As we see in Ruth 1, Naomi, Orpah and Ruth reach the border between Moab and Judah and there they face a decision. Will they follow the move of God’s grace over into the fullness of Christ? Their names give you a clue: Naomi means grace; Orpah means stiffnecked; and Ruth means friend, companion.
A confrontation takes place at the border when Naomi decides to test Orpah’s and Ruth’s commitment and resolve. For them, the decision to go will require more than emotion, more than words. They must choose either to go back or to go on—with no promise of reward and a clear vision of the high cost ahead.
Rather than preaching prosperity, ease, and success, Naomi presents to them a picture of suffering and poverty. There is no promise of earthly goods, only a walk of faith. In fact, she encourages them to return to their own mothers’ houses (see Ruth 1:8-9).
Both Orpah and Ruth remain steadfast at this point: “They lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:9-10). You already know from Orpah’s name that, in spite of her river of tears, in spite of all her strong words about going on, she will drop out and go back to her idolatry. Outwardly, however, she is broken and tender, and seems to be part of this move back to God.
I believe Naomi could see into Orpah’s heart, into her struggle. She probably thought to herself, “Poor child! She thinks she wants the Lord’s fullness, but she is still charmed by this world. She would be miserable if she went on, because she’d always be looking back!”
So Naomi says, “Go your way!” Orpah must have reached a decision in her heart, “I’ll go back to Moab and serve God—my way! I’ll still love these precious saints, but I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not ready to give up my past.”
The Bible says, “They lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law” (Ruth 1:14). An original manuscript adds to the sentence, “and went back.”
Some of you reading this now are about to kiss your brethren good-bye. Something in your heart is pulling you—a circle of special friends or old loves. But as Naomi said of Orpah, “Thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15), likewise, an idol has your heart—something from your past that you can’t release!