The little book of Ruth has been called “the greatest piece of literature ever written.” Another writer called the story of Ruth “the Cinderella of the Bible.” It is the story of how a pagan girl named Ruth came to be part of the covenant people of Israel.
In the 100 verses that make up the book of Ruth, we see this young woman as she is redeemed by love, and brought out of her wretched condition.
This is a story of redemption, of love, of grace and of hope. It is a story we need to become familiar with on a very intimate level.
Over the next several posts, as the Lord leads, I will be sharing verse by verse through this book and talk about God’s Redeeming Love.
Let’s take a look at Ruth 1:1-7
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
6 Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.
7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
In these first seven verses of Ruth we are introduced to the family of a man named Elimelech who lived during the days of the judges, v. 1. Who was Elimelech? His named meant “God his king.” He was a man of the tribe of Judah, of the family of the Hezronites, and kinsman of Boaz, who dwelt in Bethlehem in the days of the judges. In consequence of a great dearth he, with his wife Naomi and his two sons, went to dwell in the land of Moab. There he and his sons died (Ruth 1:2, 3; 2:1, 3; 4:3, 9). Naomi afterwards returned to Palestine with her daughter Ruth.
It is the sad tale of a man who chooses to walk out on the Lord and on God’s plan for his life. Because of his decision, he and his family pay a terrible high price.
We are told that Elimelech takes his family to a place called Moab. He decided to leave the Promised Land.
What was the Promised Land?
In regards to the land that God has promised Israel, Genesis 15:18 declares to Abraham, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.” God later confirms this promise to Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel). When the Israelites were about to invade the Promised Land, God reiterated the land promise, as recorded in Joshua 1:4, “Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west.”
According to Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4, the land God gave to Israel included everything from the Nile River in Egypt to Lebanon (south to north) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (west to east).
Moab on the other hand was located just across the Jordan River, east of the Promised Land. It was inhabited by people who worshiped pagan gods.
The Moabites were the descendants of a man named Moab who was the son of an incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters, Gen. 19:30-38. They were a proud people noted for their lawlessness, immorality and brutal violence, Lev. 18:24-25; Deut. 9:4-5; Isa. 16:6; Psa. 60:8. They attacked and opposed Israel, seeking to destroy the people of God, during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, Num. 23-25; Deut. 23:3-6. This was a people opposed to God and His ways.
In Psalm 60:8, God says this, “Moab is my washpot…“
This phrase means that they were a despised thing, compared to a vessel containing water to be used by servants to wash the feet of a conquering hero. Yet, they were a people who could have been saved had they repented of their sins as Ruth did.
It is to this despised and wicked nation that Elimelech moves his family. Here we see a picture of that person who willingly turns his back on the things of God and pays an awful price. If this section of scripture teaches us anything, it teaches us that living in a backslidden condition carries with it devastating consequences, but repentance and restoration are always a possibility.
With this information in mind, where do you stand today?