By Steve Horn
What if your Mother’s Day is not a Hallmark movie?
Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, had every right to ask that question. Ruth could too for that matter.
After a couple of names and places in the opening verses 1-3, verses 4 and 5 have a staccato-like feel filled with a series of events that could simply be labeled, “Bad News.”
The Bible tells us that at some point in this time of the judges, there was a famine in the land of Promise. (Ruth 1:1). Living in Bethlehem (a town that means by the way, the house of bread), there was a man by the name of Elimelech (God is my King) and his wife, Naomi (Pleasant or Sweet One). They had two sons — Mahlon and Chilion. By the way, Mahlon means “sickly” and Chilion means “frail.”
Can’t you see it? It’s a rather sad tale.
“Hello, my name is ‘God is my King’ and this is my wife, ‘Sweet One.’ We are from the ‘House of Bread,’ but we left there, because there was a famine in the land, and we were about to starve to death. Meet our two kids, ‘Sickly’ and ‘Frail.’”
The old line, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” comes to mind. We might laugh, but believe me, they weren’t laughing.
It could be that their move to the land of Moab was specifically tied to Elimelech’s doubts about God. Moab was a place known for great sin against God. This family went to the land of Moab, outside of the land of Promise, back across the Jordan River and on the other side of the Dead Sea.
Not long after being there, Elimelech died. The sons married women from the land of Moab—one named Orpah and one named Ruth. Not long after that and before any children were born, Mahlon and Chilion died.
No Hallmark movie, I assure you.
So, what do you do if your Mother’s Day is no Hallmark movie? I think we can learn several important principles from Ruth’s story.
Expect life to be filled with challenges.
There is a lot happening in Ruth 1:1, and this one verse gives us some pieces of the puzzle of the challenges of life. This was the time of the judges. There was a famine. They decided to go to Moab. So, let’s see, some challenges are from the culture (“time of judges”), some are natural (famine), and others are our own doing (move to Moab).
Engage in Christ-honoring relationships.
After all the men died, Naomi decided to return to Israel. Ruth could have stayed in Moab, but in a touching scene, she commits to her mother-in-law, no matter what. See, when life gets challenging for us, I am afraid that one of our reactions is to shut down and shut people out of our lives. In reality, we should be doing just the opposite.
Eliminate the conclusion that there is no hope.
The beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz almost got derailed by Naomi’s hopelessness. We see that hopelessness in 1:11-14 and then again in 1:20-21. Naomi had lost everything, but the greatest thing she had lost was her hope.
Hopelessness is the enemy of faith.
Exercise faith in all circumstances.
Everything Ruth does, she does by faith. We exercise faith by faith. We exercise faith when we don’t necessarily have a lot of faith.
Be eager for God to have the climactic word.
The story of Ruth ends with the announcement of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the announcement of the birth of their son — Obed. A few generations later, we get the birth of King David, the greatest King Israel would ever know. Later, of course, we get from David’s line the birth of King Jesus. The story of Ruth not only becomes a love story for a few people living in Bethlehem, but points to a love story for all the world also stemming from a little place called Bethlehem.
Steve Horn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette and a past Louisiana Baptist Convention president. This editorial first appeared on his blog, which can be subscribed to by clicking here.