1 In the days when the judges ruled,[a] 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. 2 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. 3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 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. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. 8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” 14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
The tragic story starts first with unfortunate circumstances. Bad news is followed by the toughest break. Already exiled by drought this small family then loses all its men. Father gone, husbands gone. The women are alone. Perhaps returning together to their first home (now that it has enough food) they might find a new start? Better yet, the young widows still might have a chance to begin again – to get their lives back – if they were to go alone back to their birth mother’s.
Out of this tragedy, perhaps, circumstances might turn out for the better, if only the 3 women would part ways. Orpah and Ruth might return to their god’s and Naomi, by implication, would be abandoned to the will of her God. Ruth, against all common sense, does not leave Naomi. Some kind of bond has grown between Naomi and Ruth, a bond of friendship on which this whole story will rest. The legendary activity of God is about to unfold in the footsteps of these two women and in their unique friendship. Ruth’s loving devotion to Naomi changes everything.
Jesus, show me today some of the significance of the loving encouragement and support that I can direct to my friends. When times of trouble come, I pray that I might be to them a source of your grace, love and safety. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart