The weight of her circumstances was more than she could bear. She tried to walk through the village with her head high, although the continual threat of tears caused her to keep her eyes low. Yet even the lowered angle of her eyes could not protect her from the intruding glances of other wives and mothers or a disrespectful child’s errantly angled pointing finger.
The rumors regarding her circumstances were indeed much too tawdry to ignore. She and her sister-in-law had married foreigners, almost godless men who did not believe as her people did. To her people, her marriage most certainly was a risk that failed miserably. Maybe her circumstance was a resulting punishment for the sin of her beloved and his family’s faithlessness. The devastation had left three women widowed. One was old and without an heir, and the other two needed husbands… again.
As she walked, she realized she was not as young and desirable as she had once been. Her stomach turned uneasily as she moved quickly and quietly along the dusty road toward her mother’s home. She had tried to do right by her mother-in-law. An older woman returning to her people, beyond the age of having more children and with no heirs, would undoubtedly face untold difficulties alone. But Naomi had insisted that Orpah go back to her people.
Perhaps the old gods would send a new husband. Maybe she would finally bear a son. And besides, Naomi still had Ruth. Poor, poor Ruth. All alone with the old widow, she would be a foreigner among the Israelites. There had been animosity between their people for generations—poor, poor Ruth.
“I did what I had to,” she thought. Her pace quickened as she neared her destination. “No one would blame me. I have already endured so much.” She winced in pain at the remembrance of her loss, and once again, her eyes began to water. “I had no choice. Surely I deserve to be happy too?” But, somehow, she was not comforted by this thought.
-an imagining of Oprah’s story
The Book of Ruth is one of my favorite accounts in the Bible. It is a remarkable story of faith, redemption, favor, and grace. And it is an excellent reminder that there will always be some faithful to the heart, will, and word of God. Many marriages (including mine) have used Ruth 1:16-17 in their weddings, as the verses are a beautiful vow of loyalty and fidelity.
But within the account of Ruth is another story that is often addressed. It is Orpah’s story, and it is easy to understand why.
Orpah walked away.
She turned back, choosing what seemed the easier way out. And thus, sadly, her story goes untold. Having been a widow, I can only imagine the pain that Orpah must have felt. The pressure to make a good decision must have weighed on her tremendously. The worry of making the wrong decision possibly haunted her before, during, and after her choice to walk away.
When we see Ruth, we look on in awe at the great leap of faith she took when she left all that she knew. She walked away from family, religion, culture, language, and friends to move toward an uncertain future as Naomi’s foreign daughter-in-law in a strange and potentially hostile place. Surely she must have considered that it might have been easier to remarry among her people – in her land. Ruth could have probably returned to her father’s, brother’s, or some other relative’s home in Moab, yet she chose Naomi. We smile when we think of Ruth. She is an excellent example of a godly woman clinging to hope and faith, choosing love and loyalty over fear and doubt, despite the tough decision she faced.
But though Orpah and Ruth faced the same dilemma, only Orpah turned back. Yet, when we see Orpah, we must acknowledge her situation and not be too hard on her.
How often are we led by the weight of our circumstances, particularly when we feel we have endured far more than our fair share? It is tempting to turn back toward the known when the unknown seems ominous, and the pain behind us has left us gasping for air. But it is precisely during these times that we must remember Orpah’s story. Her unknown story – which we will never know- is untold because she turned back too soon instead of moving forward in faith and God’s will.I pray that our stories will be known, told, and celebrated – to the glory of the Father. Click To Tweet
I pray that we will walk in faith that propels us into new seasons where we can experience the grace of our Savior and be showered, like Ruth, with the abundant favor of God.
For further study: Ruth 1:1-18
For prayer on this topic, visit today’s Daily Hope & Prayer devotional.