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Ruth 1:1-18 – The Challenge of Compromise
Ruth 1:1-18 Commentary: The Challenge of Compromise
+What makes men really tick? Men are incredibly stubborn and proud. If you don't believe that, go on a trip with one and watch what he does when you get lost. No man in his right mind will stop to ask for directions. Why? Genetics!
+What makes women really tick? Women are incredibly stubborn and proud. If you don't believe that, look at the reasons why women get into relationships with men. It becomes the 6 million dollar man project. We can make him better, faster, and stronger. A few years pass and you see nothing's changed.
+One of the greatest blessings and points of frustration at the same time are human relationships. The more we try to fix them, the more they get mangled. Fortunately God is well aware of this, and has provided a way to have relationships His way instead of our own.
-God can take people who have made a complete disaster of their lives through relationships, and use those situations for His glory by setting things right side up again.
+Understand this book begins in a very bleak time in Israel's history. The time of the Judges was the period of time between the death of Joshua and the crowning of King Saul. During this time, there was no defined leadership in Israel as a nation and set a time of seven cycles. First, they would be walking with God and depend on Him and His commands as their source of government as well as personal decision making. These would be times of blessing and prosperity according to the covenant that Israel had with God. Unfortunately this would set them up for human nature's greatest hazard, taking things for granted. They began to compromise with idolatry assuming that God was always going to be there and would put up with their deeds on the side as long as they continued to attend synagogue and offered sacrifices afterwards. Instead, God followed the letter of His covenant with Israel and blessed them only when they obeyed His commandments and honored His name. When Israel fell into idolatry, God would distance Himself from the nation and enemies would begin to overpower them. A period of time would pass where the nation was oppressed and miserable. Finally, they would cry out to God for deliverance and abandon their worship of idols. God then raised up a judge to rally the nation and drive out their enemies and they would begin to prosper once more. The time of the Judges was when Israel danced to this tune seven times before they finally rejected God and demanded a king. The Book of Ruth took place in the midst of one of the down portions of these cycles. God had allowed a famine to get the nation's attention.
- “Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a sleeping world.” -C.S. Lewis
+This troubled family that left Israel for Moab had an interesting series of names;
Elimelech means “God is the Lord.” He had likely been raised in a God-fearing home.
Naomi means “Pleasant One.” She was likely a very nice person to be around early in life.
Mahlon means “Sickly” and Chilion meant “Weak”. Understand that these names all bear significance to who these people were as human beings. In Hebrew culture, someone was named according to features, traits, or events surrounding their birth. An example of this were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. The first son was named Esau, which meant “Hairy.” It doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to wonder why. The second child was named Jacob, which meant “Foot-grabber.” The reason they named him that was because that's exactly what he was doing when his brother was born.
-Imagine the emotional damage to Mahlon and Chilion when their father's only opinion of them was their frail appearances. Elimelech wasn't the ideal father. The only thing that made his parenting skills worse at this point was his decision making skills for his family's future. They moved from Bethlehem, which is a city meaning “House of Bread,” to the land of Moab to survive the famine. Moab isn't what you'd call a garden spot in the Middle East. In fact, God took to calling it the septic tank, for lack of a better term, of Israel. The place was a dump. Yet this dysfunctional family decided to make their home there instead of remaining where God called their family to live. It shows just how bad the famine must have been that it made them look like Moab look better by comparison.
-This family thought that a change in geography would solve all of their problems. Yet this logic seems to be very common among those looking for the easy way to a new start. A tip for those considering this, wherever you go, there you are. You bring your problems with you. No change in geography will solve any problem you have.
+This wasn't a prodigal trip either. They didn't take a vacation to Moab to ride out the famine. They put down their roots and remained in Moab.
-It's important to withhold judgment on the genuineness of someone's salvation until after their last breath. If someone walks away from God and seems to get very comfortable in a worldly lifestyle, you never know how long it will take before they get tired of feeding the pigs in that kind of environment. It takes longer for some, but a genuine believer can be marked by this law. They may not always walk with God, but they can't stay away for long. If you're playing religious, you can only keep up that show for so long, but you'll eventually fall away.
