Certain parts of the book of Judges are difficult for me to read.
Yes, this is the Word of God, and His Word certainly blesses us with His wisdom.
It’s just the acts of man that are disturbing.
And, I suppose it reminds me of the days when I did what I thought was right in my own eyes.
So when I get upset with Gideon for his indecisiveness or Samson for his selfishness, it hurts because it reminds me of those seasons in my own life.
But I love happy endings.
They give me hope for whatever I’m going through.
The Book of Ruth is one of them.
Even though it takes place in the time of the Judges, it’s a very special love story that occurs in a very dark time in Israel’s history.
The story starts with a Jewish family from Bethlehem: Elimelech the father, Naomi his wife, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion.
There was a famine in the land, and they decided to leave town and resettle in Moab.
Both sons marry Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth.
After living in Moab for ten years Elimelech and their two sons die leaving all three women widows.
Being a widow in this age was no picnic.
Widows were compelled to go back to their families and hope they would take them in and provide for their needs.
This was where Naomi found herself, unable to provide for herself and her daughters-in-law.
Where Do You Turn When Tragedy Strikes?
Have you noticed in moments of tragedy and terror, after evil acts, how survivors tend to cling to one another?
To lose a loved one is unthinkable.
Nevertheless, it happens.
And in these moments, where do you turn?
Where do you place your despair?
What do you have to hold on to?
Who or what do you find hope in?
After the loss of their husbands, the three widows are confronted with a drastic decision.
Should they go to Israel or should they stay in Moab and try to restart their lives there?
Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. – Ruth 1:14
Naomi, whose name means pleasant or delight, is crying out to her daughters to stay home in Moab. To go back to their gods because she thinks, “God has dealt harshly with me.”
I’m sure she thought, “Look, my husband and my two sons are dead. Don’t hitch your wagon to mine it may get even worse for you!
“I’m going back home to face the music. I left Bethlehem hungry returning hungry and alone.
“You will be better off if you stay here. Don’t get infected by my bitterness.”
Naomi, her husband, and her sons were Ephrathites.
Ephrathah was the father of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”
The family decided to leave their home during a famine.
So essentially, the family left the “house of bread” to go to Moab which translates to “of his father.”
Moab was founded by the incestuous relationship between Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his daughter.
They left God’s provision to find sustenance in a pagan nation, a difficult thing for God to bless, no question.
But after the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi hears there is bread back home (1:6). And she decides to go back.
There are several instances of famine in the Bible such as the times of Abraham, Joseph, Elijah, Elisha, and Job.
These were always times of testing.
Today we have a famine for the Word of God:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.” – Amos 8:11
When tragedy struck Naomi, she realized it was time to go home and get right with God.
She chose to put her hope back in the only One who could truly help her.
In an emotion-packed time of loss and separation, the two sisters are faced with a painful decision.
Should I stay or should I go?
If I stay, I will go home and start over and hope things work out. If I go with Naomi, I’ll face danger on the road, a land I don’t know, a people that hate me, and a God that has cursed my nation.
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever, – Deuteronomy 23:3
Apparently, it’s a classic “lose, lose” situation for both of the young widows.
Orpah, (whose name translated from the Hebrew means “gazelle”), bolts and heads back home. She had her out; Naomi lets her go.
Naomi states the obvious; I can’t give you another son to marry. Go back home and re-settle.
Jewish traditions say this request of Naomi came four miles outside of Moab and that Orpah shed only four tears over the thought of parting from her mother-in-law Naomi.
But the rabbis go on to say that in recompense for the four miles that she went with Naomi, Orpah gave birth to four sons – Goliath and his three brothers.
The world today would defend Orpah’s decision.
If Orpah appeared on a television show like “The View,” they would probably say something like this, “Orpah was just looking out for herself. She was doing what was right in her own eyes. Hey, this is the time of the Judges. That’s what everybody else is doing. After all, we have to find the ‘god from within’ and serve our own best interests.”
The church today can find itself here as well.
The “Church of Self” is very much apparent in our society today.
The Church of Self says, “I’ll try that Christian thing as long as there is something in it for me, prosperity, a husband, a godly woman, networking opportunities, etc.”
The world and the “Church of Self” approach marriage and relationships the same way saying, “I’ll live with you or I’ll even marry you as long as my needs are met, but until then, all bets are off.”
The only one, The Church of Self and the world, is committed to is…self.
Orpah rationalized that she was making the right decision.
Ruth, whose name in the Hebrew stands for “friendship,” in her moment of trial, decides to stick closer than a friend.
She commits her life to Naomi.
In an “until death do us part” vow Ruth declares that she’s all in.
Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
It is vital for all of us to discover the critical balance between exercising our free will and knowing God’s will.
This is where Ruth finds herself. She has lost her husband, her father-in-law and her brother- in-law.
Relative to the children of Israel, her people were cursed by God.
She was a young widow, and now she is losing the only family she has left.
Ruth’s character is the embodiment of commitment.
She is committed to staying with Naomi.
Then she goes deeper and commits herself to Israel, to Naomi’s people, to God—for life.
Otherwise, let God curse her.
Leading up to her decision, Ruth can see a hope in Naomi that she doesn’t have.
Despite their circumstances, Ruth acknowledges there is something in Naomi that will carry her through this trial.
Ruth sees in Naomi and her deceased family…faith in the one, true, living God, the order, the feast days, and all of the traditions that her people didn’t have.
And now in their moment of crisis, Naomi turns to God.
Ruth’s decision to cling to Naomi also has Messianic implications.
If Ruth stays home in Moab, she doesn’t meet Boaz, her “kinsmen redeemer.” ( Ruth 2:20)
Boaz and Ruth end up marrying and having Obed, the grandfather of King David. (Ruth 4:21)
Ruth the Moabite is in the genealogy of Jesus! (Matthew 1:5)
In other words, Ruth’s decision to “cling” to Naomi leads to the birth of Jesus. (Matthew 1:16)
Do This When You Face Difficult Times
Three key things drove Ruth to make the right decision that can help you during difficult times too.
- Ruth’s Compassion: In highly emotional times, when we cry out, we totally reveal our humanity and our vulnerability. As a child cries for its mother, when we cry out in sorrow, it’s cleansing. Even “Jesus wept” over the death of His friend Lazarus. Even so, Ruth kept her cool and knew what to do. This is our LORD’s nature: “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” – Psalm 86:15
- Ruth’s Character After Orpah decides to go home, Ruth breaks the mold and goes with Naomi. A brave decision. She was able to overcome any fear of the unknown, rise above the situation, and serve the greater good. The world’s way is a wider path, an easier route. Ruth chose the path less traveled. The narrow path. The difficult way. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:14
- Ruth’s Commitment: Ruth clings to the better way. Ruth holds on to family and unconditional love. Her commitment puts others first instead of her immediate needs. Ruth can acknowledge the hope in Naomi that she doesn’t. Naomi was connected to the one true living God, and Ruth knew she had to be part of that truth.
Similarly, when Jesus visits Martha and Mary, Martha gets distracted by much serving, but Mary chooses the good part and sits a Jesus’ feet. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42
So again, what do you cling to when tragedy hits home?
What or whom are you committed to today?
What is holding you back from being committed to God?
Do you realize how committed God is to you?
Some are content with feeling Christian feelings— a feeling, a love for God, a feeling of love for His Word, and a feeling of love for His people.
But What Will You Do?
We are glad that God didn’t just feel His love for us.
Instead, “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.” – John 3:16
When tragedy strikes remember Ruth’s compassion, character, and commitment.
Remember with God there is always hope of a breakthrough.
- Ruth’s compassion at a critical time; she knew what to do.
- Ruth’s character contrasted her peers and her nation’s character which sustained her through the trials.
- Ruth’s commitment to love another first bears fruit when she meets Boaz and God’s plan of salvation for mankind is set in order.
So is there a hope in you today?
Are you clinging to Jesus?
If so, are you ready to share Him?
If not, are you ready to receive Him?