Please hear me...none of this is said in condemnation! The Lord God desires all to be saved, but there is a VERY immense group of people who have been deceived, many of those will not be raptured. God has placed this burden of sadness in my heart to sound the alarm. I know that the depth of the message in these devotions will not be received by the masses. But the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me that there are few who will find the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14), and if even one person reading these receives the truth of God, there will be rejoicing in heaven!
Last week we discussed the bride in the Song of Solomon. I greatly encourage you to go to my brother’s website and download the Song of Solomon devotional. I promise you that your life will be changed if you are truly desiring the intimacy with the Lord that scripture speaks of.
Today I want us to examine the lives of two other women in scripture that will clearly open our eyes to what it truly means to have the Kingdom of God take hold of us. Are you ready? Turn with me to the book of Ruth. This is one of my favorite books in scripture. Why? We experience the love of the Almighty God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the redeeming God. We witness the outcome of making sinful decisions and the redemptive love of the Father when we return to His ways and plans. We learn how obedience to God’s Word and surrender of our plans to follow God’s plan brings victory beyond anything we could ever imagine!
Today we are going to focus on Orpah and Ruth. We will look at the others in another devotion. Orpah and Ruth had married the two sons of Elimelech and Naomi and after 10 years both of these brothers passed away leaving their wives as widows. Their mother-in-law was also a widow, her husband had passed away years before. The situation they found themselves in was one where Elimelech had moved from Bethlehem to Moab in an action of sin. The land of Moab was forbidden territory to the Israelites, it was not where the Lord blessed the work of their hands. Now, all the men were deceased and Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws, who were Moabites, were left. Naomi makes the decision to return to Bethlehem and instructs her daughter-in-laws to return to their mother’s home so they can remarry, have a good life and worship their gods. In other words, return to what was before they learned of the Almighty God of Israel. (I am intentionally not going into detail because it is not the point we are to focus on for this devotion.)
Bear with me as we talk about relationships because if we don’t understand the importance of relationship we will miss the meaning of all of scripture. For many years these two young women spent every day with their mother-in-law. During these years they grew intimate in their relationship. They shared their lives, they talked about their cultures, their beliefs, their gods (the Moabite’s god) and the One and Only Almighty God, Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They laughed together and they cried together, their lives became entwined. They became a family. Then one day it was all gone. All that was left were the three women. Naomi was completely broken and knew that she needed to return to her home, to Bethlehem. She now tells the two women she has spent much time with goodbye. They both cried, but each had a decision to make as to what to do with the words Naomi spoke to them.
Orpah cried but considered the words of her mother-in-law and chose to return to her mother’s house to live where she would have the possibility of finding a new husband and raising a family and worship her pagan gods. She would return to the pagan system she was raised in and live in the same manner she had prior to marrying her husband.
Ruth, on the other hand, clung to her mother-in-law and spoke the following words. 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.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
There could not be any two responses that would have been so opposite of each other, nor illustrate the truth of the transforming power of God. Orpah heard EXACTLY the same stories of Elohim that Ruth did but she did not allow them to change her heart. She may have outwardly seemed to have changed but she had not allowed God to turn her heart away from idols to the living God. Ruth LISTENED and HEARD not only with her ears but with her heart. She fell in love with Naomi, the one who demonstrated God’s love, and she fell in love with God. Read the words of Ruth again. Nothing was going to separate her from the One True God! She could not, would not, return to the old existence that she had been living; that person had died and here she was a new creation with a future and a hope of redemption and eternal life! She was placing her entire future into the hands of Elohim.
It was a hard and dangerous journey for the two women to return to Bethlehem. Once at Bethlehem they still would not have a home because their husbands had passed away and there was no heir to pass the inheritance on to. But they would be in the place that God had blessed and promised to keep them. We will pursue the results of that decision in another devotion.
My dear friends, I cannot think of a more appropriate illustration of making the decision to be obedient and surrendered to God’s plan, or to turn one’s back on God. We cannot have it both ways. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) We cannot be seeking the things of the world and be followers of Jesus Christ. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13) (Matthew 6:24) Ruth chose to serve God, Orpah chose to pursue matters of the flesh. Which choice have you made in your life?
Jesus felt that this message was so important, and knew it was one of the biggest stumbling blocks that stand between man and God. He presented us with another parable where we further see this truth in the parable of the wedding feast. Let’s review it together so that we can hear exactly what Jesus was teaching. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:2-14)
Let me ask you a question. When this parable refers to those “who had been invited to the wedding feast”, did you assume that they were believers but they were just busy at that particular time? That is not what this scripture is telling us. All are invited but only those who RESPOND are the chosen ones referred to in the last sentence of this passage! They don’t respond in words, they respond by taking action, by being obedient to the call! What about the man who was not dressed in wedding clothes? He didn’t respond to the offer of redemption by believing in Messiah, he hadn’t repented of his sins and turned away from them, his life was not changed in any way, thus he wasn’t “clothed in wedding clothes”. He may have attended the synagogue services and may have even given alms to the poor. But he was lacking in one thing, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you recall this verse from Revelation 19? Placed in context with this parable it may become clearer to you. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7) Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?
If you find yourself lacking and greatly desire to be in right standing with the Lord, I, along with the Apostle Paul who prayed these words over those in the church at Thessalonica, pray “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) It all begins with loving the Lord God with ALL your heart, ALL your mind, ALL your strength; in others words, love Him more than you love yourself. You might be wondering how to get to that place. For me, it all came about by the reading of God’s Word. I love all the Word but it was through the reading of the Old Testament that I saw from the beginning God’s amazing love for mankind. It was in reading of God’s victories as the Israelites would trust Him. When they turned away from Him, they lost battles, they worshipped idols, they went into exile! But when they worshipped Him, walked in His commandments and submitted to His leadership, they thrived, they were victorious over their enemies, they were greatly blessed. My heart longed for the blessings and relationship with my heavenly Father. I was tired of being defeated, of my life being empty, void of love and trying to navigate life on my own wisdom. When I fell in love with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I began to truly understand my sinful nature and my great need for a Redeemer. The birth, teachings and death of the Messiah exposed my need in a much greater sense and I knew I would die unless I allowed Jesus Christ to become my Lord. I had nothing to offer God except my sin. In turn He gave me eternal life and made me an heir of His Kingdom! “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
There were times I had to continuously surrender the same thing to the Lord several times a day because I found I would take back ownership of what I had just given Him. But as I was faithful to submit to His leadership in my life, I truly began to understand the promises of God for me. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:5-10) I began to understand that “my ownership” was actually pride and that was sin. As I learned submission and began to trust God to lead me I began to really hear the Holy Spirit speak into my life and receive His grace. It was not about me but it was all about glorifying my Father!
There are several definitions of grace but I’d like to share my favorite with you that really changed my life because I now truly understood God’s grace. Grace is God’s presence (the Holy Spirit) in me that empowers me to be who God created me to be! Do you see it? Read it again, let it sink into your mind and your heart. When you get it there will be an overwhelming sense of freedom and joy!
Soon you will be easily moved by the Holy Spirit when you read verses such as this one, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22) “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) No longer will you want to ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit when you are confronted with hard decisions or choices because your desire will be to please and bless our heavenly Father. You will not want to make any decisions, especially major decisions, on your own because you realize that everything you do will affect your life in one way or another. In our one example today of Ruth and Orpah, remember Elimelech who decided on his own to move his family from Bethlehem (God’s house of bread) to Moab, a forbidden land? He knew it was wrong but refused to repent of his sin and died in that foreign land. His decision brought a curse to his life but also to his family. He died out of God’s will. Want to put that perspective into your personal life? Read the following verses, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
It all comes down to praying in agreement with the Word of God and His will to be done, or to be in opposition and praying with the intent to convince God to bless the plans you want to happen. That is why so many are defeated today. They get discouraged because they say God doesn’t answer their prayers. If God doesn’t answer your prayers, you are probably not praying the right prayer. Is there a right prayer? YES! It’s the prayer from the heart for God to do in your life what He wants to do, what He planned for you! Remember, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) If you follow where God leads and are obedient to His will, He will bless the work of your hands because He will receive the glory! Remember the Lord’s prayer? “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ “ (Matthew 6:7-10) (Not all of the prayer is written out as we are focusing on this one portion today. Please read the whole when you can sit alone with the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to open up your understanding.) The reference to Gentiles that Jesus is making here refers to those who are not in covenant relationship with God. But I believe that many who are in relationship with the Lord need to hear His Words. How often do you hear someone pray and they seem to never stop? By the time they are finished you forgot what the point of the prayer was. Often that is the type of prayer that is prayed to impress others. It does not impress God. God doesn’t need a fancy novel, He wants to hear your heart. God already knows your need, He wants to hear from you that you know your need! If you don’t know what you are to ask, tell Him! Ask Him to give you understanding, show you where you are falling short or where you veered off track.
God cannot and will not move us forward when we are moving in the wrong direction. When we finally are at the end of our rope and go to Him, He always takes us back to the place of error and sin in our lives. We must repent and turn away from that belief, maybe those friends, whatever action we were taking that lead us astray. He will open our eyes to clearly see the truth of our error. We then come into agreement with Him and now are able to hear Him and begin to move forward.
I often hear people say that God doesn’t want us to focus on our past but to focus on our future. That is true in the respect that our past is dead if we have confessed our sins, repented and asked Jesus to become Lord of our lives! However, if we keep failing and failing and failing and the sin remains in our life, God’s deliverance is necessary to move forward! You may cover it up for a time but it will still keep you in bondage and you will never truly experience the whole freedom that comes from a new life in Jesus Christ! “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)
My dear friend, I will leave you with this sobering thought. May you take seriously the words written in the scriptures for they are life for those who enter into a relationship with Messiah Yeshua and make Him the Lord of their lives. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17) For those who chose to ignore the words of scripture, the words become a curse and death will follow. Will you stand with me today and come into agreement with the words Joshua spoke to the children of Israel? “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
Our Father, hallowed be Thy name! Your name is great and greatly to be praised! Your ways are perfect and lead to life everlasting! Thank You for Your love, Your commandments and Your discipline which guides me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake alone. Oh how we need You. Holy Spirit I thank You as You begin to minister to and respond to the cries of those who have heard the message and want to repent and begin walking the way of the cross. Join us together as a holy people who stand for the truth of Your word, for purity and righteousness. We bow our knees before You. I pray that my life, and those who seek Your narrow path, will become a sweet fragrance to You and that You will be blessed by our offering. All this I pray in the blessed name of Messiah Yeshua, whose blood redeemed us from death and made a way to everlasting life for those who believe and walk according to Your commandments. Amen!