Ruth 1: When God’s Providence Seems Very Bitter

In Ruth 1 we read of events that took place 3,000+ years ago during the time of the judges of Israel–a 400-year period (1400 BC-1000 BC) after Israel entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and before there were any kings in Israel. It was a dark time in Israel’s history (Judg 21:25) wherein a terrible cycle was repeated again and again (Judg 2:16-20). From all outward appearances, God’s plan for Israel was failing. But what the book of Ruth provides is a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work of God, even in the worst of times.

The book revolves around three main characters:

  1. Naomi – an Israelite from Bethlehem who loses her husband and two sons.
  2. Ruth – a young Moabite woman who was married to one of Naomi’s sons.
  3. Boaz – a relative of Naomi, but also a descendant of Rahab, the converted prostitute who lived more than 300 years before when Israel first came into the Promised Land (Matt 1:5).

At least one thing is clear from Ruth 1. Something remarkable was going on, even when times and circumstances seemed very bitter.

Trying times in the life of Naomi (Ruth 1:1-15)

Naomi’s life seemed to be falling apart. A famine in the land of Israel had driven her family into Moab, a pagan country with foreign gods. While in Moab, her husband passed away. Her two sons marry Moabite women. Eventually, both sons pass away. This leads Naomi to say to her two daughters-in-law, “It is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me” (1:13). She tells the people of her hometown, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (1:20).

The extraordinary promises of Ruth (Ruth 1:16-22)

Though she was still young (2:5; 4:12), Ruth leaves her own family and land to stay with Naomi, in spite of an apparent future of widowhood and childlessness (1:16-18). The chapter ends with Naomi full of sorrow (1:19-21), but with hope on the horizon (1:22).

Vital concluding takeaway:

  • Embittered eyes can easily become blind (Gen 50:20; Ruth 1:22; 4:13-17; Matt 1:1).
  • God has not promised that believers are immune to affliction (Psa 34:19; Acts 14:22; 1 Pet 4:19).
  • People with Micah 6:8-type-hearts can be used by God in profound and beautiful ways.

This sermon was delivered on January 19, 2014.

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