Ruth Returning
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

You will recall that we said that we were going to be following in our study a threefold approach to the study of the book of Ruth, and we would like for you to keep that threefold approach in your mind because you might want to follow that yourself as you are reading the book. We are encouraging you to be reading the book of Ruth as we are studying. You will recall that it takes approximately twenty minutes for the average reader to read the entire book. That will vary with individuals. Since this is true, then it is not an impossible task for everyone to follow.

The threefold approach is from the standpoint of analogy, soteriology and eschatology. Analogy is drawing spiritual lessons from the historical truths which are in the book, making practical applications. Soteriology is the study of salvation or the study of redemption. Eschatology is the study of last things as they are revealed here in the book of Ruth.

Last week we began the study of the first chapter from the standpoint of analogy, and we said that we would expect to find within that first chapter two lessons, one related to chastening and the other related to decisions. We spent all of our time discussing the lessons which are related to chastening in the first chapter of the book of Ruth. I would like for us to read together again the first chapter of the book of Ruth so that we might examine the lessons which are related to decisions in this first chapter, drawing the analogy to which we have already made reference.

Ruth 1

1Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
5And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
6Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
7Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
8And 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.
9The 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.
10And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
11And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
13Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
14And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
16And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
18When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
19So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
20And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21I went out full and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
22So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

I don't know whether you recognized some of the lessons related to decisions that we want to bring to your attention or not. If you were thinking as we read, you should recognize that at the present time, as far as our story is concerned, there isn't anyone left but three women. Elimelech had died. Mahlon and Chilion had died, and only three women were left. The story of the book of Ruth is built around two of those women primarily, and our lesson is built around the three of them. I want to suggest that we think of these three women as representatives of all mankind and the decisions which they are called upon to make in relation to spiritual things.

The Decision of the Prodigal

I would suggest that we think first of Naomi who makes the decision of the prodigal, whether it be the prodigal woman or the prodigal man. We think of Orpah as the individual who makes the decision of the professor, and we might even say the decision of the mere professor. Then we would think of Ruth as the woman who makes the decision of the possessor, the one who possesses instead of professes. We suggest to you that these three women represent the decisions that all mankind must make in relation to spiritual things. Perhaps you will find yourself or a loved one among them. If so, then you will know what you need to do as far as you are concerned and how to pray in relation to your loved ones.

The first woman we called to your attention was Naomi. We said that she represented the woman who was to make the decision for the prodigal, be it the prodigal woman or the prodigal man. The ministers of the Word have placed so much emphasis upon the story of the prodigal son that when we speak of the prodigal, our minds automatically turn to him and we do not consider that anyone else is prodigal in their relationship to God, but Naomi was.

The Chastening Hand of God

You will remember that we suggested to you four basic facts related to chastening. Those four basic facts related to chastening were those that Noami had to endure before she came to the place where she was ready to return to the land of Bethlehem. We referred to the record of chastening. We mean by that that the Bible teaches that whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. We suggested to you the reaction of chastening.

Several different reactions are possible, but we emphasized that the reaction on the part of Elimelech and his family was to run away from chastening. That never helps because the hand of God always follows. So as the psalmist says, if you flee as far as you can to the west or to the east, you will find God there. If you go to Heaven, you will find Him there. If you go to Hell, you will find Him there. There is no way to escape the chastening hand of God.

Because Elimilech and his family reacted in this fashion to the chastening hand of God, the hand of God rested sorely upon them until they were bereft of everything. There came upon Naomi the recognition of the fact that the things that were happening to her were not related to mere circumstances. They were not related to ill fortune. They were related to the chastening hand of God. As soon as the recognition of chastening became evident in the life of Naomi, there was the immediate release–“afterwards,” as Paul speaks of it in the letter to the Hebrews: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” The relief came.

Return to the Place of Blessing

We call to your attention these four facts about chastening because there is one of them that is absolutely essential if the prodigal is ever to return from the far country to which he or she has gone. That basic necessity is related to the third fact that we gave you about chastening–the recognition that the hand of God is resting upon the individual. Only as the prodigal recognizes that the hand of God is in what is happening is there a willingness on his part to return. If you are prodigal, I say to you that you will never be willing to return to the place where God would have you come until you recognize that God's hand rests heavily upon you. If you have loved ones who are prodigal and you know they are, you need not expect them to return to the place God would have them until they recognize that the hand of God rests upon them.

You will recall that Jacob ran off to the country of Laban, and he suffered much misfortune there, but he could not go on with God until he went back to Bethel, the place where he departed from the Lord. When he was seeking the blessing of the Lord, the Lord said to him in so many words, “There can be no blessing until first you go back to Bethel.”

When we think of the prodigal Naomi, as I have already suggested, and the need for recognizing the evident chastening hand of God, we find an interesting comparison between the prodigal son in Luke, chapter 15, and the prodigal Naomi in Ruth, chapter 1.

Comparison of Naomi to the Prodigal Son

I would like for you to keep a marker here in the book of Ruth and turn with me to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, that we might refresh our minds concerning the familiar story of the prodigal son because I feel that the one will amplify the other and bring the truth more closely home to our hearts. The story of the prodigal, which we will not read in detail, thinking only at the moment of the climax which was finally reached in verse 16:

Luke 15

16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17And when he came to himself,…

“When he came to himself”–this is when he recognized the chastening hand of God. You realize that when a believer departs from the Lord, it is a form of insanity, spiritual insanity. You cannot reason with such an individual; you cannot implore such an individual. All that you can do is ask God to bring that individual to a recognition of the chastening hand of God in his life. Then according to verse 17, he will come to himself. You notice that the prodigal said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!” When he realized the foolishness of the situation in which he was, he was recognizing the hand of God.

Naomi's Reaction to Chastening

You might want to keep a marker here in verse 15 because we will come back again before we leave this discussion, but I would like for you to turn now back to Ruth, chapter 1, and notice the similarity to the reaction of the prodigal Naomi and the prodigal son. In Ruth, chapter 1, verse 5, notice that Naomi was in the hog pen, figuratively speaking. She too had come to the end of herself. In verse 5, you read:

Ruth 1

5And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

That is, she was bereft of all she had–her two sons and her husband. It is never wise to speculate in the Scripture, but it is wise sometimes for the sake of emphasis to consider a hypothetical situation. The Apostle Paul did repeatedly in his letter to the Hebrews. But hypothetically speaking, it is conceivable that if God had blessed these folk while they were in the land of Moab, they might never have returned. Only when men are brought to the end of themselves do they decide to come back home.

Notice in verse 6:

Ruth 1

6Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.

The prodigal son said, “How many servants in my father's house have more than enough and here I am eating on the husks that are used to feed the swine. I am a foolish individual. I ought to go back and be a servant if nothing more.” Naomi did not expect to go back to being a servant, but she did expect to go back empty. If you glance over at verse 21, you will read:

Ruth 1

21I went out full and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

As we pointed out to you in our last lesson, though some Bible scholars see a note of bitterness in this verse on the part of Naomi, we do not. We feel that it is a simply testimony to the fact that she recognized the chastening hand of God upon her and knew that something had to be done. I say for the benefit of those of you who are interested in the prodigal, whether from the standpoint of self or the standpoint of loved ones, you need to pray that men will come to their senses before they are bereft of everything. How good it would have been if when Elimelech died Naomi had come to her senses. She would have immediately taken her boys back home. Instead she stayed on and violated yet another command of God and found her boys married to Moabitish girls, which in itself could have brought the additional hand of God for it was a violation of the teaching of the Word of God.

The thing that concerns me about people who are prodigal is what will have to happen to them before God is able to bring them back. You should keep that in mind in relation to guidelines in your praying.

The Response to the Holy Spirit

We have been talking about the prodigal recognizing the hand of God and realizing that it is better to be in fellowship than it is to be out of fellowship. That is really what we are talking about and yet, Beloved, it takes more than a recognition of the fact that it is better to be in fellowship than it is to be out. It takes something else. I refer to it as the “response to the Holy Spirit.” It is only when the prodigal responds to the pleading of the Holy Spirit that anything really is accomplished. Let's consider the comparison again in relation to the prodigal son as you go back to Luke, chapter 15, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 18. Recall how the prodigal said that he knew he would be better off in his father's house than he was in the hog pen, and he could have stopped there. Had he, he would have remained in the hog pen for the rest of his life. But you will notice in verse 18, in response to what I believe was the pleading of the Holy Spirit of God, he said:

Luke 15

18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Now this is commendable, but if we stopped our reading here it would not be sufficient, for many men have been conscious of their sins and have even said they ought to do something about it, but have done nothing about it. If you compare, when you have time, the chronological relationship of Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, you will find that David came face to face with the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and lived in full recognition of his sin for two full years before he came to the place of repentance and was restored to fellowship. I say this to you because we must not stop our praying when we are concerned about the prodigal just because there is a little flurry of interest, just because he says, “I am not doing what I ought to do. I ought to be doing differently.”

