In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. Ruth 1:1 NIV [see full devo text below]
The people of Israel were ruled by judges—rescuers sent by God—for about 340 years. The nation was in a time of moral and spiritual darkness brought on by idolatry, oppression, and slavery.
God would send these judges—leaders who would deliver the people from their oppressors—to restore freedom and stability. But this freedom only lasted for a season. On and on this cycle of slavery and freedom continued for more than 300 years.
Typically, other nations or tribal groups would subdue the people of Israel into servitude to plunder their crops and livestock. This was one way God dealt with Israel’s rebellion towards Him since it created economic hardship and oppression.
When a severe famine came, one family chose to escape the hardship by moving to a neighboring country—Moab (now part of present-day Jordan).
A father and mother—Elimelek and Naomi—set out from the region of Judah with their two sons—Mahlon and Kilion—to establish a home in this foreign land.
But things did not go well for them in Moab. Naomi’s husband died leaving her widowed with two sons. The sons married Moabite women but they both died as well.
Now, Naomi was stuck in a foreign land as a widow saddled with responsibility for her son’s widows. In those days, women had little to no status or resources for support on their own—especially a widow with two dependent women in a country far from her homeland.
And then, things began to change for the better. After ten years away, Naomi heard of the Lord’s plentiful provision in her homeland of Judah and decided to return home with her two daughters-in-law.
A problem with trust
At the beginning of the story of the Book of Ruth, we can see their move to Moab as a flawed and failed attempt to escape God’s judgment on Israel.
Why would Elimelek leave his homeland during the famine? He feared what might happen to his family if they stayed—hunger and possible death from starvation or worse.
But Israel’s real problem was one of trust.
They chose not to trust the Lord who had made them to be a people different from other nations. A people who trusted in a living God (Deut 7:6) rather than many gods.
As a nation, Israel chose not to trust the Lord and the Covenant Law between He and them. Instead, they looked to other gods. Lesser gods formed into images they could see and touch. The gods of a foreign people who didn’t know or trust in the Lord—the Living God, Yahweh.
This is our problem too.
We all struggle to trust in God who is invisible and spirit (John 4:24), even though He made Himself known in human form through His Son, Jesus.
It’s easier to trust in what we can see, feel, and relate to as individual humans. Our gods or idols—though we don’t see them as such—are in the form of people, possessions, wealth, status, and whatever else we might put confidence in and value.
But our trust in such things or in our own efforts to please God are futile. It’s a misplaced trust. This simple illustration and life application can be drawn from this introduction to the Book of Ruth.
The family set out to Moab to escape the famine and its consequences but the man and his two sons died. Their escape was short lived. And this left the man’s widow and extended family in a worse situation than when they left their homeland.
Naomi’s options were to stay where she was with little to no hope for the future or return to her homeland, her people, and her God. The home she left ten years before was where the promised provision was now.
In a sense, she went back to square one as we say now but without the husband and sons she went out with. Even in this we can see God’s mercy.
She went out from her home and her people to seek better provision for a better life instead of trusting in God. Although she and her husband made their choice, God remembered her and had a much greater plan to unfold in her life.
There’s far more to this story in the Book of Ruth, as we shall see later. But for now, ask yourself—
Who or what do you trust in?
If whatever or whoever you put trust in aren’t as reliable and trustworthy as the One True and Living God—why would you place your trust in it or them? Faith in God requires trust—a personal and childlike trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness.
When you find yourself trusting in other things or someone else, including yourself, remember there is One who is ever-faithful and trustworthy. Even when you can’t see how it will help—seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom and trust in His grace—His goodness.
devo Scripture Text
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.
The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. (Ruth 1:1-6 NIV)