Calvary Road Baptist Church

So much attention is paid to the friendships between men, such as the relationship that existed between Jonathan and David, that those profound relationships that exist between women are not surprisingly ignored.

Such a relationship came to exist between a Jewish woman named Naomi and a Moabite named Ruth. Turn in your Bible to Ruth chapter 1. When you find that portion of Godís Word, stand, and read along with me:

 

1      Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

2      And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

3      And Elimelech Naomiís husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

4      And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.

5      And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

6      Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.

7      Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.

8      And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her motherís house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

9      The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.

10     And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.

11     And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

12     Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;

13     Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.

14     And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

15     And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

16     And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17     Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

18     When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

19     So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

20     And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

21     I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

22     So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

 

May I preface my remarks with two comments? Two comments before I get into my sermon.

 

First, I do not think Naomi should have followed her worthless husband into Moab. Okay, so there was a famine in the land. So what? God was punishing the children of Israel for their sins by withholding blessings. Is it any solution to the spiritual problem to then migrate to another country in hopes God will not visit punishment on you there? Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to a heathen country. Bad mistake on his part, and I do not think any wife in her situation has any obligation to follow him into what was clearly not the will of God for any of their lives. Now, we will find out that God did a great work of grace from those circumstances, but Naomi did not know what God would do when she erred by going to Moab with her husband. Israel was where God wanted His people to live, and it was wrong for him to leave Israel, and for her and the two boys to go with him, in my judgment. Elimelech then died in Moab, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons. So she is now a single mom with two sons. What do her sons then do? They followed the wonderful example their father set by having no concern for the will of God for his life by marrying two Moabite women. It was clearly wrong for any Jewish man to live outside the Promised Land in those days. However, even more wrong-headed was marrying a Moabite woman.

It is one thing to live in an idolatrous country, surrounded by wickedness and corruption in the form of idolatry and the sacrificing of innocent children, but it is far worse to actually marry a Moabite. And it turns out that Elimelechís and Naomiís two sons both married Moabite women. Of course, that should be no surprise, since they were raised in the midst of Moabites. But in the course of time, both of Naomiís sons died, leaving her in the company of two Moabite widows, Orpah and Ruth.

Take a step back and look at this entire scenario from the perspective of the three women. Naomi married a guy who was obviously a loser. Elimelechís name means ďGod of the king.Ē What irony. A guyís name means ďGod of the king,Ē a name that seemingly extols the virtues of God and noble and worthy of the most lofty and powerful personís worship, yet he folds and flees to Moab because he thinks God cannot be trusted to take care of him, on one hand, and is not worthy to bow before with repentance for sins, on the other.

So, Naomiís husband is basically known for having an impressive name, for taking his wife and sons to a pagan country, away from all the family and friends they grew up loving and gathering much needed support from, and then for dying and leaving his wife a widow and his sons fatherless in a foreign country. Great. Elimelech left such rich and godly heritage for his sons that they thereafter married Moabites. Then what did they do? They died. Mahlonís name, who was Orpahís husband, means weak, sickly, and afflicted. He was obviously a real prize. In addition, Ruthís husband was named Chilion, which means pining, destruction, and consumption. So, these two Moabite women, probably thinking they were marrying up by marrying two Jewish men, actually married two pathetic guys who might as well have been named wimpy and loser.

After all is said and done, we see that the sons followed their fatherís lead. He had no concern for the will of God, as evidence by taking his family to Moab. Then his sons showed that they, too, had no concern for the will of God by marrying Moabite women.

With those things said, we find Naomi and Ruth, along with Orpah, three widows with no certain future and no provision left for them by their husbands. Three women in dire straights, and a brief message about friends.

Remember what I have said about friendships? There are four components in a friendship; like, love, lead, loyalty. Look at those four components with me in this brief overview of Naomiís friendship with Ruth:

 

First, THERE IS THE COMPONENT OF FRIENDSHIP HAVING TO DO WITH LIKING

 

According to verse 4, Naomiís two sons were married for about ten years before their pathetic lives came to an end, so can we stipulate that over the course of that time Naomi and her two daughters in law came to know each other quite well, and that they liked each other?

I think, back in the days when life was so much more difficult than it is today, with so much more work required to survive, and with so much less leisure time available, people were easier to like and by liked by others than is the case these days. Therefore, I think we are on safe ground when we say the Naomi liked her two daughters in law, and they liked her.

 

Next, THERE IS THE COMPONENT OF FRIENDSHIP HAVING TO DO WITH LOVING

 

In fact, verses 6 and 7 show Naomi beginning to exercise leadership, as she begins to move toward returning to Israel, taking her daughters in law with her. However, it is at this point that we see real evidence of their love for Naomi. Naomi thanked them for their kindness to her and to her sons, their husbands, who they had been married to. In other words, she is complimenting them for being good wives. Then she urges each of them to return to their own motherís houses. Why did she do that? Perhaps for two reasons: First, they had nothing with her. There was no inheritance to speak of, no property to divide. Second, Naomi knew it would be unthinkable for them to return to Israel with her, since she knew what hostility the Jews would have toward the Moabites. Therefore, Naomi is being realistic when she urges those two women to go home. Humanly speaking, it would be better for them.

It is at this point that we see the love Ruth and Orpah had for Naomi come to the surface of our narrative. They kissed, they howled, and they wept, verse 9. They said they would come with her, verse 10. Naomi confessed that she had no more sons for them to marry. Not only was she too old to marry and have sons, could they wait twenty years for those sons to grow up? Then she grieved that Godís hand was against her, verse 13.

Verse 14: ďAnd they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.Ē There is no doubt that both daughters in law loved Naomi, and she loved them. Therefore, we have the components of like and love, that are so important to any friendship.

 

BUT WHAT ABOUT LEADING?

 

Naomi is no spiritual giant, is she? She demonstrated that she had little stature as a spiritual woman when she let her worthless husband drag her into the desert of Moab to seek a better life away from where God wanted His people to dwell. Now, after he has died, and after her sons have died, she is showing us something.

Perhaps she was a woman who felt constrained under the restrictions of her culture. Either she wanted to do right and did not know how to do so without creating a conflict with her husband, and perhaps later with her sons, or she was just too weak to do right in the face of three men who were bent on doing things their own way instead of Godís way.

On one hand, it is sad that she waited until three men had died before she showed spiritual inclinations and leadership, but it is good that after they died she did rise up and show something that would be such a help to this young woman named Ruth. Naomi began to lead at this point, and demonstrated great wisdom as a spiritual leader to Ruth throughout the rest of the book of Ruth.

 

WHICH, FINALLY, BRINGS US TO THE COMPONENT OF LOYALTY

 

Liking and loving is not enough in a friendship, is it? Just because you like someone, and perhaps even love someone, does not mean you have a friendship. After all, friends are good for each other. That is why leadership is required in friendship. Naomi, being the elder of the three, was the natural to provide leadership. Thankfully, though she should perhaps have exercised leadership years earlier than she actually did, at least she finally did stand up and provide leadership and direction for the two women she loved, the two women who had married her two sons.

But liking, loving, and leading is still not enough. Naomi liked the two women, Orpah and Ruth. And they both liked her. She loved the two women, and they both loved her. She provided leadership for the two women, but only one of them demonstrated the necessary loyalty so crucial to real friendship.

Verse 14 ends with these words: ď. . . Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.Ē In other words, Orpah liked her, loved her, but did not remain loyal when Naomi led her. Ruth, on the other hand, clung to her and would not let go:

 

15     And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

16     And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17     Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

 

I am sure you know the rest of the story. Ruth was loyal to follow Naomiís lead all the way back to Bethlehem. During harvest season, Naomi provided leadership for Ruthís dealings with Boaz that led to her marriage to Boaz. And no wonder Boaz was sensitive to the plight of Ruth, the Moabitess, since his own mother, Rahab, was something of an outcast.

The way the story works out in the end is that Ruth and Boaz were married and had a son, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David, who became Israelís great king. But not even that is the end, is it? Davidís lineage led to both Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to his stepfather Joseph.

What lessons can be learned from the friendship of Naomi and Ruth? Oh, there are many lessons one could learn. Women can learn lessons about the kind of men they should marry, if women learn such lessons. But each of us can learn the value of being a friend, the right kind of friend. Friends should like each other, love each other, and recognize the importance of both leadership and loyalty in friendship.

The Christian should lead the non-Christian. The more spiritual should lead the less spiritual. The more spiritually mature should lead the less spiritually mature. On the other hand, the other friend should exercise the wisdom to be loyal.

It was hard for Ruth to be loyal in the face of Naomiís leadership. It would have been easier to stay in Moab than to face the racism and prejudice of Israel, but look at the dividends that paid off for her loyalty? Yes, loyalty to the friend who provides spiritual leadership is so important, because it invariably leads to conversion, just as leadership to another can lead to that other personís conversion.

Make a friend and be a friend, just make sure they are the right kinds of friendships, providing the right kind of leadership and requiring the right kind of loyalty. Is that not the kind of friend the Lord Jesus Christ was during His earthly ministry? He liked, He loved, He led, and He expected loyal obedience and responsiveness. Many liked and loved Him, but only those who were loyal to Him to respond to His leadership enjoyed the forgiveness of their sins.

In our own Christian lives, how much more effective we would be in our efforts to bring the lost to Jesus Christ if we were friends to the people we want to win, by being likable, by loving them, and by providing the appropriate leadership in their lives? In return, if they loyally follow your spiritual lead, they will follow you to Christ.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org