Saturday, September 13, 2014

Orpah's Choice

How do you make difficult choices?

Do you spend nights looking at the ceiling filled with worry? Do you poll your best girl friends? Do you search the internet? Do you call mom? Do you jump into a decision quickly, or wait until the last possible minute?

Naomi and her daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth were in a tough spot and Orpah was faced with a difficult choice.

Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both [sons] also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. 

When the path gets dark up ahead, I wonder:
should I keep going or turn back to the familiar and the safe?
I imagine how they felt, filled with sorrow for their loss and concern for their future. Naomi is going to her homeland, Judah. But for Orpah and Ruth this would mean not only losing their husbands but also their families and homeland. That seems too much to bear. It is like traveling down the road into a dark turn. What is ahead? Is it even worse than this grief I am feeling?

But Naomi who loves them, gives them a generous out. Concerned for their futures, she urges them to go home to their families:

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." 

... they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye...

Orpah loved Naomi but returned home. It was the logical thing to be sure. Not only was Judah a strange country to Orpah, but Naomi could not be sure if she had any family left there. She had no way of supporting herself, let alone her daughters-in-law. Orpah was young and could depend on her family for provision and to eventually secure another husband for her in her homeland.

But there was a another factor, hidden, imperceivable, but absolutely most important. It can be seen in the next verse:

Ruth clung to her. "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."

Ruth replied, "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God..."

 Ruth understood what Orpah did not.  Orpah's decision was not merely between staying in familiar places or moving on to a distant foreign land. It was not even a choice between her mother or her mother-in-law. Her choice was ultimately a choice of faith. Would she have faith in her gods of Moab? Or would she have faith in the God of Naomi, the God of Israel? Orpah did not make a bad choice. She made a reasonable choice, a prudent one based on everything she could see. What she could not see was that her choice would take her away from the one true God. While Ruth's choice seemed like a greater risk, it was actually the safest.

Truth be told, I often are more like Orpah than Ruth. I look around, consider the options, get advice from friends and the internet and jump to my conclusions, often to regret it later. Only recently am I becoming wise enough to pray, ask others to pray, and wait for the Lord to reveal His best way. Not all the time, but I am getting better.

When we choose based on faith, even when the path ahead seems dark and dangerous, it is the safest way to go.

Father, help me to look to You more often before I take a step. Help me seek You and wait for You, trusting You love me and Your ways are always best.

Orpah's story ends here. But Ruth's story goes on. Because following God is always the best path.

Orpah's story starts and ends in Ruth 1.

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