H. A. C.
Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 124.
The book of Ruth, apart from prophetical interpretation, gives us in figure a word of encouragement for our own day. Naomi may represent the testimony of God as we now see it - bereft of its outward glory, walking solitarily in a strange land. Orpah and Ruth, those who stood in relation to it in the time of its wealth and prosperity, but now that all hope of outward restoration seems gone, Orpah, not without some affection, bids it farewell to seek a portion - in her own place and amid her own natural surroundings, while Ruth, whose heart is attached to the testimony for its own sake and for the sake of its association with the Lord, abandons all her own hopes and prospects to identify herself with it. No entreaty can dissuade her, nothing can extinguish her affection, her life is bound up with it. "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 where thou diest, will 1 die, and there will I be buried the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. And when Naomi saw that she was stedfastly-minded to go with her, she left speaking unto her." Nothing could be more beautiful as presenting a true idea of devoted attachment! All is desolate enough outwardly - nothing to minister to self-love, entreated too to return. All this strained to the utmost the affection of her heart, but served only as an occasion to manifest its sincerity and its undaunted courage.
Deeply interesting, too, is it to see how all this true-heartedness is answered, and how by it God accomplished the purpose of His mind. No sooner is Bethlehem reached, than we find Ruth gleaning in the fields at the time of barley-harvest; for not only is the heavenly position accepted and known, but the actual health and growth of the soul is diligently looked to, and in this the Lord secretly overrules and guides to where the best food can be gleaned, and causes to "let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her." Afterwards all this is "beaten out," and she returns laden; so that not only is the "diligent soul made fat," but she brings home that which sustains and strengthens the testimony of God in the person of Naomi.
The beautiful story would seem to go further still in its applicability. The true heart goes on to learn and enjoy experimentally that most blessed relationship to Christ, in which the Church stands as His Body and His Bride, as we read: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Then we see, in the close of the book, how God honours and blesses the heart that is true, when everything looks dark and lonely, not only in preserving the state of the soul in health, but leading it on to the enjoyment of its highest relation to Christ, and causing it to bring forth children, by whom the testimony is gladdened and strengthened, and the counsels of God accomplished.
The Lord by His Spirit teach us and lead us in this way of faith and love, and give us encouragement by the blessing with which He answered it. H. A. C.