Principle #1: A faithful mother is not only the person that gave birth to you
While we did not read verses one through five just now, (insert name) did earlier in the Scripture reading. Essentially, those five verses tell the story of a family who moved to the country of Moab. Now Moab was not horribly far from this family’s hometown, but the culture in Moab was extremely different from the culture of this Israelite family. And if you didn’t notice earlier, verse one tells us that Naomi and her family were from the little town of Bethlehem. It’s fascinating how one little village can contain so much biblical importance, isn’t it? Ok, so they leave Bethlehem and journey to Moab, because there was a bad famine in Israel, and people were running out of food. And while in Moab, Naomi’s two sons got married to Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. While in Moab, tragedy struck Naomi as her husband Elimelech died. And then, the worst grief imaginable happened, as Naomi had to bury her two only children.
And that is where verse six picks up. Verse six informs us that Naomi and Ruth and Orpah found out that there was food again in the nation of Israel. While it is hard to determine their true intentions, it seems at this point that both Ruth and Orpah intended to journey back to Israel with Naomi. While we haven’t gotten there yet, this passage reveals later that both Ruth and Orpah had families in Moab, and yet it seems as if they both were planning on leaving everything they knew so that they could be with their mother-in-law. Hold on, wait a minute, did I just hear the preacher correctly? Did he just say, “They were willing to leave everything they had to be with their mother-in-law?” Pretty astounding, isn’t it?
In a little bit we are going to talk about why they might have felt so strongly about Naomi, but for right now, this verse makes the point that the people we call “family” are not simply the people you share DNA with. The most direct application for this principle is that we must strive to have a solid relationship with our in-laws. I have heard Brother Morris say several times how much he respects his dear mother-in-law, and I can say the same thing about my mother-in-law.
And I think another application this has is how we should be willing to adopt people into our families. Growing up, adoption was one of those things that I occasionally saw in movies or on television commercials, but it became extremely real to me when my family adopted my little sister Dottie. Dottie was born to two parents that were more interested in meth than they were in her. But now Dottie is a part of a family that cares very deeply for her. Do Dottie and I look alike? No, not at all. But she is just as much my family as my mom and dad are. And even in the broader sense of family, many of you have been kind enough to incorporate my family into your family, and you have no idea how much that means to us.
And so this morning, as we are thinking about this idea of how families should relate to one another, the first thing we need to realize is that your family is made up of whoever you say your family is made up of. Ruth and Orpah showed us this principle when they desired to follow after their mother-in-law, even though their only formal ties to her were their dead husbands. And, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I urge you to not only thank your birth mother for what she’s done for you; but also thank your mother-in-law, and your step-mother, your god-mother, your second mother, and whoever else has had a positive impact on your life.
Principle #2: A faithful mother is unselfish with her children
Verse seven informs us that these three women were on their way back to Judah, leaving behind the only land that Ruth and Orpah had ever known. But then, look what Naomi says to these two women in verses eight and nine. “And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.’ Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.” Whenever I was studying this text, I wondered why Naomi had such a change of heart about her daughters-in-law coming with her. After doing some research, I found out that widows in these days had a very tough road ahead of them after their husbands died. I mean, think about it, this is before government programs like social security, welfare, and disability started assisting people who were unable to provide for themselves. Essentially, widows were on their own, unless a relative was willing to care for them. And Naomi knew that three widows would have a very tough time providing for themselves. So Naomi encouraged these two to return to their mothers’ houses and try to move on with their lives. And then the Bible says that Naomi kissed her two daughters-in-law. It is significant that Naomi kissed Ruth and Orpah, because kissing in this culture was a formal way of saying goodbye.
Now, we don’t know how old Naomi was, but we do know that she considered herself too old to get married again, so she was most likely too old to get out there and do farm work and provide for herself. But don’t you think it would have been easier for Naomi if Ruth and Orpah had gone with her? I mean, they wouldn’t have lived in the lap of luxury, but there are obvious benefits to having two younger people around that can help supply for your needs. But despite this logic, Naomi asked these two to stay in the land of Moab, because life would be too hard for them as widows.