Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 15 2019 - Ruth 1 – Naomi and Ruth

The Book of Ruth is set in the time of the Judges, a chaotic and anarchic period in Israel's history. It was a time when Israel's frequent disobedience resulted in the withdrawal of God's blessing. Maybe it was at such a time, when Bethlehem (the 'house of bread') was facing famine, that Elimelek ('My God is king'), decided to take his wife, Naomi, and his two sons to live in Moab. In that foreign land the two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, married Moabite women and there, after a number of years, Elimelek and his two sons died. All of this is told without any moral judgments.

Meanwhile, the Lord had begun to bless his people in Bethlehem – had there been a turning back to the Lord in worship and in prayer? When Naomi heard the news, she decided to go back to her home town and her two daughters-in-law decided to go with her.

On the road, Naomi seeks to persuade her daughters-in-law to return to their own land and find new husbands for themselves. Naomi feels that the Lord has brought trouble and misfortune upon her. Later she refuses to be called Naomi ('pleasant') but wants to be called Mara ('bitter' – see Ruth 1:20). Why should her daughters-in-law continue to share her misfortune?

Orpah sees the sense in what Naomi has to say and so she kisses her mother-in-law and turns back for Moab. Ruth however responds by saying, "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (1:16).

Ruth's words are a wonderful expression of love and loyalty. Whatever Naomi may face in the days ahead, Ruth will face it with her. But perhaps there is more going on here. Naomi may feel that the Lord has brought misfortune upon her, but in all of her troubles she has not ceased to have faith in God; the God of Israel is still her God. Her plan to return to Bethlehem is testimony to her continued faith in the Lord and in his promises. Ruth has witnessed Naomi's unshakable trust in her God and wants this God to be her God also.

I am sure that all of us have had to face times of trouble in our lives, including, perhaps, the loss of people whom we love and to whom we have looked for direction and support. How do we respond to such times of trouble? How do we act when we are hurting? What do others learn from our lives, our words and our behaviour at such times? Have others around us at such times ever said, "I want your God to be my God also"?

This will only happen if we know that our God is a faithful God; he never abandons us. And if we remember that Jesus who died for us is ascended to God's right hand in heaven and is always ready to help us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

We need to develop a spirit of dependency upon God and confidence in his sufficiency to meet our needs in any and every circumstance we may face. We need to trust him and hope in him.

Father God, things do not always turn out the way I would like. Help me, like Naomi, to trust you in the difficult times as well as in the good times. Help me, like Ruth, never to turn back from following you. May my life and witness be used of you to draw others into your kingdom and to know your unfailing goodness.

Peter Misselbrook