in law. A CONTRAST OF TWO JOURNEYS! A CONTRAST OF TWO CIRCUMSTANCES!

If there is one thing I find absolutely and incredibly intriguing about the book of Ruth it’s that it is a powerful contrast between two women who would each leave their native land in order to pursue something different than what they previously had. Naomi would leave her native land because of famine, and would do so with her husband Elimelech and her two sons. Eventually, however, Naomi would enter into a tremendous period of grief, sorrow, anguish and despair as not only would her husband die, but so also would both of her sons. When Naomi made the decision to return to the land of Israel, she would do so knowing there was bread in Bethlehem, and knowing the LORD had faithfully entreated His people, but also returning without her husband or her two sons. What makes this narrative all the more interesting and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that Ruth could have very easily remained in the land of Moab in the land of her nativity, in the land of her father’s house, and in the land of her brethren. What Ruth decided to do, however, was leave the land of her nativity, leave her father’s house, and leave the life which she had known all her life. It would have been very easy for Ruth to remain in the land of Moab, and even to remarry in that land, for her husband had died there in the land. Scripture is unclear how long Ruth and her husband were married, but we do know that as certainly and as surely as Naomi grieved and mourned as a mother, so also would Ruth grieve and mourn as a widow. It’s interesting and worth pointing out that when Ruth and Naomi would journey into the land of Israel they would both do so as widows as their hearts were not only united in the bond and commitment of marriage which Ruth shared with Naomi’s son, but also in the grief, the anguish and the despair they shared because the man which they both loved—one as a mother and one as a wife—had died and gone the way of all the earth. COMPANIONS IN GRIEF! COMPANIONS IN SORROW! COMPANIONS IN ANGUISH! COMPANIONS IN DESPAIR! Perhaps one of the single greatest realities I can’t help but think about and consider is the fact that it would have been possible for Naomi to return to the land of Israel grieving and mourning as one who had not only lost her husband, but who had also lost both her sons, and she could have done so alone. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply was not the case, for while it is true that Naomi could have returned to the land of Israel alone in her grief, sorrow and anguish, she was accompanied by another who had experienced her own grief, her own despair, her own anguish, and her own sorrows. When Naomi returned to the land of her heritage and the land of her nativity, she would return empty having gone out full, yet she would return accompanied by one who would not only share in her grief, but who would also share in her relationship with God.

SHARING THE SAME GRIEF, BUT SHARING THE SAME GOD! SHARING THE SAME SORROW, BUT SHARING THE SAME SAVIOR! SHARING THE SAME ANGUISH, BUT SHARING THE SAME LORD! If there is one thing I absolutely love about the Old Testament book of Ruth, it’s the tremendous reality that when Naomi decided to return to the place of inheritance, to the place of provision, to the place of promise and blessing, she would not return alone. As you read the words which are found within this book you will find that Naomi originally and initially encouraged both of her daughter in laws to return unto their native land, to the land of their father’s house, and to remain in the land which they had known their entire lives. What so absolutely and utterly amazes me about the narrative of Naomi and her two daughter in laws is that all three women found themselves in the same boat. All three of these women had experienced and suffered tremendous loss, as all three of them would experience the loss of their husbands. Naomi would lose her husband in the land of Moab—and not only would she lose her husband in the land of Moab, but she would also lose both of her sons in the land of Moab as well. It becomes quite interesting when you think about and consider the fact that both Ruth and Orpah had married into this family, as they had each married one of Naomi’s sons. The book of Ruth describes how in the land of Moab—during the period of ten years Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons lived in the midst of the land—both Naomi’s husband and her two sons would die and would perish in the midst of the land. Both of her sons would marry within the land, and both of her sons would leave behind widows when they died and perished in the midst of the land. Perhaps the undeniable and incredible truth to consider when reading the words that are found within this passage of Scripture is that all three women would have undoubtedly suffered when they each experienced the loss of their husbands. There is not a doubt in my mind that all three of these women experienced and suffered deep anguish, deep despair and deep sorrow in the midst of the land of Moab, as all three women would find themselves having to deal with the sudden loss of their husbands. Scripture is unclear what caused the death of Elimelech, and what caused the deaths of their two sons, however, we do know that during the span of ten years these three men died leaving behind their widows in the land. I am convinced it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this tremendous reality, for to miss and lose sight of this reality would be to miss the incredible significance of what happened in this book—particularly surrounding the issue of dealing with sorrow, dealing with grief, dealing with anguish, and dealing with the element of despair within our lives.

