(originally published July 9, 2012)
I have found the book of Ruth to be truly life giving and refreshing during this current chapter of my life. If you know anything about this story, you know that it is a story of God's providence and redemption. The life of Ruth and Naomi as told in this book show the fingerprints of God in a very encouraging and hopeful way to the everyday believer. We don't see any miracles or divine intervention from Heaven; we see God subtly at work as He guides the two women down a path of restoration and fruitfulness. My prayer is that as I have been encouraged by their story, you would be as well.
Have you ever wondered if God is at work in your life? I have plenty of times. We can look at the book of Ruth and know that God is near and He does have a plan, even if we don't see it in the moment. We can see that no matter how difficult or impossible our situation may seem, God is in control, and He is good.
The book of Ruth opens up and tells us the story of a family living in Bethlehem. The husband, named Elimelech (which means "my God is King") is living in Bethlehem ("house of bread") with his wife Naomi ("pleasant") and two sons, Mahlon ("sickly") and Chilion ("pining"). I just gave you a lot of word meanings, but they are important to know. They are living in a town known as the house of bread, yet are there in a time of famine during the reign of the judges. The writer doesn't tell us much about the circumstances of the family; we begin almost immediately with them traveling to the land of Moab.
To give you some history on Moab, the wicked nation began with one man, named, as you might guess, Moab. This man was born out of an incestuous union between Lot and his eldest daughter, as told in Genesis 19. From the beginning, this nation was deceived. Yet Elimelech made the decision to uproot his family from the house of bread to travel to a foreign nation filled with sin and deception.
We don't travel too far into chapter one before we find a vital application for our own lives. When we come to difficult times, we must not rely on human understanding or take the easy way out; we must seek God for His purposes. Elimelech did not ask God what His will would be for that time, nor did he trust God. Instead he uprooted his family from the place God's people dwelt to live in a wicked country where there would be no church, no place to worship the true God, and no fellowship with other believers. Ironically, Elimelech left to escape death, and yet him and his sons would find just that within a decade. Not only did his poor decision negatively effect him, but it effected his whole family. Just as our own decisions don't just effect us. We must come to the realization that the choices we make in life will impact others.
Once Elimelech went outside of God's will, he no longer had the ability to distinguish between good and bad; right or wrong. He allowed his sons to marry Moab women. These women did not know God, yet he allowed unequally yoked marriages. With one bad decision, Elimelech led his family further away from the things and will of God. It is important that you and I seek God's will instead of doing what we think is best. One poor decision can lead us into a string of poor decisions. It's like the snowball that continues down the hill, becoming larger and causing more destruction as long as it is allowed to go.
The good news is, God restores and God is good. We don't just see a family destroyed with one decision. God isn't finished yet. We will see in the weeks to come that God is at work in the life of Naomi and Ruth as He brings them back to the house of bread and restores their fortunes. However, let us reflect on the nugget we have in today's passage.
As God's people we have the unique opportunity to know His will and live under His umbrella. There are times in our life when the storm hits. It is in those seasons that we can either seek His will and trust Him, or we can rely on our own understanding and make the decision we think best. Ultimately, God's plan for us is better than our own.
As you face decisions that must be made, please seek the Lords will above all else. With one poor decision we can begin a chain reaction of disillusionment and heartache. Or we can seek God and operate under His umbrella of blessing and protection. Be encouraged that God always takes care of His people, and He will take care of you if you will simply trust Him.
Remember, God's fingerprints are all over the believers life. You, my friend, have the fingerprints of God all over your story. Take heart and know that He is with you!