But God wanted me to read something better than the local newspaper, evidently! So without the newspaper to distract me, I've been reading the Open Windows devotional magazine from church. I must confess, I usually picked one up with great intentions to read it but you know which road is paved with good intentions, right?
This little devotion has been my new breakfast companion for the last few months and has really blessed me with it's five-minute spiritual servings.
Friday's title was Demonstration of Love and the verse was from Romans 5:8:
But God commendeth his love toward us,
in that, while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.
The author retells the story of how Naomi and Elimelech moved from Bethlehem to Moab (a place of pagan beliefs) because of a famine. Their sons fell in love and married local girls, but sadly, both boys and their father died, leaving the three women alone. In ancient times, it was up to the next of kin to take care of widows and because Naomi had no one in that land, she decided to return to Bethlehem, where there were relatives living. Ruth and Oprah both vowed to return with her, but part way, Orpah turned back.
I got to thinking about that phrase, "Orpah turned back" and how it relates to the real-live Orpah, or Oprah (Winfrey) of today. And not just her but a whole generation of people.
It's been said that Oprah was to be named after Orpah from the Bible but it was misspelled or misread and that's how she got her name. And I hope I'm not being libelous or judgemental or anything in this statement, but it occurred to me that today's Oprah followed along in her (almost) namesake's footsteps. She has spoken many, many times on her talk show about her growing up years--being raised in church--and how her difficulties have made her the person she is. She speaks frequently about her spirituality and belief in God. But it seems to me that Oprah has turned back. It appears that she embraces any new form of spirituality. And truly she is a spiritual person, but doesn't realize that spiritual and Christian are not the same thing.
Perhaps she began on the right path--the road to Bethlehem, so to speak--but somewhere along the way, she decided to turn away from the unknown path of righteousness and return to the land of her birth--the land where we all began--the place where we were before we came to know God. Perhaps fame got in the way. Being a goody-two shoes Christian was not too good for talk show ratings. Perhaps it was ego. In the face of an enormous amount of money and millions of people hanging on your every word, it would be easy to say the easy thing--the thing those millions of people, and the advertisers who are supporting your show, want to hear. And the vast majority of listeners are not wanting to hear about Christianity and the high moral road. Certainly advertisers are not going to pay for your time slot if there isn't an audience.
To leave Oprah the celebrity behind now, that's what so many people do. They begin down the right path--down the road to Bethlehem. They hear promises of a better life in Bethlehem and they eagerly begin their journey. But along the road, they might get a figurative rock in their shoe that causes them to stumble and turn around. Travelers get ridiculed for journeying to an unknown, unseen place, when the current homeland is so appealing. They discover that all the things they love about Moab, their current dwelling place, are not going to fit in their luggage. There's a lot of stuff they will have to leave behind, including loved members of their family. So at some point on the road to Bethlehem, they decide the move is not worth giving up everything they know, and return to Moab. They think that they just want to stay home.
It is sometimes so difficult to convey the urgency or reasons to leave Moab. It's comfortable, it's familiar. But the biggest reason of all, is conveyed right there in Romans 8: We were sinners and Christ died for us. Ancient Moabites were polytheistic--worshipping many gods and even practiced human sacrifice. Isn't that just like our world today? We worship the gods of success and popularity, and even participate in a mild form of human sacrifice to get what we want.
But Christ died for us. He did it so we could get out of Moab and return to the land of promise--heaven. He did it knowing that many will choose to remain in the world. But will you make his sacrifice in vain? We don't have to strive for success and popularity. Everything we need on our journey will be provided. The things we think we are giving up in our old homeland will be replaced with something immeasurably better.
Will you choose to remain in Moab or will you choose to accept Christ's gift and travel the road to heaven?
Orpah will forever be known as the one who turned back. Ruth embraced the unknown and became King David's great-grandmother and her line eventually led to Jesus.
The journey may be long. The future uncertain. But one thing we can be sure of--at the end of the road will be the place our hearts are really longing for--heaven.