Summary: The story of Ruth is one of the most beloved in the Bible; it is a story of love; of the favor of God; of relationships and redemption
Introduction: The story of Ruth is set during a harsh and bitter time in the history of the nation of Israel. It was a time ruled by interim governors or judges as the Scriptures call them. There was no King and there was no Prophet so the voice of God was heard only sporadically in the land. With no real voice of righteousness in the land “everybody did what was right in their own eyes.”
As it had happened many times before when the people sinned, God visited them with judgment, with wars and with famine. So it was in the time of Naomi and Elimelech, there was a famine in the land.
Like the nomadic people of the day, when things were not going well in the place where they were, they packed up their tents and moved to a better place. The only thing is Elimelech and Naomi lived in Bethlehem, a small village in the land of promise and rather than wait for the blessings of God, they moved to a less than desirable place.
Taking their two young sons, Mahlon and Chilion, the couple moved to Moab and settled there. For a while, things seemed to be going well but then Elimelech died and Naomi was left to bring up her two boys alone.
Like any single mother, Naomi did what she had to do to bring up her young sons. She must have been proud mother when they found wives among the Moabitess women. But good times would not last forever. After about ten years in Moab, both boys passed away. Whether it was through sickness or war, we are never told!
For a while Naomi stayed in Moab, comforted by her two widowed daughters-in-law who loved her very much. One day when Naomi heard that God had once again visited his people by providing food, she decided to go back to Bethlehem taking the women with her.
On the way, Naomi reconsidered and told her daughters-in-law to go back to their family because she had nothing to offer. She was old and even if she did have more sons, would they wait until the boys were grown? At first Orpah refused to go back but after Naomi’s insistence, she bade farewell and headed back to her people. Orpah fades out of the story and we never hear about her again.
Ruth, on the other hand, clings to her mother-in-law. “Don’t ask me to leave you,” she tells Naomi; “don’t ask me to turn back from following you because wherever you are going I will go; your people shall be my people and your God, my God.” She continues by saying to Naomi, “Where you die I will die and be buried, and may the Lord do to me severely if anything but death parts you and me.”
When Naomi sees the determination of this young woman, she relents and together both women make their way back to Bethlehem.
And so begins the story of Ruth! It is one of the most beloved accounts in the Old Testament. It is a story of love, devotion and loyalty; a story of redemption and the favor of God. Ruth begins her journey as a gentile woman who comes into the promise of God and becomes famous in Bethlehem. Along the way she finds a husband who covers her with his love and kindness.
1. The story of Ruth is a Love Story. (Music: Where do I begin?)