As you read the Old Testament book of Ruth you will find that both Ruth and Orpah were instructed by Naomi to leave her and let her go and return to the land of her nativity—to the land of Israel and to the town of Bethlehem. If you begin reading with and from the sixth verse you will find that when Naomi arose from her two daughter in laws to return unto her own country—for she had heard that there was bread once more in the land, and how the LORD had faithfully entreated His people—she originally set out from the place where she was, and did so with her two daughter in laws. In the process of the journey, however, we find that Naomi turned and spoke unto her two daughter in laws and instructed them to return to their mother’s house, and asked that the LORD would deal kindly with them, as they had dealt kindly with her. Moreover, Naomi would speak unto them and pray that the LORD would grant them that they might find rest in the house of her husband. Scripture goes on to describe how she kissed each one of her daughter in laws, and how they all lifted up their voices and wept at the thought of separating from each other. Initially both Orpah and Ruth would declare unto her that they would return with her unto the land of her people, however, Naomi would be more adamant that they return to the land of their nativity, and to their mother’s house, and that in the process of doing so the LORD deal kindly with them and give them rest in the house of their husband and in the land of their birth. It would come to pass that at this second instruction to return to the houses of of their mothers, and to the land of their nativity, that Orpah would kiss her mother in law Naomi, and would return to the land of Moab. Ruth, however, is quite a different story, for Ruth would not only cleave unto Naomi, but Ruth would entreat Naomi with great passion and zeal that she not instruct her to leave her, nor instruct her to return to her own land, for wherever Naomi would go she would go, and wherever Naomi would stay she would stay, and Naomi’s people would be Ruth’s people, and the God of Naomi would be her God. Moreover, Ruth would declare that where Naomi would die she would die, and in that land and in that place she would be buried. Finally, you will read how Ruth would declare unto Naomi and declare that the LORD to do her, and more also if anything but death part and divide the two of them. When and as Naomi realized that she could in no wise convinced Ruth to turn away from her and return to her own land, she abandoned her attempt to instruct her to return to her land, and allowed her to accompany her on the journey back to the land of Israel, and to the town of Bethlehem.

If there is one thing I can’t help but recognize and understand when reading this particular passage of Scripture, it’s that all three of these women would experience great loss and would walk through a tremendous place of tragedy. All three of these women would experience the death of their husbands, and all three women would be left alone in the world—Naomi without her husband and two sons, and Orpah and Ruth without their husbands. There is not a doubt in my mind that each of these three women found themselves walking through a tremendous period of despair, a tremendous period of anguish, and a tremendous place of sorrow. Pause for a moment and consider how it would impact you if all of a sudden you experienced the loss of your spouse—perhaps suddenly, or perhaps gradually over the period of time. Think about and consider how it would make you feel if you found yourself walking through the valley of the shadow of death as death laid hold of that one you loved, and as you were left alone in this world without that one whom you had spent your life with. Scripture is unclear how long Orpah and Ruth had been married to the sons of Naomi, so we are left to speculate at how long they had been married—and even how long after their deaths Naomi would make the decision to return to the land of Israel and unto the town of Bethlehem. What I find to be absolutely captivating is the fact that not only in the process of time, but also after the deaths of her husband and two sons Naomi would hear how there was bread in Israel once more, and how there was bread in Bethlehem because the LORD had faithfully entreated His people. Despite the fact that her husband was dead, and despite the fact that both of her sons were dead as well, she had heard of the goodness and grace of the living God, as He had once more visited His people, and had caused there to be bread in the land. After ten years of living in the land of Moab, and after experiencing the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi would hear a report from the land of Israel concerning the provision and blessing of the LORD, and she would make the conscious decision to return to the land of her nativity, and to the land of her father’s house, and to the place of promise, inheritance and blessing. What’s more, is that initially Naomi would begin returning to the land and place of her nativity with both of her daughter in laws, as Scripture clearly states and reveals that all three women engaged in the process of leaving the land of Moab to journey unto the land of Israel, and to the town of Bethlehem. All three women would initially set out on the journey to return to the land of Israel and unto the town of Bethlehem, and it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this.

There is not a doubt in my mind that when these three women set out to engage on the journey to enter into the land of Judah, and to the land of Israel, and even to the town of Bethlehem, they did so heavy of heart and filled with sorrow, anguish and despair. It’s worth noting that all three of these women had suffered and experienced great loss, and all three of these women had experienced their husbands dying in the land of Moab, and all three were left behind without the men they loved. This is incredibly significant, for initially it would appear that these three women would walk through this valley of despair to gather. Originally these three women would walk through the sorrow and anguish they felt and experienced within their hearts as they would make their way to the land of Israel and to the town of Bethlehem. Eventually, however, Naomi would speak unto her daughters in law and instruct them to return to the land of their nativity, and to return to their mother’s house that they might once again find rest and peace for their souls. You will find and read that Naomi declared unto both of these women that the LORD deal kindly with them, and that the LORD give them rest in the place of their mother’s house, and in the house of their husbands. Upon Naomi’s initial request and instruction both women would emphatically declare unto her that they would go with her unto her land, and that they would walk with her through this life, walk with her through sorrow, walk with her through despair, and walk with her through anguish of soul. It’s worth noting that both women would set out on the journey to the land of Israel with Naomi, and both women were willing to leave the land of their nativity, and leave the place of their mother’s house, and even the house of their husband. What we find, however, is that upon Naomi’s continuing to press them to return to the land and place of their nativity, Orpah would kiss her mother in law and would make the decision to return to the land and place of her nativity. I am convinced there is a tremendous significance, for there is not a doubt in my mind that Orpah would leave Naomi, and while it would appear that she would do so with the blessing of Naomi as she would declare unto both daughter in laws that the LORD deal kindly with them and grant them rest in the land of Moab. We find and read that Orpah would kiss Naomi, as well as her sister in law Ruth, and would make the journey back to the land of Moab—back to the place of her nativity, and back to the place of her mother’s house. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this reality, for this reality brings us face to face with something more than simply Orpah choosing to return to the land and place of her nativity. What we find within this passage is more than just a decision to return to the land of one’s nativity, and to return to the place of one’s birth, but there is something much deeper that took place here.

Within the book of Ruth there is a strong and powerful contrast between walking through despair, walking through sorrow, walking through anguish, and walking through the pain of loss alone, and walking through these same manifestations together with someone. Initially and originally we find that Naomi would set out on the journey to the land of Israel and to the town of Bethlehem with both her daughter in laws, and upon setting out on this journey, all three women would do so from the place of loss, and from the place of anguish and sorrow as each of their husbands had died in the process of time. I would dare say that when these three women set out to make the journey to the land of Israel and to the town of Bethlehem, they would do so agreeing to walk with each other in the midst of their sorrow and anguish, and they would agree to accompany one another as they navigated the dark and murky waters of death, of pain and of loss. What we find, however, is that there would come the point in time when Orpah would make the decision to return to the land of Moab, and to return to her mother’s house, and to the house of her husband. We aren’t sure how far these three women had come when Orpah decided to turn back, and we aren’t sure why Orpah would make the decision to turn back and return to the land of her nativity, however, we do know for certain that she made the conscious decision to leave Naomi and Ruth, and to return to the land of Moab. The question I can’t help but ask is what it was like for Orpah as she would return to the land of Moab, and what it was like as she returned to the land of her inheritance—perhaps and undoubtedly still dealing with the sorrow and anguish of her heart and soul as both Naomi and Ruth did. I believe that each of these women were walking through the same grief, and each of these women were walking through the same suffering, hurt and pain as the others, and yet only one made the decision to part ways, and only one made the decision to return to the land of Moab. Oh I can’t help but read and consider this and get the strong sense that there are those among us who find it easier to walk through hurt and pain alone rather than walking through it with others—perhaps even others who have walked through the same hurt and pain they themselves have walked through. I firmly believe that there are those among us who find it easier to walk through and navigate the waters of anguish and despair alone, and make the conscious and deliberate decision to leave those whom they perhaps originally set out to walk with. The more I think about and consider the narrative of Orpah the more I can’t help but see one who undoubtedly found it easier to return to the place she was comfortable with, and the place she was familiar with—especially and particularly as she was navigating the hurt and pain of the loss of her husband. I would dare say that Orpah found it easier to return to that place and those places she was most comfortable with, and those places she knew and was familiar with as she would navigate the waters of death and sorrow.

The reality of Orpah returning to the land and place of her nativity, and to the place of her mother’s house brings me to an even greater reality than simply one choosing to navigate the dark and murky waters of death, pain and loss alone, but also the reality of one who chooses to walk through such realities in the place of comfort and familiarity. What we must recognize is that both Orpah and Ruth were given the chance and opportunity to return with Naomi to the land of Israel, and to the town of Bethlehem, and both women would initially set out on this journey from Moab to Israel that they might begin and start a new life in the land after it was heard that the Lord had faithfully entreated His people, and that there was once more bread in the land. Originally and initially all three of these women would set out on this journey and this walk together, however, there would come a point in time when much like Elijah instructed Elisha to remain in the place where he was, and perhaps even to return to the place he had come, they would need to make the decision to continue on in the journey with Naomi, or return to the land and place of their birth. What we learn and encounter within this passage of Scripture is that Orpah would make the decision to return to the land and place of her nativity, and would choose to part ways with Ruth and Naomi that she might return to the land of Moab. Please don’t’ miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and tremendous reality, for to do so would be to miss and lose sight of the fact that this woman would not only choose comfort and familiarity over uncertainty and the Unkown, but she would also choose to walk through sorrow, anguish, despair and anguish alone. Oh, I am absolutely and completely convinced that for Orpah, it was easier to deal with the hurt and pain of losing her husband in the place of comfort and familiarly, and even dealing with it alone rather than walking with others. Oh, I can’t help but find within the narrative and account of Orpah a powerful reality of those who might experience the same loss, the same hurt, and the same pain as others, and while they might initially set out to walk through and navigate those waters together with others in the same place and in the same boat, their would come a point when they would part ways with those they had walked with, in order that they might return to the place of comfort and familiarly. Moreover, there would come the point in time when they would make the decision to walk through the sorrow, the anguish, the hurt and the despair alone, rather than walking through it together with others. Within and through the narrative of Orpah I can’t help but see a wonderful and powerful picture of one who not only made the conscious decision to choose that which was familiar and that which was comfortable, but also choosing to walk through the hurt, the pain, the sorrow and the anguish alone and without others joining and coming alongside them.

