Summary: Tragedy can cause me to be better or bitter.
Ruth 1 - Tragedy
We are beginning a new series for Advent. Advent means "coming towards" in Latin. Advent means the days approaching the coming of the Christ on earth. We take these four weeks to celebrate the coming of Christ years ago. So you may be wondering why I am having us read from the Book of Ruth? The story in Ruth and the story of Christ’s birth take place in the same city - Bethlehem. So we are going to be reading a pre-quel of the real Bethelem story. I like to call it "the Bethlehem story before the real Bethlehem story." It is the pre-quel story that sets up the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
You may have heard of movies being made to establish the beginning of a famous story. They fill in the history so that the real story becomes richer and more meaningful. They did it with Star Wars, by sharing a prequel of stories to help you understand how Anakin Skywalker, the father of Luke Skywalker, became Darth Vader. They did in the Batman series of movies with the movie Batman Begins to help you understand how Bruce Wayne really became Batman. They are doing it now by bringing Ian Fleming’s James Bond character more depth in the new film Casino Royale. You see how James Bond becomes the spy that he is in the later adventures by watching him develop in the first adventure.
In the same way, the Book of Ruth shares with us the story of redemption. It takes place in the city that will become the future birthplace of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. By looking into the story that is in the Book of Ruth, we can begin to see how God fills in the Christmas story that we know. This story is here to help establish the kingship of Jesus Christ. The Book of Ruth also shows us a story of a foreigner who sees God and receives salvation. This has significance for us as internationals living today.
The story begins with a tragedy. Every good story has its valleys before its mountain peaks. That is what makes it a great story.
Jesus went to the cross before He was resurrected, as Philippians 2 shows. Everyone is a slave to sin until we accept Jesus. At which point, we have freedom in the Spirit, as Romans 1-8 describes. Job lost everything before God restored him. Here in Ruth, three women lose their husbands while living in a foreign land.
ELEMENTS OF TRAGEDY
1. Economic tragedy (1:1) - Famine
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (Ruth 1:1 NKJV)
The first element of tragedy is a famine. This story takes place during the time of the judges. This was a period of political instability. The summary of the political atmosphere of the country can be seen as we read these verses in Judges:
From time to time, the LORD would choose special leaders known as judges. These judges would lead the Israelites into battle and defeat the enemies that made raids on them. In years gone by, the Israelites had been faithful to the LORD, but now they were quick to be unfaithful and to refuse even to listen to these judges. The Israelites would disobey the LORD, and instead of worshiping him, they would worship other gods. When enemies made life miserable for the Israelites, the LORD would feel sorry for them. He would choose a judge and help that judge rescue Israel from its enemies. The LORD would be kind to Israel as long as that judge lived. (Judges 2:16-18 CEV)
Some of us can relate to an economic tragedy. You lose a job; you run out of food. Farmers could not work the land. Merchants could not sell their products because there was no food. The food prices would therefore rise. All of this forced Elimelech to move south. He had to go where there was a job. So he took his family into a new country and worked as a foreigner.
Adjustment/Coping with the Tragedy: You move. You go where the jobs are. You find the food. Sometimes these are hard choices.
The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion--Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. (Ruth 1:2 NKJV)
2. Personal Tragedy (1:3-5) - Family
Naomi goes through a series of tragedies in her life in Moab. Her husband dies. Naomi is left to raise two boys without her husband. She adjusts to her tragedy by taking the self-initiative to raise her family. It must have been hard as a foreigner to raise her children alone. There probably was no government assistance.