Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.Ruth 1:5(NASB)
The book of Ruth opens with the sad story of Naomi, who lived during the time of the Judges when everyone started to do what was right in their own eyes. Having wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, the nation of Israel crossed the River Jordan into the Promised Land, but time and again God's people did evil in the sight of the Lord, who punished them for their ungodly ways and broken covenant.
The book of Ruth opens with the sad tale of a family who moved away from the land God gave them, when famine came and ravished the land. Elimelech, his wife, and their two sons left their home and lands in Bethlehem to go and seek a better life in a pagan land, where the people worshipped false gods. Their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married Gentile women from Moab – a nation that had been cursed by God.
The family had tried to escape from the famine the Lord had sent to punish His people's disobedience. But instead of repenting of their ungodly ways, this man sought his fortune away from the Lord – but the works of the flesh are futile and a life without God brings barrenness.
First, Elimelech and then his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, died in the land of Moab. The family had become estranged from the Lord, and Naomi was suddenly bereft of her two sons as well as her husband. She was left alone in an utterly desperate situation.
She had become old, widowed, stateless, and penniless, with two pagan daughters-in-law and a heart that was far away from God. We read: "Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband." What a terrible condition to find yourself in, but Naomi had left her homeland, property, relatives, and house, and went far away from the land in which God had planted His people. She had wandered far, far away from the Lord.
However, it was when she reached the 'slough of despond' the 'pit of despair' and a state of utter desperation, that Naomi repented of her foolish choices. She remembered the former times and returned to the Lord her God in the land of promise, and He honoured her choice for she was given the responsibility to act as grandmother to Obed (the son of Ruth, her daughter-in-law) who would become the father of Jesse who was the father to the renowned king David.
It was when she reached this point of hopeless despair that Naomi turned away from her sinful situation and went back to find the Lord i.e. she repented. By God's grace, this woman who strayed so far from the Lord, was welcomed back into the family of God when she returned to Bethlehem and the Lord. By God's grace, Naomi's daughter-in-law is to be found in the genealogy of the Jewish Messiah, because Ruth the pagan Moabitess trusted Naomi's God.
Both Naomi and Ruth are used by the Lord to remind us that no one is outside the grace of God – for by grace are we saved, not of works, nor as a result of parentage. Ruth was taught about the Lord and trusted God through the instruction she received from her mother-in-law, and her faith was credited to her as righteousness. It was by grace through faith that Ruth found favour in the eyes of the Lord, and that her mother-in-law was blessed as well.
It is by grace we have become His sons and daughters through faith in Christ, and no matter how far any one of us have strayed from the Lord, He is always ready and willing to bring His lost sheep back into the fold, and by His grace will even reward us as well when we die to self and live for Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the beautiful reminder in the book of Ruth, that no one is outside Your offer of salvation, no one is beyond redemption, and that no matter how far someone has strayed away from Your loving arms, You are ready and willing to bring them back into fellowship with Yourself. Thank You for Your goodness and grace. I pray that many who have wandered far from You, would come back to You and find their hope in Jesus anew. In Jesus' name, AMEN.