In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. And a certain man from Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the land of Moab.
Ruth 1:22; 2:1-3Ruth 1:22; Ruth 2:1-3. Naomi's history may now be carried on in the light of these texts.
I. NAOMI IS AN ANCESTRAL PILGRIM. Ancestor of whom? Turn to Matthew 1:5, and you will find in the genealogy of our Lord the name of Ruth. The earlier part of that Divine life, how fresh and beautiful it is - the advent, the angels, the shepherds' songs! The mother, the first visit to the temple, the doctors! And beautiful ministry too. Power wedded to mercy, miracles of healing, mighty deeds of love, sermons amid the mountains and the cities. True! But stand here a moment. It is an early evening of life, I admit; but it's evening. Do you see in the blue distance One coming from the judgment hall? Do you hear the wild cry of the mob, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"? Do you mark the crush of the crowd round one fallen form, who fainted beneath the burden of that cross which he bore for us all? Follow him on to the slopes, while Simon, the Cyrenian, helps to bear his cross. The soldiers mock him. The crowd insult him. They spat upon him, they smote him with their hands, they buffeted him. And now his hands and feet are nailed; his pale face is bowed. Come nearer and gaze. Behold the man I As the reapers asked, "Is this Naomi?" so we ask, "Is this Jesus?" Is this he whose sweet face lay in the manger? Is this he whose bright inquisitive face was in the temple? Is this he who passed the angels at heaven's high gate, and came to earth, saying, "Lo! I come to do thy will, O God." Yes! Bowed, bruised, broken for us. The same Savior, who now endures the cross, despising the shame. Well may we wonder and adore! He saved others, himself he cannot - will not - save! More beautiful now than in the stainless infancy of the Holy Child. More beautiful now than when by the shores of Galilee's lake, he spake words which mirrored heaven more purely and clearly than those waters the gold and crimson of the sky. It is the bowed, broken, forsaken, suffering, dying Lord that moves the world's heart. He knew it all. In that hour, when his soul was made an offering for sin, he, being lifted up, had power to draw all hearts unto him. Is this Naomi? Well might angels ask, Is this the eternal Son of the Father? Is this he of whom the Almighty said, "He is my fellow." Is this he to whom command was given, Let all the angels of God worship him? Yes! It is he. It is finished. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in."
II. NAOMI IS A PROVIDED-FOR PILGRIM. Back to Bethlehem; but how to live? how to find the roof-tree that should shelter again? She knew the Eternal's name, "Jehovah-Jireh," the Lord will provide. A kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man Of wealth, lived there: of the family of Elimelech; his name was Boaz. We must not mind criticism when we talk of chance, or happening. The Bible does. It is simply one way of stating what seems to us accidental; although in reality we know that the least secrets are in the good hand of him "to whom is nothing trivial." Ruth wants to glean! And Naomi says, Go, my daughter; "and her hap - her chance - was to light on the part of a field belonging unto Boaz?' We know that the same old love story, which is new in every generation begins again; so Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife. So that a new home begins, and a smile plays through the tears of the lonely widow. Naomi has some human light again in her landscape; she will see the children's children, and take them by the hand into the coming barley-harvests; she will have some appropriate hopes and joys and interests still. Life to her will not be desolate, because she has still a God above her and a world around her to call forth interest and hope. Her sorrow was not greater than she could bear, and the summer over, even autumn had its tender beauties before life's winter came. So it ever is. Trust in the Lord, and you shall never want any good thing. Believe still in your Savior, and provided for you will be with all weapons of fence, all means of consolation, all prosperity that shall not harm your soul. So true, then, is the Bible to the real facts of human life. It is not a book of gaiety, for life is real and earnest, and its associations are mortal and mutable. It consecrates home joy, and yet reminds us that every garden has its grave, every dear union its separation. But, on the other hand, there are no utterances of unbearable grief, or unmitigated woe. It says ever to us, Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide. And the facts of experience in every age endorse its truth. As the snows bide flowers even in the Alps, so beneath all our separations and sorrows there are still plants of the Lord, peace, and hope, and joy, and rest in him. Blessed, indeed, shall