Summary: Short introduction to a series on the book of Ruth.
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All scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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Are you having a good day?
Not all days are equally good. You know you’re having a bad day when you put both contacts into the same eye. You know you’re having a bad day when your twin sister forgets your birthday. You know you’re having a bad day when you wake up and your braces are stuck together. You know you’re having a bad day when it costs more to fill up your car than it did to buy it. You know you’re having a bad day when you show up for work and you’re greeted by Mike Wallace. You know you’re having a bad day when your doctor tells you that you’re allergic to chocolate. You know you’re having a bad day when you wake and find your waterbed has sprung a leak and then realise that you don’t have a waterbed
Sometimes that’s the way things go. And sometimes it’s not just a bad day but a series of bad days – maybe bad weeks – even bad years.
That’s how it was with Naomi.
Look at the beginning of the book of Ruth with me.
“In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a man from Bethlehem in Judah left the country because of a severe famine.”
This was disaster #1 – the famine. They had to pack up and leave everyone behind because there was nothing to eat.
“He took his wife and two sons and went to live in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon...”
This is bad day disaster #2 – Mahlon means “sickly.” This was not exactly a healthy son.
“...Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion...” This is bad day disaster #3. It’s not perfectly clear what the name Kilion means but the best we can tell it means something like “failure” or “loser.” One son was sickly and the other was a loser!
“They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. During their stay in Moab,  Elimelech died...”
Bad day disaster #4.
“...and Naomi was left with her two sons.  The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later,  both Mahlon and Kilion died.”
Wow! Take about disasters! It doesn’t say how they died – only that they died.
“This left Naomi alone, without her husband or sons.”
This last line is the great summary of the situation – “left alone.”
I was watching the movie Young Sherlock Homes on television a few weeks ago and Holmes was having a discussion with the young not-yet-doctor Watson. They were talking about what they wanted for their lives. Watson was saying that he wanted to become a doctor to help the world. And Sherlock Holmes said that his one desire in life was to “never be alone.”
I thank that’s true for most of us. We don’t want to be left alone – even those of us who enjoy solitude don’t really want to be stuck with aloneness. But that’s what happens to Naomi. Her husband moves her to a foreign land – they have two problem children. But then the husband and the sons all die! And she is stuck in the middle of nowhere with responsibility for two daughters-in-law.
She feels terribly alone – deserted by family and God.
Over the next several weeks we’re going to walk through the story of Ruth so that we can listen to what God has to say to people who feel abandoned.
My goal this morning is to wet your appetite – maybe even to encourage you to read the book of Ruth this week. And I want to give you a brief introduction to the book so that we can jump right into it next Sunday.
You’ll notice on the message guide – which is on the blue insert in the bulletin – that I’ve jotted down a few details about the book.
First of all, the setting of the book of Ruth is the era of the judges.
“In the days when the judges ruled in Israel...” (1:1)
After the Israelites entered into the promised land and before they had kings – the tribes of Israel functioned with an informal system of government which relied on charismatic leaders called judges. They were not judges in the sense that we use the word – but they were leaders that God raised up to meet specific challenges.
The period of judges was not a particularly stable era – there was a lot of unhealthy compromising – where the Israelites allowed themselves to get sucked into the pagan practices of their neighbors. And there were wars and there was judgment. All of this was about 1400-1050 BC.