Read Ruth 1 -- 4
Bethlehem, the land of Promise was experiencing a severe famine in the days when the judges ruled (Ruth 1:1). All Israel knew the Lord's warning: If . . . you will not do all My commandments . . . you shall sow your seed in vain. . . . your land shall not yield her increase (Leviticus 26:15-16,19-20). But, there is no evidence that the people in Bethlehem repented of their sins.
Elimelech, a Hebrew, his wife Naomi, and their sons Mahlon, and Chilion lived near Bethlehem. Perhaps, while standing in their own unproductive fields in the Judean hills, they looked down on Moab, where it was reported that all was prosperous. The Moabites had been cursed by God for failing to help the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt and for hiring Balaam to curse God's people (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). However, because Elimelech was more concerned about finding physical food and earthly securities, he, with his family, decided to abandon their God-given inheritance in Bethlehem, meaning "House of Bread," and went to sojourn in the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1-2).
However, several tragedies struck during their ten-year (the number for testing) stay in this idol-worshiping country of Moab (1:3-5). They had searched for food, but ended in graves. Elimelech whose name means "My God is King" died, then his sons ignored their covenant relationship with God and married Ruth and Orpah, who were Moabite women. Sometime later, Mahlon, whose name means "joy," and Chilion, meaning "perfection," also died. My God is King, His pleasantness, joy, and perfection could not exist in the heathen, idol-worshiping land of Moab. The three childless widows were left without an heir to the family name and no means of support.
Naomi, whose name means "pleasant," had become very discouraged. Then . . . she . . . heard . . . that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread. Wherefore she. . . and her two daughters in law with her . . . went on the way to return to the land of Judah (1:6-7).
Both Orpah and Ruth (symbolizing the unbelieving Gentile world) began their journey with Naomi up to Bethlehem. Soon Orpah returned to her earthly securities, to her people, and to her (pagan) gods (both Baal-Peor and Chemosh) (1:15). But Ruth expressed her faith in the One True God of Israel by leaving her family and friends, and saying to Naomi: Where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God (1:16).
When Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, she said: Call me Mara (meaning "Bitterness") (1:20); she confessed: I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty (1:21).
In the providence of God, Ruth began working during the barley harvest in the fields owned by Boaz, a wealthy Israelite. As the weeks went by, she stood out as an industrious Gentile woman, who lovingly provided for Naomi, her elderly Israelite mother-in-law (2:11,18). Everyone also learned that Ruth's deceased husband had been a kinsman to Boaz (2:6).
During the harvest time, following the counsel of Naomi, Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz as he slept near the threshing floor. She requested that he spread his skirt (protective covering) over her. Boaz fully understood this to be a marriage proposal by the widowed Ruth (see Ezekiel 16:8-14).
The Law provided for Boaz, as a kinsman-redeemer, to reclaim the dead Elimelech's inheritance, to marry Naomi, and to raise a child to continue the lineage of Elimelech. But Naomi was too old, and she intended for Ruth to take her place as the widow of Elimelech's heir. An unnamed nearer kinsman (symbolic of the Law) had the first legal right to redeem Elimelech's lost inheritance. He refused, saying that to marry Ruth, a Moabite, would mar his own inheritance (Ruth 4:6). The Law excluded Moabites from living in the communities of the Israelites. It clearly said: A . . . Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3). The Law cannot forgive, it can only expose our sins and condemn us.
Boaz, a type of Christ, then assumed the right of redemption, possibly because he felt compassion for these two helpless women. He purchased the property inheritance for Naomi and took Ruth as his wife. After making the necessary arrangements, Boaz said to the elders . . . I have bought all that was Elimelech's. . . . Ruth . . . I have purchased to be my wife, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren (Ruth 4:9-10; Levitics 25:25-34,47; Deuteronomy 23:3-4; 25:5-10).
Ruth was no longer a Moabite in her heart, for she had forsaken the gods of Moab and confessed her loyalty to the God of Israel. How we praise the Lord that this Moabite, a Gentile who was shut out by the Law, was admitted by grace and the love of God.
Ruth became the mother of a son and Naomi became nurse to the child. They called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, (who was) the father of David (Ruth 4:17) -- all of whom were the ancestors of Jesus Christ. The Book of Ruth highlights our Lord's loving-kindness in selecting a Moabite woman to become the great-grandmother of David. Ruth is one of four gentile women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:3,5-6,16). These historical facts illustrate the love of God for all mankind.
He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart . . . and not in the letter (Romans 2:28-29).
Christ Revealed: Through Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1), which means House of Bread. Jesus, the Bread of Life, satisfies the spiritual hunger of all who come to Him (John 6:32-35).
Word Studies: 1:20 Mara means bitter; 2:3 her hap was to light means she happened to come; 2:8 fast by means close by; 4:1 the gate means the meeting place to transact business; 4:5 thou must buy it also of Ruth means in order to redeem the property, you must take Ruth as your wife.
Government Officials: Rep. Barney Frank (MA), Rep. Greg Ganske (IA), Vice President Al Gore, Gov. Angus King, Jr. (ME), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) · Pray for Aud Raanas Tzimanis, Norwegian translator · Pray for the Bible Pathway International Radio broadcast sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. John A. Hash · Country: Cambodia (12 million) in Southeast Asia · Major languages: Khmer and French · Confused and unsettled at this time · 88% Buddhist; 3% animism and spirit worship; 2% Muslim; .6% Roman Catholic/Protestant · Prayer Suggestion: Lift up your prayers with a spirit of thankfulness and praise to the Lord (Psalms 79:13).
Optional Reading: Acts 1
Memory Verse for the Week: Colossians 2:11