SUFFERING AND LOSS
The book of Ruth is a short story that occurs during the time of the judges. The days of the judges were dark days for the people of Israel. The people did what was right in their own eyes and abandoned the Lord. Israel followed and worshiped other gods, provoking the Lord to anger. God would give his people over to the chaos and destruction that follows sin. The people would suffer to the point that they would repent and cry out to the Lord in their distress. God would raise up a judge and rescue his people from their enemies. When the judge died, the people would return to their wicked ways. Wavering between obedience and disobedience was the destructive cycle that was repeated over and over again. The book of Judges ended by saying, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The book of Ruth will reveal God's plan to replace chaos with a king for his people.
A famine leads a man named Elimelech, meaning my God is King, to take his family and leave their home in Bethlehem "the house of bread." He believed that moving his family to the country of Moab gave them a better chance of survival. Elimelech had a wife named Naomi and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. The story could be read as follows:
My God is king abandoned his God and left the house of bread for lack of bread. He along with his wife pleasant and their two sons, weak and vanishing moved to Moab.
The family made the move, but tragedy soon followed. Elimelech died, and Naomi chose to stay in Moab with her two sons. Mahlon and Chilion marry Moabite women and apparently had given up on returning to Bethlehem. Naomi was dependent upon her sons because of the death of their father. About ten years later, the unthinkable happens, and Naomi is bereft of her boys leaving her alone and destitute.
Naomi learns that the conditions in Judah had improved for God had visited his people and given them food. Naomi decides that her chances of survival would be significantly improved if she returned to her own people. Her daughters-in-law accompany her on the road which was an eastern custom. At some point along the journey, Naomi turns to her daughters-in-law and urges them to return home. She recognizes their kindness to her, pronounces a blessing over them, and prays that they find rest in the house of their husband. When Naomi kisses them, these women can no longer restrain their emotions, and they weep together. These young women express their desire to go with Naomi to Bethlehem. Naomi insists that they return to their country because she has nothing to offer them. Naomi believed that she was to be deprived of their camaraderie which makes her burden seem harder to bear. She lost her husband, her sons, and now she would be separated from these dear ones. Naomi attributes all her misfortune to the Lord. The women burst into tears again, and Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and heads for home. Ruth clings to her and Naomi implores Ruth to follow the example of Orpah. Ruth is resolved to abandon everything and go with Naomi. She would follow the God whose hand was against Naomi and stay with her until death forfeiting burial in Moab with her people. Naomi understands the oath, and she capitulates to Ruth's desires. Bethlehem began to buzz with the news that Naomi had returned. It had been a long time since Naomi had been seen but now she is back with a Moabite woman, and there is no sign of her husband or her sons. Naomi repudiates her name and asks to be called Mara which means bitter. The Almighty gave her a bitter pill to swallow, and she would never be the same because she was only the empty shell of the woman they once knew. Everything has changed. Naomi left with Jewish sons and returns with a Gentile daughter-in-law. Naomi left during famine but returns at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Things To Consider:
- Why are we attempted to abandon God when things are difficult?
- How do our decisions affect others?
- Have you ever made a decision based on fear instead of faith? What happened?
- How do we live as if God is not king?
- Where do you see God working in this passage?
- How is God's sovereignty seen in this passage?
- Think of a time when it was difficult for you to see God at work and thank him.
- What pictures of the gospel can you see in Ruth's declaration to Naomi in verse 16?
- How does Ruth show us that God loves all people?