Summary: Naomi and her family have wandered a long way from God’s promises - what sort of welcome will she find when she turns back?
When it comes to handyman repair jobs, I reckon there’s a strange fascination. There is for me, anyway. If you want anything fixed around the house, CALL ME.
You’ll probably be sorry.
Because to be honest, the problem is, in my own mind, I’m BOB THE BUILDER. But in practice, all I usually do is mess things up completely. Something needs fixing, and by the time I’m finished with it, it’s either BEYOND REPAIR. Or else it needs a real expert – like Louise - to redeem the situation.
Like our new cupboard for the TV. That only needed a neat circular hole cut in the back for the power-lead to fit through.
Now, we’ve got this terrific little power saw that I got from Mitre 10 for $39, and I know it’s not EXACTLY the sort of tool you’d need to cut a neat round hole in the back of a brand new cupboard, but I looked at the saw and I looked at the cupboard, and I could just imagine a nice neat hole right around the middle of the back. Besides which, if it wasn’t TOTALLY NEAT it didn’t actually matter too much, because it’s at the back. Right? And you don’t actually need to MEASURE, because you can poke a lead out just about ANYWHERE, RIGHT?
Well, the six weeks of counselling is just about done, and the experts think we can salvage the marriage. But they’re not sure about the cupboard.
The rule is, I guess, that often when you think you can fix things yourself, you end up in a bigger mess than you started with. Especially if there are some OBVIOUS GROUNDRULES that you overlook. Or decide to shortcut.
You meet a DO IT YOURSELF home-handyman type guy at the start of Ruth chapter 1. His name’s Elimelech, he’s a family man; his wife’s Naomi, and they’ve got two young sons.
And the sad news is, Elimelech’s heading for a LARGE SCALE DISASTER. It’s not obvious at first glance. But imagine you’re watching this as the opening of a movie. Ever notice it’s often the MUSIC that sets the tone in a movie? I mean, you can have the most peaceful scene you can think of, a family picnic, a young couple laughing and splashing in the surf. But the background music can paint a whole different picture. A THUMP THUMP THUMP heartbeat in the rhythm. The violins rising. And you know the peaceful scene you’re looking at is heading for disaster. It’s not the BEACHBOYS video clip you’re watching, it’s JAWS.
So before we dip into Ruth chapter 1, let me set the tone. With a little background music from Deuteronomy chapter 6 and 7. The LAWS that MOSES gave the people of Israel before they came into the promised land. The laws that every Israelite was bound to know. And live by.
Before we read the book of Ruth, we need to hear a PROMISE FROM GOD. And a WARNING.
First of all the promise. Because here’s a family living in THE PROMISED LAND. Here’s a family, if you think back to the Bible overview we’ve looked at through January, here’s a family of ISRAELITES. The people of God. Living in the time when the JUDGES rule Israel. Here’s a family from Bethlehem in Judah, the heart of the promised land.
Here they are living in the land God promised to Abraham all those years ago. The land they’ve come to out of slavery in Egypt. The land where God said, if you’re faithful to me, I’LL BLESS YOU.
I said a few weeks ago one of the great things about having the BIG PICTURE of the Old Testament in your mind is that it helps you make better sense of each smaller part. Gives CONTEXT. And here’s THE PROMISE from God that puts Ruth in context. It’s restated lots of places, but just have a look at one. Deuteronomy 6 verse 3. Words spoken LONG AGO by Moses on the plains of Moab as they’re about to CROSS OVER INTO THE PROMISED LAND.
Words reprinted on your sheet. “HEAR O ISRAEL… and be careful to obey… so that it may go WELL WITH YOU, and that you may INCREASE GREATLY in the LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY, just as the Lord your God PROMISED YOU.”
Moses says THE LAND GOD’S GIVING YOU is a GREAT PLACE. Everything you’ll ever need. Just so long as you LISTEN AND OBEY. Live as God’s people in the land. That’s the place Israel’s going to be blessed.
That’s the promise.
Here’s a warning. And it’s the second bit of background to keep in mind before we start.
Deuteronomy again. And again, maybe something that will ring some bells from a few weeks back in our Bible overview. Right from the start, God gave Israel a warning. That you’ll remember maybe from the story of Israel’s DECLINE. A warning that a long time AFTER the time of Ruth, King Solomon IGNORED COMPLETELY.