Summary: Elimelech takes a spiritual short-cut that ultimately leads to Naomi becoming a widow in a foreign land. Short cuts never work out.
“A Dead-End Short Cut”.
We have all done it haven’t we.
You’re driving to a specific destination and someone says, “I know a shortcut!”
Do you really?
Often your first instinct is to stick with what you know, stay on the regular path. But sometimes you think, “Why not?”
Because most short cuts are not shorter, and they don’t take less time, and they are usually not as smooth, and you can easily get lost. And sometimes … sometimes … you end up at a dead-end and you need to turn around and go back to where you started.
A “Dead End Short Cut”.
It is how life goes at times … in a very literal way.
It is also how the book of Ruth opens … but more in a spiritual way.
Let’s read the opening verses.
While you are looking for this chapter let me tell you that, for the rest of the series, we will take a chapter at a time. But I have limited this sermon to the first five verses because it will help us get an understanding of the context and the situation that is at hand.
Also notice that there is very specific detail here. A specific time. Specific places. Specific names.
This is history … a real event which took place and was important enough to have a book in the Bible dedicated to it.
Indeed Ruth is the only book in the Old Testament named after a non-Israelite.
God preserved this story because he wanted generations of Jewish people … and generations of non-Jews … and generations of Christians … to learn something about the nature of our relationship to God.
Read Ruth 1:1-5
Now I still have the title up on the screen there “A Dead End Short Cut”.
Can you see some of the short-cuts?
The move to a foreign land is a short-cut … it shows a lack of repentance and faith.
The marriage of Israelites to non-Israelites is a short-cut … it is endangering a family heritage.
Staying in Moab for 10 years is a shortcut … it impacts the ability of the family to faithfully worship Yahweh.
Elimelech’s shortcut solution which was made without using the ways of God … and it ended in disaster. Let’s see how it all works by having a closer look at the text.
In the days when the judges ruled …
We are in a very specific time period of Israel’s history. What were the days of the judges like?
Go back to Judges 2
• The Israelites have not obeyed and now they have to live with the temptation that comes with living among the pagan nations.
• It is a constant problem
• The death of Joshua is the event that brings the time of the judges into effect.
• That time won’t end until king Saul is put in place by God through the hand of Samuel.
• This time lasts for about 330 years.
• This summarises the cycle that keeps happening during the 330 years.
• The people sin … God allows one of the surrounding nations to rule them … the people cry out to God for help … God raises up a Judge … the people repent … there is peace for some time after the judge dies … then the people sin again.
A telling description about the time of the Judges comes from two very significant phrases that are repeated in the book of Judges:-
• In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (17:6; 21:25)
• and they did evil in the sight of the Lord (2:11, 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1).
That is the context. The story of Ruth happens during the last 100 years of this time.
So what has all of this got to do with taking a short cut?
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.
At some point the people found themselves being hungry because the land was not producing the food it normally produced.
And we think, “So what, there are times in Australia when drought happens.”
Famine and droughts happen all the time.
That is true. But God has specifically chosen this nation. And this is what God has previously said about famines:-
15 If you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant,
16 then … you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it …
20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit …