While studying this section of Ruth, the Lord kept grabbing my attention around one key word. It is the word "rest" in verse 9. In Hebrew, this word is "menuchah" and it is a very big deal kind of blessing. So, what is the blessing? Well, Naomi is praying for these two ladies to not only find another husband, but to be at peace in a home filled with love, comfort, security, calm, refreshment, and yes... rest. She is not just shaking their hand, wishing them well with a thank-you very much, and sending them on their merry way. No, Naomi deeply loves these girls as her own daughters. (Notice how many times she refers to them as "my daughters".) She wants the very best for them and is praying for Orpah and Ruth to be blessed abundantly - to receive true peace and love in their lives. Clearly this is not the stereotypical mother-in-law (or should I say monster-in-law) arrangement so common of today. No, clearly Naomi loves Orpah. Undoubtedly, Naomi loves Ruth.
To better understand the love behind Naomi's blessing, let's look at the negative side (or absence) of this particular kind of "menuchah" rest. In Deuteronomy we read, "Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting (menuchah) place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening, 'If only it were morning!' - because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see." (Deuteronomy 28:65-67) Here we see the lack of "menuchah" rest and what it's absence can produce: uncomfortableness, anxiousness, weariness, longing, despair, suspense, dread, uncertainty, and terror. YUCK!
Think about earlier days, when both of Naomi's sons were still alive and planning to marry these two Moabite women. Do you think Naomi was thrilled to watch her boys break Mosaic law? Of course not! Do you think that she hesitated to welcome in these idol-worshipping pagan women? Of course she hesitated! Undoubtedly, Orpah and Ruth were NOT Naomi's dream brides for her two sons. But if she was going to be honest about it - she knew her family was already living outside of God's promised land. She knew she had followed her husband in making many mistakes in upbringing their children... children who were now adults and capable of making their own decisions. Sure, Naomi tried to warn her grown-up boys against the dangers of marrying an unbeliever. But it felt hypocritical... for she moved to live amongst these unbelievers, didn't she? So, her own life choices did not match her precautions. That said, I'm certain when the final "I do's" were spoken, Naomi's heart sank as she watched her only children become unequally yoked with two unbelievers.
But a lot has changed since those days. Now we see three women in tears over the thought of parting ways. We see two daughters-in-law begging to stay with their mother-in-law rather than running directly home to their own biological parents. But why? The answer is this... Naomi chose to show REAL LOVE to Orpah and Ruth. Once married to her sons, Naomi chose to adopt these two girls as her own children and selflessly welcome them into her "menuchah" home. Yes, we can assume that Naomi tried to persuade her sons from marrying Orpah and Ruth before their wedding day. But once the deed was done, Naomi didn't rub their face in it. She didn't say, "You made your bed and now must sleep in it." She did not sever all ties, change the locks, and walk away from her family. Nor did she scheme for everything to fail and fall apart. No, Naomi chose simply to love. She made a holy decision to love her new daughters and wisely bless both couples with welcoming arms and a positive, restorative "menuchah" home.
What happens when we make our home a "menuchah" home? What happens when we live a "menuchah" life? What happens when we stop worrying about all the trophies and belongings we've acquired and instead start sharing, blessing, building, and offering a godly place of peace, comfort, rest? ...where people matter more than things? ...where love dictates our words, thoughts, actions, heart? What happens when we sacrificially give our time and resources to benefit others around us - all the while encouraging "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (See 1 Timothy 2:2.) Can such a life expose the heart of Christ to others? Indeed. Can such a testimony introduce someone to the throne... the home of the Most High? Absolutely.
No matter how you slice it, it is clear that Naomi's love made a huge impact on both Orpah and Ruth. Look at their commitment/affection when they state, "We will go back with you to your people." Their initial plan was to remain with their beloved mother-in-law always. Only until Naomi explains how difficult it will be for them to stay with her, does Orpah leave. And in a way, can you blame her? In that day, single women could not own their own property. They had no rights except under the household that claimed them and offered them security. And even though there were laws to protect widows in their distress (Deuteronomy 24:17, 19, 21; 27:19), it is clear that those laws were often overlooked and disregarded (Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5). Surely it would be easier for Orpah and Ruth to return home to their father's house and try again. For no man in Bethlehem would marry a Moabite woman, would they? No, it was evident that where Naomi was headed was too challenging and difficult. Better to fondly remember her and head back to what is familiar and "safe"... right?
After reasoning all her options, comfort won out for Orpah and she walked away toward the greener grass of Moab, exiting the pages of Scripture and falling out of our story forever. Wish her well, ladies. She sure was nice, wasn't she? A real sweetie. A lovely girl with so much promise. But unfortunately, Orpah's seed never took root. Her life, in terms of eternity, proved unfruitful. For she didn't choose to follow God. Instead, she ran back to the easy path at the first sign of trouble. Her idols and old worldly life were happily waiting for her to return. Goodbye Orpah. Go enjoy your "best life" now.
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." (Mark 4:13-20)
Ah, but not Ruth. Green grass or not... Ruth could not bear to be separated from Naomi - a women so incredibly dear to her heart. Not only was Naomi Ruth's deceased husband's mother... but she proved herself a real friend, a mentor, a role-model. Naomi was the true heart of their home. So much so, that Ruth couldn't bear the thought of parting ways with Naomi. For she knew no other women like her. She never experienced such love from anyone else. You see, Ruth came to understand that Naomi knew God. Naomi was positive and accepting and had a REAL hope of an eternal future. She didn't pose a fake spiritualness intent to make you always numbly "feel" good and in control. No, no matter how complex, uncomfortable, or out of control life got, Naomi was still different. The love she shared was REAL and worth it. Sure, she wasn't perfect, but Naomi represented a bigger, better God than Ruth had ever known. This was the One true God... the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! And for Ruth, this God was enough! He was a God that she was willing to embrace and hang on to tightly. He was a God that Ruth was willing to follow to Bethlehem and the ends of the earth, if necessary. Yes, God used Naomi's living testimony and selfless love to lead a pagan Moabite girl directly into the Master's "menuchah" kingdom and open arms. And He didn't stop there with Ruth. Later, God grants this seemingly hopeless woman a full life along with honorable lineage to our Holy Savior! Hallelujah! Our God is soooo generous to those who seek and trust Him! Yes, Ruth's determination and faithfulness to Naomi and her loving God produced a lasting abundance than she could never have imagined! Wow - what a story awaits us in these pages, huh? (... and we haven't even settled ourselves in Bethlehem yet!)
As we wrap up today's lesson, I encourage each DW to consider if you have made the same commitment as Ruth? Have you forsaken this world and all it's idolatry and corruption? Have you truly left Moab and identified yourself exclusively to God? Are His people, His family, His kingdom really yours? Let me be clear on this - you may be a really nice and sweet person, but you cannot be identified "with" God until you actually claim His Name and follow His Only Son home. And trust me when I tell you, Jesus is the only Way home to the Almighty Father. I hope and pray that you know Him. For indeed, He is enough!
Lastly, let us each live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Let us embrace our roles as devoted women of God and share His "menuchah" life. As the heart of our home and family, let's display a Proverbs 31 life by loving graciously, sacrificially, restoratively, intelligently, honorably. Let's uplift the King of kings by encouraging, embracing, and enjoying the blessing of others whom God has brought before us to minister His love with our very lives. Ladies, let's follow Jesus and live with His peaceful presence standing beside us, working in us, and loving through us. This is the day.
Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson