Summary: Naomi is the theologian of the book of Ruth. Her faith under the greatest trials has an impact on her daughter-in-law, Ruth, so that Ruth is ready to accept Naomi's God as her God.
Open your Bibles to the book of Ruth. Ruth is one of two books in our Bibles that is named after a woman, the other being Esther. Both of these books are in the Old Testament and both involve times of great tragedy and great triumph through God’s grace. Both are also depictions of God’s providential workings in the background instead of through obvious miracles or divine visitations or visions.
Ruth is set during the early history of Israel as a nation and Esther is late Old Testament history. Ruth is a doubly unique book because not only is this Book named after a woman, but Ruth is also a foreigner to Israel. She is a Moabite.
How many of us here know the origins of the nation of Moab? Where did their ancestor, Moab come from? Way back in Genesis 19 we read the sad story of Lot and his family. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, had journeyed with his uncle into the land of Canaan where he and Abraham became so successful in their livestock that their herdsmen were quarrelling. Abraham, being a gracious man, gives Lot the choice of which direction to take his family and herds, telling Lot that he will go the other direction. Lot chooses what looks like the easy way and moves toward Sodom. Abraham goes the other direction.
Lot’s decision to take what looked like the easy way turned into a great disaster, didn’t it?
Lot and his family end up living IN the city of Sodom with its sinful wickedness until the Lord decides to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but rescues Lot, his wife and two daughters. Lot’s wife dies when they are escaping because she turned back. Lot is so afraid he goes into the hills and lives in a cave. The Bible tells us how Moab was born of an incestuous relationship as an idea of the oldest daughter. Moabite women had a stigma from that time on. Numbers 25:1-3 tells how the Moabite women seduced the Israelite men into sexual immorality and idolatry bringing God‘s punishment on Israel and 24,000 of the Israelites died as a consequence.
Listen to what Moses wrote in Deut. 23:3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, 4 because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
Other Old Testament references show us that the nation of Moab was often at war with Israel. Moabite women, in particular, would not easily find a welcome in Israel considering their background. With this in mind, let’s enter the first chapter of Ruth.
In this first chapter Naomi’s name occurs 12 times, Ruth’s occurs 4 times. This chapter is primarily Naomi’s story and how she understood her relationship with God and how she came to meet and build a relationship with Ruth.
Let’s just walk through it together and let God speak to us a message from His word.
Read chapter 1
What does this chapter say about the Lord?
He comes to the aid of His people and gives them food. Vs. 6
Naomi calls on the Lord to bless her daughters in law with kindness and give them husbands. Vs. 8-9
Naomi sees God’s hand against herself. Vs. 13, 20-21.
Ruth accepts the God of Naomi as her God. Vs. 16.
What does it tell us about Naomi?
She is married with two sons. Vs. 1
She is from Bethlehem in Judah, but during a famine, she and her family go to Moab. V 1
Her husband dies in Moab.
Her sons marry Moabite women.
Her sons die in Moab.
She hears that the Lord has given help and food to Israel and decides to go home.
She encourages her daughters in law to go back home and blesses them in the name of the Lord.
She reflects on her dire condition to persuade them not to come with her and lays the responsibility for her condition on the hand of the Lord.
When Orpah leaves and Ruth will not leave, she urges her to go back to her people and her gods.
Naomi came back to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, the Moabite.
The whole town was stirred and recognized her when she arrived.
Naomi expresses her bitterness and three times lays the responsibility on the Lord.
The chapter ends: So, Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
What do we learn about Ruth?
She married one of Naomi’s sons, but we don’t know which until chapter 4:10.