Sometimes life falls apart. Most of us will experience it at some point. Even worse, life can fall apart because of our own lack of wisdom and sin. Of course that’s not always the case, but sometimes it is.
I think that’s situation we’re presented with at the start of Ruth which we’ve started looking at in our Sunday meetings. There’s really a lot going wrong here (and the story of the book is in many ways the story of the resolution of the mess of these five verses!).
- The times were bad: A quick glance at the book of judges tells us that “the days of the judges” (Ruth 1:1) were a bad time for Israel because of their unfaithfulness. That is emphasized by the fact that there was a famine in Bethlehem (ironically the name means “house of bread”) (Ruth 1:1). This is a sign of God’s judgement (see Leviticus 26:18-20 and Deuteronomy 28:23-24).
- The actions are bad: The irony is that Elimelech’s name seems to mean “my God is king,” but this man’s lack of faith in God as king leads his family into disaster. Elimelech and his family shouldn’t have left the promised land, shouldn’t have gone to Israel’s enemies Moab (Ruth 1:1-2) and the boys shouldn’t have married Moabite wives (Ruth 1:4) .
- The results are bad: The result of the drifting faithlessness of this family is a litany of disasters. All the men die and even though the boys are married for 10 years, it seems like they have no children (Ruth 1:3-5). The last phrase of Ruth 1:5 seems to describe Naomi as stripped of everything – even her name!
We’re going to see that the rest of the book shows us the Lord’s incredible kindness to Naomi. A kindness that if we trust in Jesus we recognize all the more – we were all lost and wandering sheep sought out by our shepherd (Luke 15:4).
It’s important to be reminded that our lostness was due to us walking away from the Lord, just as Elimelech did with his family. We may or may not have a Naomi-like experience of losing everything in this world because of wandering and sin. The truth is that every person without Jesus is a spiritual Naomi – far from God and desperately needing his kindness to bring them home.