A Study of Ruth
By Adam Bartlett
1: 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 sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2: And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3: And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4: And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
5: And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
6: Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
7: Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
The story of Ruth is believed to have taken place during the time of Gideon. Elimelech and Ruth were from Bethlehem which means "house of bread." It was in the land of Judah which means "praise."
The setting is thus: in the land of praise and the town of bread there was a famine of both. A famine in the land that was flowing with milk and honey. This was one of the judgments which God had threatened to bring upon them for their sins, Lev. 26:19-21.
In our lives there are times when we are living in plenty in the spiritual realm with plenty of praise and being fed plenty of heavenly manna. It is when the famine hits that God is interested in what we do and how we respond. They could have went to the northern tribes and stayed among their own people but instead they chose to go to the land of Moab.
Moab was the incestuous son of Lot conceived by his oldest daughter that got him drunk after they escaped from Sodom and Gomorrah. We also did not see Elimelech seek God as to what he should do. Many times, and I must admit too many, we do not even think to consult God in our lives to find out what He wants. We try to fix our problems ourselves and then when that fails and we cannot think of anything else, then we go to God. How much easier would the difficult times in our lives be resolved if we first consulted with God!
When famine hits in our lives we have choices to make and God wants to see how our faith has been nurtured. Will we trust in Him to see us through the valley or will we turn and run to the first place that looks inviting?
Elimelech died and then Naomi's sons marry wives from Moab, Orpah (which means "back") and Ruth (which means "friend") and then the sons die also. Could it be that because they were not supposed to take wives of a strange land that their lives were shortened? Sometimes we wonder about the choices we make and don't understand how we must reap the consequences of our disobedience.
Naomi hears that the Lord has looked upon the land of Judah again and decides she must return to the land of praise. Just as the Prodigal Son and here with Naomi, once we realize our situation we can always return to the Lord. He will be waiting with open arms to accept us back but He will never force us to come back. He wants us to examine our own hearts and see our condition and exercise repentance and return to Him.
8: And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
9: The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
10: And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
11: And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12: Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
13: Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
14: And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15: And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
Naomi attempts to get the daughters in law to return to their husband's family telling them that she is beyond having other children so she could not produce for them another husband.
According to Deut. 25:5 if a woman's husband died and she was left without children, her husband's brother was required to marry her so that there could be an heir to carry on the name of the man who had died.
Naomi was apparently thinking more of what God would want than Elimelech did during the famine. Naomi is in a similar situation as Job was in that she never loses her faith in God even though she does not understand the tragedy. Our faith must remain strong in times of distress and tragedy because we are being watched by those on the outside measuring our spirituality in these circumstances. You may not see them nor know that they are watching you but rest assured if you are claiming the name of Christ, then you are being watched daily. Your witness is very important and especially so in hard times.
You will have an impact on those around you but don't get discouraged if you do not win them all. Ruth seen something in Naomi that she knew was real and she wanted to know more about it. She sensed a sincerity and genuine faith and wanted to stay close to it and eventually find it for herself. Orpah, on the other hand was still too connected to her previous life and the other 'gods' to give it up.
Ruth was proof that Naomi's faith was impacting and Orpah was proof that even with genuine faith the enticements of the world and enemy will sometimes blind souls to the truth.
16: And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
18: When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
19: So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
20: And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21: I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
22: So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
Ruth expresses her devotion to Naomi but more than that she seen that it was the God of Naomi that was her real strength. She not only vows allegiance to Naomi and her people but most importantly to her God.
What a witness to have on a person that through your life of faith they are willing to forsake all to follow you and your faith. It reminds me of Jesus and how His presence caused men to leave their families, jobs, friends, everything and just pick up and follow Him. It is understandable in Jesus' case but for us as mere weak people to have that type of influence because of our displayed faith is rare. I could think of no higher accolade or encouragement to your faith than for someone to proclaim this type of allegiance because of the impact you have had on them.
It is understandable for Naomi to feel that the Lord was against her but as with Job, she did not abandon her faith. Sometimes we cannot see beyond our circumstances and we do not know why God allows certain things to happen. We must never allow our circumstances, however bad they may be to overshadow our faith and cause us to waiver in our trust in God.
Naomi makes a statement that would be well fitted for us to remember in our spiritual walk. "I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty"
Many times we get so caught up in what we have that we fail to see the reality that we are really empty. Remember the indictment Jesus brought against the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:
17: Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Material wealth does not mean that we are in favor with God. There is nothing wrong with material things as we know that Abraham, Job and others were wealthy. It is when those things become an obstacle to your spiritual vision. When we measure our success based on material things instead of spiritual blessings then we are getting our priorities mixed up. It is not money that is evil but the "LOVE" for that money that becomes a trap for our spiritual wellbeing.
Paul understood the hardships of fighting this flesh and devoted a whole chapter to it in Romans 7 and John the Baptist knew that it was important to get it into perspective with his statement in John 3:30.
We must crucify our flesh daily and allow Christ to live through us and if it were easy it would not be called "crucifying the flesh." Spiritually we must constantly through prayer ask the Lord to supply us with the measure of the Spirit we need to overcome the fleshly desires daily.
May we ask daily to be filled with the Spirit and for our hearts and minds to be fixed on what the Lord wants to do through us each day.
Ruth Chapter 2