Summary: Do you go through difficult trials that don’t seem to have any way out? So did Naomi, but God showed his love and an alternative she hadn’t thought of, like he does with us.
Ruth was written in perhaps the 2nd half of the 12th century, making it contemporary with Jephthah and Samson of Judges 11 and following. This is important because if you didn’t know that you’d think there’s no way the events could take place concurrently with Judges. Judges is filled with immorality, disloyalty, fear, war, and God abandoning His people and giving them into the hands of their enemies because of their disobedience.
Yet Ruth is such a wonderful book of promise that it seems very opposite. I think it shows us that God redeems even in the midst of what seems like a world gone totally away from Him - a good lesson for us today.
The book of Ruth has several important aspects:
It is first a love story, a godly love story between two people, which speaks to us of how tragedy and hopelessness can be overcome through selfless love.
It is also a sign of godly devotion in a time of great darkness. In the time of the Judges "everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Boaz is a very righteous man who is careful to follow not only the letter of the Law but also the spirit, showing that the character of Yahweh was ruling in his heart.
Thirdly, Ruth speaks to us about the love of God. Ruth, a Moabite foreigner, is brought into the family of Israel through the love of a kinsman redeemer. In the same way we, who are foreigners to God through our own sin, are brought into His family through the efforts of our kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Finally, Ruth also speaks of the tenacity of God in bringing forth the real kinsman Redeemer. Ruth, though a Moabite, is the great-grandmother of David, the forerunner of Jesus.
Chapter 1:1 - 3
The famine was a trial for Elimelech. In those days God often used famine as a wake up call to bring His people back to Himself. Elimelech had a choice to make: stay and just endure the famine, run away from it, or pray for God’s work in his life and his family through it. We are faced with much the same set of decisions when we face difficulties. Elimelech chose to run (walking by sight, not by faith) and it ended in perhaps not seeing all that God could do. But God also worked it out for good as well, for if Elimelech had not gone to Moab, Ruth would never have gone to Israel. So even in our wrong decisions God can make it right. That doesn’t make sin right, it makes God pretty powerful.
4 - 5
What a hopeless situation. These two had so many things stacked against them they might as well have just packed it all in. First they were women without extended family. Women were not cared for unless they had a father or husband or close relatives. Secondly they were in a foreign land (at least to Noami). Third, they were a mixed family: Noami was Israelite and Ruth and Orpah were Moabite. So they would not be accepted in either culture as a family unit.
Does your situation ever seem so hopeless that you can see no way out? The Bible gives us lots of examples of people who find themselves in "no win" situations. The woman in 1 Kings 17 who was totally out of food in another famine and was just about to make her last meal and die of starvation when Elijah came by and she had oil and flour to spare for many days. Or the story of Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6 who saw armies surrounding him, until God opened his eyes and he saw angels on horses and chariots of fire surrounding the Syrians. Or the Apostle Paul who was on a ship that was going down in a storm in Acts 27. Everyone had given up hope until Paul had a vision of the Lord telling him everyone would arrive safely.
What you see here is that we are not aware of what God is up to in our "no win" trials. There may be provision coming from an unknown source, there may be things going on in the spirit realm that totally change the situation, or we may just need to seek God for His reassurance that He has us in His hands. The only hopeless situation is the one God is not in.
6 - 14
So why did Naomi refuse to have Ruth and Orpah go back with her? Was it because she didn’t think they’d be accepted in Israel or was it that bringing these two Moabite women would be proof that her and her husband had allowed their sons to marry outside the nation Israel? Why wouldn’t Naomi want her daughters to become faithful to Yahweh and stop serving other gods? At first the two daughters seemed to not want to leave their mother-in-law. She has to do a lot of explaining as to why it wouldn’t work. The explanations deter Orpah, but not Ruth. Here we have a sign of Ruth’s faith and desire to love Yahweh.