It is very easy to read the narrative of the book of Ruth and to focus all our attention on Ruth and her decision to leave the land of her nativity, to leave the land her mother’s house, and even to leave the place she had known and become so familiar with, and yet I am convinced that while it is wise to read this book and consider the narrative of Ruth, it is also equally as important to consider the fact that this book is a story of choices and decision. This Old Testament book is one of contrasts and decisions, for not only were both Orpah and Ruth given the decision to return to the land of their nativity, and to the land of their mother’s house, but so also was there another aside from Boaz who was given the opportunity to purchase the land of Elimelech, as well as take Ruth unto themselves to be their wife and raise up the seed of Elimelech. Not only would this one who could have purchased and redeemed the land of Elimelech choose not to once he discovered that with it would come taking Ruth unto themselves to be their wife, but so also would Orpah make the decision to return to the land of Moab rather than walking with Naomi through the sorrow, through the anguish, and through the despair of loss, hurt and pain. Oh, I believe with everything inside of me that at some point within our lives we are given the choice and the opportunity to make the decision whether we will choose comfort and familiarity, or whether we will choose the unknown and choose the path of uncertainty. There are times within our lives when we are faced with and confronted with the choice of walking through hurt and pain alone, or whether we will choose to allow others into that place within our hearts and souls, and to walk with them. We must not forget and lose sight of the fact that all three of these women had walked through and experienced the same hurt and pain of the loss of their husbands, and all three women would have experienced and suffered anguish and despair within their hearts and souls. Moreover, all three of these women would set out on the journey from the land of Moab to the land of Israel, and yet only Ruth would be resolute in her decision to continue walking with Naomi as she returned to the land of her nativity, and to the land of inheritance, promise and blessing. There is a great deal of truth that is contained within this, for through the life of Ruth we find and see a powerful picture of one who was not only willing to walk through hurt and pain with another, but we also see a wonderful and powerful picture of one who was willing to walk the path of uncertainty and the Unkown as she would leave everything that was comfortable and familiar to her, as well as walk through sorrow, anguish, hurt and pain together with another. There is something to be said about one who is willing to not only enter into a life of uncertainty and the Unkown, but also doing so in and from the place of hurt, pain, sorrow, anguish and despair.

The Old Testament book of Ruth is a strong study in contrasts and comparisons, for within this book we find and discover the fact that both Ruth and Orpah walked through sorrow, anguish, hurt and pain with Naomi, and I can’t help but see their journey to the land of Israel as a powerful picture of their walking through and navigating these waters together rather than being separate. I can’t help but read the words which are found within this Old Testament book of Ruth and view it as a strong and powerful study in contrasts and comparisons, as there would be two women who would initially set out walking with another through and in the place of anguish and sorrow, and their journey together with her would be one of walking through and navigating these waters together. I can’t help but wonder if as they were making their way from the land of Moab to the land of Israel they did not recount and remember the memories they had of their husbands. I can’t help but wonder if as they were making this journey from the land of Moab they did not share stories and memories of their husbands, and the fond memories they had with the men whom they loved and who they had chosen to spend their lives with. Is it possible that these three women initially and originally began walking through and walking the path of sorrow, anguish, hurt and pain together, and yet there would come a point in time when they would be given the choice to return—and not only return, but also return to the place of comfort, ease and familiarity. Moreover, there would come the point when these women would be given the chance and the choice to depart from Naomi and to return to the land of their nativity, and to their mother’s house. What’s more, is that both women were given the choice and the chance to continue walking through this hurt, this sorrow and anguish together with Naomi, or to return and walk through it alone and by themselves. We know from the words found and contained within this passage that Orpah would make the decision to depart from Ruth and Naomi, and would choose to return to the land of Moab. With this being said there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if perhaps she thought it would be easier for her to navigate the waters of sorrow, of anguish and despair alone and in the place of familiarity rather than walking through those waters together with others, as well within a place of uncertainty and the Unkown. Perhaps the question we must ask ourselves is what we do and how we choose to handle and face loss within our hearts and lives, and how we choose to handle hurt, pain, sorrow and anguish. When we find ourselves walking through the valley of the shadow of death—do we choose to walk through it alone without others whom we perhaps originally set out to walk with, or do we continue walking through and walking along that path together with those whom we have made the decision to walk with that we might walk though it together?

