“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28
Ruth is one of the most amazing books in the Bible. In just four short chapters it discusses the themes of distrust, pain, redemption, blessing, providence, and many many more that would take too long to name. It is hard to believe sometimes that the story of two widows struggle to survive could so explain the effect of Gods providential grace.
The awe of how amazingly ordinary this story is cannot be accurately described until we understand that it was set “in the days when judges ruled…”. To compare, the time of Judges was marked by amazing wars, and even more amazing victory’s. It is the time of Gideon, Ehud, Samson, and Debora, and yet during all of this chaos going on in the world we are treated to the tale of a young widow, her mother, and there struggles. There is no flash. No amazing miracles. Just two women doing what they know is right and reaping the blessings and favor of God.
The story opens during a famine brought with the oppression of Moab as a punishment for Israel’s sin and distrust of God. We are then introduced to Elimelech who while the entire country is being punished by God decided that the wisest course of action was to abandon his home and everything he knew, further distrusting God, and go to settle in the land of Moab. He sided with his nations enemy rather than trust that God would provide. There is no exact time frame of how long they lived in Moab as a family, but the next thing the verses reveal is that Elimelech dies and leaves his family to continue as strangers in a strange land.
The sons Mahlon and Chilion rather than return to there homeland decide to double down on there rebellion and marry two women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah. Fast forward ten years. Both sons have died with no children to carry on there family name. They leave behind nothing but there wives and mother Naomi.
It is important to note that even in these times of trouble God is still moving and working. He uses all of the bad decisions made by this family to ultimately bring His plan of salvation into the world. That doesn’t mean that what Elimelech did had to happen and so it was right, but that God worked even Elimelech’s sin and distrust into ultimate good.
It is in verse 6, however, that we start seeing what will become one of the major themes of Ruth. Naomi rises from Moab and heads home, because she heard the LORD had returned. Without any discussion or, from what we can see, forethought, Naomi does what she knows is right and heads home to Bethlehem.
P.S. : It is funny to note that Hebrew names were often spot on or ironic in there meanings, I will discuss it more as I get into Ruth but to give you some here Elimelech means “to whom God is King” even though he abandoned God and his Homeland, Mahlon means “sickly or weak” good name for a child who dies young, and Chillion means “deathly”…just saying if you want your kid to survive adulthood long maybe don’t name them “sick dead guy”.