Summary: Four observations from Ruth about Elimelech, a backslidden Christian.
The story of Ruth has often been called the greatest piece of literature ever written and the Cinderella story of the Bible. I’m calling our study, “The Romance of Redemption,” a title I borrowed from Ray Stedman.
How many of you have already read the story of Ruth? Those of you who haven’t are Ruthless, but you won’t be for long. Over the next seven weeks I’m going to give you the Ruth, the whole Ruth, and nothing but the Ruth!
In order to appreciate the details of the story, you must have a feel for the full story. So I want to give you a brief overview of the full story. I call it my “two-minute trailer.”
The story of Ruth begins with a terrible famine. An Israelite family left Bethlehem and traveled to the pagan land of Moab in search of food. The mother’s name was Naomi, and her husband’s name was Elimelech. In time, their two sons married Moabite women. But life was bitter for Naomi. Her husband, and then her sons died. After three funerals, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. She urged the two younger widows to stay in Moab and find new husbands. Orpah stayed, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi and traveled with her back to Bethlehem.
They arrived with nothing and had to beg for food. Ruth went into the field of a farmer named Boaz to pick up leftover wheat from the harvest. Boaz was impressed with young Ruth and instructed his workers to leave plenty of wheat for her to gather each day.
To her delight, Naomi realized Boaz was a distant relative of her dead husband, which qualified him to be a Kinsman-Redeemer. If Ruth married Boaz, they could legally reclaim the land formerly belonging to Naomi’s husband.
So Naomi used her matchmaking skills. Following Naomi’s advice, Ruth humbly asked Boaz to accept the role as her kinsman redeemer. In other words, Ruth basically asked him to marry her! And Boaz said, “Absolutely, yes!”
But there was a problem: Another man was a closer relative and he had the first right of refusal to the land. When Boaz explained the terms to him, he wanted the property. But when he heard that a bride came with the deal, he quickly backed out! This opened the door for Boaz to marry Ruth and redeem the family’s land and reputation.
First came love, then came marriage, then came Boaz with a baby carriage. God gave the couple a son named Obed, who turned out to be the grandfather of none other than King David himself! In fact, in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, Ruth is listed as one of the human ancestors of Jesus!
God redeemed Ruth’s life from being a destitute, immigrant widow into a woman of honor with her own book in the Bible. It’s also a model story about how God lovingly redeems each of us.
Ruth 1:1-7. “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah…‘Can this be Naomi?’ ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.’”
Most Texans are familiar with Willie Nelson’s classic song, “On the Road Again, just can’t wait to get on the road again.” I’m calling this message, “On the Road Again: Going the Wrong Way.” Have you seen those highway signs that say, “Wrong Way”? If you ignore them it can lead to disaster. It’s also dangerous to go the wrong way spiritually.
The Children of Israel had been on the road for over 40 years traveling toward the Promised Land. They finally crossed the Jordan River and gradually claimed the land God had promised them. But it was only a generation later that Elimelech left the Promised Land and retraced their steps back to Moab.