Summary: Trusting in the providence of God even when life doesn’t make sense.
Do you ever read Romance novels?
I don’t – believe me! I’m not particularly interested in that kind of literature. I’m a “facts” man. I like non-fiction. I like theology. I like pastoral administrative type books too. I like the kind of books that put most people to sleep.
But I found a romantic story that I actually liked. It’s a simple story with a sad beginning but a happy ending. This romance isn’t what you would find in a typical New York Times Best Sellers list – but it ought to be there. I want to preach a series of messages from this romantic story… it is the story of Ruth.
Ruth’s story begins with despair, but ends with delight. Along the way there is tragedy, sadness, resolve, faith, hope, redemption, and joy. It’s a romantic story that only God could have made come true. Yes, there is a love interest… but as we shall see in these four messages that behind the scenes is the high, noble, faithful love of God who romances every hopeful heart.
So, even though you may be like me, and not like Romance stories, I’d like to ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Book of Ruth. You will discover that there is something for everyone in this beautiful story of God’s grace.
Scene 1 – The move to Moab (vv. 1-2)
We learn from verse 1 that the events of this book occurred during the time of the Judges. This was a dark time in Israel’s history. The last verse of the book of Judges says it all… “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judg 21:25)
Israel was in a constant spiral of disobedience, slavery, crying out to God, finding deliverance from a judge, a period of peace, then falling back into disobedience again…
We learn that there was a famine in the land of Israel. It is highly likely that it was as a result of God’s discipline for Israel’s spiritual disobedience:
Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you. (Deut 11:16-17)
We learn that a family moves from Bethlehem about 50 miles east, on the other side of the Dead Sea for refuge from this terrible famine in the land of Israel.
Sons: Mahlon and Chilion
Scene 2 – The loss of husbands (vv. 3-5)
Elimelech died in the land of Moab. Naomi was left with her two sons.
The two sons married Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth.
Then after about 10 years, both sons died as well, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law all widows (v. 4-5).
We need to not breeze over this too quickly. We need to remember that at this time it was not a very good thing to be left widowed. Women were generally looked down on by society.
We now live in an age that is an increasingly technology driven society.
Ruth and Naomi lived in an agricultural society. Success depended not on the stock value of the latest “.com” company, but on whether or not crops where going to succeed. Men were the ones who handled the bulk of the hard laboring farming business. If a woman lost her husband, she had little if any means of providing for herself.
What was left for these grief-stricken women? They had come to the end of themselves…
Scene 3 – The choice – to stay or to go (vv. 6-18)
Naomi decided to go back to her homeland because she had heard that the Lord had blessed Israel again. This would seem to indicate that God was restoring Israel under the guidance of a judge after a time of spiritual apostasy.
She knew that it would be a long, lonely trip with no guarantees. Therefore, she tried everything she could to get her widowed daughter-in-laws to stay behind in Moab.
· To go back to their families (v. 8)
· To go get remarried (v. 9)
They couldn’t wait for Naomi to give birth to sons and wait on them to grow up and marry them. This was the custom of levirate marriage, whereby a brother of the husband who died childless would marry the widow, so that the deceased would have an heir. (vv. 11-13)
· To go back to their gods (v. 15)
The primary national god of Moab was Chemosh. It turns out that Orpah decides to go back to her family and her gods, but Ruth decides to stay with Naomi.