It is so good to see all of your smiling faces this morning. Raise your hand if you praise God that you have a mother. I praise God that I was born to a mother and father that not only loved me, but they taught me to love God and to love others. If you are a mother here today, I hope you have someone that is extremely thankful for the constant sacrifices you make on their behalf. And even if they’re not thankful, remember that God is pleased with your sacrificial love. And if you are here today, and you have a mother, or a mother-in-law, please make a special effort to show them how much you care for them. But that raises an interesting question, “In what ways can we demonstrate love within the family environment?” Obviously, we know what it looks like when a mother loves a child, or when a child loves a mother; but does the Bible lay down any specific principles about what this love should be like? And of course the answer to that question is, “Yes!” In fact, there are many different passages in the Bible that describe this sort of relationship.
But this morning, we are going to look at the love between a mother and daughter, and we are going to do so from the book of Ruth. We are actually going to begin a short, four-part series studying this excellent book of the Bible. By a quick show of hands, please raise your hand if you have read through the book of Ruth before. All right, thank you. The book of Ruth is one of the most beautiful love stories in all of the Bible. If you like those sappy chick-flicks where the guy always gets the girl, even against all the odds, then you are going to love studying the book of Ruth. But we’re not going to get to all of that mushy stuff for a couple of weeks. This morning’s passage is the beginning of the story, and it revolves around the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. So if you are not already there, I invite you to turn to Ruth chapter one, and we are going to be reading verses six through eighteen of the text. Again, Ruth 1:6-18.
“Then 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. Wherefore 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. And 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. The 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. And they said unto her, ‘Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.’ And 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? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; would 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. ‘ And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, ‘Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law.’ And Ruth said, ‘Entreat 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 I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.’ When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking with her.”
Before we go any further, let’s pray together.
The title of this morning’s sermon is, “Five Principles of a Godly Family Relationship.” And as you probably guessed, we are going to look at five principles contained within this story that every family should learn in order to have a godly relationship. Some of you have been living out these lessons since before I was born, but it is always good to be reminded of what God’s word says about our family lives. So let’s begin by looking at principle number one.
Principle #1: A faithful mother is not only the person that gave birth to you
While we did not read verses one through five just now, (insert name) did earlier in the Scripture reading. Essentially, those five verses tell the story of a family who moved to the country of Moab. Now Moab was not horribly far from this family’s hometown, but the culture in Moab was extremely different from the culture of this Israelite family. And if you didn’t notice earlier, verse one tells us that Naomi and her family were from the little town of Bethlehem. It’s fascinating how one little village can contain so much biblical importance, isn’t it? Ok, so they leave Bethlehem and journey to Moab, because there was a bad famine in Israel, and people were running out of food. And while in Moab, Naomi’s two sons got married to Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. While in Moab, tragedy struck Naomi as her husband Elimelech died. And then, the worst grief imaginable happened, as Naomi had to bury her two only children.
And that is where verse six picks up. Verse six informs us that Naomi and Ruth and Orpah found out that there was food again in the nation of Israel. While it is hard to determine their true intentions, it seems at this point that both Ruth and Orpah intended to journey back to Israel with Naomi. While we haven’t gotten there yet, this passage reveals later that both Ruth and Orpah had families in Moab, and yet it seems as if they both were planning on leaving everything they knew so that they could be with their mother-in-law. Hold on, wait a minute, did I just hear the preacher correctly? Did he just say, “They were willing to leave everything they had to be with their mother-in-law?” Pretty astounding, isn’t it?
In a little bit we are going to talk about why they might have felt so strongly about Naomi, but for right now, this verse makes the point that the people we call “family” are not simply the people you share DNA with. The most direct application for this principle is that we must strive to have a solid relationship with our in-laws. I have heard Brother Morris say several times how much he respects his dear mother-in-law, and I can say the same thing about my mother-in-law.
And I think another application this has is how we should be willing to adopt people into our families. Growing up, adoption was one of those things that I occasionally saw in movies or on television commercials, but it became extremely real to me when my family adopted my little sister Dottie. Dottie was born to two parents that were more interested in meth than they were in her. But now Dottie is a part of a family that cares very deeply for her. Do Dottie and I look alike? No, not at all. But she is just as much my family as my mom and dad are. And even in the broader sense of family, many of you have been kind enough to incorporate my family into your family, and you have no idea how much that means to us.
And so this morning, as we are thinking about this idea of how families should relate to one another, the first thing we need to realize is that your family is made up of whoever you say your family is made up of. Ruth and Orpah showed us this principle when they desired to follow after their mother-in-law, even though their only formal ties to her were their dead husbands. And, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I urge you to not only thank your birth mother for what she’s done for you; but also thank your mother-in-law, and your step-mother, your god-mother, your second mother, and whoever else has had a positive impact on your life.
