“Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there
was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to
live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The
man's name was Elimelech; his wife's name was Naomi; his sons were
named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They
all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon (Puny) and Kilion (Pining), died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.
One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah.
After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, 'Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!' She kissed them and they cried openly.
They said, 'No, we're going on with you to your people.'
But Naomi was firm: 'Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I'm too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, 'There's still hope!' and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.'
Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.
Naomi said, 'Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.'
But Ruth said, 'Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!'
When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem.”---Ruth 1:1-18
Over the weekend, I found myself rereading the book, "The Prayer of Jabez". It’s amazing how, when you are in a season and state to really receive something, it can be like an entirely new experience.
For the past few weeks, as some of you well know, I have been studying names and the purposes behind them. Anyway, as I was reading the chapter entitled, "So Why Not Ask?", two highly enlightening things came to me within one paragraph. One served as a confirmation that my gut instinct about understanding and celebrating your birthright (name) is something that we are called to do. The other prepared me----well, us----for these next few chapters of this study:
“…In Bible times, a man and his name were so intimately related that to “cut off the name” of an individual amounted to the same thing as killing him. A name was often taken as a wish for or prophecy about the child’s future. For example, Jacob can mean “grabber”, a good one-word biography for that scheming patriarch. Naomi and her husband named their two sons Mahlon and Kilion. Translation? ‘Puny’ and ‘Pining’. And that was exactly what they were. Both of them died in early adulthood…”
That already gives us some insight into the journey of Ruth, Orpah and Naomi, doesn’t it? But, just so that we can see the spiritual vision behind this tale, I decided to research the meaning behind their names as well:
Ruth: Compassionate friend
Naomi: Pleasant one; above all; beauty
As we get deeper into their testimony via the Book of Ruth, we will see how all of their names played out. I must admit that one of the first things that came to my mind was the fact that Oprah Winfrey often says that her name was supposed to have been “Orpah”, but her family misspelled it. So her birthright was to be a “baby deer usually under one year old” or “to gain favor by cringing or flattering”? Remember, the Bible is not impressed by the fact that millions of men are impressed by you. Without a doubt, Oprah does a lot of good in the world (with a heart of generosity greater than a lot of Christians, I might add), but to gain the world and lose your soul (James 2:14), or remain in spiritual place of consuming milk and not solid food like a baby deer (Hebrews 5:13)? Well, all I have to say is make sure you are at a place where you are taking in God’s Word more than Oprah’s insight.
One of the first lessons that I learned from these women, actually came from their deceased husbands. Remember, in "The Prayer of Jabez", it says that their names basically meant “weak”. Single ladies, when it comes time for you to enter courtship, if you want to experience a world of suffering and great loss, get with a weak (cowardly, fragile, imperceptible, indecisive, nervous, powerless, shallow, spineless, uncertain, incomplete, unconvincing, unqualified, undependable, unmanly, unsound, wavering) man:
“God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.”---Proverbs 14:34
(Communion Takers): “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.”---I Corinthians 11:29-32 (NKJV)
“But as for the cowards and the ignoble and the contemptible and the cravenly lacking in courage and the cowardly submissive, and as for the unbelieving and faithless, and as for the depraved and defiled with abominations, and as for murderers and the lewd and adulterous and the practicers of magic arts and the idolaters (those who give supreme devotion to anyone or anything other than God) and all liars (those who knowingly convey untruth by word or deed)--[all of these shall have] their part in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone. This is the second death.”---Revelation 21:8 (AMP)
“I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They're saying it everywhere: 'God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.' All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, 'Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,' and when you say, 'I'm bored—this doesn't do anything for me.' You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it's a hand-me-down, or broken (incomplete), or useless. Do you think I'm going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!”---Malachi 1:11-13
“…those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (not indecisive).”—Romans 8:14 (NIV)
“Be anxious (nervous) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”---Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)
“You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you're kind to the poor, you honor God.”—Proverbs 14:31
“And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.”---Mark 4:16
“Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions (be non-spineless), give it all you've got, be resolute (not uncertain), and love without stopping.”---I Corinthians 16:13
“Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either—women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men (unmanly)—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Since they didn't bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it's not as if they don't know better. They know perfectly well they're spitting in God's face. And they don't care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!”---Romans 1:26-32
“If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord…”---James 1:5-7 (AMP)
If you are a new “babe” in Christ, let me tell you from very personal experience that a man may drive the right car, wear the right clothes and be fine and built as all get out, but if you sense any level of warning signs about him via these words of scripture, he is weak.
But more importantly, if you are saved, hear me when I say that looking for a man who only goes to church is a good way to get your feelings hurt. Remember, the Bible says that we are to test the spirit by the Spirit (I John 4:1). A man who goes to church with you while looking around at other women (or men) is a weak man. A man who sings in the choir during the AM, but tries to get in your pants in the PM is a weak man. A man who gossips like a little girl with the other “talebearers” in the church is a weak man. A man who always has money for a new suit but never enough to pay his tithe is a weak man. A man who can praise God but then curse you out is a weak man.
Enough said? I certainly hope so.
So anyway, because for whatever reason, Ruth and Orpah married weak men, in the early stages of their adulthood, they found themselves to be widowed. Because Naomi, their mother-in-law, had also lost her husband, she decided to go back to her hometown of Moab.
