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We begin in verses 1 and 2 with Elimelech moving his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to Moab from Bethlehem to avoid a famine.
- But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.
- These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years,
- And both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Then, in verses 6 and 7, Naomi heads back to Bethlehem with her two daughters-in-law, but after they start out Naomi has a change of heart.
- But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
- The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
In verses 10 through 15, the girls resist leaving Naomi, but she pleads with them to go. So, Orpah turns back, but Ruth clings to Naomi like glue.
- But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
- Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
- And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
We see in verse 19 they journey on and when they arrive in Bethlehem the whole town is in an uproar over them. Naomi says:
- She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
- I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
- So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
In these passages, what seasons do you see in Ruth’s life?
How does Ruth embrace these seasons?
What role do you think Naomi’s walk of faith played in Ruth’s conversion and ability to trust in LORD?
What was the difference between Orpah and Ruth? What allowed Ruth to see beyond her disappointments and setbacks to the God she had come to love through Naomi’s testimony?
In these verses we are taken through three seasons: marriage, childlessness, and
In verse 4, Ruth marries into this Israelite family. She left her Moabite heritage and embraced the Israelites and their God. Naomi says that Ruth was kind to her husband in verse 8. The name Mahlon, Ruth’s husband according to Ruth 4:10, is mostly believed by scholars to mean “sickly or unhealthy.” He may have been so when she married him. We can speculate that in kindness she took care of him until he died. His sickliness may have been the cause of her barrenness.
Ruth may have thought her first marriage to a Hebrew was the start of the best of times; it turned out to be the worst of times. Could Ruth have left and gone back to her Moabite family? We don’t know, but what we do know is that she remained faithful to Mahlon and the God of Israel. Ruth embraced widowhood with that same faith and commitment; she displayed love and loyalty to Naomi and Naomi’s God.
Naomi must have taken Ruth under her wing and discipled her, teaching her about the God of Israel. That would account for Ruth’s fierce loyalty to Naomi and her willingness to leave her country and pagan gods and follow Naomi and the one true God of Israel. In this brief narrative notice the things Naomi says about the LORD.
Verse 8: Naomi believes it is God who provides.
Verse 9: She believes God will bring families together.
Verse 13: Naomi believed as Isaiah did.
Isaiah 45:7: I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
For Naomi said: Verse 13: “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Verse 20: The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
Verse 21: I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty … The LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me.
Naomi has said the LORD is against me, dealt very bitterly with me, emptied me of everyone I loved, He has testified against me and brought calamity upon me. Notice what Naomi doesn’t do. She doesn’t complain about the LORD doing this. She doesn’t try to blame others. She doesn’t deny what is happening. She never tries to defend herself. She acknowledges Him as sovereign within His rights to do as He pleases. She also doesn’t run from Him, but is making her way back to Judah and the LORD. She journeys within the Providence of God, knowing He is in control of all things.
What made Ruth travel on and Orpah turn back?
Ruth was a true believer and Orpah wasn’t. Orpah means “back of the neck”. She turned her back on the LORD and Naomi. Ruth followed both. In her response to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” she is declaring her allegiance not only to Naomi and Israel, but to the LORD. Notice especially verse 17:
“Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth is committing herself for life to Naomi, her people, and the LORD. She swears an oath that invites death if she violates it. She has totally put her life in the hands of the God of Israel.
Ruth embraced these seasons in her life by love and loyalty to family and God.
She was not half way in, but she was fully committed. Ten years of a childless marriage, the death of her spouse, and the journey to a foreign land with a destitute mother-in-law display not only her loyalty and commitment, but her faith in the sovereign God that Naomi shared with her.
God was providentially working all things for Ruth’s good and the good of His people, which we will see more clearly in the last chapter.
What are some ways you can embrace the challenging seasons of your life?
During the non-challenging seasons, how can you prepare for the changes you know will come?
Naomi would have taught Ruth the LORD’s commandments, especially Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:34, which her descendant, in the flesh, Jesus, quoted when asked what the most important commandment was.
Jesus said the two most important commands were:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Ruth’s words and actions reflected the embracing of these two commandments which gave her strength to not only embrace the good seasons of life, but the sorrowful ones as well.
We see in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives Titus 2:3-8 being played out: older women training younger women. Ruth had a mentor, role model, a confidant, and someone to hold her accountable.
Whose life are you pouring into? Who are you learning from?
Find an older woman to learn from, and a younger woman to teach. Disciples make disciples
And have fun doing it.
This Christian walk isn’t meant to be a single path.
You are loved.
Chapter 2 out soon.