“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Ruth is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. This is for several reasons which unfold over the course of its telling. It takes place during the same time period as Judges. And, in the beginning, it figures to be about as dark as its companion narrative.
Look just at what has happened in the first six verses of the story. An Israelite man who name means “the Lord is my king,” leaves his homeland to go to Moab during a famine. He doesn’t trust the Lord will provide food for his family during a famine, but instead leaves to sojourn in the land of one of Israel’s bitterest enemies during this time period. The Moabites were the ones who oppressed the Israelites from whose hand they were delivered by Gideon.
So, this man decides living under the control of an enemy is better than dying at home, moves his family, and then dies, leaving his wife, Naomi, and two boys. Rather than returning home now, though, they basically settle in and become part of their community. Both boys marry Moabite women, adding the kind of intermarriage God had specifically told the people not to do to the list of problems.
Then, to make matters even worse, both sons soon die leaving the women totally alone, Naomi in a foreign land, and together in a culture with no social safety net for this kind of situation.
Out of the gate, then, it looks like this is going to be a full-fledged tragedy. Perhaps all of this is the judgment of God for their unfaithfulness. Naomi certainly seems to think so. And can you blame her?
Yet tragedy will not be the name of the game here. In what follows, and what we shall see as we move through this marvelous little book, is that even in the deepest dark and broken places in life, our God is still present and working like a flower in the desert. He never abandons us to our sins, but is always working to lay the groundwork for our redemption. Stay tuned and read carefully so you don’t miss a bit of the wonder here. Because, if He did it then, He can still do it in your life.