“WEAK IN THE KNEES”: RUTH, ORPAH, NAOMI

by Shellie R. Warren on October 15th, 2009 in Women

“Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there
was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to
live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The
man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were
named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They
all went to the country of Moab and settled there.

Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took
Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They
lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers,
Mahlon (Puny) and Kilion (Pining), died. Now the woman was left without
either her young men or her husband.

One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to
leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God
had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she
started out from the place she had been living, she and her two
daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah.

After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law,
‘Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as
graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give
each of you a new home and a new husband!’ She kissed them and they
cried openly.

They said, ‘No, we’re going on with you to your people.’

But Naomi was firm: ‘Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come
with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become
your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m
too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’
and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being
satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to
get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to
swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.’

Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.

Naomi said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.’

But Ruth said, ‘Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home.
Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my
people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where
I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come
between us!’

When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave
in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem.”—Ruth
1:1-18

Over the weekend, I found myself rereading the book, “The Prayer of
Jabez”. It’s amazing how, when you are in a season and state to really
receive something, it can be like an entirely new experience.

For the past few weeks, as some of you well know, I have been studying
names and the purposes behind them. Anyway, as I was reading the
chapter entitled, “So Why Not Ask?”, two highly enlightening things
came to me within one paragraph. One served as a confirmation that my
gut instinct about understanding and celebrating your birthright (name)
is something that we are called to do. The other prepared me—-well,
us—-for these next few chapters of this study:

“…In Bible times, a man and his name were so intimately related that to
“cut off the name” of an individual amounted to the same thing as
killing him. A name was often taken as a wish for or prophecy about the
child’s future. For example, Jacob can mean “grabber”, a good one-word
biography for that scheming patriarch. Naomi and her husband named
their two sons Mahlon and Kilion. Translation? ‘Puny’ and ‘Pining’. And
that was exactly what they were. Both of them died in early adulthood…”

That already gives us some insight into the journey of Ruth, Orpah and
Naomi, doesn’t it? But, just so that we can see the spiritual vision
behind this tale, I decided to research the meaning behind their names
as well:

Ruth: Compassionate friend

Orpah: Fawn

Naomi: Pleasant one; above all; beauty

As we get deeper into their testimony via the Book of Ruth, we will see
how all of their names played out. I must admit that one of the first
things that came to my mind was the fact that Oprah Winfrey often says
that her name was supposed to have been “Orpah”, but her family
misspelled it. So her birthright was to be a “baby deer usually under
one year old” or “to gain favor by cringing or flattering”? Remember,
the Bible is not impressed by the fact that millions of men are
impressed by you. Without a doubt, Oprah does a lot of good in the
world (with a heart of generosity greater than a lot of Christians, I
might add), but to gain the world and lose your soul (James 2:14), or
remain in spiritual place of consuming milk and not solid food like a
baby deer (Hebrews 5:13)? Well, all I have to say is make sure you are
at a place where you are taking in God’s Word more than Oprah’s insight.

Moving on.

One of the first lessons that I learned from these women, actually came
from their deceased husbands. Remember, in “The Prayer of Jabez”, it
says that their names basically meant “weak”. Single ladies, when it
comes time for you to enter courtship, if you want to experience a
world of suffering and great loss, get with a weak (cowardly, fragile,
imperceptible, indecisive, nervous, powerless, shallow, spineless,
uncertain, incomplete, unconvincing, unqualified, undependable,
unmanly, unsound, wavering) man:

“God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.”—Proverbs 14:34

(Communion Takers): “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner
eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For
if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.”—I Corinthians
11:29-32 (NKJV)

“But as for the cowards and the ignoble and the contemptible and the
cravenly lacking in courage and the cowardly submissive, and as for the
unbelieving and faithless, and as for the depraved and defiled with
abominations, and as for murderers and the lewd and adulterous and the
practicers of magic arts and the idolaters (those who give supreme
devotion to anyone or anything other than God) and all liars (those who
knowingly convey untruth by word or deed)–[all of these shall have]
their part in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone. This is the
second death.”—Revelation 21:8 (AMP)

