Bethlehem was a buzz. Naomi had returned home!
Years earlier, she had been forced to leave this small town in the land of Judah with her husband and two small boys. Bethlehem, literally meaning “town of bread,” had become a place now where bread was in short supply. So, Elimelech and Naomi decide to pitch their tent in a neighboring pagan country to find prosperity. But, tragedy unfolds and Naomi not only loses her husband, but also her two grown sons. She’s left an old Jewish widow in a male-dominated alien society, with her two Moabite daughters-in-law, also widows, and only one decision before her, go back home to Bethlehem ALONE, or die. At least she thought.
Yes, there was no doubt that this was a bitter moment and that Naomi’s only chance of survival was to go back to her people, but we learn that she would NOT be alone. You see, a transformation had taken place in the heart of her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. Ruth had come to trust in the God of Israel and was determined to not leave Naomi’s side.
And so, with Ruth to keep her company, Naomi decides to head back home to Bethlehem. But, Naomi did not return the same way she left. You can almost hear the chatter among the towns folk of this small village as Naomi and Ruth enter Bethlehem after ten years abroad…
“Could this be Naomi?”
“Did you see that Naomi is back?”
“Wow, she hasn’t changed much at all, but where’s her husband?”
“You don’t suppose something happened to him while she was in Moab?”
“Where are her two sons? Maybe they stayed in Moab?”
“But who is this young foreign girl with her?“
As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder if there’s going to be out of the tragedy of these events a triumph which God brings? Naomi faces her declining years with no children to care for her and no grandchildren to cheer her up. Even worse, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, a foreign Moabite widow, leaves everything she’s ever known to take up residence in this small community far away from her people. While things look seemingly hopeless, we need to remember that God’s greatest work often comes when things look like they couldn’t get any worse. It’s usually from the most empty and desperate situations that God provides His greatest blessing. And here’s where the story takes a turn.
Here in Bethlehem among the hills of Judah; in the same location where afterwards David as a shepherd boy would be looking after the sheep; in the same location where afterwards shepherds, also looking after sheep, would hear the words of the angels announcing the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ; it is in this same location that these events unfold that are recorded for us in these few chapters of Ruth.
I’m not going to spoil the story for you. If you haven’t studied this short narrative that was written over 1,000 years before the coming of Jesus, it’s well worth your time, especially this Advent season.
What I love about this sweet story in the Book of Ruth is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all over the place. You see, God takes pleasure in using the sad and sorry situations of ordinary people, even a woman outside His covenant people, to complete His promise to provide a Messiah.
God is reaching into the lives of this Jewish widow and of this Moabite girl, to paint them into the great scene of Revelation. And in this tiny microcosm we have the indications of this growing, developing, huge company that no one can count from every nation and tribe and people and language who will fall down before King Jesus, who will be from the lineage of this Gentile woman and this poor, old widow.
Praise be to God that He uses the poor and lowly ordinary people to accomplish His will and be the objects of His good pleasure.