Self and Surrender in Ruth: portraits for the end times
In Ruth 1:5 we're introduced to two women from the ancient country of Moab-Orpah and Ruth. They are headed to Bethlehem with their Israelite mother-in-law. In verse v 8 Naomi advises her beloved daughters-in-law to return to their homeland. Both women have a deep affection for Naomi, so they both express a desire to go with her back to Bethlehem. Then Naomi tells Orpah and Ruth that there are no men in Bethlehem to become their husbands. At this time, both women know they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose in Bethlehem. v 14 states." Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave to her" (KJV). Orpah chooses self and the world. After this verse, her name disappears from the biblical record What does Ruth choose? Naomi, it appears. As remarkable as the choice of a destitute old woman's companionship over a future husband may be, v 17 reveals something beyond a strong human bond behind this decision. "She says... thy God shall be my God." In chapter 2, her boss, Boaz describes her as coming to God. Chapters three and four of Ruth provide a context for a similar choice. This time two men are center stage-Boaz and an unidentified man.
Somehow Naomi knows that Boaz has fallen for Ruth. According to the instructions God sets out in Deuteronomy 25 for the care of childless widows, the first move so to speak is Ruth's. Although Boaz is delighted that Ruth desires to marry him, he says, "... there is a kinsman nearer than I…" (Rth. 3:12, KJV). This statement means that the other kinsman has the first responsibility to marry Ruth according to God's a plan in Deuteronomy 25. What would possess a man to risk a happy future with the woman he loves? Although chapter 2:1 of Ruth reveals Boaz as a man of wealth, the whole of the chapter depicts him as a man of godly character. True to form, he leaves his desire to marry Ruth in God's hands. So he goes to meet the kinsman of whom he spoke. What does this man do? He's more than happy to take some land. But marriage might ruin his "own inheritance" (Rth. 4:6,KJV). With these words the other kinsman chooses self and world. Bible students forever know him strictly as "such a one"(v. 2) This omission is similar to Orpah's disappearance from the biblical record after Ruth 1:14. The kinsman and Orpah may have gotten what they wanted. But they lost something better. The kinsman lost a marriage to one of the best women in Bethlehem and being part of the lineage of Jesus (see Matt. 1:6). However, Orpah not only lost the privilege of being in the Savior's earthly lineage but walked away from God entirely (see Rth 1:15).
So what does this ancient story have to teach us who live in the last days? Those who choose self and the world may have fine lives. But they may miss out on a life that looks better even from an earthly perspective. During the time of trouble, those that rely on God will be protected and provided for. Those who have chosen self will get no benefit. More importantly just as Orpah and the kinsman disappear from the book of Ruth those who choose self and the world will be blotted out from the book of life (see Rev. 3:5). So will we surrender ourselves and our dreams to Jesus Christ even if that surrender means potentially giving up something really good from a worldly perspective to go with Jesus, knowing that God will bless us with the person or thing if it is for our ultimate good and His glory? To follow Christ, we're commanded "deny ourselves to take up our cross daily and follow ..." (Lk. 9:23, KJV). Remember "... No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11,KJV).