First Posted: 3/19/2010
The Book of Ruth begins with a famine and a family.
The land of Canaan was in the grip of a famine. Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left their home in Bethlehem-judah to sojourn in the country of Moab.
Their intent was not to make their home permanently in Moab, but to live there only until the famine came to an end.
Elimelech died after the family arrived in Moab, and then we find that Mahlon and Chilion married Orpah and Ruth, Moabite women.
Naomi must have depended to a great degree on her sons and daughters-in-law following Elimelechs death, but then we are told that after about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion died.
Naomi heard the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. With the famine gone, she believed it was time to return home. Her family had been through difficult times in Moab, and Naomi probably felt some relief at the prospects of returning to her people.
It appears Naomi, Orpah and Ruth all packed up and moved from the place in which they lived. Perhaps the thought was that Orpah and Ruth would accompany Naomi through part of Moab, and it is believed that according to their custom that they probably walked with Naomi as far as Moabs border with Judah.
Reaching the border, Naomi turned to Orpah and Ruth and said, return each to her mothers house. They had been kind to Naomi and to her sons, and she prayed that God would be as compassionate to them as they had been to her and her family.
Naomi kissed her daughters-in-law and they wept at their parting. Orpah and Ruth wanted to go with Naomi, but she insisted they return to their families.
Finally, Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye, but Scripture tells us, Ruth clave unto her. Orpah went back to her family and her gods, but Ruth would not leave Naomi.
Ruth would go with Naomi to live in Judah, adopt Naomis people as her people and, most importantly, Naomis God would be Ruths God. Only death would part them, Ruth said.
There are all kinds of ways to look at this Scripture. Elimelech is sometimes seen as weak and unfaithful in fleeing to Moab. Why do we not read that people left in droves to flee the famine? The sons deaths are also seen as Gods punishment for marrying heathen women.
The most important point is that Ruth left behind her old life and gods to seek the one true and living God and a new life in Naomis homeland.
Ruths commitment is a great example for all of us to follow.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church, Lumberton, N.C. [email protected]