Principle #2: A faithful mother is unselfish with her children
Verse seven informs us that these three women were on their way back to Judah, leaving behind the only land that Ruth and Orpah had ever known. But then, look what Naomi says to these two women in verses eight and nine. “And 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. The 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.” Whenever I was studying this text, I wondered why Naomi had such a change of heart about her daughters-in-law coming with her. After doing some research, I found out that widows in these days had a very tough road ahead of them after their husbands died. I mean, think about it, this is before government programs like social security, welfare, and disability started assisting people who were unable to provide for themselves. Essentially, widows were on their own, unless a relative was willing to care for them. And Naomi knew that three widows would have a very tough time providing for themselves. So Naomi encouraged these two to return to their mothers’ houses and try to move on with their lives. And then the Bible says that Naomi kissed her two daughters-in-law. It is significant that Naomi kissed Ruth and Orpah, because kissing in this culture was a formal way of saying goodbye.
Now, we don’t know how old Naomi was, but we do know that she considered herself too old to get married again, so she was most likely too old to get out there and do farm work and provide for herself. But don’t you think it would have been easier for Naomi if Ruth and Orpah had gone with her? I mean, they wouldn’t have lived in the lap of luxury, but there are obvious benefits to having two younger people around that can help supply for your needs. But despite this logic, Naomi asked these two to stay in the land of Moab, because life would be too hard for them as widows.
Why do you think Naomi asked them to stay, even though she knew her life would be easier if they came? This is a lesson that basically every parent in the world already knows, and that is that parents should not be selfish with their children. Jesus had a creative way of saying this, when He asked what kind of father gives his child a stone, when the child asked for a loaf of bread? It is inherent within parents to protect their children, even if it is means that they themselves suffer for it. And even though they were not her biological children, Naomi exhibited this complete unselfishness when she begged Ruth and Orpah to stay in the land of Moab, and try to find new husbands for themselves. So even though this is nothing new to any of you, I hope it is helpful to see this principle right here within the pages of the Bible. Let’s move on to principle number three.
Principle #3: A faithful mother should have a character worth following
While this idea is seen constantly throughout the life of Naomi, it is seen especially in verse ten of our text. Verse ten reads, “And they said unto her, ‘Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.’” When I read this verse, I cannot help but wonder, “What is so great about Naomi that they still want to follow her.” I mean, we have already established that there is no actual blood relation between Naomi and Ruth. And we also know that life in Israel had the potential to be extremely difficult for Ruth if she chose to follow her mother-in-law. But despite these obstacles, both Ruth and Orpah declared that they were going to follow Naomi.
This fact can leave no doubt in our minds that Naomi was a women that had a character worth following. To these two young women, being with this amazing woman was better than being in their homeland with their families. And there can also be no doubt in our minds that a large part of this attraction was the godliness of Naomi. Church, there is something extremely appealing about a person who follows God with all of their heart. Later on in the passage, Ruth says that she would rather follow the God of Naomi than the false gods of the Moabites.
One of the largest responsibilities for any parent is setting the kind of example that you want your children to follow. It breaks my heart when I see parents who are buying 24-packs of beer with their little children right there in the shopping cart, or when little kids see their parents watching movies that should make any rational person blush. The principle here is that parents need to set an example worth following, but the stone-cold truth is that children are most likely going to follow whatever example is set for them, whether it is one characterized by Bible reading, prayer, and daily faithfulness; or one characterized by cussing, spousal abuse, and drugs.
I absolutely praise God that I have never heard my parents cuss. I have never seen my parents get drunk. My parents have never cheated on each other. And I do not say these things to brag, because I know how rare my situation is in the twenty-first century. I don’t say these things to brag, but I say these things to praise God that my parents set an example worth following. If you did not have that sort of example, then I urge you to do right where your parents erred. And more importantly, I urge you to be the kind of example to the next generation that you never had.
Naomi was a truly godly mother. Even though Ruth and Orpah were not her real children, she took them under her wings and made them a part of her family. And as a part of her family, she wanted the best for them, even if it meant sentencing herself to a life of destitution. But because of her amazing character, Ruth and Orpah decided that they would follow Naomi wherever she went. Now let’s look at how a faithful child should respond to a faithful parent.
Principle #4: Faithful children will cling to their mother
While I am not going to read verses eleven through thirteen again, Naomi tries another round of logic to dissuade Ruth and Orpah from following her. Naomi tells them that she’s not going to be having more sons for them to marry; and even if she did, they would have to wait for the sons to grow up before they could marry them. What would you do if you overheard a woman telling her recently-widowed daughter-in-law that she could marry her youngest son, as long as she was willing to wait fifteen years? Most people would call the Department of Family Services! This sounds really strange, doesn’t it? But in the ancient Middle East, there was a common practice of women marrying the next youngest brother if her husband died. In fact, it was not only common, but it was the proper thing to do. The idea was that the younger brother would have a child with the woman to provide an heir for his dead brother’s household. So if Naomi had had a ten year old son at the time, it would have been perfectly normal for Ruth or Orpah to marry the boy, as soon as he was old enough.
But Naomi assured these two ladies that there was no hope for that, so she urged them again to return to their respective families. And this is where the rubber meets the road for Orpah and Ruth. Look at what happens in verse fourteen of our text. “And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.” After Naomi finished telling them why they should not come with her, all three of them started weeping. I’m not sure if they all three were crying the same way that Lydia cries near the end of a chick-flick; but if they were, this would have been quite a sight to see. But notice what Orpah does. This verse says that Orpah kissed Naomi. Now, (insert name), what did I say a kiss represented in this culture? That’s right, it represented a way of saying goodbye. It was like Orpah was saying, “Naomi, you mean a lot to me, but I think I am going to stay here.” But Ruth did not kiss Naomi. No, Ruth clung to her. In this verse, we see the difference between these two women.
When Orpah had to choose between helping the mother-in-law that had helped her so much, and going back to help herself, she chose herself. And when Ruth was given the same two choices, she chose Naomi. Because church, a faithful child will never abandon their parents. Please, please, please, do not be the kind of person that drops off their parent at a nursing home and never visits them. While I realize that there is a time when you can no longer care for your aging parent, there is no excuse for neglecting to visit them when they are there. Earlier I mentioned that it is every parent’s duty to be completely unselfish with their children. Well guess what, the same principle works in the opposite direction! If you claim to love God, then you must always strive to bless the people that brought you into this world.
And just to be clear, when I say that a faithful child will cling to his or her parent, I am not saying that a man needs to live with his parents for the rest of his life. What I am saying is that being a godly child means not forgetting about your parents, because you know that they did not forget about you.
Principle #5: Faithful children will follow in their mother’s faith
Look at what Ruth says to Naomi in verse sixteen. “And Ruth said, ‘Entreat 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.” Ruth, after hearing all of Naomi’s reasons to stay, told Naomi that Naomi’s God was going to be her God. I truly believe that the entire passage revolves around those five little words. Ruth knew that there was something different about the God of Naomi. The Moabites worshipped idols made of wood and stone, but Naomi didn’t worship idols. Instead, Naomi claimed to worship the God that made the heavens and the earth. Naomi told Ruth that her God was the only true God, and that everything else was just a cheap knock-off. But I imagine that what made the real difference for Ruth was that Naomi did not just tell Ruth about her faith, she lived her faith day in and day out. While obviously Naomi loved Ruth with a sacrificial love, and Naomi had the kind of character that was worth following, there can be no doubt in our minds that the real champion of this story is God. God worked in Naomi’s life, making her so attractive that Ruth not only wanted to be with her, but Ruth wanted to be with her God, as well.
And today, all of these years later, God uses the faith of parents to inspire children to do great things for Him. Raise your hand this morning if your mother is or was a Christian. As you can see, the vast majority of you had a faithful mother. And if you want to make this Mother’s Day really, really special for your mother, then dedicate your life to following the God that she followed. While my parents are alive and well, they have passed to me a baton of faith that was passed to them by their parents. And guess what, they firmly expect us to pass the baton of faith along to Naomi and Phoebe as well!
As we wrap this sermon to a close, allow me to say how blessed I am to have a godly mother. And my Naomi and Phoebe have a godly mother, as well. And just like the Naomi of the Bible was a non-biological mother to Ruth and Orpah, my prayer is for you women to be a godly example to my little daughters, and to the other little girls in your life. I urge you to be that godly example that so many children desperately need to see. And for you out there that have mothers, let them know how precious they are to you. Just as Ruth clung to Naomi, make sure your moms know that they are more precious to you than all the money in the world. And whether your mother is still alive, or if she has passed away, I strongly urge you to cling tightly to the faith that has been passed down to us. Just as Ruth said that Naomi’s God would be her God, I urge you to never let go of the faith that has been passed down to you. And if you have never accepted Christ, today would be such a fitting day to make the biggest decision of your life. If your mother is a Christian, then I guarantee you that your salvation will be the best Mother’s Day gift she will ever receive. If you have any questions about what it means to be a Christian, or any questions about what we studied today, I invite you to talk to me anytime, because I cannot think of a bigger privilege then sharing with you the truth of the Bible.
God bless you, and God bless our mothers.
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