Summary: The major motif to watch for as you work your way through this story is a movement from emptiness, famine, and death to fullness, plenty, and life.
Opening Statement: As you walk down the red carpet, a frenzied mob
swarms around you, demanding your autograph. The reporters are snapping your picture, nearly blinding you. Every ten feet, a television crew stops you for an interview. Have you just become the hottest newest star? No, you’re at Tinseltown Studios, a new theme park in Anaheim, California. For $45, the studio will treat you as though you really WERE a star. It’s the latest manifestation of our celebrity culture, where "image is everything." At Tinseltown, fighting your way through adoring fans
is just the beginning. The next stop is an auditorium filled with gorgeous models who are dying to have their picture taken with you. Over dinner, you and the other stars-for-a-night can watch videos of the red-carpet treatment you’ve just received. And, for an additional fee, you can go into an editing room and have yourself edited into a scene from a famous
movie. The audience then votes on the best performance. The winners go on stage to accept their awards, and if words fail them, Tinseltown provides them with prepared speeches. Well, maybe it’s harmless to spend $45 for an evening of pretending we’re living the lifestyles of the rich
and famous. There’s one problem with all of this. You have to go home after the theme park closes.
Transition: I’ve talked lately about being heroes/heroines in our culture, not the kind of hero/heroine that you’ll find at Tinseltown, however. I’ve been talking to you about real men and women who have overcome their obstacles and consequently have been able to find their sense of personal identity in God and as a result were used mightily by God. We’ve considered: Daniel - A Hero in a Pagan Culture; Esther - A Heroine in Personal Crisis. Perhaps, you’re feeling like you could never become "a Daniel," a very powerful political statesmen in our nation. Maybe you’re feeling that you could never achieve an "Esther-like status," of saving an entire people group with your trickery and stunning beauty. I’ve got great news. Today, I want us to look at a domestic heroine - a lady who championed the cause of the home.
Title: The Story of Ruth - A Heroine in Search of a Home
Notation: No one ever asked for her autograph. She never had her picture taken. She never had any applause, no speeches to deliver, no red-carpet treatment. She was just a common, ordinary homemaker in search of a place to call home. It is not a story about the great public or national events of the time but about the domestic life of a family in search of a suitable home. What’s interesting is that God shows us how two of his chosen people in the person of Daniel and Esther made it in a foreign land. Now, God is going to show us how a foreigner made it in the promised land.
Theme: The major motif to watch for as you work your way through this story is a movement from emptiness, famine, and death to fullness, plenty, and life.
I. Setting the Stage
A. Background Information: Ruth’s story takes place during one of the darkest times in the history of Israel - the period of the Judges, i.e., apostasy, warfare, moral decay and anarchy (Ruth 1:1). The people had forgotten God and there was a famine in the land of Judah. A man by the name of Elimelech, along with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, skip town. Some see this as an act of disobedience; he left the land of the redeemed community of God with his family to a foreign land called Moab (Gentile territory; Lot’s descendants from incest). He went from bad (apostasy in God’s land) to worse (complete paganism). While there, his two sons marry Moabite (Gentile) women, Ruth and Orpah, something that was frowned upon and seen as disobedient to the Jewish ideal (Deut.23:3). Things went great for about 10 years when calamity struck. Elimelech dies along with his two sons. Some see this as divine punishment for forsaking God’s covenant community. Naomi was "dead" in the sense of having any offspring or a family and she was in a pagan land. She essentially say’s "Forget this. When I moved here, I was full. But now, I’m empty (see 1:21)." Hungry, without a husband, or sons, Naomi decides to move back home. This presented a major dilemma for the daughter-in-laws. "Do I go with my mother-in-law to Judah or do I stay here in the land of my birth?" This was a major issue because Judah was a land and culture that prized young virgins. Widows would be looked upon as "used goods."
B. Recitation: Look at how the narrator sets this up in Ruth 1:6-22: 1:6 She started back home from the region of Moab, accompanied by her daughters-in-law, because she heard in Moab that the LORD had provided food for his people. 1:7 She and her two daughters-in-law left the place where she had been living and began the trip back to the land of Judah. 1:8 Naomi said to her two daughters-in law, "Go! Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home! May the LORD show you the same kind of devotion that you have shown to the dead and to me! 1:9 May the LORD give each of you security in the home of a new husband!" Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept loudly. 1:10 They said to her, "No! We will return with you to your people." 1:11 But Naomi replied, "Go back, my daughters! Why would you want to come with me? Am I still capable of having sons and supplying you with husbands? 1:12 Go back, my daughters! Go! For I am too old to get married again. Suppose I were to say, ’I have hope!’ Suppose I got married this very night and had sons. 1:13 Would you wait until they were grown? Would you remain unmarried all that time? No, my daughters, you must not come with me. For you should not have to experience my intense suffering. After all, the LORD has attacked me." 1:14 They wept loudly again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth hugged her tightly. 1:15 Then Naomi said, "Look, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her god. Follow your sister-in-law back home!" 1:16 But Ruth replied, "Stop urging me to abandon you and to leave you! For wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 1:17 Wherever you die, I will die and I will be buried there. The LORD will punish me severely if I do not keep my promise. Nothing but death will separate you and me." 1:18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more about it. 1:19 The two of them went on their way until they arrived in Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival. The women of the town said, "Can this be Naomi?" 1:20 Naomi replied to them, "Don’t call me ’Naomi’! Call me ’Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly. 1:21 I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ’Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD had opposed me and the Sovereign One has made me suffer?"1:22 So Naomi returned, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the Moabite girl who returned with her from the region of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.