TUESDAY, MAY 15
SCRIPTURE: RUTH 1
Today we start a new book but it is not necessarily a new story. In fact the story that we read in the Book of Ruth happened during the time period of the Judges. As this story opens, there is a famine in Judah. Specifically, there is a famine in Bethlehem which is ironic because the word Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. So, there was no bread in the “House of Bread”.
Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion went to Moab. At first glance, this seems to be a good decision. Elimelech appears to be doing the right thing for his wife and sons. After all, they needed to eat…
What might not be so evident is how wrong this decision actually was. First, there is no evidence in the Scripture that God told Elimelech to move his family to Moab. So, this was not an act of obedience. It was, instead, an act of living by sight which is always in conflict with living by faith. Second, the Moabites were a long time enemy of Israel. They had mistreated Israel during the Jews’ journey from Egypt to Canaan. They had invaded Israel during the time of the judges and ruled over them for 18 years. Third, Moabite women had seduced Jewish men during the time Moses led them. That seduction led to immorality and idolatry and 24,000 Jewish people died as a result. Finally, Deuteronomy 23:3 says that no Moabite could enter the congregation of the Lord even to the tenth generation.
So, Elimelech, whose name ironically means “My God is King”, took his family to the live in the land of the enemy of Israel. His sons married Moabite women and then death came. Elimelech died first and then both of his sons died. Naomi, the widow decided to go back to Judah because she heard they had food there. Notice that she didn’t make that decision as an act of repentance for living in Moab but simply because there was food there.
Her two daughters-in-law started the journey with her. After her pleading with them, one of them, Orpah, turned back. The other one, Ruth, continued on with her. As you look at Ruth’s famous speech that begins in verse 16, we see Ruth made a commitment to the one, true God. In fact, in verse 17, she even used the Lord’s covenant name. In other words, Ruth had walked away from the idolatry of Moab and chose to follow Yahweh.
When Naomi and her daughter-in-law arrived back in Judah, Naomi changed her name which means Pleasant to Mara which means Bitter. At times every one of us finds ourselves in difficult circumstances. Sometimes those difficulties are the result of our own decisions. Sometimes those difficulties are the result of the actions of others and are basically out of our control. But what is in our control is our response.
Naomi, at least temporarily, allowed her circumstances to make her bitter. She even said of herself that she had gone away full but came back empty. And she blamed her emptiness on God.
Thankfully, God is bigger than we are. And even when we falsely accuse him, He is bigger than our accusation. God knew everything that had happened to Naomi/Mara and He knew everything that was going to happen to her. On top of that, He knew that He was going to use a Moabite lady to bring blessing to a Jewish woman. God is big enough to do that, you know. His great grace knows no boundaries!