Summary: When Naomi's faith fails, God provides faith to Ruth--a foreigner, who could only be reached by grace. The faith God gives to Ruth rescues Naomi.

Ruth 1: God Provides FAITH

***A young woman graduates from college, and feels called by God to become a missionary. Despite wanting to be married, she recognizes that her career choice makes finding a husband much less likely. Still, she follows the call of God, only to contract dengue fever. After that, her allergies react to the tropical climate, requiring daily shots to survive. Her mission board sends her home before her first term is up.

Meanwhile, a young man, searching for love, is caught up in an unhealthy relationship. He only comes to his senses when his girlfriend betrays him.

The young woman and the young man hold on to their faith, with the help of a supportive group of single adults. Meanwhile, the group decides everyone should have a prayer partner. A drawing is held, and the young woman and young man draw each other’s names. Her prayers are answered, and a year later they are married. Forty years later, we still are.

Was that God’s doing? Was it providential?**

PROVIDENCE is the idea that God controls events that happen in the world. Not only does God control all that happens, but God PROVIDES for his people, as a father provides for his children.

But what if God does not PROVIDE like people think he should?

There may be some here today, seeking God to provide…

…”the one,” a soul mate, a partner

…a baby, after years of trying to conceive

…friends to relieve the loneliness

…a higher level of success, which seems so elusive and out of reach

…financial resources to get out of a hole, and move forward

…physical or emotional health, to live with vitality and strength

If God is the Provider, where is his provision?

In this series of messages on the book of Ruth, we will see how God provides for his people, not always like they expect, but in his own plan and purpose.

The Old Testament story of Ruth is known as a charming love story, but it is much more than that. It begins in desperation:

Read Ruth 1:1-5.

The story begins, “In the days when the judges ruled…” After the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, there were several hundred years when Israel had no central government. The book of Judges tells how a pattern repeated itself: The people sinned, and God allowed them to be oppressed by poverty and foreign rulers, until they repented and cried out to God. Then God raised up a judge to deliver them.

Some of the judges, like Gideon and Samson, are well-known. Others are obscure, like Ehud, who delivered the Israelites from the Moabites. This is his story:

Eglon, king of Moab, required tribute to be paid by the Israelites. Ehud went to Eglon’s palace, ostensibly to bring tribute to the king. Ehud was left-handed, and he concealed a homemade double-edged sword under his robes, on the right thigh. When he arrived, the Moabites checked him for weapons, but they didn’t check his right thigh, because a right-handed man could not easily reach that spot.

Claiming to have a private message for Eglon, Ehud found him alone on the pot, relieving himself. He pulled out his homemade sword and stuck it into Eglon’s belly, where the fat closed around it. Then he escaped by the balcony, while the Moabites stayed out because of the smell.

The Israelites and Moabites were not the best of friends.

When famine came to the land of Israel, Elimelek made a desperate move. He left Bethlehem, which ironically means “house of bread,” to move the other side of the Dead Sea, the land of Moab.

No doubt Elimelek was trying as best he could to provide for his family, but moving to Moab was risky. Even if they were welcomed there, they might become assimilated into the culture of those people, and they might lose their identity as God’s chosen people. Elimelek thought it would be only “for a while,” but it turned out to be ten years.

Elimelek probably hired himself and his two teenage sons out to Moabite farmers. Then he died, leaving his sons to provide for the family. The sons married Moabite women, and then they died. What would these 3 women do? They couldn’t go out and work at McDonalds or Starbucks. They didn’t want to turn to prostitution to survive. Perhaps they could find seasonal “women’s work” in the fields, or become a servant-slave in a wealthy household? At best, they would barely have enough to get by.

Meanwhile, Naomi remembers her homeland. Every time she meets someone who has been to Israel, she listens for news about her people.

Read Ruth 1:6-7.

Naomi and her daughters-in-law decided to “return home” to Bethlehem. Why did the younger women go along? Was it desperation? Was it their love for Naomi? Was it the nostalgic memories Naomi had for her home, and the charming way she described Bethlehem?

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