The book of Ruth
I am sitting here in Ephrata Washington reading this tiny little book in the Bible , only 4 chapters long, about a person from Ephrata. Bethlehem Ephratha, the original, in the land of Judea, which is now in the nation of Israel.
It’s the story of a regular working class guy Elimalech, who tries to make good for his family when famine strikes, he leaves town and goes to another country. He heads East to neighboring Moab. He had a wife, Naomi and 2 sons, Mahlon and Kilion. I see it’s a little like Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies show from my childhood, “They loaded up the the ox cart and moved to Moab”…Doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Beverly Hillbillies theme song and the story line runs in the opposite direction, the TV Show was a bad to good story and the Bible story is bad to worse. Naomi’s sons both find wives among the Moabite women but then one-by-one her men folk die, leaving her and her daughters in law widows.
Naomi hears that things had gotten better back in Bethlehem so she packs up and begins the journey towards home. Her daughters in law begin the journey with her but Naomi encourages them to go back their families. One daughter in law, Orpah takes her advice and heads back to her family but her daughter in law Ruth says this about that: “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17 – NIV
Naomi and Ruth end up back in Bethlehem Ephratha as 2 poor widows with no visible means of support. Ruth begins to glean the leftovers of the barley harvest. The harvest crew she works with just happens to be that of a family member, a rich farmer named Boaz.
Boaz takes notice of Ruth, her hard work and dedication to her mother in law and begins to help her.
Boaz becomes Ruth’s kinsmen redeemer, marries her and has a baby with her.
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Ruth 4:13-22 – NIV
Because there was a Ruth, there was an Obed, because there was an an Obed there was a Jesse, because there was a Jesse there was a David, as in King David. Jesus is a descendant of King David.
Was it the right thing to do for Elimelech to leave town and go to Moab? Was it the right thing to do to allow his sons to marry foreigners? It looked like the trip was not sanctioned, the activities were not permissible or at least not advisable, the entire enterprise looked like it was cursed, all 3 men dead and buried in a foreign land and the return trip included a foreigner but no family.
But God can and does uses detours as the main path to accomplish his desire and complete his design. The apostle Paul says this about God and the way he works in our lives; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 – NIV
In my own life I was badly burned when I was 8. The burns left my face scarred and deformed. Later we moved to a new town and on a trip between towns my family was in a bad car accident which among the other injuries, broke my jaw in 5 places. The doctors were going to wire my jaw closed but because of the burn scars, instead they chose to install a steel plate.
The scars and steel plate were instrumental in me meeting and marrying my wife. The scars made me stand out among my peers, she liked me and we became friends then started dating. The steel plate kept me from joining the Air Force and leaving town during a break-up period my senior year. In a couple of days we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We now have 4 kids and 11 grandkids.
God used what looked like detours if not complete roadblocks in my life to bless me.
For Naomi and Ruth God uses a famine and death and loss and poverty to not only bless them with marriage and a baby but he has blessed us all, every human who has ever drawn breath because in 3 generations from Ruth and Boaz would come a simple shepherd who became king of unified Israel and God promised David that a descendant of his would have an everlasting kingdom.
“and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies. “‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’”
1 Chronicles 17:10-14 – NIV
That king was and is Jesus. Jesus’ reign will never end. He was crowned king with a crown of thorns. He bought all of us back from a life of slavery to sin. He purchased our freedom not with gold or silver but with his own blood.
I sit in my recliner, reading about Elimalech and his famine avoidance strategy and marvel at a God who never loses track of us, no matter where we scamper off to. Then an alarm goes off and I am brought forward from Bethlehem Ephratha in BC days to Ephrata Washington in 2020, COVID-19 days. Can I still trust a God in this pandemic to be working “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”?
I think so, no I believe so. How about you? Can you trust God even in this? Do you have any stories of how God used detours and roadblocks to get you to a better place? Will you share them in the comments?