The Crossroad of Love

Ruth 1:14-22

Love ultimately brings us to a crossroad. Choices must be made. There will always be a “letting go” of former things if we are to follow love’s lead. We must part with old habits, old friends and old stomping grounds. But love never forces its way. It typically offers an out. There is always a crossroad. That’s where our devotion is tested. We either choose the path of love, or remain on the road to ruin.
We come to a crossroad in Ruth 1. After losing her husband and sons, Naomi heads back home to Bethlehem: The House of Bread. Will her daughters-in-law follow? Where does their love lie?
“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” (verse 14)
Ruth and Orpah have a choice to make: Follow Naomi or remain in wicked Moab. Naomi has been upfront with the girls from the start. They must leave their world behind should they choose to follow her. The same is true for us. To enter into the Kingdom of God we must leave this world behind. We can’t plant our feet in both. It’s one or the other – Moab or Bethlehem.
Orpah represents the compromised Christian. She wants both Bethlehem’s bread and Moab’s leaven. But the two don’t mix. She must make a choice. Her longing for Moab gets the best of her. That’s the compromised believer. He can’t leave his Moab. He wants to have his leaven and eat it too. For him, the “Bread of Life” is merely a side dish.
Orpah & Ruth both wept at the crossroad. They wept for different reasons. Ruth couldn’t imagine life without Naomi. Orpah couldn’t imagine life apart from Moab. Just like the Rich Young Ruler. He liked Jesus, but loved the world more. He couldn’t turn his back on it.
Ruth finds herself clinging to Naomi. That’s when you know someone is serious. That’s when you know they’re ready to leave all else behind. In marriage we call it leaving and cleaving. “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:21) The man must leave the nest and make a new life with his beloved. She must take precedence. He must put her first, even above his own mother and father. We also must leave & cleave to Christ. Goodbye world – Jesus I’m yours! Two-timing isn’t permitted. Love and faithfulness are essentials.
If you still have one foot in Moab, it’s time to make a choice. Lose the leaven. Use your head – choose the Bread! Cling to your beloved, Jesus.
“And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” (verse 15)
Not only have Ruth and Naomi lost their husbands, now Orpah hits the road. The temptation for Ruth to join her must have been intense. Yet she clings to Naomi for dear life. Together the two bawl their eyes out. And once again, Naomi gives Ruth an out. She doesn’t want her following half-heartedly. Nor does she want Ruth led by emotion. Should she follow, she must be all in. “There’s still time to catch up with your sister.” Naomi goads her. “Her people and her gods await you!”
God works the same way with us. He doesn’t want us following half-heartedly. Or looking back like Lot’s wife did. All ties with Moab must be severed. “But those are my people,” you say. This is why so many don’t follow Jesus. They have cling-ons they can’t shake off. God says, “It’s them or me. Decide who you love more.” This doesn’t mean we can’t have friends in world. We just can’t hang with them in Moab. We must bring them to the House of Bread.
“But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.” (verse 16)
What an example of true devotion! Ruth vows to dwell with Naomi in Bethlehem. The Moabites will no longer be her people. Their gods will no longer be her gods. Ruth commits herself to the true God, and His people shall be her people.That’s how it’s supposed to be for us. Loving God means loving His people. It grieves me when folks say they don’t like church. Wait a minute; those are God’s people! True, they can be an ornery bunch, but they are our people as well. We must extend to them the same grace God extends to us. Breaking fellowship is never an option. This is a family founded upon acceptance. If we don’t love God’s own it is because we don’t love God, nor do we know God, for the love of God is not in us. (See 1 John 4:7-8)

“Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” (verse 17)
We can learn a lot from Ruth. She vows never to let anything separate her from Naomi. I hope you’re just as committed to the Lord. I pray you love Him that much. He is worth living for & dying for. He felt you were worth dying for! And nothing can separate you from His love:
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)
Nothing can separate you from His love! Nothing! What about you? What can separate your love from God? Are you willing to let it go? Will you love Him for life? Will you love Him to death?
“When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.” (verse 18)
Three times Ruth is told to go back to Moab. Three times she refused. Her heart’s desire is to be with Naomi. There’s no talking her out of it. So Naomi finally pipes down.
“Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (verse 19)
The two widows finally arrive in Bethlehem. Before long, the whole town is abuzz. Everybody’s talking. One can only imagine what was said. Naomi leaves with a husband and two sons; ten years later she returns with a Moabitess. Talk about a scandal!
‘Excited’ doesn’t mean folks were enthused. That’s how we use the term. “I’m excited to see you!” we say. That wasn’t the case here. The town was freaking out. Naomi and Ruth created quite a stir, especially among the women. They asked, “Is this Naomi?” Keep in mind, Naomi means ‘pleasant.’ That’s what they’re asking, “Is this pleasant?” Perhaps they asked because things didn’t seem very pleasant. Naomi assured them they weren’t…
“But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (verse 20)
Do you know anyone named Mara? It’s not a “sweet” name. It’s the exact opposite. Mara is Hebrew for bitter. “Don’t call me pleasant; call me bitter,” Naomi insists. At least she’s honest. Most would never admit that. They think they’re pleasant, even when their fangs are showing. Wouldn’t it be great if bitter people wore badges that said “bitter” on them? I’d like to know in advance. Naomi wasn’t ashamed. “Be advised, I’m bitter!”
Just whom does Naomi blame for her bitterness? “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me!” she announces. Certainly we can sympathize. She lost her husband and two sons. But God doesn’t have it out for her. He only wants what’s best. Things will turn out fine. At the moment Naomi doesn’t see that. She’s too bitter.
“I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (verse 21)
I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. That’s how it always is. Those who leave House of Bread leave full – full of themselves! Before returning, they must be emptied. I once left the House of Bread. I was stuffed with me, myself and I. In order to bring me back, God had to empty me. He emptied me of self so I could be filled with more of Him.
Initially when God empties us, we don’t understand what’s happening. We may even be bitter at first. We might say things like: “The Almighty has afflicted me!” Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt God had it out for you? Or that He was punishing you? “Everything was going exactly as I wanted. Then God had to ruin things!”  These aren’t rational thoughts, but that’s how bitterness works. Bitterness poisons the mind, making it easy to jump to conclusions. You check out from reality.
When God empties us it’s not to punish us. He doesn’t subtract from our lives just to make us miserable. He longs to bring us to a place of abundance. He humbles us so He can lift us higher. You won’t be happy in the House of Bread if you are full of self… or full of Moab. There is only one way to come back. You must return empty. Only then can God fill you.
Though Naomi returns home empty, she will be made full. God will bless her socks off in spite of her bitterness.
“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.” (verse 22)
We see signs of hope already. Naomi and Ruth return in the spring, at the time of the barley harvest. The famine is over. The barley fields are exploding with grain. This is where Ruth finds provision for both her and Naomi. Ruth also finds love. Yes, this Moabitess from another world finds love in the House of Bread! And there is enough love to cover Naomi as well! In the House of Bread there is enough love to cover us all! But love doesn’t force its way. It brings us to a crossroad. We must choose to follow. It wouldn’t be love if we weren’t given a choice.

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