“I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to
worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to
me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this
God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’ All except you. Instead of honoring me, you
profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and
what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m
bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking
your noses in the air—act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! And
when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken
(incomplete), or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is
God speaking to you!”—Malachi 1:11-13

“…those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (not indecisive).”—Romans 8:14 (NIV)

“Be anxious (nervous) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to
God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will
guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6
(NKJV)

“You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God.”—Proverbs 14:31

“And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first
hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such
shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some
difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.”—Mark 4:16

“Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions (be
non-spineless), give it all you’ve got, be resolute (not uncertain),
and love without stopping.”—I Corinthians 16:13

“Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human
either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be
men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with
women, men with men (unmanly)—all lust, no love. And then they paid for
it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and
loveless wretches. Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God
quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke
loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They
made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and
cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued
God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep
inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when
they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not
as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting
in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those
who do the worst things best!”—Romans 1:26-32

“If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God
[Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching
or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith
that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one
who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea
that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let
not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for]
from the Lord…”—James 1:5-7 (AMP)

If you are a new “babe” in Christ, let me tell you from very personal
experience that a man may drive the right car, wear the right clothes
and be fine and built as all get out, but if you sense any level of
warning signs about him via these words of scripture, he is weak.

But more importantly, if you are saved, hear me when I say that looking
for a man who only goes to church is a good way to get your feelings
hurt. Remember, the Bible says that we are to test the spirit by the
Spirit (I John 4:1). A man who goes to church with you while looking
around at other women (or men) is a weak man. A man who sings in the
choir during the AM, but tries to get in your pants in the PM is a weak
man. A man who gossips like a little girl with the other “talebearers”
in the church is a weak man. A man who always has money for a new suit
but never enough to pay his tithe is a weak man. A man who can praise
God but then curse you out is a weak man.

Enough said? I certainly hope so.

So anyway, because for whatever reason, Ruth and Orpah married weak
men, in the early stages of their adulthood, they found themselves to
be widowed. Because Naomi, their mother-in-law, had also lost her
husband, she decided to go back to her hometown of Moab.

At first, both women wanted to follow Naomi because they loved her that
much (what an awesome testimony between a woman and her
daughters-in-law, ain’t it?). But Naomi loved them so much that she
wanted to see them happy. So at first, she encouraged them to go back
to their own hometown so that they could have another husband find them
and remarry.

Ruth was determined to stay, but Orpah—the fawn—chose to leave.
Have you ever had someone offer to do something for you and you wonder
if they did it just to be polite? That’s what I wonder about Orpah. Was
it that she really wanted to stay with her mother-in-law and
sister-in-law, or was it that she thought it was the “nice thing to
say” while secretly hoping that she wouldn’t have to pay up? That is
something I just may ask her if I see her in glory, but either way, it
says in verse 15 that she headed back to “her people and her gods”.

Let’s stop right there for a moment. Some of us wonder why, like a
hamster in his wheel, we are caught up in the cycle of dysfunctional
relationships. For many of us, it’s because when God allows one
relationship to “die”, we go back (emotionally, mentally and/or
physically) to the same place we once were. The truth is, for some of
us “having a man” is our god and we know what God thinks about that
don’t we (Exodus 20:3)?

Now, am I saying that a man from your past cannot become a present in
your future? Nope. But what I am saying is that when God unites
something, you will not find yourself going backwards:

“Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a
new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and
spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has
come!”—2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP)

When God does a “new thing”, it will be “not previously experienced or
encountered”; “different from the former or the old”; “changed for the
better”, and “of a kind not seen before”.

In other words, if he was trying to “hit it” before and he’s still trying to get some now, he’s nothing new.

If you had to beg him to go to church before and he’s still got excuses for not going now, he’s nothing new.

If you used to pay for dates before and you are still going dutch now, he’s nothing new.

If he flirted with your girlfriends before, and you still catch him talking crazy to your sistahs now, he’s nothing new.

If he had you crying before and you are still stressin’ out over him now, he’s nothing new.