At first, both women wanted to follow Naomi because they loved her that much (what an awesome testimony between a woman and her daughters-in-law, ain’t it?). But Naomi loved them so much that she wanted to see them happy. So at first, she encouraged them to go back to their own hometown so that they could have another husband find them and remarry.
Ruth was determined to stay, but Orpah---the fawn---chose to leave. Have you ever had someone offer to do something for you and you wonder if they did it just to be polite? That’s what I wonder about Orpah. Was it that she really wanted to stay with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, or was it that she thought it was the “nice thing to say” while secretly hoping that she wouldn’t have to pay up? That is something I just may ask her if I see her in glory, but either way, it says in verse 15 that she headed back to “her people and her gods”.
Let’s stop right there for a moment. Some of us wonder why, like a hamster in his wheel, we are caught up in the cycle of dysfunctional relationships. For many of us, it’s because when God allows one relationship to “die”, we go back (emotionally, mentally and/or physically) to the same place we once were. The truth is, for some of us “having a man” is our god and we know what God thinks about that don’t we (Exodus 20:3)?
Now, am I saying that a man from your past cannot become a present in your future? Nope. But what I am saying is that when God unites something, you will not find yourself going backwards:
“Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”---2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP)
When God does a “new thing”, it will be “not previously experienced or encountered”; “different from the former or the old”; “changed for the better”, and “of a kind not seen before”.
In other words, if he was trying to “hit it” before and he’s still trying to get some now, he’s nothing new.
If you had to beg him to go to church before and he’s still got excuses for not going now, he’s nothing new.
If you used to pay for dates before and you are still going dutch now, he’s nothing new.
If he flirted with your girlfriends before, and you still catch him talking crazy to your sistahs now, he’s nothing new.
If he had you crying before and you are still stressin’ out over him now, he’s nothing new.
If how he looks in front of his friends was more important before, and your feelings are still not a top priority now, he’s nothing new.
Hmm. I wonder just what Orpah thought she was going to find by going back to the same old people and the same old gods of her life? Perhaps she was more caught up in the familiar than allowing her faith to try out some new territory. I mean, if, for instance, she found her man in the club before, in her “fawn-like” mind state, why not go back there half-dressed in search of another one? So what if he’s weak? At least she will have a man in her life, right? Take it from me: having no man is better than getting just “any man”.
Anyway, this was the time when the meaning behind Ruth’s name (compassionate friend) became very apparent. She wasn’t concerned with getting someone on the rebound. No, instead she was consumed with helping out someone she cared about. We will see in the next chapter where putting others first will get you (blessed beyond measure---Ephesians 3:20) but for now, let me share something that I know God is leading me to say to someone (and to confirm within myself):
At 32, trust me when I say that you couldn’t have paid me to think I would still be a “Ms.” without the white picket fence and 2.5 kids to match. Just this past weekend, a girlfriend of mine who is younger than me had a wedding shower and shortly, I will be in the wedding for yet another friend who is also younger than I am. Now, I am not implying that they are “Orpahs” by any means. As a matter of fact, I like and am at peace with both of their future mates, and I am quite happy to plant the seeds of lingerie into their “marriage ministry” because I look forward to harvesting some lacy get-ups in abundance someday myself.
But, do let me say this: There is an epidemic of women who have more of an Orpah spirit rather than a Ruth one. They see everyone else getting married and they don’t want to feel left out and so they run ahead and do it as well. For many gals, their gods are comparing themselves to others and having a wedding simply because everyone else is. When I tell you that this is a sign of a foolish woman, be rest assured that the Word backs me up:
“Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground.”---Proverbs 14:18
Ruth wasn’t caught up in what everyone else was doing. She wasn’t so paranoid about dying an old maid that she rushed into another relationship. As a matter of fact, her self-image was so high that even one of the closest people to her (her sister-in-law) could not peer pressure her into abandoning the mission that she felt she was called to---one that, for a season, had no man in it. To Ruth, service was more important than the pursuit of a husband. I don’t know if she knew it or not, but by operating in this mentality, she was planting good seed into good ground:
“Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits on others], it will be measured back to you.”---Luke 6:38 (AMP)
Now let me just say this to all of the women who just read that and thought, “Well shoot, if that’s what it takes to get a man, let me sign up for the children’s ministry at my church or a local non-profit now!” Hot mamas, God is not looking at what you do, but the heart focus behind it:
“Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].”---Philippian
So, if you are using your servitude as a form of seduction, sorry my sistahs, but you are wasting your time:
“Take care not to do your good deeds publicly or before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise you will have no reward [reserved for and awaiting you] with and from your Father Who is in heaven.”---Matthew 6:1 (AMP)
Remember, in the godly line-up of relationships it’s God, Jesus, man and woman. We will see in the next chapter that God blessed Ruth in abundance because she put him first (Ruth 1:16) and when that happens, he can trust her with a good husband because she operated out of integrity and not desperation:
“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.”---Matthew 6:33
Homework for today: Examine your own areas of weakness. If you find that you have placed any “gods before God”, repent and remove them. We serve a jealous God who won’t give you anything if you are going to put it before him (Deuteronomy 6:14-16).
And purpose in your mind to live today by serving others. When God said that it was more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), that means that when you move outside of yourself with a pure heart, you greatly improve your chances of being happy, receiving pleasure and living life with contentment.
Shoot, we all could use a little more of that, right? Right.
©Shellie R. Warren/2006