RUTH | From Barren to Blessed | Hope in Desolation | Ruth 1

January 7, 2024 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Ruth - From Bitter to Blessed

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ruth 1

Christopher Rich January 7, 2024
RUTH | From Barren to Blessed
Hope in Desolation | Ruth 1

Introduction |From Bitter to Blessed
Good Morning! Merry Christmas! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work,
Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we begin RUTH: From Bitter to Blessed.

How are you? How are we? Our current world is characterized by chaos and upheaval as nations rage,
economies faulter, cultures are in decline, and families are disintegrating. In a macro climate of instability
and fear we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed trying to understand the world around us, so we attempt
to remain focused on our individual lives and story. Yet our communities, families, and we ourselves are not
immune to suffering, trauma, or tragedy. We all face challenging moments, seasons, or circumstances which
are more than merely discouraging or unsettling, they bring us to places of desolation and despair.

How can I move on from this? When tragedy strikes, or we are under trauma’s long shadow, we are unsettled
is ways which keep us paralyzed with grief, stuck in despair, and unable to move toward anything that looks
like healing let alone flourishing. Suffering can cause to questions God’s goodness and leave us hopeless.
How many of us have been there for a moment or even a season? How many of us are there now? Youre
not alone. When we are blind to a path forward, we need the illumination that only divine hope can provide.

When all we can see is pain, we cannot see the path ahead. Stuck on the other side of trauma, grief, or loss we
can begin to wonder if there is a path forward, is there a reason for hope, or sometimes even if God cares
about us at all. Let me just say. He does. There is a real path forward, its not always easy. Hope, kindness,
intentionality, and sometimes even bold risks can all be part of our path of healing. Yet we need more than
ourselves, or others, if we are going to experience true restoration. We need intervention and care from the
God who is greater than our circumstances and who can give us both daily bread and eternal hope.

This leads us to the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Ruth is a short but powerful book about how God meets a
family who has lost it all and moves them from bitter to blessed. Even in the depths of great desolation and
difficult places we see God present and active bringing provision, healing, and even abundance and joy.
Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges where the Bible says “there was no king in Israel. Everyone did
what was right in [their] own eyes” It was a dark and nearly hopeless time for God’s people full of nationwide
lawlessness, famine, and idolatry. Yet in Ruth, God gives us a brief snapshot of Hope through one small
family in one small town, showing He is still active and working for the good of His people and the Glory of
His name in our individual lives, the lives of His people, across the world, and echoing into eternity.

PART I | Decade of Desolation | Ruth 1:1-5
Ruth 1:1-5 | In 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. 2 The 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. 3 But
Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the
name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both
Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Decade of Desolation (1:1-5) Lets set the stage. In the days of the judges. 1,200-1,050 BC between Gods
people entering into the promised land and before Saul was king. The people had been called to be faithful
to God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt, who provided for them in the wilderness for two
generations, and gave them victory over the wicked people in the land. God promised them, follow me and
you will enjoy prosperity, forget me, walk in sin, and there will be material consequences. Seems simple, yet,
the people had forgotten (or chose to ignore) God, His word and His ways instead worshiping foreign gods
and themselves. Judges outlines a time not of peace and prosperity but war, sin, and societal decay. It was
a time of national faithlessness, with no king, and where everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.

Famine in the land- God is both patient and faithful to His covenant with His people so after generations of
faithlessness the land became barren. But this really was a multi-faceted famine. Economic No longer a
land of milk and honey. There are now years, little rain, dry empty fields. Providing for a family was difficult.
Political There was a famine of clear wise and benevolent leadership. No kings, just judges ruling with
various degrees of success and moral turpitude. There were not a lot of great options on the ballot.
Security/Stability War, violence, and neighboring nations constantly invading and unsettling the people.
Spiritual/Moral No objective truth, no faithfulness to God, no right worship. Pagan and godless practices
were rampant, sexuality was subjective. People we all doing what was right in their own eyes.

Big Story vs Small Stories- A global famine decimated the population we meet a small quite Israelite family
from Bethlehem (lit. House of Bread), in Judah. Struggling to make it, everything seems difficult, all is hopeless.
The big story will almost always impact our small stories. None of us are an island or totally independent.
Try as we might, we are not immune to the effects of the world, challenges, society, and culture around us.

