Ruth 1: 1-5 (the message)
Once upon a time–it was back in the days when judges led Israel–there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion–all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.
The book of Ruth is a short one in the old testament; it’s only four chapters long and starts with the backdrop verses above. Elimelech took his family from the promised land and moved them to Moab because there was a famine in their homeland…the place God had carved out for the people of Israel. Instead of pressing on in the land God had given His people, instead of trusting God through the hard times and receiving His provision, Elimelech uprooted his family and moved them from the God-ordained place for their lives and into a land filled with people who worshiped pagan gods and did not worship the true God. In these five verses we see that eventually Naomi’s husband and sons die, leaving her with only her Moabite daughters-in-law.
As you read the verses above, stop and think of Naomi. Having left her homeland: her family, friends, places of worship and people who identified with and served her God, she was now alone. Her family dead. I can imagine that Naomi, in her grief, wondered how her family had gotten so off track. It’s reasonable to assume this was not the future Naomi had envisioned as she married and gave birth to sons. Perhaps she did not want to go to Moab in the first place but her lot in life seemed to carry her along a current she didn’t know how to stop.
Have you ever reached a place in your life where you wondered how your family got so off track? Has grief washed over you as you realized that somewhere along the way you or your family left the land of good and plenty in God and took up residence in a place that was bringing death? Maybe you didn’t start out that way…maybe like Elimelech and Naomi you started your family in the promise land…maybe you had your family planted in a local church and you were seeking to know God. Maybe you started out whispering the dreams and love of God into the ears of your infant children. Maybe you were walking and living in the inheritance and fellowship of Jesus as a believer…and then famine came. Were you wounded by those in your church? Were you wounded by friends whom you trusted? Did a tragedy bring loss that you just couldn’t seem to settle with God? Perhaps while living in the promised land you just never felt like you really belonged there and eventually you let yourself drift toward Moab, taking your family with you.
Can you let your heart see Naomi? In her grief, her desperation, coming to terms with her life…stuck in a place that did not offer the comfort of her God, did not even acknowledge her God. And knowing deep in her heart that her family had left the covering of God…had crossed borders geographically as well as spiritually when they left the presence of God behind in Bethlehem. Are you like Naomi as you read this? Does your heart rate pick up and stomach begin to twist and turn because you know that your family is not abiding and growing in Promised Land living? Do you sense down deep that somewhere along the way you chose to settle in Moab? Maybe you have lived in Moab long enough now that it even seems like home. Maybe you have grown comfortable in an environment that does not glorify the God of heaven and earth. Maybe your personal Moab glorifies the self…everything should feel good and be easy…isn’t that why we travel into Moab? It seems easier and maybe we can manage our plan better there. We don’t have to wait as long or trust God or press in through the hard times…we can just avoid the hard times in Moab, or so we think. Or maybe your Moab is an escape. You know that back home Heavnely Father is going to work on you and want to heal your wounds and you just don’t want to “go there.” And then one day we realize death has come. Our dreams for our family are not coming true. Things are not turning out like we once thought they would. But we keep toiling in Moab because we don’t see how to get back to Bethlehem. We fear if we go back to Bethlehem we may have to go alone.
If you feel like Naomi today, if you feel like you have walked this path, I encourage you to keep following. Check it out: Ruth 1: 6 (the message) One day she got herself together..to leave the country of Moab and set out for home…
Why don’t you go ahead and set out for home? I understand you might fear that kind of change and what would happen to your current relationships if you really went back to living in your inheritance, your promise land, but here is the first miracle of this short story…Ruth went with Naomi. This Moabite woman had been touched by Naomi’s faith and grief and God stirred Ruth’s heart to go back with Naomi to her homeland. See, God’s promise land purposes are not just for you. They are for people around you…they are for the Moabites, too. God has missed you and no amount of time you spend in Moab closes the gates of Bethlehem to you. Once you set your heart on God’s presence again, once you take that first big step in your journey back home, you will sense His love and you may be surprised to find who God sends with you.
The second great miracle of Naomi’s story is how God redeems her once she settles back into God’s place for her. Tomorrow I will, God-willing, share about the “family redeemer.” I can tell you now, with complete confidence, God wants to redeem your time in Moab…your family. But first, start packing your bags and come on home.