This sermon was based on Ruth 1.
1In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi
6Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Naomi and Ruth Return
19So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
22So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
SEARCHING FOR BREAD
- Bethlehem literally means ‘House of Bread’ – it was a place with God’s people, God’s presence and God’s promise.
- Elimelech – a man whose name means ‘The Lord Is King’ – didn’t live up to this name and he left God’s place in order to find bread in Moab.
- We can do likewise – look to satisfy our hungers in the wrong places. Jesus promises that he is the bread of life and in him we will never hunger.
CALL ME BITTER
- Naomi was in a very tough situation – her husband and both boys died in Moab, leaving just Naomi and her daughters-in-law (Orpah and Ruth).
- She would have had to deal with grief, isolation and economic struggles.
- Naomi became bitter – she no longer wanted to be called Naomi (meaning pleasant) but Mara (meaning bitter). She blames God for her circumstances.
ONE WHO CLINGS
- Naomi made the decision to go back home – and this had a knock-on effect for Orpah and Ruth.
- The sensible decision would be to go back to their family home. This is the decision that Naomi recommends and it is what Orpah does.
- Ruth decides to return with Naomi and care for her. This is a decision very costly to herself that is made out of love. She makes a covenant with Naomi.
- In this, Ruth is a picture of Jesus
THE BARLEY HARVEST
- The chapter ends with a glimmer of hope as they get back to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest has come.