As we see in Ruth 1, Naomi, Orpah and Ruth reach the border between Moab and Judah and there they face a decision. Will they follow the move of God’s grace over into the fullness of Christ? Their names give you a clue: Naomi means grace; Orpah means stiffnecked; and Ruth means friend, companion.
A confrontation takes place at the border when Naomi decides to test
Orpah’s and Ruth’s commitment and resolve. For them, the decision to go
will require more than emotion, more than words. They must choose either
to go back or to go on—with no promise of reward and a clear vision of
the high cost ahead.
Rather than preaching prosperity, ease, and success, Naomi presents
to them a picture of suffering and poverty. There is no promise of
earthly goods, only a walk of faith. In fact, she encourages them to
return to their own mothers’ houses (see Ruth 1:8-9).
Both Orpah and Ruth remain steadfast at this point: “They lifted up
their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return
with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:9-10).
You already know from Orpah’s name that, in spite of her river of
tears, in spite of all her strong words about going on, she will drop
out and go back to her idolatry. Outwardly, however, she is broken and
tender, and seems to be part of this move back to God.
I believe Naomi could see into Orpah’s heart, into her struggle. She
probably thought to herself, “Poor child! She thinks she wants the
Lord’s fullness, but she is still charmed by this world. She would be
miserable if she went on, because she’d always be looking back!”
So Naomi says, “Go your way!” Orpah must have reached a decision in
her heart, “I’ll go back to Moab and serve God—my way! I’ll still love
these precious saints, but I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not
ready to give up my past.”
The Bible says, “They lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law” (Ruth 1:14). An original manuscript adds to the sentence, “and went back.”
Some of you reading this now are about to kiss your brethren
good-bye. Something in your heart is pulling you—a circle of special
friends or old loves. But as Naomi said of Orpah, “Thy sister in law is
gone back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15), likewise, an idol has your heart—something from your past that you can’t release!