The Old Testament is full of stories about God using great leaders like David and Moses. However, in the pages of Ruth, we read a story where God intervenes in the lives of two women. Throughout scripture, God used the lives of ordinary people to achieve His extraordinary purposes. Ruth is no different.
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. - Ruth 1:6-18
Elimelech’s disobedience displayed his lack of trust in God. When things suddenly went bad for him financially, rather than stay in the land God had given him (the place God had put him) and work through the tough times, he packed up his family and moved to avoid the difficult days he saw ahead. Moab became the family’s home, against God’s directions, and staying in Moab both disregarded and invited God’s discipline (Lev. 26 and Deut. 28). The famine was God’s judgment on Israel and Bethlehem (which ironically means house of bread). Elimelech showed both lack of faith and lack of wisdom as he led his family poorly. If things were bad in Bethlehem, they got even messier in Moab. Elimelech and his family would suffer severely. He died and later his two sons. God works even in times of sorrow, and He worked to move Ruth and Naomi.
With Ruth and Naomi, we are reminded that God is not concerned only with people of power or status. They were women who had neither power nor position: Both were widows, and one was a foreigner. Ruth had spent her whole life in Moab and, in faith, she left any semblance of that life. She would have to adapt to a new culture: Custom, religion, food, and lifestyle were all going to be new to her. There would be ethnic tensions and she would become not just Ruth, but “Ruth the Moabite.” Yet, even in the midst of unexpected change, God was silently moving. Circumstances were grim and they had little hope for the future, but God used these events in the lives of Ruth and Naomi to pave the way for the Savior of humanity. Out of despair came the ultimate hope.
Life, by its very nature, confronts us with daily problems. We can face them and work through them, ignore them and pretend they are not there, or we can run (like Elimelech) and try to avoid them. With this move to Bethlehem, Ruth was willing to be uncomfortable and to honor her commitment. In a time of trouble, Ruth found opportunity to trust the Lord.
It’s in our victories that we most often see God working. We see His blessings and gifts as evidence of His love. But in the midst of our hard days, are we looking for his hand? In times of trouble we need faith, wisdom, and the ability to see life through God’s perspective. We do that by trusting He is sovereign and acting according to his Word. When times are tough and days are difficult, instead of running from our problems we should run to our God. We have an opportunity to ask ourselves: “What does God’s Word say? What is God trying to teach me?” God works beyond the victories.
God’s promises are not dependent on our circumstances. Although we cannot always see what God is doing, we can trust that he is constantly at work for our good and His glory. We can trust that God works in the minor events in our lives weaving together His purposes. Believe his promises and trust His plan!
“There is no power in the universe that can stop God from fulfilling his totally good plans for you.” – John Piper
For further study: Read Ps 145:15-16, Deut 7, John 13:35
*Sources listed in last post of series.