November 26, 2020

Pastoral Nuggets: The Power of Saying No

Brother-Aaron-236x300Saying no is one of the most liberating things an individual learns to do.  Simultaneously, saying no is one of the most difficult things an individual learns to do.

Today I want to talk about a woman in the Bible who had the intestinal fortitude to say no – and the blessings it caused for others.

For thirty plus years I have been preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t dare a guess as to how many sermons I have preached from the Book of Ruth or how many times I have quoted the wedding passage it contains in a particular wedding ceremony I was performing.

I’m sure both are more that I care to remember. But there is one thing of which I am certain. Until recently, I never viewed Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Orpah, as a main player in the story. In my mind, she was just a daughter-in-law that deserted Naomi and Ruth and returned back to her people and her gods.

I did not think this significant. However, I have changed my mind – and furthermore, I think there is a valuable lesson for us to learn from her actions.

As we review the narrative of the Book of Ruth we know that Naomi and her husband had left Judah in a time of famine and had traveled to Moab. While there, her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, (Names literally mean puny & sickly) married Moabites women named Ruth and Orpah.

While in Moab Naomi’s husband and two sons die. Naomi then decides to go home to Judah.  And as she starts her journey home her two grief stricken daughters-in-law both pledge that they are going with her.

Naomi then does something that is often overlooked – she began to tell her daughters-in-law just how hard a life they would be forced to live should they go with her.  She then encouraged them to go back to their mothers and to their gods.  Literally, she made a strong appeal for them not to go with her.

Now, at this point in the story, we usually shift our focus to Ruth and the great commitment she made to go with Naomi.  However, I submit to you today that there were two great/momentous decisions made that day. Naturally, Ruth’s was one.

However, I believe that Orpah’s was just as great.  Here is my point:  After originally stating she was going, Naomi, in a “no holds barred” sort of way, presented the truth to her about what she was agreeing to do.

At this point, Orpah weighs all the evidence and changes her mind. In essence she told Naomi that this was not for her.  She could not commit herself to it. Consequently, she did the bravest/smartest thing she could do. She said no! And it was a decision that would change history as we know it.

Play make-believe with me for a moment and let’s pretend Orpah decided to go with Naomi. First, it wasn’t in her heart to go, so she would have been mumbling and grumbling the whole way. She probably would have quarreled with Naomi and Ruth. She would have disrupted everything.  She would have been just another mouth to feed.

And just what if she and Ruth both went to Boaz’s fields – and he liked her better than Ruth! (He would have legally been the Kinsman Redeemer for both!)  Then Ruth would not have been in the lineage of Jesus. So you see, her decision to say no was just as significant as Ruth’s decision to say yes!

Naomi did a very wise thing when she blessed her daughters-in-law to say no. I think that we would be wise to learn a lesson here. If you can talk somebody out of doing something by presenting the facts to them – they weren’t really on board to begin with. We need to bless people to say no!

How many times have I said yes when I should have said no?  No! It’s a powerful little word with great ramifications. I think all of us should become better versed at saying it – and meaning it. Just consider the grief we would save ourselves if we would!

Brother Aaron


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