Recently I was asked the question, “If you could invite any Bible character to have dinner with you, who would you choose?” I didn’t hesitate, but immediately responded, “Ruth, the Moabite.”
Early in my journey with the Lord, I was drawn to Ruth who was known as a woman of excellence, a woman of noble character. I was fascinated with this gentile woman who had married into an Israelite family living in Moab to escape a famine. Eventually the men of this family died and with no guarantee of any future happiness—only the prospect of gleaning in the fields for the rest of her life—Ruth chose to go and serve her unhappy, widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, in Bethlehem. I thought that, given her circumstances, she should have been known as “poor widow Ruth.”
How did this happen? After the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, began their journey to Judah, but before traveling too far, the three women stopped and stood at a crossroad. It was here that Naomi graciously released her daughters-in-law and encouraged them to remain in their home country where they had the promise of marriage and the joy of being with family and friends. Oprah kissed Naomi and returned to Moab. Ruth, however, stood and considered her options.
One road would take her back to her homeland where she was familiar with the rhythms of life and the cultural dictates that assured acceptance and a measure of success. Taking the other road would mean that she would abandon all that she had known to go and live in a foreign country where an uncertain future awaited her. She was free to join her sister-in-law, Orpah, but she had learned about the God of Israel and she had tasted and seen that He was good. I think she knew that if she didn’t go with Naomi, she would never grow in her knowledge of the Lord. Knowing that God would be with her and determined to seek refuge under His wings, Ruth chose to go with Naomi knowing she would probably live the rest of her life as a humble gleaner and care-giver for her mother-in-law. Innately, she knew that trusting God to guide her life was far better than the safety and security promised in an idolatrous land.
Ruth willingly surrendered her life into the hands of God. She had faith in His plan for her. Many years ago I stood at the same crossroad and made the life changing decision to die to myself and entrust my future to the Lord. I am eternally grateful that I made that initial surrender to God; it is foundational in having an intimate relationship with Him. But what I have experienced is that as imperative as it is to make that initial choice of surrendering to God, it is also essential to understand that each day I am challenged to stay yielded to the Lord.
I believe that I stand at a crossroad every morning. Will I decide to spend a good part of my day in Moab fitting into the culture and its standards for success and validation? Will I allow the world to entice me into its ways? Will I choose to let the social media dominate my thoughts and distract me from that which is eternal. Will I yield to the temptation to acquire worldly goods in order to be more acceptable? Will I easily engage in the refreshment and comfort the world offers?
Or will I take the narrow road and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Will I sit at the feet of Jesus, listen to His word and rejoice in the grace, mercy, and love our Father lavishly bestows on His children? Will His word dominate my thoughts? Will I turn my heart to His decrees and not to material gain? Will I accept the true rest that only He can give? Will I surrender my day to Him to be used as He desires? Will I be content with God’s provision and direction for my life?
Although Ruth was “poor widow Ruth” with little hope, she would answer “yes” to each of these last questions. Happiness and fulfillment by the world’s standards were not her concern, but her desire to know and to honor God were. Ruth did not allow her circumstances to dictate her character. Perhaps this is the reason for Boaz’s tribute to her, “…for all my people in the city know that you are woman of excellence.” (Ruth 3:11 NASB)
As His children, we are in the world, but not of the world. We can easily follow Orpah into Moab, take our cues from the world and make decisions based on what we and others think is best and expedient. But may we learn from Ruth to trust God enough to let Him choose for us. It is not easy to surrender our lives—to be crucified with Christ—to say with Paul, “Because of the cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (Galatians 6:14 NLT), but it is crucial if we are to experience all that God has planned for us.
I am sure that in my “dinner conversation” with Ruth, she would testify to the lovingkindness of God—she would tell of being married to Boaz, of being a great-grandmother to King David, and of having the honor of her name recorded in the genealogy of Christ. I think she would say, “Just think what I would have missed if I had stayed in Moab. God is indeed faithful to all who put their trust in Him.”
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