When Naomi went forth out of the place in Moab, her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, went with her. It seems that Orpah so well as Ruth set out with the intention to return with their mother-in-law to Judah. The text reads, “And they—the three of them—went on the way to return to the land of Judah.” And again, “And they—Orpah and Ruth—said unto her, “Surely, we will return with thee unto thy people.” Thus spake also Orpah. Hence, she, too, must be urged to return to her people. And how insistent Naomi was that the both of them do as she advised. “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house;” she said to them, “the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant you that ye find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.” And once more, “Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands ? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; would you tarry for them till they are grown? Would: you stay for them from having husbands? Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.”
It must not be supposed that the design of these words was to put them to a test that she hoped and expected that they would endure. These words hid not her true feelings. She meant precisely what she said. They must by all means return. That is what she wanted them to do. This is plain. After the departure of Orpah, she once more turned to Ruth and said to her, “Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. Ruth replies and then we read, “When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking to her.” In a word, she perceived that she could not rid herself of Ruth. Despite all her remonstrances, this daughter was adamant. Said she to Naomi, “Do not entreat, urge, assail me with petitions, to leave thee or to turn from following thee. . . .” That precisely was what Naomi did, so much so that Ruth became impatient with her mother-in-law. “Do not urge me. Be silent. Thy entreaties avail not. For I am determined. Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.” It is a matter of life or death unto her. For she even swears by Jehovah, the God of Israel. “The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Naomi perceived now that it was useless to oppose her. Yet, it is plain that Naomi remained reluctant. For instead of breaking forth in praise at the hearing of that confession, instead of speaking words of comfort and encouragement, she was mute, and mother and daughter continue their journey to God’s country in silence. Naomi yielded because she understood that it would be folly to oppose a resistance so determined as that of Ruth. Yet Naomi had listened to the good confession, the thrust of which is easily to be discerned. It is this. “I will abide with thee, my mother, now and ever. And so will I abide with thy people and with thy God. For thou art mine and I am thine. And thy people and thy God are mine, and I am theirs and His. I love thee my mother. And I love thy people and thy God. For thou and thy people and thy God are one.” There is, to be sure, a world of thought shut up in this confession of the Moabitess. It forms the nucleus of our whole Christian faith, God’s gift to Ruth. She was a new creature in Christ, and thus dead to Moab, to the pleasures of Moab which were the pleasures of sin, and to Moab’s idols—dead to all these and alive to God. She had heard about God—Israel’s God. And when she married into that Israelitish family, she heard still more about Him. And she had seen something of His glory as reflected in Naomi, and had received in her heart His testimony that He was hers and she His. It was Him after whom her heart was yearning.
But Naomi did not understand. She could not believe that this Moabitess was truly seeking after God. She would fain have it so. For she loved the woman as her own soul. And the tie was spiritual. Parting with her was too painful for words. But Ruth was a heathen. And the promise of God was unto Abraham and his seed. And it was the dispensation of shadows. God had yet to send His Son into death for the sins of His people, and so the blessings of Abraham had not yet come to the Gentiles. For one like Ruth, there could be no hope, and no future in Canaan. God nor His people wanted one like her. She was shut out of His mercy. Naomi tells them with all possible tenderness. “Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. And if I should have a husband. . . .and bear sons, would you tarry for them? No indeed. That would be folly. They perceived the meaning back of these words. There were no husbands for them in Israel, for they were heathen. Her sons had taken wives from the daughters of Moab but against the law of Israel. Hearing and fully comprehending, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and immediately set out for Moab, returning to her people and to her gods. Her attachment for her mother-in-law was strong but not that strong. For her love of Naomi was purely natural. As to its essence, it was a carnal self- love. It was the kind of love of which Christ spake, when he said, “If ye love those who love you,, what more do you than sinners. The prospect of being joined in marriage to another Israelitish man appealed to her. For her experience had been that the Israelites made good husbands. The likes of them were not to be found in Moab. She could sacrifice the pleasures of sin in Moab and Moab’s people and gods for such a husband. But with this prospect gone, she went back to her people. And she found it not too difficult to part with her mother-in-law, in fact not difficult at all. For spiritually Naomi was a child of the light and Orpah was a child of darkness, being a heathen. And Naomi’s telling her that she was wholly objectionable to God’s people in Canaan, because of her being a heathen had only injured her pride, and filled her with resentment toward Naomi. For, despite her tears and ostentations of affection for her mother-in-law, she was a heathen, devoid of grace.
But Ruth clave to her mother-in-law. For she wanted Gold. For she was possessed of God. And she therefore wanted His people and also Naomi. Gladly would she spend the rest of her days in widowhood and in a state of abject poverty, if she might only have God. And she forsook Moab and all that Moab represented, and went to God in Canaan. Nothing could (deter her, not even the consideration that the blessings of Abraham were only for Israel. That she knew was sound teaching. But she also knew that God was calling her into His sanctuary. Her perplexity was great, but not so great that it was not surmounted by her faith. Great was her faith. And therefore great was her determination that nothing should deter her or discourage her. “Cease urging me to leave thee. . . . Then she left off speaking unto her.” And well she might. But she was still doubtful, was Naomi. Ruth belongs in that category of Old Testament worthies who took the kingdom of God by storm. And what a remarkable example she is of the irresistible operation of God’s grace.
If Naomi was still doubtful, she was now made to see that Ruth was accepted of God. Ruth had attached herself to a poor widow, in dire need, who must live on the bounty of the rich. That was the necessity under which her choice had brought her. But she was content. For she dwelt among God’s people. And she; had Naomi as her constant companion. Thus she had gotten her way. She was with God’s, people. Her heart was glad. She felt confident that God, to whom she knew that she belonged, would take care of her. But she did not sit still. She gains permission of Naomi to go to the, field and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight she should find grace. The Lord directed her feet to the fields of Boaz, ‘who bestows upon her signal favors and speaks to her words such as she as yet had heard from no one, not even from Naomi. Boaz was assured that she was accepted of God. Her doings was indicative of that. He considers all that she did for Naomi. He considers how she left her father and mother, and the land of her birth, and was come unto a people which she knew not heretofore. She had come to trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel. Considering all this he blesses her. Says he to her, “The Lord recompense thy work and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel under whose wings thou art come to rest.” And Ruth was comforted. Boaz’ words were to her the words of God. She gave expression to her gratitude in these words, “For thou hast comforted me and hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.”