Notice verse 20. Not only did he say in verse 18 that he would arise and go, but in verse 20 is the record:

Luke 15

20And he arose, and came to his father…

He followed through on his decision. Oftentimes the Spirit of God stirs the hearts of men. Speaking particularly about the prodigal, it stirs the heart of the prodigal, and there is a moving toward God. We rejoice at that moving toward God and sometimes think it has been complete when it hasn't, and then we wonder why things are not as we hoped they would be. We find ourselves disappointed, perhaps even being critical of God. Beloved, we need to realize that there is a difference between saying, “I will arise and go,” and actually doing so.

Return to Fellowship

Turn back, please, to Ruth, chapter 1, and notice with me, by way of comparison, the prodigal Naomi. She, too, had reached the place where she said, “I ought to go,” and in verse 6, she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return to the country of Moab. That in itself was commendable, but verse 7 indicates that she did even more because there we read:

Ruth 1

7Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.

Notice the threefold progression of going back, or getting back into fellowship, if we want to use that expression. She arose with her daughters-in-law with purpose, intent, in going back. In verse 7, she went forth out of the place where she was. Sometimes it is necessary to break old ties before fellowship can be restored. One of the difficult things for the prodigal oftentimes is the breaking of those old ties, the breaking of those old habits. Again we would encourage you in your prayer life to remember the prodigal in this fashion for there may be stirring within his heart a deep desire to return to the Lord but the old ways, the old associations and the old habits, have quite a hold on him and they must be broken before they can continue the journey.

Notice with me the first part of verse 19:

Ruth 1

19So they two went until they came to Bethlehem…

We emphasize the word “until” in the chapter. You see, they did not stop until they reached home.

Ruth 1

19…And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

They did not stop short of their goal.

Necessity of Confession

Beloved, fellowship cannot be restored short of the place, and I would like for you to get this, short of the place where fellowship was broken. All too often when we are out of fellowship with God, we want God to settle with us at a bargain price. We tell God we are willing to confess part of the sin or forsake part of the thing for which the chastening hand of God is resting upon them. All too often we tell God we are willing to go back part way to Bethlehem. We can't go back all of the way. We rationalize and sometimes our rationalization is so effective that we have a measure of peace and we put forth a front that would lead people to believe that the prodigal has returned, but it doesn't last because it is only when you have made the journey completely back to Bethlehem that fellowship is fully restored, that the victory is yours and the peace is enjoyed.

We are trusting the Holy Spirit to speak to your hearts, if you should be prodigal, and remind you if you would return, you must return all of the way. We would encourage those of you who are concerned about prodigal sons, prodigal daughters, prodigal wives, prodigal husbands, whatever the case may be, we would encourage you by way of saying that it does not always happen with one step across the line. Sometimes it happens by degrees. When you see the working of the Spirit of God and you see a brief flurry of response to the Spirit of God, be encouraged, but do not assume that the victory is won. All too often the devil wins victories, I believe, by default because we stop praying before we should.

The Decision of the Professor

We need to hurry on now and look at the second woman in our story. Her name is Orpah, and we said she represented the decision of the professor. When I say that Orpah represents the decision of the professor, understand I am not talking about someone in our educational system. I am talking of an individual who outwardly professes to make this decision concerning the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We find an interesting analogy here in the activity of Orpah as the professor. The things which Orpah did are among the things which many professors do. Let me suggest to you, for want of a better way of expressing it, that she was a fellow traveler. She left the land of Moab when Ruth and Naomi left the land of Moab. As a matter of fact, you can notice a definite progression of thought. In verse 6 of Ruth, chapter 1, she decided to leave the country just as Naomi and Ruth did. The decision was made.

I am always concerned when I hear evangelists or others talking about so many decisions being made for Christ. Beloved, now sit tight and don't fall off your seats and become concerned about what I am about to say. There is a vast difference between making a decision and following through. You may say, “I'm confused. I thought that you taught the security of the believer.” I do because the Bible teaches it, but Beloved, we are not talking about the believer. We are talking about the professor. I say to you that individuals do decide to leave the land of Moab, and oftentimes, if you please, they will even begin the journey as did Orpah. You will notice in verse 7:

Ruth 1

7Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.

Notice it says, “…and her two daughters-in-law…” It was not just Ruth and Naomi, but Orpah. She not only decided, she began the journey back to Bethlehem. You will find oftentimes the fellow-travelers of whom I speak decide and even begin the journey to the extent that they make public testimony concerning their decisions either by word of mouth, baptism, or open affiliation with the church. My, what rejoicing there is that so and so decided for Christ and last week he was baptized and joined the church. That is not all that Orpah did, for you will notice in the latter part of verse that she continued on the journey. It was not just a matter of saying she would go and you never see her any more. You read in the last part of verse 7:

Ruth 1

7…and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.

