Summary: Sometimes God is working when we cannot see. Ruth is the best example of this. This is best done in 3 separate sermons and not attempted to be done in one setting. I will provide a break down into a 3 sermon series soon.
Have you every felt alone? Felt like no one cares? Felt like there was just no hope? Maybe things are going so bad that it feels like even God doesn’t care. You’ve prayed and prayed and even cried out “GOD PLEASE HELP ME??? ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?!?!?!?”
I have been there. I have hit my knees, raised my hands and cried out to the Lord: GOD Please let me know you are there.
Today we are going to talk about someone in a similar situation. The story comes from a book called Ruth, but it is about a woman named Naomi. It is a story of Redemption. In fact, the Hebrew word that means Redemption is used 23 times in this story of only 4 chapters!
Naomi, Elimelech, and their two sons live in Bethlehem, the Promised Land. Now everything must be going great, they worship the Lord, no one is sinning, and everything is pretty much hunky doory, right? Wrong!
Though they are living in Bethlehem, the time they are living in is described in the book of Judges. It is a time of religious and moral degeneration, and there is a cycle of foreign oppression.
As you read the bible you will find this vicious cycle that Israelites tend to find themselves in. They get the promised land, praise the Lord, but as generations progress they fall away from the Lord, and the Lord exacts punishment to get them back on track. This is a time of punishment. And the punishment that God uses is a famine. So Bethlehem, the house of bread, has no bread! God is sending His children to bed hungry!
This is not the first time that we see famine in the bible. Look back to the story of Joseph, Genesis 41:54, “and the seven years of famine began”. That was the famine in Egypt. God had a plan in the time of Joseph in Egypt, and we are going to see that God has a plan here as well.
Because of this famine, Elimelech decided that his family was going to leave Bethlehem, the promised land. We don’t know what Naomi had to say about this decision because during that time the man made all of the decisions.
Of all the places that Elimelech could have moved his family to, he chose Moab.
Moab was the home of the Moabites. Look back to the story of Genesis again, just after Sodom and Gomorrah. After God spared Lot and his two daughters on the request of Abraham, In Genesis 19, starting with verse 20:Lot’s two daughters seduced him and they both had babies. The older daughter named her baby Moab, and his decedents are the Moabites. As you can see they are not very moral and Godly.
So Elimelech moves his family to Moab. We don’t get much more information because just as quick as we are informed that they moved to Moab, we find out that Elimelech has died, and their two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. If it isn’t bad enough that Naomi loses her husband while living in a foreign land, just ten years later BOTH of her sons die!
Now she is left is a foreign land, no family left except the two Moabite widows. And to top things off, there is no trust fund or life insurance policy to come to the rescue. They are broke!
Now Naomi heard that the famine had ended and that the Lord was blessing His people with plenty of food. So Naomi packs up her two daughter in laws and prepares to head back to Bethlehem.
Somewhere along the way Naomi turns to Orpah and Ruth and tells them to go back to their mothers homes and find another husband, because she has nothing more to offer them.
She feels, Ruth 1:13, “the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
Now after hearing this Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye, but RUTH CLUNG TO HER! The word translated clung is the Hebrew word dAbaq which means “to be united”. Ruth was not just holding onto Naomi, Ruth was saying that they were one!
What Ruth says next is so powerful! Ruth 1:16, “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”! “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so seriously, if even death separates you and me”!
Not only was Ruth proclaiming that Naomi’s God was now her own God, but she was also surrendering herself to the Lord’s punishment if she was separated from Naomi; even if by death! That’s powerful!
It would make good wedding vows wouldn’t it!
When Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem there is quite a stir in town over their arrival. But when the women of Bethlehem speak to her, Naomi says “do not call me Naomi, which means sweet. Call me MARA, which means bitter. She tells them that she went away full, meaning she had her husband and children; but the Lord brought her back empty. She says, “The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me!”