February 22, 2014

XOXOXO's Part II: Withering Under Pressure

Naomi kissed Orpah and Ruth, her daughters-in-law, as she left them to return to her own country. Ruth then embraces or clings to Naomi while Orpah walks away (basically forever). We see a vivid imagery of a faithful and not so faithful believer. The major dividing factor between the two is a faith in God and a lack of it.

Ruth 1:9 ~ “May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud”

Ruth 1:14 “And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”

The focal point in this passage is a single word: דָּ֥בְקָה /dabaq or clung. Orpah kissed her mother but Ruth, her daughter-in-law clung to her. The word דָּ֥בְקָה is indeed the exact same term used by Genesis 2:24 to describe the how man will leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife or specifically how Adam was to cling or cleave to Eve. It is a word that does show the unique closeness that can be experience in a marriage relationship (Wolf 522). Interestingly, the word order in the Hebrew places Ruth ahead of דָּ֥בְקָה /dabaq therefore it emphasizes the contrast between the response of Orpah and Ruth. The purpose of the writer of Ruth was to show the two women who were initially viewed as equals to be actually quite different spiritually and theologically.

Orpah goes with a natural course of obeying Naomi’s wishes but Ruth picks the harder spiritual and emotional course but one that is more loyal to Naomi (Block 638).

This is a relationship of closeness founded in faith and loyalty (similar to David and Jonathan). There is a familial relationship taking place here. It is indeed possible to have a very close familial relationship similar to that of a husband and wife in other relationships in a family. It does not follow that the relationship needs to also contain aspects of sexuality or eros like that of Adam and Eve. She is clinging physically to Naomi but spiritually and in the context of Scripture, she is clinging in faith to God Himself through her actions to another person.

Ruth 1:15-18 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Ruth immediately responds to Naomi in a theological manner in verses 15-18. She states that Orpah has gone back to her people and “her gods.” Ruth then followed her initial statement with an immediate statement that she wouldn’t leave Naomi nor would she leave Naomi’s God. This passage is a profound theological statement from Ruth about her faith in Naomi’s God (the God of the Bible) and how that ties into her relation to Naomi (Block 639).

Orpah’s name means youthful/immature. Her actions paint her as an immature believer. There is no devotion, conviction or positive emotion…just emotions and actions and what amounts to abandonment. Ruth on the other hand cleaves in devotion to Naomi. Jesus made a similar comparison in his Parable of the Soils or Sower.

Mark 4:2-8 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

The same analogy can be made today. There are many within the Church that have plenty of emotion and exuberance but inside they’re spiritually dead and don't even realize it. They have negligently equated emotive behavior to true spirituality. Once the hard parts of life hit they abandon the faith at the first sign of trouble and head for the hills. The others? They stare steadfastly at the trial they will need to face and resolve to follow through with it even if it means injury or death to self. As a matter of fact, issues of faith nearly always lead to a necessity of death to self. A believers understanding of this Christian fact (death to self/take up our cross daily) usually only strengthens our steadfastness and perseverance to see the difficult trials through to their end. Why? It is because a believer understands that the struggles and suffering in life are builders of character and they aid in sanctifying us...helping us to our final destination anyway. 

So in the end there is a clear distinction between acting the part / talking the talk and the flip side which is walking the walk. True believers are tried by fire and survive. The rest just wilt under the heat and run. We must face down our fears and trials with Jesus Christ and persevere until the end.

Hebrews 3:12-14 ~ Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

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