This particular book—while it is only four chapters long—is a strong and powerful contrast of a choice and a decision we will at least point within our lives be called to make. This book is a powerful picture of a point and place within our lives when we will have to make the decision whether we will choose to walk through our hurt, walk through our pain, walk through our anguish, and walk through our sorrow alone, or whether or not we will walk through it together with others. There will come a point within our lives—perhaps only once, or perhaps more than once—when we will be brought to the place of whether or not we will walk in the place of uncertainty and the unkown, or whether we will choose to cleave to that which is familiar and comfortable. The book of Ruth is a powerful study in the lives of two women who were both given the choice to return to their own land, and to return to their mother’s house—to the place of comfort and familiarity—as well as the choice to walk in the midst of hurt, pain, sorrow and anguish alone. What we find within this book is a decision made by Ruth to walk together with Naomi in the midst of the hurt, the pain, the sorrow and the anguish they both experienced—and not only to walk through that process together, but also to allow and have Naomi’s people be her people, and have Naomi’s God be her god. Both Ruth and Orpah were given the chance and the opportunity to turn back and to return to the place they were both comfortable and familiar with, and yet only Ruth made the decision to continue on with Naomi as she would ultimately come to the land of Israel, and to the town of Bethlehem. Through Ruth we not only see a kindness and compassion that was displayed to Naomi in that she was unwilling to leave her side, and unwilling to leave her alone and to herself, but we also see one who was given the choice to depart from her to return to what she had known, and her decision to do just that. Through Ruth we find a powerful picture of one who is willing to walk through sorrow and anguish together with another, as well as to serve the LORD together with another, and even to enter into and experience community together with another. Through Orpah, however, we see one who made the decision to walk through that same hurt, that same pain, that same anguish, that same sorrow alone—and not only walk through it alone, but also face it in the place of comfort and familiarly. What is so absolutely remarkable and astonishing about Ruth is that not only was she willing to continue walking with Naomi, but she was willing to walk through the hurt and pain she was experiencing herself together with Naomi as she was navigating her own pain, her own hurt, and her own sorrow and anguish. The book of Ruth is a strong and powerful contrast between two women who were given the choice to walk together in fellowship with Naomi, and enter into a new land with a new people and with a new God, and yet only one would make the decision to continue walking with Naomi.

As I bring this writing to a close I can’t help but think about and consider this book as bearing a strong similarity to the narrative of Abraham the patriarch of the Hebrew people, as Abraham would be called to leave the land of his nativity, to leave his father’s house, and to leave his country, and to journey unto a land which the LORD would indeed show him. Of course we know and understand that Abraham would indeed leave and would indeed make the journey to the land which the LORD would show him, and just like Abraham would make the decision to depart from his native country and land, so also would Ruth make the decision to leave her native land, and to leave her country that she might enter into a land that was entirely and altogether new to her. With that being said, we must also consider this book as a contrast between those who weren’t willing to depart from that which they have known in order that they might enter into that which was Unkown, as Orpah would choose to return to the land of Moab and to the land of her nativity. I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words when He declared that no man’s puts his hand to the plow and then turns back. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus the Christ declared and asked of the disciples when many turned back and no longer walked with Him because the words which He had spoken were difficult for them to hear, handle and bear. Jesus gave the disciples the chance and opportunity to return and to go back to where they were when He called them, and yet Simon also called Peter and asked them where they would and could go, for He alone had the words of eternal life. When we read the Old Testament book of Ruth we must see it as a powerful contrast between those who were willing to walk together with others, and those who are willing to walk through the trials and troubles of this life with others, and those who choose to walk through and navigate those waters alone apart and separate from community and fellowship. The Old Testament book of Ruth is a strong and powerful contrast between those who are willing to enter into the unkown and uncertainty in order that they might experience the blessing, promise and provision of the Lord, or whether they will choose to return to and remain in the place of comfort, ease and familiarity. Ruth would make the decision to remain and walk with Naomi, however, Orpah would make the decision to turn back and to return to the land of Moab and to the place of her nativity, and to her father’s house. Oh the question we must ask ourselves when we read this Old Testament book is what we will do and how we will respond when we find ourselves in this same place, and find ourselves being given the opportunity to choose between turning back and moving forward. Will we choose to be like Ruth and continue on with Naomi into and unto the land of inheritance, promise and blessing, and into the place where we will walk with, serve and follow the living God, or will we choose to be like Orpah who will choose to return to that which we are comfortable and familiar with, and walk through this life alone without community and fellowship of others.

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