Summary: In a time of famine, Elimelech and his family run from God to the land of God’s enemies, and pay a steep price as they do what seems right in God’s eyes. How will we respond in the time of our own “famines?”
Walking in the Wilderness - Ruth 1:1-5 - January 20, 2013
Series: From Heartache to Hope – The Redemption of Ruth - #1
Some years ago I was given, as a gift, a copy of the New Testament. I truly appreciate the thought that went into that gift, and the heart with which it was given, but as I flipped through the pages of that Bible I found myself a little discouraged just the same. Now don’t misunderstand me here; there was nothing wrong with the Bible itself. It was beautifully bound, of a good size to fit in a pocket, useful to take with me when I did visitations or travelled, the only problem was, that being just the New Testament, I was missing out on a good portion of God’s word.
And that wouldn’t faze many people today – after all, it’s in the New Testament, that we find the record of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But friends, if we aren’t getting into all of God’s word, then we are missing out on some of what God has chosen to reveal to us about Himself. There is a verse in the New Testament book of Romans that reads like this: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, NIV84)
When Paul refers to “everything that was written in the past,” he’s speaking about the books that make up the Old Testament, and he’s saying that God has a purpose for us even in these books. They are there for our instruction, for our encouragement, and so that we might have hope in the present day. And so it was that awhile back we took a number of weeks and looked at the life and times of the prophet Elijah. This morning we are going to return to the Old Testament for a bit as we look at the life and times of another individual whose story may speak to where we are at today, and whose testimony out of the darkness of heartache and despair, may both encourage us, and bring forth new hope in our hearts as we see God at work.
We are going to look into the life and times of a woman named Ruth, and we find her story in the book that bears her name. So turn with me, if you will, to the book of Ruth, and we are going to begin reading in verse 1. If you’re not sure where to look, you’ll find the book of Ruth close to the beginning of your Bibles – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and then finally, the book of Ruth.
At just 85 verses, this book is one of the shorter books of Scripture. You can easily read it in less than 15 minutes. And I would encourage you to take the time to read through this book at least once a week during the course of this series. It’s a book that’s been called one of the most beautiful short stories ever written, and it is acknowledged as one of the greatest pieces of literature to find it’s way into our hearts – and this by those who are not necessarily people of faith.
However I want you to know too, that it’s more than just a story. It is God’s word to us today; Ruth, and all the others that we meet in the pages of this book, they were real men and real women, and this is the story of their lives. And we are going to discover that the streams of heartache and sorrow that run through their lives, are often reflected in our own as well. Even more importantly, we will discover that this is God’s story, and we will see His hand moving in history. And as such it is not just a story of heartache and sorrow, but it’s one of grace and redemption, of hope and new life. It is a story for us today, so let’s begin reading in verse 1 …
“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (Ruth 1:1–5, NIV84)