First of all, this is not just a Bible study, though I am leading with the first chapter of Ruth for you to read. My target is to have you see, with me, that while our lives are seemingly messy, convoluted, frustrating, disappointing, horrific even, God is the Master Story Teller and Weaver of unimaginable beauty out of the dark and ugly things of our lives. The story of Ruth took place on one of the darkest, ugliest periods of Jewish history not long after the Jews settled in the Promised land.
New International Version (NIV)
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.
[Problem: famine in the land]
So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.
[Answer to problem: take family to live for awhile in Moab]
2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.
[Problem: Naomi left to raise sons alone]
4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years,
[Problem: No nice Jewish girls around to marry her sons
Answer: marry sons to nice girls from Moab]
5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband
[Problem: both sons die]
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
[Answer: Naomi heard God had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them. Time to return to Jerusalem]
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
[Problem: Naomi’s daughters in law were still young and marriageable and the way things were going, with Naomi’s luck, she couldn’t guarantee sticking with her would turn out well for them]
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
[Answer: Naomi thought: Let’s part ways. Its obvious I have a target on my back because the Lord’s hand has turned against me. You’re better off without me.]
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye,but Ruth clung to her.
[Problem: Naomi had no one. Ruth had only Naomi.
Answer: Ruth would stick to Naomi whatever that meant: leaving her country, giving up her gods, not knowing how they would support themselves or whether she, a foreigner, would be welcome. ]
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May theLord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirredbecause of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi (Naomi means pleasant),” she told them. “Call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? TheLord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
[Problem: Naomi concluded God was to blame for her misfortune. She went away full but has returned empty
Answer: Naomi is bitter. “God can’t be trusted. Call me bitter.”]
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
And here I stop for now. There is so much more and the story is beyond belief great not just for Naomi and Ruth but for you and me too. But I leave you with one thing to keep in mind and this is hugely important for the rest of the story: Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.