Ruth 1:1-5 (NLT) In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
Almost everyone enjoys a love story. The Old Testament Book of Ruth is such a story. It is filled with a wide range of emotion, from severe loss to ecstatic joy. This short book, only four chapters long, lays out the splendid care God is happy to give His people.
No one really knows who wrote the Book of Ruth but tradition holds that the prophet Samuel was the author. This little book was later read with four other books of the Old Testament ~ Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther ∼ at the Feasts of Israel. Ruth was always read at the Feast of Harvest, which is better known as Pentecost, because the majority of the book is set in the harvest fields.
The Book of Ruth is special because it reveals that God chose Ruth, who was not an Israelite but was of pagan descent, to further show us what His wonderful plan is all about. At the end of this marvelous book, it is revealed that Ruth is an ancestor of King David (she is his great-grandmother) and thus in the ancestry of Jesus. Ruth lived around the 12th century B.C. It’s often hard for those of us living today to grasp how a story so old can be relevant. But, strangely, even supernaturally, it does. God reaches across the centuries and touches our hearts by telling us the story of a young woman named Ruth who would be a great part of His plan.
The story begins like this: “In the days when...” It reminds me of how fairytales traditionally start, “Once upon a time…” Already I feel connected because of the fairytales my mother read to me. The Book of Ruth is anything but a fairytale. There are no dragons to be slain or wicked witches to melt. Rather there is famine and death, love and loss.
So we start out with a “once upon a time” and then meet our first character. Elimelech was his name, and he was from Bethlehem of Judah. The Hebrew name “Elimelech” means “God is my King.” What an incredible name! However, I don’t think it will be one of the top ten baby names anytime soon.
Interestingly, their hometown of “Bethlehem,” which means “house of bread,” is where the “Bread of Life” (Jesus) was born. Isn’t God phenomenal? He orchestrates the details of everything but is never distracted by them. Do you know anyone else capable of doing that?
As we learned in our first passage, Elimelech was married to “Naomi,” which means “my joy.” They had two sons “Mahlon,” meaning “sick,” and “Kilion,” meaning “failing.” I find it interesting that Hebrew names often reflect what is going on in the life of that person. God has a name for you and the meaning of that name is positive. In fact, did you know God also has another unique name just for you written in heaven?
God tells us in Revelation 2:17 (MSG) … I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.”
Those who follow Jesus have a clear, smooth stone with a new secret name written on it. The things we face on this earth in our failing bodies will be no more. When Jesus sets up His eternal kingdom on the renewed earth, He will rename us and give us a new perfect body for eternity. He won’t erase who we are; He will complete us!
Sometimes we define ourselves with negative words. They do not correlate with the true words that God uses to describe us. Satan wants nothing more than for God’s people to believe the untrue and hurtful meanings of our names on this earth. God wants us to know that we are special to Him. He has a new name written on a stone smoothed by the mighty wind of His Spirit.
The evil one loves to distract us from the things that God has planned for us. Satan lies, steals, cheats, and destroys because he hates anything and everyone that God loves. God dearly and honestly loves you. I lean heavily on this truth.
So many times we focus on things that are happening to us or our bodies and lose sight of the plans God has for us. You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not about us” tossed around nowadays. (Sometimes I hear it so often it loses its impact.) But in all truth, it isn’t about us. God’s plan is for our good and for the glory of His great name and reputation.
We will see that God provides for those He loves in the Book of Ruth. He often uses the unexpected to get our attention. From the first two verses of the book we find that He is very present and very active in the lives of those written about in this fabulous book. God does love you and wants nothing more than to be in a delight-filled, promise-keeping, need-providing relationship. Are you ready to walk toward His excellent intentions for your precious life?