As we move into the story of Ruth, keep in mind our place in the “Story of Everything”. Recall how Judges closes: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)” Thus the opening to the Book of Ruth comes as no surprise: “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1a)” It was a dark, seemingly fruitless, time for Israel. The epic downward spiral we read of in Judges considered the big stories of the nation’s military leaders – men known through all the land. By contrast, through Ruth we see how the Canaanization of Israel impacts one small family in one small town.
There is famine in the land, even in Bethlehem (which in Hebrew means, “House of Bread”). A man named Elimelech (“My God is King”) decides to leave Judah with his wife Naomi and two sons to temporarily stay in Moab in search of better provision for his family. As so often happens a temporary move becomes “settled (v2)” and a series of tragedies follow: Elimelech dies, then following ten years in Moab, Noami’s two sons as well. In the ancient world, as a widowed foreigner with no sons, her prospects look bleak.
Something to See:
If you are a parent you know how limited a young child’s perspective can be. If they cover their eyes, invariably they believe you also can’t see them! And if we are honest, we know we also suffer from a limited perspective. We don’t know what would have happened if Elimelech had said to his family: “My God is King, we stay in Bethlehem and trust in Yahweh.” Perhaps this is on Naomi’s mind as she discourages her daughters-in-law from coming with her as she returns to her homeland in Judah: “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? … it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me. (from 1:11-13)” Perhaps her family showed a lack of faith in moving to pagan Moab, but God was certainly not against her (as we are about to see from the rest of the story). It is critical for us to keep our eyes upon the Lord during trials and knowing that he is always for us – even when he chastens us (Hebrews 12:5-6). Think about it, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)”, how much more so when we are his children!