I love the book of Ruth – it is such a refreshing and encouraging book! As John Piper writes, It’s a story for people who wonder where God is when there are no dreams or visions or prophets. It’s for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith. It’s a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it’s a story for people who can’t imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives of faith. It’s a refreshing and encouraging book.
Setting the scene
We learn from the first verse, that the story comes in the time of the Judges, a dark period of 400 years in Israel’s history where as the last verse of the book of Judges tells us “Everyone did what was right intheir own eyes.” There was a famine in Israel of God’s Word and physical bread, so Elimelech and Naomi take their family to neighbouring pagan Moab to live. The story adds a side dish of grief to famine as Elimelech dies, the two sons marry and then die, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah to survive. We are goingto see the providential hand of God at work though as Moabite Ruth will end up being in the genealogy of our Saviour Jesus! It’ll come good, because God works things for the good of those who love him.
God is on the move
Word comes to Naomi that God is on the moveback in Israel – the Deuteronomic cycle at work again. The people have most likely cried out to God and rescue and blessing comes.
Naomi decideds to go back and in her hopelessness tries to stop the two daughters-in-law coming too. She has nothing to offer them, no more sons for them to marry to carry on the family line.She has forgotten that there is another near relative who we will meet tomorrow.
Ruth is amazing in her faithfulness – she clings to Naomi with the beautiful words of v16-17 Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.
John Piper again Here we have a picture of God’s ideal woman. Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God.
Bethlehem is excited by their return and welcomes the two ladies. Naomi, which means pleasantless (basically “sweetie-pie”!), is so hopeless she wants to be called Mara, meaning “bitter”. You’ll notice that she is ignored in that request andtehrest of the book continues to call her Sweetie pie.
The chapter ends by telling us it is the beginning of the barley harvest. What does that mean? Hope. There is always hope when God is at work behind the scenes. Roll on for tomorrow’s reading!