Emotional Responses

Oftentimes we are concerned about the emotional reaction to the invitation of the Gospel. If we do not see what we feel is enough emotion portrayed, we become very much concerned and say, “Well, I don't know whether they were sincere or not. I didn't see any tears, and I didn't see any emotion.” Beloved, I want to remind you that it is possible for the professor to be emotionally moved. I don't think that you could find any more indication of emotional influence than what you find in verses 8-10 of this paragraph at which we are looking. Naomi and these girls talked it over and rationalized and answered all of the excuses. In verse 14:

Ruth 1

14And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

It wasn't quite a few tears that they shed. “They lifted up their voice.” You could have heard them several blocks away, and they wept once more.

Orpah, I say to you, was emotionally moved. Orpah, the professor, decided to begin the journey, to continue the journey. She was emotionally moved, so if anyone was looking for an indication of sincerity, they could have found it in her actions. I beg of you to consider the fact that it is possible for professors to become fellow travelers, to give all the appearances of an experience with Christ; but recognize as well that what is involved more times than not is what I have referred to as a superficial allegiance. I think that is indicated here in the experience of Orpah.

Notice verse 10:

Ruth 1

10And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.

Nothing about God, as we are going to learn in another verse, as was true of the possessor. The professor was interested only in a change–not allegiance to God, but allegiance to a new way of life. In verse 14, Orpah was quite content with a superficial show of love for her mother-in-law–a mere kiss–where Ruth cleaved unto her mother-in-law. Perhaps the most convincing thing that we can say that indicates to us that Orpah was not a possessor instead of a professor is indicated in verse 15, where the biographical information is given concerning her. Naomi said:

Ruth 1

15And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

You see, she never really did forsake her idolatry. She simply gave the appearance, and when she had the opportunity she went back to her God.

Evidence of Growth

Because the subject we are discussing is so vitally important in my mind in these days of superficiality, I would like for us to notice briefly some comparative Scriptures which bear out the analogy which I have made in our discussion. The first one I would like to call to your attention is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13. When you arrive there, you will recognize it to be the record of the parable of the sower and the seed. So often people think that the Word of God is some sort of mystical, magical amulet that will guarantee some kind of protection if only people can hear it. Don't misunderstand me; it is better to hear the Word of God than anything else because the Word of God is living, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, but there is no guarantee that the mere hearing of the Word of God will change the life. The condition of the heart, the response to the Spirit of God, makes the difference.

Notice, please, Matthew, chapter 13, verses 5-7:

Matthew 13

5Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

Notice that the seed was sown and something grew from the seed. They say sometimes concerning individuals, “Oh, I know they are saved. I see evidences of it.” Yes, you may see evidences of planted seed, and the seed may spring up. Look at verse 6:

Matthew 13

6And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

The seed that sprang up that gave the evidence which you noticed would not last; and because it had no roots, it withered away. Then notice verse 7:

Matthew 13

7And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

The fact that the thorns could choke something would indicate that the seed did grow. It was not just seed lying dormant in the ground. The seed produced growth that was evident–so evident that when the thorn came up, the thorn smothered out the seed. The interpretation of the parable you will find later on in this chapter when you will notice in the explanation which the Lord Jesus Christ gives that the field is the world, the seed is sown in the hearts of men, and that which springs up is what is given in response to the Word. Beloved, it is possible for a professor to give evidence of saving grace in his life as far as human eyes can detect.

Continue In the Faith

Turn with me, please, to Colossians, chapter 1, and notice a passage of Scripture which has troubled a great many folk, which has been used to declare the Armenian philosophy that it is possible to lose one's salvation after he has been saved. That, of course, is the wrong application of the verses, but you will notice in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 21:

Colossians 1

21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

What is he saying? Christ died for all men. All men in Paul's generation had heard the Gospel. All men would not respond in the same fashion. Some of them would give the appearance of acceptance, but only those who were represented as seeds falling upon good ground would be genuinely born again.

Now the emphasis in verse 23 is not upon the idea that if you continue you will be saved. The emphasis is you are continuing because you are saved. That is, the evidence of your salvation is seen in the continuance of your pursuit of the Gospel. I am usually asked how long a person will continue before you can be sure it is salvation. I have no answer for that because the Bible has no answer for it; but I do say to you, Beloved, you had better recognize that it is possible to be professors, fellow travelers, giving all the evidence that would satisfy the human mind that a change has been made and the change may not be made.

Turn, please, to the second epistle of Peter. Oftentimes I am asked by parents when they are concerned about their children and their lack of spiritual growth or things in which they have become involved, “Do you suppose it is possible that they have never been saved?” I say to them, “ It is quite possible that they have never been saved.” “Oh, but I gave them the plan of salvation. I know when they responded to it.” “Well, I am glad you gave them the plan of salvation, and I am glad that they responded.” Beloved, keep in mind what we have been emphasizing here. It is possible to decide. It is possible to become a fellow traveler, but it is possible to become a professor and not a possessor.

An Illustration of the Professor

The passage of Scripture to which I have asked you to turn, II Peter, is one which is difficult for some folk to accept when they believe as I do. I will not speak for you in the security of the believer, but it is not difficult for me to understand, because I think it is a perfect illustration of what we are talking about now–Orpah, the professor.

Notice in chapter 2, verse 18, Peter said false teachers would come in; and he said, in verse 18:

II Peter 2

18For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

Notice to whom they appealed: “those who had escaped from those who lived in error.” They had left Moab, in the terms of our text. They had escaped. Verse 19:

II Peter 2

19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Yes, they had even cleaned up their lives. Someone said, “I believe if a person is born again, you will see a change. ”Beloved, you can see a change if they just confess to being born again. Don't go around saying, “Well, I see a change. I know they are saved.” And don't go around saying, “I don't believe they are saved because I haven't seen a change.” That is not the evidence of your salvation conclusively. Notice in verse 20:

II Peter 2

20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,…

Someone said, “Ha, they were saved.” No, they had just heard, in the terms of our lesson, that the famine was over back in Bethlehem. They just came to the realization, as did the prodigal son, that the servants in the father's house had more than he had. They had come to the realization that Jesus Christ had something to offer, and they began the journey. Notice:

II Peter 2

20…they are again entangled therein [ the pollutions of the world ], and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

They were worse off than they were before they ever left Moab. Verse 21:

II Peter 2

21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

Notice that statement, “they turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” These folk had never been born again. They were the Orpahs of the world, the prodigal sons of the world, the unsaved of the world. They were the individuals who had heard and become fellow travelers who had never been born again.

If you want some conclusive truth of that, you will find it in verse 22, where it is said:

II Peter 2

22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Notice this Scriptural interpretation would forbid our thinking the person who is described here in II Peter, chapter 2, was ever born again. He is called a dog. No believer in the Scripture is ever called a dog. He is called a pig, a sow, a hog, a swine. No believer in the Scripture is ever called typically a hog or swine.

Notice what happened here. This individual dog is returned to his vomit–not a very pretty picture. There is nothing pretty about a sinful life. “And the sow [notice] that was washed,” is still a sow, returned to wallowing in the mire.

I did read somewhere recently about someone who took a little pig and tied a ribbon around his neck and kept it in his house like they do a pet kitten. I was going to say that people usually don't make pets out of pigs, but evidently some do. Let me say this to you. You take the sow and you wash it and you put a pink ribbon around its neck and the first chance it gets, the first mud puddle it sees, it will start wallowing in the mud again, for it is still a sow.

Orpah is still Orpah no matter how far she went toward Bethlehem and no matter how much she wept, she was still Orpah. Usually when I make reference to things like this, I have someone come to me and say, “What are you trying to do, rob me of my assurance of my salvation?” No. Someone comes to me sometimes and says, “I don't think you ought to emphasize things like that because how will I ever know whether I am saved or not?” Beloved, I am bringing this to you because of the analogy that is found in the Word. I emphasize again that in this day of superficiality when all that people are interested in is some indication that folk are interested, some little agreement to a little formula, that it is possible for people to profess without ever possessing.

Ruth, the Possessor

I want to call to your attention this third lady. Really there isn't a great deal that we can say about her than you don't know already. Ruth represents the decision of the possessor. Notice, going back to the book of Ruth, the declaration that she made in verse 16:

Ruth 1

16And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

There was more than a superficial allegiance on her part, and there was a confimation on her face in verse 18, for we read there:

Ruth 1

18When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

We would call to your attention that the phrase, “stedfastly minded,” is from the one Hebrew word awmats , which means “confirmed.” She confirmed the declaration that she made by refusing to be dissuaded. Nothing could dissuade her from continuing on in the way that she had gone. Let us anticipate ourselves and look at verse 12 of chapter 2 at the confirmation, the assurance of her relationship. Boaz spoke to her in verse 12, and said:

Ruth 2

12The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

No question about Ruth. She had gone all the way and had come to rest under the wings of Jehovah.

Remember three classes of people: the prodigal, the professor, and the possessor, and pray accordingly.

Prayer

Father, we thank Thee for the Word. We ask that it will not be returned unto Thee void, and we ask that there might be possessors fully in our midst and not professors. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


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