In the opening paragraphs of a story, the author reveals the setting, the main character, and the problem. The first verses of the book of Ruth begin with the setting: “in the days when the judges ruled.” This was a time of turmoil for the people of Israel. Over and over, they had repeated a cycle of sin, suffering, repentance, and restoration—then sin again. It was also a time when everyone did “as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a famine in the land.
We meet some main characters: a man from Bethlehem (Elimelek, which means “my God is King”), his wife Naomi (which means “beautiful, pleasant, good”), and their two sons. They are Ephrathites, and they go to Moab to find food. Because Moab was an enemy of Israel, this move was both dangerous and shameful.
This paragraph condenses ten years of Naomi’s life. She had suffered years of loss after loss. Her home, country, safety, and her husband—all that was dear and familiar. Naomi’s sons married Moabite women, even though marriages to the “people of the land” were strictly forbidden (Deut. 7:3). Both marriages were marked by infertility, so when the sons died, no one was left to carry on the family line.
Naomi was empty and alone. She had no one to care for her in her old age. She was in a desperate state. Because of the famine, the family left Bethlehem for Moab. In verse 6, Naomi decided to return from Moab to Bethlehem because she heard that the Lord had provided food there for His people. Watch as key themes of reversal, returning, and redemption begin to emerge.
>> Some of us have walked through seasons of grief where it seems we suffer loss after loss. Whether this loss is in the past or the present, you may deeply identify with Naomi. The author wants us to. Ask God to open your heart to His redemptive plan.
Loss can be shockingly painful. Pain can make us doubt Your goodness. Loving God, be present to us in our pain and attentive to our appeals. Sustain our faith, grant us relief, and let our suffering not be in vain.