In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah, and when they reached Moab, they settled there. Ruth 1:1-2 (NLT)
Promise me you won’t let the unfamiliar names and places get the best of you. This is an amazing love story full of twists that wrench your heart, and turns that will leave you breathless. It’s a romantic and touching story. If you come along, I promise, you will be able to put your name in the place of some of the characters.
Meeting of Naomi
One of my favorite things about the bible is that it is relevant, it speaks to all of us today. I will admit, this story begins in a bleak landscape. Although this book bears Ruth’s name, Naomi is the main character. You first meet Naomi—a regular wife and mother, who does all things a wife and mother usually does; she cleans the house, shoos the boys out to play, makes the food, and tends to her husband.
Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, lived in a dark and dismal time. Sometime during a 350-year period, this couple started their family. What made these days so dark and dismal? The story of Ruth occurs in a culture with these 2 verses as the bookends of what was happening in Israel at the time:
Eventually that entire generation died and was buried.Then another generation grew up that didn’t know anything of God or the work He had done for Israel. Judges 2:10 (NLT)
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NLT)
God’s Faithful Forgiveness
God’s people rebelled against His wishes. The time of the judges was a time of anarchy, idolatry, war and apostasy. God’s chosen people—chose other gods. Unlike other nations that were ruled by kings, judges would rise up and attempt to guide the Israelites back to God. No attempt was lasting. This time it was one cycle of evil after another.
It’s interesting this account begins with the backdrop of evil. This backdrop of evil is the perfect fabric for God’s light of love and redemption to shine through. It’s the perfect stage for the play that shows how the faithfulness of one woman in a faithless nation can make a difference. It’s the stark contrast of dark and light, evil and good, faithfulness and faithlessness, and, purity and immorality that make this story compelling.
The best part of all, every character is relatable. Naomi, the driving force of the story, goes from being pleasant (that is what the name Naomi means) to being bitter due to her circumstances. Then as the story comes full circle, she realizes the purpose of the circumstances. In honesty, God shows this cast of characters not just as whitewashed, halo-headed saints, but as people with emotions, doubts and frailties.
It’s a story of a God who can use a tragedy to bring redemption, Who can bring restoration out of loss and Who is hopelessly in love with His creation.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the evil of the world, if you find yourself shaking your head and clucking your tongue at the depravity in the world; this story is for you! God is bigger than the evil you see. God’s plan is not dependent on the character of man. God can bring good, even greatness, out of the ordinary and out of tragedy.
Father, thank You for being supreme over every circumstance. As I study Your word, let that sink deep into my heart.