Devotional: May 1, 2020
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.
Ruth 1: 1-5 The Message
Many of us are familiar with the story of Ruth. It is probably one of the most beloved in the entire Old Testament, as it is a story of loyalty, love, perseverance, and God’s providence. One of the better-known parts of the story occurs when Ruth pledges her loyalty to Naomi, her mother-in-law. Her words are, “Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God”. These words are often read at weddings, for obvious reasons.
This story is also a remarkable example of God’s providence. Ruth will eventually remarry and she will bear a child who will become one of the ancestors of King David, and eventually, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For all of the good which eventually comes out of the story of Ruth, we must remember that it does not start well. There was a famine in the land of Judah, and so a family of four moves to Moab. While there, the husband in the family dies. The sons marry Moabite wives, but then both of the sons die. By the time you are five verses into the story, three deaths have occurred. The three women are alone after all the men have died.
Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law to go back to their original families. Naomi's grief is so deep that she wants to change her name to Marah, which means “bitterness.”
Orpha returns to her family, but this is where Ruth says those amazing words. She pledges her loyalty to Naomi, which helps Naomi begin to lift herself from the bitterness she is feeling.
Throughout our lives, we may experience times of great sorrow and devastation. This pandemic we are currently going through is beyond our human control. It is like a famine, or a flood, or a vicious storm: all events over which we are powerless. Sadly, with such devastation comes death. We are watching some deaths unfold from this pandemic, all around our world.
God is never the author of evil. He did not cause the current pandemic our world is going through. Yet He is with us, just as he was with Naomi and Ruth. Their story reminds us that God can work through difficult circumstances, and even truly devastating ones.
By the end of the book of Ruth, Naomi no longer desires to be called Marah. Her bitterness is gone. With her newfound joy, she observes God’s plan unfold. Naomi and Ruth have both listened to the Lord’s directions. Through their faithfulness, they have been rewarded by God with a new family, and with future generations who will lead ultimately to the birth of Christ.
When we are discouraged, we need to remember that our story is not over. God is still working for redemption, and renewal, and restoration. Our God is a God of hope, even for those all who feel hopeless from time to time. That is very good news!
Lord, help us to remember that You are the God of hope. When we feel discouraged, having almost no control over our lives, help us to turn to You. We lay all our frustrations at Your feet. Give us the strength to get through situations in our lives which could cause us to become bitter. Instead, may we may find joy in You! Thank you, Lord, that You walk with us, through every step of our lives, both all our ups and downs. With gratitude for Your faithfulness, we pray this pray this prayer in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen