Summary: It appears that this little book was a small beacon of hope that would lead ultimately to Jesus through the line of King David. The three main characters are a bitter older Israelite widow who finds her way home, a redeemer, and a gentile woman who shows
50 cents for anyone who can tell me what book comes before or after the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth sits in a very interesting place in Biblical history. It is this tiny little book that sits between the dark ages of Israel during the period of the judges, when the nation was about as apostate and disobedient as it ever was, and on the other side we see the epic books about Israel’s kings in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.
It appears that this little book was a small beacon of hope that would lead ultimately to Jesus through the line of King David. The three main characters are a bitter older Israelite widow who finds her way home, a redeemer, and a gentile woman who shows more faith than anyone. Warren Weirsbe calls this book a story in which a family makes a bad decision and exchanges one famine for three funerals.
If we look broadly at the story we will find that Naomi represents the apostate nation of Israel, Boaz the redeemer we will read about later, represents a Jesus figure, and Ruth represents the gentiles, who would show more faith than God’s own people and become part of God’s Kingdom. In four short chapters we see a symbolic story of the ultimate redemption of all nations that Jesus would bring through this gentile woman, the great grandmother of King David. Let’s read Act I…
Act 1 begins in the hated country of Moab during the time of the Judges. There was no King in Israel and this period of Israel’s history was marked by a disobedient time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Now before we go on, I just want to bring to our attention that this describes our nation very well. We have forgotten God, we want to do things the way we want to. There’s very little wrong or right. God wants to be our King but we refuse and would rather have judges or human leadership. We rely on government of all things, to solve our problems.
Many believe that the famine described in the book of Ruth was a judgment against the Nation that abandoned their true King. Even Bethlehem (which means house of bread) was not spared from this famine. This was a difficult time for all people, and this man Elimilech whose name ironically means “My God is king” had three possible choices in light of the famine that was in the land.
This is true of anytime we have difficulty in life. We can endure it, escape it, or enlist it.
If we try to endure it, our trials can become our master, and we have a tendency to become hard and bitter. If we try to escape it, we’ll probably miss the opportunity to see the purposes God wants to achieve in our lives and experience other consequences.
But if we learn to enlist our trials, they will become our servants instead of our masters and work for us. To enlist basically means to accept them and give them to God to work all things out for good. Let Him guide us through it. But Elimilech did what would be most of our first responses, he tried to escape the problem rather than turning to God. He did what he thought was right in his own eyes and he and his family paid a terrible price.
So what was so bad about moving his family to a place where their might be more food and financial prosperity, wouldn’t any father do that? Well, you have to remember that this was the time not long after the Israelites came back to the Promised Land from Egypt. God made promises to them if they would stay faithful to Him. They did not stay faithful so they forfeited his promises trying to do things on their own after it was God who got them there by unending miracles.
It was only about 50 miles around the Dead Sea to get to Moab, and Elimilech decided to walk by sight and not by faith. What are the chances the famine would be much better 50 miles away. The reason Moab was considered such enemies is because they were descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. They had also treated Israel very badly, even invading Israel and ruling over them for 18 years during the time of the judges. In fact in Psalm 108 God calls Moab his washpot or maybe for us garbage can. So they go from eating in the house of bread to eating out of the garbage can.
Elimilech’s family learned the hard way that you shouldn’t run from your problems (especially to the enemy), but you should turn to God in the midst of them. Not only did Elimilech die, but his son’s went against God’s will by marrying Moabite women. Interestingly Mahlon and Chilion were the names of the two sons, and they mean sickness and mortality. So it was the men, the leaders of the family who paid the ultimate price of their disobedience. They knew what God said, they didn’t have to guess.