If how he looks in front of his friends was more important before, and
your feelings are still not a top priority now, he’s nothing new.

Hmm. I wonder just what Orpah thought she was going to find by going
back to the same old people and the same old gods of her life? Perhaps
she was more caught up in the familiar than allowing her faith to try
out some new territory. I mean, if, for instance, she found her man in
the club before, in her “fawn-like” mind state, why not go back there
half-dressed in search of another one? So what if he’s weak? At least
she will have a man in her life, right? Take it from me: having no man
is better than getting just “any man”.

Anyway, this was the time when the meaning behind Ruth’s name
(compassionate friend) became very apparent. She wasn’t concerned with
getting someone on the rebound. No, instead she was consumed with
helping out someone she cared about. We will see in the next chapter
where putting others first will get you (blessed beyond
measure—Ephesians 3:20) but for now, let me share something that I
know God is leading me to say to someone (and to confirm within myself):

At 32, trust me when I say that you couldn’t have paid me to think I
would still be a “Ms.” without the white picket fence and 2.5 kids to
match. Just this past weekend, a girlfriend of mine who is younger than
me had a wedding shower and shortly, I will be in the wedding for yet
another friend who is also younger than I am. Now, I am not implying
that they are “Orpahs” by any means. As a matter of fact, I like and am
at peace with both of their future mates, and I am quite happy to plant
the seeds of lingerie into their “marriage ministry” because I look
forward to harvesting some lacy get-ups in abundance someday myself.

But, do let me say this: There is an epidemic of women who have more of
an Orpah spirit rather than a Ruth one. They see everyone else getting
married and they don’t want to feel left out and so they run ahead and
do it as well. For many gals, their gods are comparing themselves to
others and having a wedding simply because everyone else is. When I
tell you that this is a sign of a foolish woman, be rest assured that
the Word backs me up:

“Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground.”—Proverbs 14:18

Ruth wasn’t caught up in what everyone else was doing. She wasn’t so
paranoid about dying an old maid that she rushed into another
relationship. As a matter of fact, her self-image was so high that even
one of the closest people to her (her sister-in-law) could not peer
pressure her into abandoning the mission that she felt she was called
to—one that, for a season, had no man in it. To Ruth, service was
more important than the pursuit of a husband. I don’t know if she knew
it or not, but by operating in this mentality, she was planting good
seed into good ground:

“Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down,
shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch
formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the
measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits
on others], it will be measured back to you.”—Luke 6:38 (AMP)

Now let me just say this to all of the women who just read that and
thought, “Well shoot, if that’s what it takes to get a man, let me sign
up for the children’s ministry at my church or a local non-profit now!”
Hot mamas, God is not looking at what you do, but the heart focus
behind it:

“Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife,
selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty
arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind)
let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself
[thinking more highly of one another than you do of
yourselves].”—Philippian

s 2:3 (AMP)

So, if you are using your servitude as a form of seduction, sorry my sistahs, but you are wasting your time:

“Take care not to do your good deeds publicly or before men, in order
to be seen by them; otherwise you will have no reward [reserved for and
awaiting you] with and from your Father Who is in heaven.”—Matthew
6:1 (AMP)

Remember, in the godly line-up of relationships it’s God, Jesus, man
and woman. We will see in the next chapter that God blessed Ruth in
abundance because she put him first (Ruth 1:16) and when that happens,
he can trust her with a good husband because she operated out of
integrity and not desperation:

“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His
righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these
things taken together will be given you besides.”—Matthew 6:33

Homework for today: Examine your own areas of weakness. If you find
that you have placed any “gods before God”, repent and remove them. We
serve a jealous God who won’t give you anything if you are going to put
it before him (Deuteronomy 6:14-16).

And purpose in your mind to live today by serving others. When God said
that it was more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), that
means that when you move outside of yourself with a pure heart, you
greatly improve your chances of being happy, receiving pleasure and
living life with contentment.

Shoot, we all could use a little more of that, right? Right.

©Shellie R. Warren/2006

Back

Resources

Latest Blog Posts


×