We are taught in the scriptures that “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Rom. 15:4. Again, the apostle Paul tells us that “The law having a shadow of good things to come, but not the very image of the things.” Heb. 10:1.
There are only four chapters in the Book of Ruth, and to my mind the four chapters beautifully portray Jesus, the Church under the law and, also, the Church in the gospel dispensation.
There are eight principal characters whose names are mentioned in this book, namely, Elimelech, Naomi (his wife), Mahlon and Chilon (their sons), Orpah, Ruth, Boaz (a mighty man of wealth) and a little son of Boaz and Ruth whose name was Obed. The other characters were the reapers and maidens of Boaz.
Naomi said, “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?” Ruth 1:21. Now Naomi, her husband and their two sons dwelt in Bethlehem-Judah, and there was a famine in the land, and they went to the country of Moab and continued there. Is not the famine in the soul the reason a convicted sinner moves out of his former state in search of comfort and rest?
After they arrived in the country of Moab, the Lord sent further afflictions on Naomi by taking her husband from her Malon and Chilon 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.
Mahlon and Chilon died; the tender cords of earthly ties were severed; gloom and despair sank deep into her soul. Her husband (the law) was dead, her two sons were dead and all her earthly possessions were gone. What a dark and gloomy picture! Dear Reader, could you witness with Naomi when you came to the end of the law with no hope of Heaven? I can hardly refrain from shedding tears as I contemplate the scene. But suddenly Naomi heard a little good news, how the Lord had visited his people in Bethlehem-Judah, in giving them bread. So she arose with her two daughters-in-law and resolved to make the journey back. The Prodigal Son said, ”l will arise and go to my father.” Luke 15:18. Just how far they went before Naomi introduced her subject to them, the scriptures are silent. Would I do violence to the scriptures if I say that they came to the border line of Bethlehem-Judah and Moab?
Naomi said, “Go return each to her mother’s house - are there yet any more sons in my womb?” She brought out the impossible, and said, “for I am too old to have a husband,” meaning that she was too old to bear children and that if it were possible for her to bear any more sons, Orpah and Ruth would be too old for them, and her sons would be too young for Orpah and Ruth.
It may appear from the words of Naomi that she had turned the cold shoulder to her daughter-in-law. Ah! but not so. She was testing the love, zeal and affection they had for her; for she well knew that unless they dearly loved her they would not be willing to face hunger and starvation. It has been said by our critics that we offer very little or no inducement for people to unite or join with us and that we manifest but little concern for those who are on the outside of the Church, but this is not true. Dear child of God, if you love us, we love you. But like Naomi, we have no worldly attractions to offer, nor earthly amusements for entertainment. We would also like to know if you feel as Moses of old, “choosing rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Heb. 11:25. “We must, through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. “And Naomi said, turn again my daughters: why will ye go with me?”
At this point, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people, “but Ruth clave unto her.” The law rolls back but the gospel moves on. The forceful expression which has found a responsive cord in the hearts of those who are born of God were uttered by Ruth. “lntreat 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: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.” Naomi “left speaking to her.”
When you, dear brother or sister, see such manifestations of the love of God in the hearts of His dear saints, are you not ready to embrace them into the fellowship of the church and to say to them as Laban said to Abraham’s servant, “Come in thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?” Gen. 24:31.
What a wonderful manifestation of the love of God is exhibited in the life of Ruth. She turned her Back on her earthly parents and kindred in the country of Moab. How beautifully her life compares with the language of Jesus, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26.
We are not told, but we would assume that her parents could have provided her with an adequate apartment at the death of her husband and given her the earthly comforts of life (but this does not satisfy the hungry soul). She, like Naomi, was in search of that bread (Jesus) which her mother-in-law heard that the Lord had given to His people after the famine in Bethlehem-Judah. Note, they have not as yet received this bread, but are in search of it, and Naomi has some hopes of receiving it at the hand of her near kinsman Boaz, “a mighty man of wealth” (Jesus). Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt.
Ruth was a young woman and a widow also, and humanly speaking, she could have stepped out far ahead of her mother-in-law who was old and decrepit. She seemed content to travel along with Naomi and share her sorrows through all of the long and lonely journey from the country of Moab to Bethlehem-Judah. Just how far this distance is we are not told but in the experience of the unworthy writer, it was a lonely travel of twenty-one years.
At last, they reached the city. Note the change in the appearance of Naomi. The people could hardly believe this was she. “All the city was moved about them, and they said, is this Naomi?” But she said, “call me not Naomi, call me Mara.” The word Naomi means sweet; the word Mara means bitter. She said, “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” She is no more that sweet and lovable character in her own estimation. The Lord has emptied her of self-works and beauty. For she said, “I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty.” Notice that she did not say, “He sent me” but, “The Lord hath brought me home”; like David who said, “He brought me to the banqueting house.” Also, the man who fell among thieves was “carried to the inn” by the good Samaritan, and Abraham’s servant said, “I being in the way the Lord led me to the house of my Master’s brethren.” Could the servant have failed to reach the house of his master’ brethren, since he was in the way?” And Jesus says, “I am the way.” And Ruth and Naomi “came to Bethlehem-Judah, at the beginning of the barley harvest.”
(To be continued - Lord willing)
Elder T. Flloyd Adams
Willow Springs, N.C.
Signs of the Times
Volume 113, No. 1