Aug. 11, 2009
Passage #1: “Then Naomi arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab.”
Ruth 1: 6
Passage #2: “So she (Naomi) left the place where she was, her two daughters-in-law with her, and they started on the way back to Judah.”
Ruth 1: 7
Passage #3: “But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each of you to her mother’s house!’”
Ruth 1: 8
Passage #4: “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”
Passage #5: “The Lord grant that you may find a home and rest, each in the house of her husband.”
Passage #6: “Then (Naomi) kissed them and they wept aloud.”
Ruth 1: 9
Passage #7: “And they said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’”
Ruth 1: 10
Passage #8: “But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters.’”
Ruth 1: 11
Passage #9: “Have I yet sons in my womb that may become your husbands?”
Ruth 1: 11
Passage #10: “Turn back, my daughters, go.”
Ruth 1: 12
“Orpah’s Choice” Part II
“It is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice.”
Have I offered others advice and then found myself upset that they followed the very advice I had given them?
If I really loved someone, would I advise them to do something that wouldn’t be for their own good?
“The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.”
Hannah Whitall Smith
“I am very handy with my advice and then when anybody appears to be following it, I get frantic.”
Yesterday, we began our study on Orpah, one of the Moabite women who married one of Naomi’s sons. As noted, Orpah has nearly always been portrayed as the daughter-in-law who made a bad choice and left Naomi, by going home to her family in Moab.
In our lesson yesterday, we took time to recognize that we all bring certain biased viewpoints to situations. In the case of Orpah, I think biased perceptions have been carried to the extreme. Orpah gets a bad rap – and I don’t think it’s fair.
So for the next two days we’re going to reflect on other viewpoints and options that may have been the reason Orpah’s making the choice she did.
In order to more clearly get a picture of the situation that surrounded Orpah’s decision to stay in Moab, I’ve listed ten specific passages from Scripture that illuminate what may have been the key elements that went into the decision she made.
These ten passages can be grouped into six specific areas:
Group #1: Passages 1 & 2 from Ruth 1: 6, 7 provide us with the clear information that when Naomi decided to leave Moab, both daughters-in-law went with her. The Bible states that they “arose” and “left the place.” No one coerced Orpah or Ruth. Furthermore, it is apparent Orpah and Ruth weren’t children who couldn’t make up their own minds. At the least, they were probably around 20-years-old and so they were able to make a choice on their own. They weren’t tied to their husbands for they were dead and at that time in history, it would have been more natural for the girls to go home to their parents’ houses. Both girls chose to leave with Naomi.
Group #2: Passages 3, 9 and 10 all contain very direct words of instruction from Naomi to both girls: “Go home!” Naomi didn’t say words like, “Maybe you should go home or it might be a good idea if you went home.” Three times she was emphatic in her instruction, “Stay in Moab.”
Group #3: Passages 4 and 5 are where Naomi gives reasons to her daughters-in-law why it would be wise if they went home. But she even goes further. She advises her girls, both of them, to go home with her blessing. She tells them she is asking God to bestow His blessings on them. She also asks God to help them find homes and husbands and to give them rest. This is the kind of advice I’d give my nieces if I longed for them to be happy. And I’m certain you would do the same.
Group #4: Passage 6 in Ruth 1: 9 shows the depth of emotional love they all had for one another for we find they kissed each other and wept aloud. This doesn’t sound as if Orpah was jumping for joy at the thought of leaving Naomi and going back to Moab. Just the opposite – she was sobbing with grief.
Group #5: After kissing and crying, both girls told Naomi, after she’d already told them to go home, that they wouldn’t leave her side. Orpah’s refusal was just as direct and strong as Ruth’s refusal.
Group #6: The final thing that Naomi said to these two girls before she issued her third order for them to go home was this: “If I were young enough, and could still have children, I’d want to have two more boys who would grow up to marry the two of you.”
Now, let’s summarize what Naomi, the mother-in-law, advised her beloved daughters-in-law to do. She wanted them both to return home with her blessings and prayers. She wanted them to remarry with her support. She longed for them to have peaceful and restful lives. And if she could have had two more sons, she would want them to marry Ruth and Orpah.
Does this sound as though Orpah was some godless heathen, leaving her mother-in-law so she could go back and party with the Moabites? And what, I ask you, would make a girl who had dealt kindly with her husband and mother-in-law, in one brief moment, turn into an unfaithful woman who despised the God of Israel?
There’s nothing in Naomi’s exchange with her daughters-in-law that leads me to believe Orpah was any less committed to Naomi and her God than Ruth. Yet, our biased view has at times led us to believe God’s destiny for Ruth outshone Orpah’s.
Well, come back tomorrow, for there’s more for us to think about as we reflect not only on God’s potential for Orpah’s life, but for yours and mine, as well. And just a little hint, tomorrow’s lesson, I hope, will really set you to thinking, as it did me, about the way we judge the success of our regular, everyday lives – be they in Bethlehem, Moab, Phoenix, Glasgow, Barcelona, St. Louis or New York City! God has something very wonderful for each of us to do. Remember this, Naomi advised Orpah to go back to Moab – and as a loving mother, she may have had a good reason for this advice!
“To choose is also to begin.”
“Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life. O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You…Yes, let none who trust and wait hopefully and look for You be put to shame or be disappointed…show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths…Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me…He leads the humble in what is right, and the humble He teaches His ways. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and steadfast love…My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net…O keep me, Lord, and deliver me.”
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