Summary: The story of Naomi and Ruth is about how, as the old hymn says, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." As dark and bleak as things looked in Naomi's life, little did she know that God was at work to bring blessings, to her and through her.
A. How many of you have ever had a bad day? Certainly, all of us have had bad days. Right?
1. Let’s have a little fun by starting with some “You know you’ve having a bad day when…” sayings:
a. Your horn sticks on the highway behind 32 Hell’s Angels on their motorcycles.
b. Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
c. Your twin sister forgets your birthday.
d. Your doctor tells you that you are allergic to chocolate and potato chips.
e. Your 4-year-old tells you that it's almost impossible to flush a grapefruit down the toilet.
f. You discover that your 12-year-old's idea of humor is putting crazy glue in your Preparation H.
g. It costs more to fill up your car with gas than it did to buy it.
h. You wake up and find your waterbed has sprung a leak, and then you realize you don’t have a waterbed.
i. You realize that everyone is laughing but you.
2. Sometimes that’s the way things go and you have a bad day.
a. And sometimes it’s not just a bad day, but a series of bad days, or bad weeks, or even bad years.
3. That’s how it was for a woman named Naomi who is a central character in the book of Ruth.
B. Today, we are beginning a four week journey through the four chapter Old Testament book called Ruth.
1. The book of Ruth is a story that shows how, as the old hymn says, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.”
2. It’s for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith.
3. It’s a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it.
4. And it’s a story for people who can’t imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives of faith.
C. Ruth 1:1 tells us: During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land.
1. This was a 400-year period after Israel entered the promised land under Joshua and before there were any kings in Israel (roughly 1500 BC to 1100 BC).
2. The book of Judges comes just before Ruth in our Bibles and you can see from the very last verse of Judges what sort of period it was.
a. Judges 21:25 says: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.
b. It was a very dark time in Israel as a difficult cycle repeated itself over and over again.
c. The people would sin, God would send enemies against them, the people would cry for help, and God would mercifully raise up a judge to deliver them.
d. Again and again the people rebelled, and from all outward appearances God’s purposes for righteousness and glory in Israel were failing.
e. One of the things the book of Ruth does for us is to give us a glimpse of the hidden work of God even during the worst of times.
3. Spoiler alert: when we look at the last verse of Ruth (4:22), we learn that the child born to Ruth and Boaz is Obed, and Obed became the father of Jesse and Jesse became the father of David who led Israel to her greatest heights of glory.
a. One of the main messages of Ruth is that God is at work even in the worst of times.
b. And even when God’s people are not faithful, God is faithful and is at work carrying out His plan.
c. So, when you or I think God is far from us, or has turned against us, the truth is that he is laying a foundation for redemption, restoration and blessing in our lives.
4. Consider the verse from the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
5. I think that’s the message of Ruth, and let’s see how this unknown author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, teaches it to us.
D. The first five verses of the book of Ruth describe the great hardship and heartbreak that Naomi experienced.
1. The Bible says: 1 During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to stay in the territory of Moab for a while. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the fields of Moab and settled there. 3 Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two children and without her husband.