Love always brings us to a crossroad. Choices must be made. There will always be a "letting go" of former things if we are to embrace love's destiny. We must say goodbye to old relationships that threaten the new. That is the crossroad of love. Love politely gives us an out. It says, "I'm headed this way. Which way are you headed?" This is when our devotion is tested. The crossroad proves which is stronger: love or the lust of other things. We come to this crossroad in the story of Ruth. Naomi is headed to the House of Bread. Will her daughters-in-law follow? Where does their love lie?
"Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her." (verse 14)
Here we pick up on the trail of the three widows, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. Naomi has heard that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. The famine in Bethlehem is over so she is returning home. There is nothing for her in Moab. Now her daughters-in-law must choose. Will they follow Naomi to the House of Bread or remain in worldly Moab? Naomi has been totally upfront with her young daughters-in-law. They must deny themselves and leave their world behind should they follow after her.
The same is true for us. You cannot keep one foot in Moab and the other in the House of Bread. If you seek the Bread of Life, you must deny yourself and leave your world behind. You cannot hang onto both. You must leave one and cling to the other.
Orpah hoped to hold onto both. She is a picture of the compromised Christian. She wants the old life and the new. She wants the bread in Bethlehem along with the leaven in Moab. But the two don't mix. She must make a choice. Sadly, her affection for the world gets the best of her. That's the compromised believer. They want the Bread of Life but they can't leave Moab. It is easier for the compromised Christian to kiss off the House of Bread.
It is interesting that both Orpah and Ruth wept once they came to this crossroad. However, they wept for different reasons. Orpah wept because she couldn't leave her world behind. Ruth wept because she couldn't imagine Naomi leaving her in that God forsaken place. Again, I think of that Rich Young Ruler who walked away from Jesus. He left very sad, scripture tells us. He wanted Jesus in his life but he loved the world more. He couldn't turn his back on it.
Now, look at Ruth. She clung to Naomi. That's when you know a person is serious. That's when you know they are ready to leave all else behind. In marriage we call it "leaving and cleaving."
"For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh." (Ephesians 5:21)
The man must leave the nest and make a new life elsewhere. His wife must now take precedence. He must put her first, even above his own mother and father. Likewise, we must also leave and cleave when we follow after Christ. We can't be two-timers. This is a relationship built on love and faithfulness. If you still have one foot in Moab, it's time to make a choice. Leave the leaven behind. Choose the Bread of Life. Cling to Jesus.
"And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." (verse 15)
This must have been a real emotional scene with these women. Both Ruth and Naomi have lost their husbands. Now Orpah is gone. The temptation for Ruth to join her sister-in-law must have been incredibly intense. But she is clinging on to Naomi for dear life. They are both bawling their eyes out. And once again, Naomi tries to talk Ruth out of following her, or so it seems.
Understand where Naomi is coming from. She doesn't want Ruth to be led by her emotions. Nor does she want Ruth to follow half-heartedly. If Ruth follows, her heart must be totally in it. So, Naomi gives her an out. "There is still time to catch up with your sister. Her people and her gods await you in Moab!"
Do you see the parallel? God works the same way. He doesn't want us following after Him half heartedly. He doesn't want our decision to be an emotional one. He doesn't want us running back to our former gods once the emotions go away. He wants us to break all ties with Moab. "But those are my people," you say. Sadly, this is why many choose not to follow after the Lord. There are Moabites they refuse to part company with. Yet God would say, "It's them or me." You must decide who you love more. This does not mean we cannot have friends in the world. We just can't hang with them in Moab any longer. We must bring them to the House of Bread.
"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." (verse 16)
This is one of the most beautiful expressions of commitment in all the Bible. Ruth has purposed in her heart to dwell in the House of Bread with Naomi. The Moabites will no longer be her people. The gods of Moab will no longer be her gods. She has committed herself to the true God, and His people shall be her people. That is how it is supposed to be. When we embrace God we must also embrace His people. Yes, God's children must come together. The "House of Bread" reminds us of this important fact. There is to be communion among the brethren.
It saddens me when I here folks say they don't like church. I can only hope they don't mean the people, as those are God's people. True, they are an ornery bunch, but those are our people as well. We must extend to others the same grace God extends to us. Breaking fellowship with God's people is not an option. This is a family founded upon acceptance. If we don't love God's own it is because we don't love God, nor do we know God, for the love of God is not in us. (1 John 4:7-8)
"Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me." (verse 17)
We can learn a lot from Ruth about commitment. She surrenders her life and is committed unto death. I hope you are just as committed to the Lord. I pray you love Him that much. He is worth living for and He is worth dying for. And I hope you to realize how committed our Lord is to you:
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38)
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing! What about you? Is there anything that separates your love from Him? Are you ready to let it go? Will you surrender all? Will you love Him for life? Will you love Him to death?
"When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her." (verse 18)
Three times Ruth was told to go back to Moab. Three times she refused. Her heart's desire is to be with Naomi in The House of Bread. There is no talking her out of it. So Naomi finally pipes down.
"Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, "Is this Naomi?" (verse 19)
The two widows finally arrive at the House of Bread and the whole town is abuzz. Everybody's talking. We can only imagine what they were saying. Naomi left with a husband and two sons; ten years later she returns with a Moabitess. That word 'excited' does not necessarily mean everyone was enthused. That's how we use the term today. "I'm excited to see you," we say. That's not what we find in the story of Ruth. The term for 'excited' in the original was 'hum' which means 'in an uproar' or 'agitated.' We all know how people talk and jump to conclusions. Naomi and Ruth created quite a stir, especially among the women. It was the women who asked, "Is this Naomi?" Obviously, they knew who it was. But keep in mind what Naomi means. It is Hebrew for 'pleasant.' The real question here is, "Is this pleasant?" Perhaps they asked this because things didn't look so pleasant on the surface. Naomi assures them they aren't...
"But she said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." (verse 20)
Naomi no longer wants to be referred to by her given name. From now on it's 'Mara' which means bitter. Don't call me pleasant, call me bitter. At least she is honest. Most will never admit when they are bitter. They wish to be called pleasant. However, they are anything but. Once they show their fangs you're asking, "Is this pleasant?" Wouldn't it be great if bitter people wore name badges that said Mara on them? I'd like to know in advance. Naomi wasn't afraid to tell others. "Be advised, I'm bitter!"
And who does Naomi blame for her bitterness? God! "The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me!" she tells everyone. Certainly we can sympathize with Naomi. She has suffered the loss of her husband and two sons. But God does not have it out for her. He only wants the best for Naomi. Things will turn out quite well for her. At the moment she doesn't see that. Right now she is bitter.
"I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (verse 21)
I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. That's how it always is. Those who walk away from the House of Bread leave full. They are generally full of themselves. Before they can return, they must be emptied. There was a time when I left the House of Bread. I was stuffed with me, myself and I. God had to reduce me to nothing in order to bring me back. He emptied me of self so I could be filled with more of Him. Initially when God takes us through this humbling process, we don't understand it. We might even be bitter at first. We may say things like, "The Almighty has afflicted me!"
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt God had it out for you or that He was punishing you?"Everything was going so well. Life was perfect. Then God had to ruin it all!" These are not rational thoughts but bitterness never is rational. There is just no rational reason for thinking that bad things happen to us because God has some axe to grind. But bitterness poisons the mind. When people are bitter they no longer operate from a framework of sound reason. They are fueled by resentment and all they see is gloom and doom. Under these conditions it is easy to jump to conclusions - conclusions that really amount to nothing but nonsense.
The reality is, when God empties us it's because He wants to fill us with something better. He doesn't subtract from our lives just to make us miserable. He wants to bring us to a place of abundance. He humbles us so He can lift us up even higher. You won't be happy in the House of Bread if you are full of self or full of Moab. There is only one way to come back. You must return empty. Only then will God fill you.
Though Naomi returns to the House of Bread empty, she will be made full. We will see God bless her socks off in spite of her bitterness.
"So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest." (verse 22)
Here we already see hope in the House of Bread. Naomi and Ruth return in the Spring, at the time of the barley harvest. The famine is over and the barley fields are exploding with grain. That is where Ruth finds provision for her and Naomi. Not only does she find provision, she finds love. Yes, this Moabitess finds love in the House of Bread. And there is enough love to cover Naomi. In the House of Bread there is enough love to cover us all.
continued in House of Bread - part 3