Returning to Bethlehem is like finding an oasis in the desert for both body and soul. The Lord visited His people by giving them bread. From where? Bethlehem, the house of bread! The famine crisis was over since they had bread. The Lord Jesus is the Bread of life. He who comes to Him will never hunger. He who believes in Him will never thirst. You can eat and drink all you want in the physical sense but be spiritually malnourished and parched. You can have all you want in Egypt, Babylon, or Moab but you will always be empty until you receive your daily bread from the Lord.
Maybe you have backslidden or are praying for someone who has. In that case you need to return to Bethlehem and get your bread from the lord. The first step is to leave. The Israelites had to exit Egypt. That is why it is called the Exodus. Many of the Jewish folk remained in Babylon after Cyrus permitted them to return to Jerusalem and even helped them along their way. You must also leave Moab. Moab has nothing to offer the believer. Come away from the Moabite worldview. Leave those unhealthy, ungodly relationships and the idolatry of Moab. Love not the world, that is the pride of life, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Go to Bethlehem for your daily bread.
Undoubtedly Naomi had tender affection for her daughters in law. She graciously tried to send them to their home. She was going to the house of bread but advised them to return to their mother’s houses. Bethlehemites probably would not have taken kindly to Moabites. Can you imagine the scene? What are you doing here? Have you ever experienced a culture shock? I once experienced a culture shock having been a missionary in Zambia and then seeing an over abundance of choice and wealth in the shops immediately upon my return to the UK.
Naomi obviously loved and cared for Orpah and Ruth. She wanted them to find rest and husbands, especially considering the importance of economic dependence in ancient Moabite culture. We will never find our rest until we rest in the Lord. Those who know the Lord have the joy of entering into His eternal rest. You will never find true rest for the soul in Moab. You will find rest in Bethlehem, under the Lord’s provision.
How would Orpah and Ruth find husbands? They might be outcasts. They would probably be excluded from a congregation. The practical or logical conclusion seemed obvious. Stay in Moab. The chances are that you will fit in and both find husbands. Stay in Moab and find a husband from the world. That is not what God wants. Leave Moab and trust God. He will provide what you need in Bethlehem.
Notice they both wept and both said that they would go with Naomi, but one left and the other remained. Surely, they both loved Naomi and she loved them, but they were different. When someone faces a dilemma, tears may be involved, but a genuine move of God’s Spirit is deeper. There is a godly sorrow and repentance that involves a change of mind and direction.
Naomi is too old to have children so why does she state the obvious and that she is too old to bear her daughters in law a husband? If a man died, the nearest relative would marry the wife as the kinsman redeemer who would love them and provide for them and this features later on concerning the story of Ruth. But perhaps Naomi thought that being a Moabite meant that this was even beyond their grace. After all they were foreigners. The Lord Jesus (Yeshua) is our Kinsman-Redeemer, who bought us with His blood, undeserved by us.
Orpah and Ruth weep again but they go their separate ways. What separates them? Orpah kissed her mother-in law though Ruth clung to her. Think about that for a minute. Surely kissing the mother-in law speaks of tender affection, endearment, respect, and gratitude. But Ruth clung to hear which means to impinge, catch by pursuit, cleave, and follow closely. Are you clinging to the Lord and are you following Him above all else?
Some blame Orpah while others try to defend her decision to turn back. Those defending her actions say that she was respectively and submissively obeying her mother-in law. She was and that is okay on a human level, but there is more here than meets the eye here. Matthew Henry wrote “Many have an affection and value for Christ but fall far short of salvation since they will not forsake other things. They love other things more.”
Ironically, Ruth did not lose out by doing the right thing and if you are facing a similar trial take encouragement from her. Ruth did not lose out in the material sense, in fact she gained in that area but more importantly she acquired much more spiritually. 1 Samuel 2:30 tells us that ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour.” Jim Elliot lost his life reaching Indians in Latin America famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
It appears that Naomi was somehow testing Ruth by saying that her sister-in law had left, and she could go back to her people and her gods. Despite all the severe hardships, heartaches and obstacles along the way, Ruth remained resolute. Ruth did not sit on the fence and neither should we. God intervened miraculously. Ruth powerfully, emphatically, and literally took a step of faith in the right direction. Her testimony is expounded in less than a minute, though maybe it reflected ten years of being around Naomi. Are others affected for the better by being in our company? We are left in no doubt that Ruth was not leaving home but returning to her new home and her real home.