Two Paths

Two Paths

As a child I learned the poem by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”. Although it is not a Christian poem the last verse has remained in my memory and does reflect a fact in the life of faith: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” We come to a place in the story of Naomi and her daughters-in-law where they will have to choose one path over the other and it will make all the difference in all three of their lives.

7. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Going back for just a moment to Rebekyah’s lesson last week a phrase caught my eye that I had not paid attention to earlier: “and set out on the road that would take then back to the land of Judah.” We are all on a journey. We were made to move – our life is about movement or we are dead. Naomi had lived in the land of death, Moab. Her husband and sons had died there. Her dreams of family with grandchildren had died, her way of life had died, her security had died. She had a choice, she could remain in Moab and die there spiritually as well as physically, or she could return to Judah and seek the LORD she belonged to. God told us in Deuteronomy 31:19 “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live.” And again in Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD. Let’s look now at the paths that these three women took.

8. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.

All three of them set out on the road but before long (scholars have suggested it was before they got out of Moab), Naomi realizes she has nothing to offer her daughters-in-law. She has no property, no provisions, no security. She tells them to go back to their families, at the least they would have a place to live and food to eat. They were of the country Moab and they understood its cultures and ways. This was the land they had been born and raised up in. It was their natural habitat. But Naomi also prays over them. She speaks a blessing over them. The word ‘kindness’ comes from a covenant word “hesed” and relates to imparting mercy on a weaker subject by a more powerful one: God shows loving-kindness on His children.

9. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud

She prays that they find husbands and settle down in their homes. In that day marriage was a rest in that there was security in the home of a husband who was the provider. To be a widow or single woman was a perilous situation to be in. Naomi loved Ruth and Orpah and they genuinely loved her. She kisses them and they all weep as a mother would leaving her very own flesh and blood daughters. It is a point of separation for which they all know that there is no return. It is the fork in the road where the paths separate and the separation is as painful as separating flesh from bone.

10. and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

Because of Ruth and Orpah’s great love for Naomi they opt to go with her to Bethlehem. They are willing to accept her people, to be foreigners in her land as she had been in theirs.

11. But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12. Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me – even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons – 13. would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me!”

Naomi in her motherly heart knew that they were placing their hope in her. She knows that she cannot deliver what they want which is a husband and home. She causes them examine what their hope is placed in. When we place all our hope in another human we are putting them in a place God never intended and we are setting ourselves up for disaster because man will always fail one another. Try as we may, we will fail anyone who has their faith planted solely in us. Naomi also feels such heartache for her own soul. She knows that the Lord’s hand has brought anguish upon her. She was NOT bitter against the Lord because we see her turning to the Lord, however, she feels the bitter blow of discipline that the Lord delivers to those who belong to Him.

14. At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

The three women huddle in hugs and tears knowing that her words were truth well spoken (truth spoken in love) but still heart wrenching. And now we come to place of decision for the two daughters-in-law. They have made their choice. Let’s take a look:

Orpah: Represents the human desire. Although she truly had much affection for Naomi, she was unwilling to go any further. Naomi had not delivered what she wanted. The country of Moab looked much more promising to her. She was familiar with that land, comfortable there. She understood Moab and Moab understood her. She kisses Naomi goodbye and returns to her natural home. This reminds us of those who have a great affection for Jesus. Go to church for a few years maybe much longer. They enjoy fellowship with believers and participate in many of the same things. But when it gets down to heart-matters, when their backs are against the wall in making a stand, they revert back to their natural life. Jesus did not deliver what they wanted. So they kiss Him on the cheek and walk away.

Ruth: Represents the holy desire. Ruth does what a true believer does – she clings. She doesn’t just stand beside but clings to Naomi. Her love is demonstrative. I don’t think anyone could have pried her away in that moment. In our lives we must cling to Jesus. The world is too violent not to. Remember Mary clinging to the resurrected Jesus? She was not about to lose Him again.

15. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

Naomi is basically telling Ruth to count the cost. This was not an invitation that we see in our churches. We don’t tell people at the altar to go back. But God was using this to further cement Ruth’s devotion to Naomi but more importantly to Him. Let’s look at Ruth’s test of discipleship:

16. But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

The path: where you go I will go. Will we follow Jesus wherever He leads us? Will we follow Him through the path of cancer, bankruptcy, rebellious children, scandalous employers, job loss, death of a spouse, split churches? Luke 9:57-62, Matt 8:18-22

The place: where you stay I will stay. Will you stay with Jesus? He stays in hard places, uncomfortable ones for sure. It is not a palace (not on earth anyway). He stays in homeless shelters, prisons, mission fields, homes with unloving spouses, and so on. Matt 7:13-14

The people: your people will be my people. Will you accept the body of Christ as your family? Families are not always perfect and there are many ups and downs but families stick together. His people are our people. Luke 14:25-26, 2 Cor 6:14-18, 1 John 3:1

The Person: and your God my God. He is God and there is no other. Ruth was accepting the God of Israel and rejecting the gods of her youth. Will we accept the One true living God and forsake the gods of our youth? What are some of those gods? Isaiah 45:5-6, John 20:17

The pain: where you die I will die. Ruth was forsaking all and willing to endure the pain of separation and the pain of identification. Death to her old way of life and suffering in her new life. She was not making a half-baked decision. She was making a determined turn onto the path of life. What are some ways you have felt the pain of leaving your old nature? What are some ways you have felt pain in the identification of belonging to Christ? Rom 6:5-11

The position: and there I will be buried. Buried with Christ in His death. The only way we can know resurrection power is to have a death and that death is in Christ. We are crucified with Him and raised to walk in newness of life. Ruth is now ready to set out to Bethlehem – the House of Bread and be fed with the finest of wheat. She will eat from God’s own hand. Gal 2:22, Phil 3:10-14

The passion: May the LORD deal with me – here Ruth calls God by His covenant name – Yahweh. LORD. She has made her choice and I think this is Ruth’s salvation moment. She has chosen by faith a God she could not see but knew existed, a God she could not touch but had touched her, and a God she could not hear but who heard her. Now that she was His, she would see Him in a new way, she would touch Him by faith, and she would hear Him with a heart devoted to Him.

18. When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

There is no need to urge one for a decision once they have fully embraced God. Those who truly have decided to follow Jesus will be evident. They will go follow Him wherever He leads, they will stay wherever He stops, they will be an active part of the body of Christ, they will forsake all other gods, they will remain – there will be an endurance to their faith, and their life will be hidden in Christ and His life will be on display for the world to take notice. Now my question to you is this: Which path are you on? Did you take the path to the natural world which is the one your self is familiar with or did you take the path to God’s kingdom? The one that is narrow, hard, and few find it but a path that He Himself has already walked and now walks with us – the path that leads us to Himself. The cross stands like a huge fork in the road. Every single human must make a decision at the cross. We either accept the work Jesus did for us on that cross and take the path of life and holiness or we reject it and go our own way which leads to destruction and death. Our great and merciful God allows u-turns. He allows anyone seeking Him to return to the cross and begin fresh with Him.

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few enter it.”

The gate is still open – come in