The book of Ruth is such a powerful one, even though it is packed into 4 short chapters. There is so much we can learn from Ruth, whether we are a woman or a man. I am not intending to cover all four chapters today, or even necessarily in four days. This scripture is so powerful, it has to be broken into smaller sections. I have to understand where the characters came from.
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. Afer they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
First, we need to consider the days when the judges ruled. These were dark and bloody days in Israel's history. Israel had turned away from God and was now suffering from a famine. Elimelech took his wife and his two sons to Moab, as the famine was so bad. To understand how truly shocking this was, we need to consider the history of the Israelites and the Moabites, by reading the following:
It must have been bad for Elimelech to move his family to the land of the enemy. I liken it to my moving my family to Iraq or Afghanistan because the economy is falling in America. Talk about having little faith. I wonder how often life seems rough for me and rather than trusting in God and His provisions, I move myself and perhaps my family into the land of the enemy. I don't mean a physical move, but a spiritual one. Let's continue.
When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." The she kissed them and they wept alound and said to her, "We will go back with you to your people." But Naomi said, "Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me - even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons - would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord's hand has gone out against me!" At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her."
Naomi was empty. Her husband and both of her sons were dead. She was living in the land of the enemy and had only her two daughters-in-law with her. These two young women were childless and foreigners. I can imagine that Naomi did feel like the hand of God was against her. I do have to give her credit though. She had enough smarts to know that she had to get back to her hometown. Where she was known and was loved. Where God's provisions were available to His people. On her way, she tried to set these women free, hoping that they would find kindness with another husband. That seems so kind of Naomi, to set them free, but let's not be confused. Naomi is bitter. She believes God has struck out against her. Nothing makes a miserable person more "happy" than heaping on more misery. Naomi started up her own little pity party! We can learn so much from Naomi.
Our prayers should be that 1) we don't give up hope and put ourselves and our family in the land of the enemy and 2) that if we do find that we are in the land of the enemy, we need to move back where we belong, but 3) we should NOT make the lives around us miserable as we move along. It was our actions that put us there. We should find our knees, repent, and move back into God's grace with humility and thanksgiving, not with a bitter attitude.
Thank you, God, that I can repent of my sinful behaviors and that I can come back to you and you will welcome me with open arms. I pray that you grant me a heart full of humility and thankfulness, and that I learn from my mistakes. Amen.