Life has a way of smacking us in the face and sometimes it seems we are thrown into chaos by lifes unexpected circumstances. Some caused by our own decisions but many because of the decisions of others. Life can get turned up side down in a hurry and you can really begin to question God and really start doubting His plan.
The book of Ruth is written during the time of the Judges when the people of Israel were constantly turning from God, being oppressed by an enemy, and then they would call out to God for them to save them.
Ruth is written from a woman’s perspective and the majority of the writing is conversation. This would be a television drama that would be on the lifetime channel and the way it is written shows that God is in the midst of all the activities of our lives.
1) Trust God when things go bad
The Book of Ruth starts off negative right from the start. First there was a famine in the land. Bethlehem, which was usually a great place to grow crops, became so bad that Elimelech felt they needed to move in order to provide for his family.
A famine could be a punishment of God (Deuteronomy 11:14; 32:24; Leviticus 26:3-4) or a way of guiding His people to where He wants them to go.(Genesis 42:5; 45:5-8; Psalm 105:16-17,23) There is debate as to which one Elimelech was following because of the circumstances that followed. Either way there were circumstances that were out of their control and it effected his family.
The economy or weather related disasters have a way of changing our family comfort level quickly. These are things that are out of our control and many times we have to act quickly in order to make sure our families are taken care of. Because you are having to make quick decisions you will many times reflect back and wonder if you did make the right decision.
The Bible uses the word sojourn which indicates he planned on only going there till the famine passed. We have no indication of the length of time they lived in Moab but being a Jew and moving to where the Moabites lived would have been difficult.The Moabites would have believed that their god was coming through for them while the Jews God was failing. The King of Moab was the one who hired Balaam to come curse the Israelites so the Israelites were not loved by the people of that region so the racial tension would have been difficult for Elimelech and his family.
Names meant something in ancient times and Elimelech, which meant God is King, named his boys Mahlon (sickness) and Chilion (failing) so there is some thought to them being sickly and weak. So maybe they thought the children could not survive the lean conditions of the famine and did what he had to do to assure that the kids survived. Any good father would have done what he could do to assure the welfare of his children if he could and I believe Elimelech moved his family to a place where they could survive even though it was hostile to them and to their God. There is no indication that anyone else left Bethlehem or the surrounding area so this is why many believe that it was not Gods will for them to leave Bethlehem.
They move to this foreign land to escape the drought and Naomi’s husband dies. This would not only make a tough situation tougher but not being surrounded by other family and friends to support her grieving would make it twice as hard.
Naomi has her sons who can work and provide for her and eventually the sons get married to Ruth and Orpah. So although it starts off sad things are looking up. Then tragedy strikes again and both of her sons die. Those that believe it was wrong for them to leave Bethlehem believe this was Gods judgment because they left to go live in a pagan culture.
When tragedy strikes it is difficult to not question whether you missed Gods will or if He is punishing you for something you did.
Naomi is left with no husband, no sons and being in a foreign land it seems that there was no family. This was a big deal back then because it was the males who would take care of the women and be the ones who would work to provide for the family.
Now you have three widows who had no children which indicates the marriages were short. Naomi would have to rely on strangers to help her in a foreign land with foreign gods.
2) Trust God with your future
Word had come that food was back in the Land of Judah and so Naomi, being a foreigner, thought it would be best to go back to Bethlehem. The two daughter in laws loved Naomi so much that they began to travel back with her. For Ruth and Orpah to travel with Naomi meant they were leaving their land and their gods to go with her. Naomi tries to talk them out of going with her because she knew she could not take care of them and they would not be readily accepted in Bethlehem because they were Moabites. Naomi knew the rest of her life would be difficult and she did not want them to have the same fate as her.
Naomi begs them to stay in Moab and she prays that God (Yahweh) treats them lovingly as they treated her and her sons. She is hoping that God would bless their love to her and her sons and reward them for it. She then says “Turn back my daughters” which shows the love relationship they have for each other because she is not addressing them as daughter in laws. Orpah turns back to her people which means her nation but it also indicates that she went back to her gods and does not follow the true God. Worshiping gods was territorial so for her to not continue to follow Naomi means that she is also no longer following God.
3) Trust God when He is seems unfair
Naomi said the Hand of the Lord is against Her
Some interpretations are “The Hand of the Lord has gone out” which is a military term for an army going out. She literally feels that God has established an attack against her. (See also Job 13:26) It is the belief that God is somehow looking down from Heaven and targeting you to pick on and upset your life.
Have you ever felt that way?
When we are only taught that God is there to provide us with wealth,Health and happiness we get disillusioned with Him when things seem to go wrong. The problem with the blessings and curses of God is sometimes the things that seem like curses to us are really blessings in disguise. Just because it does not make sense to us does not mean it does not make sense to God. This is why He is sovereign because He can use the most evil things we can imagine and turn them for purposes of good.
“Seasons of personal suffering are opportunities for God to do His deepest Work. … We need rather to realize that He vanishes from our sight to do what He could not do if we could see Him. In the spirual journey, I know of nothing so difficult to believe, But it’s true. Think of those three hours of darkness on the cross. Jesus screamed in agony. “God where are you?” God said nothing. But it was during that exact time that God was in the Son reconciling the world to Himself” (Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb, Pg 153-154)
4) Trust God is using you in other peoples lives
Ruth decides to go with Naomi and by doing so Ruth is not just declaring her allegiance to Naomi but to God. Ruth was born in a very pagan culture that would sacrifice children to other gods. It was a very sad time when a persons child would be marked by one of the pagan priest to be sacrificed. The act alone of watching a child get burned to death but have been horrific and the stories that would have been heard by Ruth about this event must have been etched in her mind. This cannot be taken lightly because Ruth is declaring that she is leaving the gods of her childhood behind to follow the true God.
Ruth was literally brought out of darkness and into the light. Because Elimelech decided to move his family to Moab, Ruth was saved.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Ruth is later mentioned as being in the line of David and Christ which shows that she was brought into the family of God. Yes Naomi suffered greatly because of the things she went through but because Naomi showed loved to a Moabite woman who in turn loved Naomi son, Ruth was saved from everlasting separation from God. As difficult as it is for us to accept the things in our lives we can take comfort in knowing that God does not waste any part of what we go through. God will use everything including the hurt, pain and disappointment we walk through to help others come to know Him.
Galatians 3:4 Did you suffer[a] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
God will use your pain just like He used the pain that Jesus Christ experienced not only on the cross but the pain Jesus experienced when He was separated from God so that we would never have to be.
The Homecoming Read Ruth 1:19-22
Is this Naomi? Naomi’s family was well known either socially or financially and people came out to see her but it also shows that everything she went through changed her physical appearance.
Naomi which means pleasant, now wants to be called Mara which means bitterness. Naomi could not get past that the things that happened to her could have been stopped by God. She believed that God being who He is could have kept her husband and two sons from dying.
The town was stirred because they did not either recognize her or they were shocked that only she came back and or because she came walking in with a Moabite woman. Maybe all the above but the fact is the town for the first time was realizing that Naomi’s family was never coming home. Naomi left full of hope but returned empty because she probably had to sell everything she had to survive. This once affluent woman was now broken, bitter and poor. I love that the scriptures are so honest and that the feelings I sometimes have are written in the Bible.
Job 27:2 As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
Our circumstances can drive us either toward God or away from Him. When we believe that this world is our best life now we forget that this is not our home and no matter how great our life is that it will never compare to not just being in Heaven but being in the presence of God. This world has been corrupted by death, pain, sorrow and disease and a better place awaits us for those who follow Jesus Christ. (See also Matthew 13:3-9; Hebrews 6:4-8; 2 Peter 1:10)
“We say we want a world that will never include the possibility of suffering, but do we understand what we ask for? without the possibility of suffering, practically every great true story in history would also be false. No one would ever have made a significant sacrifice for anyone else. No great moments of forgiveness and reconciliation. No compassion (because nothing to be compassionate about); no courage (because no dangerous situations require courage); no heroes. No such thing as laying down one’s life for one’s friend. (John 15:13). Love itself would be called into question. God could miraculously prevent our actions from ever causing one another to suffer. But if no matter how you spoke to me it sounded good if no matter how you touched me it felt good, then your words and your touch wouldn’t communicate love. There would be no way for me to tell that they were expressions of lave rather than of hate. (Why Suffering? Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale, PG 203-204)
When we reach eternity no one will say that it was not worth following Him no matter how difficult of a journey we have faced on this earth. No matter how hard this life gets we have to realize that this is not our home and it is our job to rescue others from thinking this is the best life now instead of a perfect relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
It is easy for us to read the story of Ruth and get it but as we will see it was not easy for Naomi at the time to see how God was using all of her circumstances for the saving of Ruth.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
God is not up in Heaven looking down, He is actively involved in the lives of His people God does not avoid our pain but steps into our pain and walks us through it. God does not just comfort us but He sends the comforter.
We will never understand all the reasons why God allowed things to happen this side of Heaven and all the theological study in the world would not ease the pain. What we do have hope in is that God is sovereign enough to use the most unexplainable evil acts for good. We can be sure that God does not waste our pain and He will use it for a greater purpose than anyone can imagine.
The story of Ruth is a story about a common family, just like a million other families, that have experienced the worse the world has to offer and how God brings them through the pain and disappointment to the other side where He brings comfort and help.
Every story, every family and every individual matters to God. If you get nothing out of the book of Ruth but that then you will see that God cares and is involved in all that you are going through and you can trust Him.