SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- The book of Ruth is a story of sacrifice rather than self-centered interests. It's also a story of God's grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ruth's story occurred during the time of the judges - a period of disobedience, idolatry, and violence. But even in times of darkness, there are those who follow God.
- This chapter follows the life of a man (Elimelek), his wife (Naomi), and their two sons (Mahlon and Kilion). They are a Jewish family living in Bethlehem during a time of famine.
- Elimelek and his family leave Bethlehem and travel to a city called Moab. Moab was one of the nations that had oppressed Israel during the period of the judges.
- After ten years in Moab, Elimelek and his two sons have died, neither son having any children. Naomi receives word that the famine has ended in her homeland and decides to return to Bethlehem.
- Naomi gives her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, her blessing to remain in Moab with their families. Naomi realizes that this is their best chance to re-marry and have children.
- Orpah stays in Moab but Ruth insists on returning to Bethlehem with Naomi. Ruth made this decision knowing that it would be highly unlikely that any Jewish man would marry her, a Gentile.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- When you act selflessly, others are encouraged to follow your example. Naomi demonstrated a selfless attitude by encouraging Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab and start their lives over even though that would mean hardship for her. In response, Ruth looked beyond her own needs and desires to meet the needs of her mother-in-law, showing respect both for Naomi and for her God. Ruth gave up everything that was familiar to her - her family, her religion, and even her best chance to re-marry and have children of her own - to take care of Naomi.
- God accepts all who worship Him. Ruth was a Moabitess, but that didn't stop her from worshiping the true God, nor did it stop God from accepting her worship and blessing her greatly. The Jews weren't the only people God loved. God chose the Jews to be the people through whom the rest of the world would come to know Him. God accepts all who worship him regardless of their race or nationality.
- Naomi experienced severe hardships. She had left Israel married and secure. She returned widowed and poor. She changed her name (verse 20) to express the bitterness and pain she felt. While not rejecting God, it does seem she lost sight of the blessing she had in her relationship with Ruth and with God.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- How often do you make decisions in your life considering how they might affect others? Begin to be more in tune with how the decisions you make in your daily life (big and small) affect those around you.
- When you face difficult times, God welcomes your honest prayers. But be careful to not overlook the love and resources that God has provided for you in your present circumstances. Don't allow bitterness and disappointment to blind you to your opportunities.