1 John 2:19:
+This is a bad situation gone worse. Elimelech dies in this barren land, leaving his wife to be provided for by Weak and Sickly. Then if things could get any worse, they married local Moabite women. Why was this such a problem? Israel did not have a good history with the nation of Moab. In the book of Numbers, the king of Moab who was named Balak saw the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness and heading his direction. Assuming the worst for himself and his nation, and not taking the time to remember that Israel and Moab shared a common ancestor in Abraham, decided a preemptive strike was the best way to deal with this non-existent threat. He hired a prophet of God with poor character named Balaam who attempted to curse the people of Israel in the True and Living God's name. When it didn't work, Balaam gave Balak the advice to send in the most attractive Moabite women his nation had to offer. Since their culture's immersion in idolatry had made every girl's rite of passage to essentially become prostitutes in the guise of priestesses, it wouldn't be beyond these girls to know how to get Israel's attention onto their idols regardless of the consequences they knew it would bring. The people that died from the resulting plague numbered over 25,000 and Moab was held personally responsible for their part in setting it up. Balak may have gotten God to curse Israel, but God is no fool. The Moabites were cursed for this as well.
-The people of Moab were cursed by God for their actions in Israel's history
Orpah means “Deer-like” referring to her athleticism.
Ruth means “Beautiful” referring to her glamorous appearance.
+This family took matters into their own hands looking for life, and only found death in the end.
-Our culture prides itself on individualism. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that the quotation “God helps those who help themselves” is from the Bible. That's from Ben Franklin's “Poor Richard's Almanac.” The Bible never says anything of the sort. Taking life into your own hands and making your own passions your guide for purpose and meaning in life is the shortest route to a face plant in scripture.
-Understand that God will allow us to skin our spiritual knees in order to learn the hard lesson of not taking our lives into our own hands. If you can avoid a trip to God's wood shed, do it.
+This is a supernaturally significant event in scripture. The famine didn't end until a hunger and pursuit of God had awakened in the nation. This restoration that called Naomi home after she had lost everything didn't come until the nation understood its need for God.
-God will allow any nation to hit rock bottom until they understand its need for Him. Any nation.
+We see that Naomi had a very deep and personal relationship with her daughters in law. They were in a situation where all they could do was weep, and did so together. We need to see more of these kinds of relationships in the church.
+Naomi is giving full vent to the pain she is going through. She understands she is responsible for bringing God's judgment along with her and making Ruth and Orpah's lives miserable just by proximity to her. It wasn't the case, but she felt this way regarding how her family's decisions had affected all those who became apart of it during this time. Understand that God's judgment isn't a shotgun blast that affects everything in sight. Our theology needs to be sounder than our emotions if we want to get the most out of times of correction and trial. God judges people on a person by person basis. And this side of Heaven, He always does so ultimately with the goal of restoration.
-Naomi references as the only hope of their fortunes turning around at this point was the Levirate Law. And that was something even beyond reach at this point. The Levirate Law was a provision for families in Israel who had lost loved ones and left widows behind. If an older brother died, the next brother in line would take the wife as his own and raise up a child with the older brother's name to preserve the family unit. This would make dating in Hebrew culture a very personal family affair since the brothers may have to end up living with that girl the brother was interested in marrying someday. Since Naomi had lost her husband, no hope of children to replace Orpah and Ruth's husbands would be available to step in line for that position. Even if she immediately got married and had two sons, they wouldn't be able to get married for another 20 years. Naomi didn't want them to have to wait and waste their lives that way, so she encouraged them to return to Moab and continue their former lifestyles rather than face a life of loneliness and abject poverty on the Jewish welfare system at best.
-Ruth and Orpah both understood the consequences of following their mother-in-law. Orpah understood that she needed to move on with her life and did so after weeping with her mother-in-law. Ruth on the other hand clings to Naomi as she weeps. This clinging is referring to the same death grip that Mary Magdalene clung to Jesus with when she saw and recognized Him following His resurrection.
-This shows the difference between the kind of person who responds to something emotionally or with sincerity. The example of this is found in the two kinds of people who come forward in an altar call. There's the Orpah believers who respond with all the emotions that communicate sincerity, but ultimately walks away. And then there's the Ruth believers who don't just respond, but understand the solidity of the relationship that is being formed.
-There was a fork in the road for Ruth and Orpah. Orpah followed everything that would be in line with logic and common sense. Ruth didn't know the end of this story would see her married to a Godly man and apart of the family lineage of David and ultimately Jesus Himself. She just loved her mother-in-law and made a choice on that alone.
-A similar scenario would have been what Joseph and Mary went through when being set up for God's plan for their lives.
-To Mary's ears, the first time she heard this it wasn't just the semantics that seemed off, but the implications to her relationship with Joseph. Her future socially, financially, and even matrimonially were all being put on the line when given the chance to accept or reject this offer. She knew that to Joseph this would sound like the worst story in history. She knew that to her friends and family it would be even worse. She simply had a choice to make that would either let God handle the parts she couldn't see and sticking with the one thing she could. All they could do was trust God. This isn't the exception, it's the rule to trusting God. You can make a decision to be faithful or walk your own way.
-Though the barns are empty, and the bank account is drained, still he trusted in the Lord. That's the difference between where Naomi's story ended and Ruth's began.
+Talk about an appealing alternative. It's one thing to muster up the will to do the right thing for the Lord. It's another thing to have a person then come in that you looked up to and tell you to give it up. God won't take care of you. Look at me. Just go and be like the world! Yet what did Ruth do?
-Understand that this is friendship by the Bible's definition. Marriage is even deeper. We need to make this our dictionary for relationships.
+Ruth's oath to Naomi was in geography, nationality, and most of all, spirituality as well. Where they lived wouldn't keep them apart. Whatever prejudice their cultures bore wouldn't keep them apart. Whatever God she served was who she was committed to. She understood that the God she served may not have been profitable in their recent years, but certainly impacted her life in more ways than Moloch, Astoraith, or Baal ever had.
-We see here the reason why such a beauty like Ruth would want to marry a weakling like Chilion. Love doesn't look at the externals, but looks for an inner beauty. She could recognize in their family an understanding of relationships that no one else in their nation had a grasp of. You see in our culture today an abundance of people whose souls are so dry that a walk through them wouldn't get your ankles wet. In the same way, you hear the message constantly being set on repeat that physical appeal is the foundation of privilege. Yet Ruth shows that some things matter more than what she's always had. A person who has an abundant and personal relationship with God may not 100% of the time look attractive, but will have an appeal to others that will make them wonder why you're so different.
+Ruth's commitment went to death. Not irreconcilable differences, becoming different people, or finding a better person would separate them. And note, this was friendship. This is the key to any human relationship. Don't look for a person like Ruth visibly, be a person like Ruth personally.
-Ruth wasn't dealing with a spiritual giant. Naomi had entered and was trying to leave Ruth's life on the lowest spiritual note on the piano. Ruth wasn't a spiritual giant either. She was a Moabite for crying out loud.
+Words are a dime a dozen in this world. If we want trust, let your deeds match your doctrine. No one can see the sincerity of your heart. The only thing that counts for anything to anyone but you are your deeds. The foundation of trust is being trustworthy. The definition of trust is proven character over time.
+From God's point of view, what is a relationship based on Godly principals? Allowing God to love others through us. Coming to Him daily for the ability to love someone the way He does. Having a relationship with Him first and letting those in your life be blessed by the overflow. If we define and demonstrate our relationships this way, we won't keep score, try to outdo one another, or even have to revisit the reasons we began the relationship in the first place.
3400 years ago, a Moabite woman was touched by the grace of God and became an example for us today.
1 John 4:7-8: