‘Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything… Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ (Ephesians 5 v 22 – 24, 33)
Submission, respect; two very important words for us as women, and not just if we are married. These qualities are so denigrated in the world today, but for us as believers they should be the norm. Paul was speaking to believers, not to the world. What is acceptable in the world is not acceptable for believers; we are to be separated from the world, though we have to live in it. Our behaviour should be an example of Godliness to everyone we encounter, in particular to our loved ones, to our church family, but most of all to our husbands even if their behaviour towards us is not as it should be. Some of you may have husbands who do not follow Christ as you do, some of you may have husbands who do things that you know are not good or even sensible, but does that mean that you despise them and disrespect them? No! Despite the difficulty of your circumstances, unless your spouse is breaking the law of God or indeed of the nation, you are expected by the Lord to behave as His word tells you to.
This is a very emotive subject for all of us, but especially for those of you in difficult and unequal marriages. I believe that for some, this is one of the hardest tests of your faith in God and your trust in His word.
Let us look at the wonderful account of the life of Ruth. Her life is such an example of submission, respect and trust in God. I love the way that God can turn around bad circumstances and wrong choices to show His glory and that can be true for any one of us.
During the times of the judges, Moab was defeated by Israel and many of the Moabite men were killed.
‘And at that time they killed about ten thousand men of Moab, all stout men of valour; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.’ (Judges 3 v 29 – 30)
Elimelech, which means, God is my King, Naomi, which means Pleasant, and their two sons, left Israel and went to live in Moab, which is called God’s wash pot (Psalm 60:6 / 108:9). They came from Bethlehem, which means the House of Bread. Now why would they ever think of leaving the House of Bread for God’s wash pot. They went because there was famine in Israel. Famine was not an uncommon thing in Israel, but nevertheless Elimelech decided that they would go to Moab because there they could be fed. I think it must have seemed to him that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. Now of course we don’t know if Naomi totally went along with her husband’s ideas, but as a dutiful wife she followed his lead into this pagan land. One certainly has to wonder if Elimelech was living up to his given name of ‘God is my King’, because it seems that the whole family got caught up in the idol worship there, for good Jewish boys should never have married Gentile girls. That was decidedly against God’s law, though of course in the time of the judges anything seemed to be permissible. Mallon, which means ‘Unhealthy’ and Chilion, which means ‘Pining’, married Orpah and Ruth. Why their parents called their sons such awful names I do not know, but they certainly both seem to have been less than healthy for they both died, their father having already predeceased them.
So the three women all became widows and then Naomi heard that the famine in Israel was over and she decided to return to Bethlehem. We know that originally Orpah said that she would go with Naomi, but changed her mind and Ruth who had said she would go stuck to her decision and did go with Naomi. It can’t have been easy for her to stay faithful to Naomi and leave all her family behind. It would seem that the worship of God had not been entirely forgotten by Naomi, (indeed it may well be that she had quietly worshipped God all through those years in Moab),
Because of Ruth’s amazing words to her mother in law.
‘But Ruth said: Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more so, if anything but death parts you and me.’ (Ruth 1 v 16 – 17)
Beautiful words of faithful submission, which show that not only did she want to be with Naomi, but she desired to follow God. It is interesting to note that Naomi said to the women of Bethlehem, when she returned, that she had left for Moab full, but had returned empty. Yet she and her family had left Bethlehem empty, looking for food. It’s strange how our perspectives can change with our circumstances. Naomi was bitter because of all that had happened to her, and who did she blame? God!
It is so easy to blame God for the results of our own bad choices. Although Naomi obeyed her husband, did she really think that they were doing the right thing when they left Israel?
‘In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ (Judges 21 v 25)
But our gracious God can turn things around and I believe more for Ruth’s sake and her offspring than for Naomi’s although Naomi was ultimately blessed by Ruth’s right choices. Ruth chose to obey Naomi even though she was in a strange place. She gleaned in the field that God led her to, she obeyed Naomi’s instructions and went to lay herself down at the feet of Boaz, covering herself with the hem of his robe and thus signifying her acceptance of his authority over her. Boaz, which means strength, redeemed her and she became his wife. As a result of her humility and willing submission, Ruth found herself as wife to a Godly man. She became the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse whose youngest son was to become King David.
The book of Ruth is a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. Boaz, a type of Christ, took Ruth, a Gentile bride after paying the price of redemption to the Jew who did not want her. Take time to read and study this amazing book.
Can you see how, through Ruth’s obedience and submission and faithfulness to her first husband, then to Naomi, and then to Boaz, she was blessed bountifully by God? She could have stayed with her family in Moab, God’s wash pot, but instead found her God given destiny in the House of Bread.
I’m so glad she chose to go with Naomi, for she has become a wonderful example of a woman who had a fulfilled life through submissive and obedient behaviour.
God bless you.