Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food.Ruth 1:6(NASB)
Because of the spiritual poverty throughout the land of Israel, God sent a famine to admonish His people... so they would turn to God and call for help. Instead of repenting and returning to the Lord, one man named Elimelech left his home in Bethlehem and took his family in search of a better life in the pagan land of Moab.
Elimelech's death should have prompted his wife Naomi and his two sons to return to the land which God had given them, but they remained estranged from the Lord and away from their homeland... and both his sons took wives from the daughters of Moab - something the Lord explicitly forbade. The spiritual poverty of this displaced family declined further as they remained far away from God, and friendless in a heathen nation.
Following the death of her sons, Elimelech's distraught widow grieved bitterly when she discovered herself penniless and without hope. She had no land and was devoid of family support or help. She was a destitute widow and among foreigners when she heard how God had blessed Israel and visited His people. She discovered the land was producing sufficient food for all their needs, and Israel was beginning to prosper once again. No doubt God's people had called out to Him for deliverance and learned a lesson... for God heard their cry and responded to their need.
Naomi decided to return home, together with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. All three set out on the seventy-mile trek to her hometown of Bethlehem, which was a seven to ten-day journey by foot, "Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food."
Bethlehem means 'House of Bread' and the famine which caused her to move from her home and kinsmen, had ended. Blessings from the Lord were beginning to flow. Naomi and her two, young, widowed daughters-in-law, set out from the land of Moab with hope and expectation. They all heard that God had visited His people with favour and all three decided to go to Bethlehem for bread and blessings.
But we read in the following verses that as they began their journey, the call of the world enticed one young woman to stray from the path of righteousness and the highway of hope... and she returned to the fleshpots of Moab. Three women heard the same message of hope - three women started the journey - but only two completed it.
When Naomi returned to God, she brought with her one of her daughters-in-law. Although both Moabite women began the journey of faith, one foolish girl returned to her pagan roots while the other chose to renounce the things of the world and trust in the Lord with all her heart.
Had Naomi remained with her husband and family in the land of Israel, repented of her sin, and returned to God in faith, she may never have experienced the severe problems and pain she was now enduring. But Naomi had reached a point of desperation and discovered that the only one to Whom she could turn for help was her faithful God Who had never stopped seeking this little lost lamb.
The Lord had patiently waited for Naomi to turn back to Him so that He could bless her with many blessings - one of which would be a child that would one day be born through her daughter-in-law, Ruth - king David, a man after God's own heart who would become Israel's greatest king and one through whom the Messiah of Israel would one day be born.
Naomi's decision to, "arise and return to her homeland," brings with it images of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke, who also said 'I will arise and go to my father'. Reaching a point of desperation is often the way that God's straying children return into His loving arms. Reaching a point of desperation before returning to the Lord has often been the way God has brought His children back to the pathway of penitence and peace. But how much more honouring to the Lord to trust Him in all things and not go our own way when difficulties and dangers arise.
God graciously causes ALL things to work together for the good for those that love and trust Him, and it also brings with it spiritual growth - for it tests our faith in God, and produces patient-endurance, so we may be made perfect and complete, and lack nothing.
May we learn the lesson from this verse and avoid reaching the point of desperation, by maintaining our faith in God - but let us never forget that no matter how far we stray from Him, He is always close to us and waiting for us to return to the fold.
May we always call out to the Lord for help during times of trials and life's many problems. May we finish the race that is set before us - looking to JESUS, trusting His Word, and obeying the truth - even when we don't understand.
Heavenly Father, what a comfort to know that You are our never-failing help in times of trouble. Thank You for the book of Ruth and the many lessons it teaches us. I pray that I may remain in the centre of Your perfect will for my life, but that when I go astray, I would quickly call to You in times of trouble. Thank You that nothing in life is so terrible that You do not have an answer and I pray that my faith would continue to grow and mature. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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