Summary: Though life is uncertain we may be sure of the certainty that God is at work.
Title: Finding Good In the Bad Things
Text: Ruth 1:1-18
Thesis: Though life is uncertain we may be sure of the certainty that God is at work.
Introduction: "Go West, young man, go west…" is a quote popularized by American author Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward. It was in keeping with the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny was the conviction that the United States was destined to expand across the continent… the mission of the country was, so to speak, the redeeming of the Old World. Manifest Destiny carried with it the belief that the expansion of the United States was pre-arranged by God… it also played into the belief of American Exceptionalism.
Greeley favored westward expansion. He saw the fertile farmland of the west as an ideal place for people willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed. The phrase came to symbolize the idea that agriculture could solve many of the nation's problems of poverty and unemployment characteristic of the big cities of the East. It is one of the most commonly quoted sayings from the nineteenth century and may have had some influence on the course of American history.
Greeley’s quote in full reads, “Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”
Our text today is another “go west” saga… only it was not “go west” it was “go east.” The circumstances were such that Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons had to go east… for Elimelech and his family; their land of promise was on the other side of the Dead Sea.
We begin with this thought:
I. Bad things happen to God’s people, Ruth 1:1-5
“…in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man in Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.”
In our story today the bad thing was an unforeseen circumstance.
A. Unforeseen circumstances interrupt the lives of good people
Our story begins with a family who lived near Bethlehem in the country we call Israel today. Times were tough; there was a severe famine in the land. There was no work to be had and no food to eat.
It was a time reminiscent of The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl during the 1930’s. There was no work in the towns and cities. The farms blew away and farmers lost their farms to the wind and greedy bankers who were more than anxious to gobble up the land that would make them rich when the dust settled. And so there was a huge migration of Americans who packed up what they could and set out for the San Joaquin Valley and other agricultural areas of California where there were jobs harvesting fruit, vegetables and cotton.
It was a time of such devastation that a man named John Steinbeck sat down and wrote The Grapes of Wrath which was published 1939.
So Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi and their two sons set out for their California, a place called Moab. Moab was east of Israel… across the Dead Sea. We know Moab as the current day Jordan.
It was good in Moab. It was a place of promise. There were natural resources to be mined. There was a vast plateau that rose some 3,000 feet above sea level where the land was fertile and the grass plentiful. The King’s Highway, a well established trade route, ran through Moab. So in the mind of Elimelech the voice in his head was saying, “Go east young man, go east.”
However this good Jewish family found, just as the good Americans found in the 1930’s, the land of promise turned out to be a land of enormous challenges and disappointments.
We are told that they “settled” there in the land of Moab. And then things began to unravel for the Elimelech family.
If famine was not enough… the second unforeseen circumstance is that…
B. Good people lose people they love and depend on – People Die!
After getting settled in Moab, Elimeleck died!
Naomi’s two sons then married Moabite women, which was a good thing other than that good Jewish boys did not as a rule marry Moabite women. However, it was good in the sense that despite being widowed, Naomi had two sons and two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, who would care for her. Everything seemed to be going just fine for ten years, but then, as if one death was not enough…
Both sons, Mahlon and Kilion died!
Their deaths left now only their widowed mother but two young widows as well.