Refugees with the Wicked They make a choice to leave where God has them seeking provision elsewhere.
But this is not a neutral direction like moving from one state to another for a better job, schools, etc. They
sought refuge in Moab, a neighboring pagan nation overtly hostile not only to the people of God, but the
words and ways of God. Regularly violent, perverse sexually, their leaders had cursed the nation of Israel.

Names Matter- Elimelech My God is King |Naomi Pleasant Lovely, delightful “sweet| Mahlon weak or
sickly | Chilion failure, annihilation, wasting | We dont know whos idea it was to leave, but we know a
guy whos name means My God is King when things got tough either led, or allowed, his family to leave
and go away not only from where God had planted them (house of bread) to a place of evil and wickedness.
Well see later, Elimelech had an extensive clan in Bethlehem, he had a community that included some faithful
people. He didnt lead his family spiritually, he was only focused on material provision, so he was willing to
walk away from Gods people. This is what happens when we face trials or difficulty and pull away from
God and His people rather than press in. It was difficult for everyone in Bethlehem, there was a famine, not
a perfect community by any stretch, but at least there were people who love the Lord and love each other.
That’s a picture of what the church is supposed to be. When we move away from our systems of care, of Gospel
community when famine hits, we don’t have anyone else to lean on. We stop trusting God, we stop gathering
with His people, we isolate, and begin to search out in the world apart from God thinking it must be better.

There is no haven on this earth for human suffering. Not place we can go that will be free from trials and tragedy.
But there is a God who is with us. For this family, they might have found some sustenance for a time, but didn’t
find flourishing. What started hopeful, after a decade of desolation, ended in the death of the father, sons
married Moabite women (Orpah and Ruth), and the sons both dying leaving three childless hopeless widows.

PART II | Longing for Home | Ruth 1:6-14
Ruth 1:6-14 |6 Then 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. 7 So 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. 8 But 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. 9 The 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. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But 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? 12 Turn 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, 13 would 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.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices
and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

Longing for Home (1:6-14) Empty of hope and filled with grief and loss, we come to places where we throw
our hands up and say this way isnt working. When things go from bad to worse we can easily begin to say,
Ill take bad please. When we are brought low sometimes the best path forward is to take a step back and
return to where we started. Wasting away in the fields of Moab, Naomi has heard there is food back in
Bethlehem. Why? God has remained true to His people, He “visited themHe met them in their circumstances to
bring fullness. God has been faithful to His covenant promise to His people. News of this has made it all the
way to Moab. For Naomi, home is calling. Its time for her to return. This word return is a lot like repent.
Repenting and Returning is a dramatic change of direction and orientation that includes many small steps of
walking it out. It happens when there is the humility and realization that where we are seeking life apart
from God will not sustain us. It is knowing we are called to be in communion with God and His people.
Sometimes we’re looking in the wrong place for spiritual food. We are starving because we’re in a land of
famine. We spiritually starve ourselves, look in empty pantries, and wonder why we are weak and hungry.
Naomi has had enough of Moab sets out for Judah with both daughters-in-law following. Repentance begins
with recognizing the reality of the famine in your soul and turning to where real spiritual food is found.

Crossroads and Counting Curses On the journey these three poor destitute widows come to a crossroads.
Naomi wants to go it alone back to her homeland and tells her daughter in-laws to go back to their homes.
Naomi urges them both to return to their own families to find rest from their struggle. Both Ruth and Orpah
initially reject the idea pledging to go with their mother-in-law. Naomi discourages them both. With great
detail she breaks down their collective situation in the direst way possible. Shes old, she doesn’t have
prospects, even if I did it would take decades before I could possibly have a marrying aged son. With her
son’s dead and no other children her prospects for herself are bleak let alone providing for her sons’ widows.
We can always list what is against us, what we don’t have, what we’ve lost and what hopelessness we have. This
is the opposite of counting your blessing it is counting your curses. When we do we assume the only way out
or forward for is either improbable or impossible at best, at worse we believe God must be against us.

Decision Points There are not always easy choices. Based on wha