The story of Ruth has both captivated and significantly challenged me over the years in many ways. Over the next month, we will study chapter-by-chapter, and see how God providentially guides and blesses all who trust Him.
If we obey God’s will, everything in life holds together; but if we disobey, everything starts to fall apart. Nowhere in the Bible is this truth better illustrated than in the experiences of Elimelech and his wife Naomi. Let’s begin our study in chapter one and see three mistakes that we must avoid as we deal with the problems and trials of life.
Ruth 1:1-5 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country f Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
The first mistake that we must avoid is unbelief – trying to run from our problems. Many of God’s people today are living in unbelief and disobedience and are not enjoying the blessings of God. During this time in history, Israel was reaping the harvest of their disobedience; but God was producing the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of Ruth and Naomi.
How strange that there should be a famine in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”! In the Old Testament, a famine was often an evidence of God’s discipline because His people had sinned against Him. During the time of the Judges, Israel repeatedly turned from God and worshipped the idols of the heathen nations around them; and God had to discipline them.
Elimelech made the wrong decision when he decided to leave home. What made this decision so wrong? He walked by sight and not by faith. How do you walk by faith? By claiming the promises of God and obeying the Word f God, in spite of what you see, how you feel, or what may happen.
Elimelech and his family had fled Judah to escape death, but the three men met death just the same. The family had planned to sojourn in Moab, but they remained there for about ten years. At the end of disobedience, all that remained were three lonely widows and three graves in a heathen land. Such is the consequence of unbelief. We cannot run away from our problems.
Ruth 1:6-18 Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughtes, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
The second mistake that we must avoid is deception – trying to hide our mistakes. How sad it is when people only hear about God’s blessing, but never experience it, because they are not in the place where God can bless them.
Naomi’s decision was right, but her motive was wrong. She was still interested in food, not in fellowship with God. You don’t hear her confessing her sins to God and asking Him to forgive her. She was returning to her land but not to her Lord.
Ruth dearly loved her mother in law. Since Elimelech and Mahlon were now dead, Ruth was under the guardianship of Naomi; and she should have obeyed her counsel; but God intervened and graciously saved Ruth.
Ruth’s statement in Ruth 1:16-17 is one of the most magnificent confessions found in Scripture. First, she confessed her love for Naomi and her desire to stay with her even unto death. Then she confessed her faith in the true and living God and her decision to worship Him alone. She was willing to forsake her father and mother in order to cleave to Naomi and the God of her people.
Ruth 1:19-22 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
The third mistake that we must avoid is bitterness – blaming God for our trials. Naomi had been away from home for ten years, and the people were shocked when they saw her. The name Naomi means “pleasant” but she was not living up to her name. She was not the Naomi whom they had known a decade before. Her ten years in Moab, and the sorrows they had brought, had taken their toll on Naomi. Instead of making her better, the trials of life had made her bitter, which is the meaning of the word mara.
It was barley harvest when the two widows arrived in Bethlehem, a time when the community expressed joy and praise to God for His goodness. It was spring, a time of new life and new beginning. Naomi was about to make a new beginning; for with God, it’s never too late to start over again.