1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was 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.
Ruth is one of two books named after women, the other being Esther. This story takes place during a rough patch in the history of Israel. For a period of about 400 years, before Israel had a king, judges ruled. This period was a cycle of rebellion, remorse, peace, repeat. They would have incredible victories when they trusted God, followed by corruption and devastating defeat when they looked to the idols and customs of their neighbors. In one period of devastation and famine, Elimelek and Naomi, with their two sons, move to Moab. While there appears to be peace between the nations, the Moabites and Israelites were enemies.
Many times in the Book of Judges we hear that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). Do you sometimes feel like that is the world we are living in today? We sometimes cry out to God when we are desperate, but for the most part we want to do what we want to do how we want to do it. We turn away from God and then wonder why we are stuck in a famine of sorts. We leave the space God created for us and head to foreign territory to be filled with whatever we think is missing in our lives.
We are told that Elmelek and his wife Naomi made this foreign land home for over ten years. Though foreign, it probably became somewhat comfortable in a way. Their sons even got married to Moabite women. However, during this time Naomi’s husband and both of her sons died. How devastating to be in a foreign land during a time of deep sorrow and loss. In her culture, Naomi had nothing. No heirs to carry on the family, no one to take care of her, no extended family to comfort her.
This is where our story opens. Loss. Devastation. Isolation in a foreign land. Things aren’t looking good for Naomi.
Do you feel like everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes these days, rather than following God?
Do you ever feel like you are alone in a foreign land…like nothing is going your way…like one bad thing after another is happening in your life?
Take heart. This story will show us how God’s powerful hand is at work in all things if we follow His lead. Redemption is often born out of suffering.