Ruth – A Story of Grace 1

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrahites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Nsomi’s husband died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 

Ruth 1.1-5

Thus begins the story of the Book of Ruth, which after the upheavals and, towards the end, horrors, of what was happening to and within God’s people comes as a beautiful change of scene albeit with an opening that is overwhelmingly sad.

We are not told what caused the famine but we are pointed to its immediate effect on one family in the land of Israel. Elimelech’s response to the famine is to uproot his family and move to the country of Moab.

Although coming from the Abrahamic line, Lot, Abraham’s nephew was effectively the father of the Moabites but in spite of this they proved to be thorns in Israel’s side over the generations. We may thus puzzle over the question as to why Elimelech chose to decamp to their land when famine struck when others, apparently, did not.

That question, we cannot answer because the Bible record doesn’t. So whether the sadness that follows was down to the move to Moab or some other reason we do not know and it is a puzzle as we think of the whole issue of suffering which can be because of our own failures and mistakes but can also be in the hand of God for our good and his purposes.

Ten years is a long time and ten years with three deaths resulting in three widows and for Naomi away from home – the Land God had promised and given to his people – and family must have been devastating! And yet, as we shall see over the next few days, God’s sovereign hand was in this situation at every step bringing about his purposes for his people, then and now.

Writing these words today, I have no idea who will read them and therefore no idea what you the reader may be facing today.

All could be well with you but you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Elimelech and his family did not know a famine would drive him and his family from their home.

You may be like Naomi bereft, having been hit very hard by circumstances outside of your control. Bereavement, illness, loss of job, your life thrown into turmoil.

Your situation may not be as serious as that but you are still facing situations that loom frighteningly large.

You are perhaps feeling alone, wondering why life is so hard?

The trials that come our way not signs that God has deserted us but rather that he is refining us, equipping and preparing us for the ‘good works that he has prepared for us to do’ Ephesians 2.10.

So whatever your situation today, pause and look to the sovereign God, for this is what he says to his people:

..I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29.11

The Book of Ruth is a glorious illustration of this as we shall see over the next few days.

Begone, unbelief,
My Saviour is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
 I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
  Since He is my Guide,
’Tis mine to obey,
  ’Tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken,
  And creatures all fail,
The word He hath spoken
  Shall surely prevail  

His love, in time past,
  Forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last
  In trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer
  I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure
  To help me quite through

Why should I complain
  Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
  He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation,
  I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation
  Must follow their Lord.  

How bitter that cup
  No heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up,
  That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher
  And darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer,
  And shall I repine?  

Since all that I meet
  Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet,
  The medicine, food;
Though painful at present,
  ’Twill cease before long,
And then, oh, how pleasant
  The conqueror’s song!


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