we be if we can rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. We, too, shall all change. Time and sorrow will write their experiences on our brow. There will be hours in which we feel like Naomi, empty, oh I so empty. The cup of affection poured out on the ground, the forest without its songsters, the garden without its flowers, the home without its familiar faces. We shall see these pictures every day, and wonder, more and more, how any hearts can do without a Brother and a Savior in Jesus Christ. But if character be enriched and trained, all is well; for this very end have we bad Divine discipline, and the Lord will perfect that which concerneth us for the highest ends of eternal life in him. The baptism with which our Lord was baptized changed his face, altered his mien, enlarged even his Divine experience. He was made "perfect through suffering," and became the Author of eternal salvation to all who trust in him. Coming back even to Bethlehem is only for a season. As Naomi returns, nature alone remains the same; the blue roller-bird would flash for a moment across her path, the music of the turtle-dove remind her of the melody of nature in her childhood; - the peasant garb would tell her of the old unchanged ways; and the line of hills against the sky would remind her that the earth abideth forever. But for her there was a still more abiding country, where Elimelech, like Abraham, lived, and where Mahlon and Chillon waited for the familiar face that had made their boyhood blessed. And so we wait. The redemption we celebrate here is a passover, a memorial of deliverance and a prophecy of home. Home where sorrow and sighing, night and death, will flee away; where, no longer pilgrims, we shall no more go out, and where the worn face and the weary heart shall be transfigured into the immortal life. - W.M.S.
Judges 2:11, etc.) without realising that the times were very bad indeed, and just such as we should expect to be characterised by famine and distress of all kinds. For, to begin with, they were days of religion by fits and starts — days in which the Israelites served God when they were in trouble and forgot Him as soon as their circumstances improved. Is it likely that such a condition of things and such a fashion of living can succeed? Will God bless those who, blind to His long-suffering, set every law of gratitude and right behaviour at defiance in this hopeless kind of way? But is not this precisely what some of us are constantly doing? No, religion by fits and starts cannot possibly be a happy state of affairs: it must involve us in that separation from God which results in famine. We shall not improve our circumstances, however, by turning our backs upon God; let us understand that our want is due to our own conduct, not to God's unfaithfulness, and let us seek so to amend our lives that He may yet be able to make our land flow with milk and honey. Moreover, the days when the judges ruled were obviously days of intermittent government: the arrangement was but a makeshift at the best. In our own ease it is the absence of the autocratic rule of the Lord Jesus, or rather our fretful murmuring against the rule, which lies at the root of most of our spiritual sorrow. We acknowledge the Lord as our Saviour, but do we sufficiently recognise Him to be Christ our King? It is impossible for us to fear the Lord and serve our own gods, and be happy — try as we may. That there are times in the experience of all Christian people when the pasture which once was green fails somewhat of its peaceful restfulness no one who knows anything of life will for a moment deny. But this is neither starvation nor a breaking of faith on the part of our covenant God. Elimelech left Bethlehem in a moment of panic, or a fit of despondency or of world-hunger, but others remained and trusted the God of their fathers; and when ten years later Naomi, the solitary survivor of the little band, returned, she found her friends alive and well and in the enjoyment of barley harvest. They had been tried, indeed, but never forsaken. It was sad enough that Elimelech should have left the land of promise and the House of Bread: it was worse that he should have selected Moab as his new home. It was not merely that the people of the country were heathen, and that, as Elimelech must have known, if he and his family were to remain true to God they would have to lead lives of trial and to face unpopularity and perhaps persecution, but Moab had acted with extraordinary bitterness to his ancestors in times past, and in consequence was under a very terrible curse. Are we in no danger? Are there none of us who are beginning to turn our heads, and our hearts too, in the direction of those old associations and those old surroundings which did us so much injury in the past — the scars of whose wounds, the fascination of whose attractions, have not yet passed away? Are we wise in venturing where stronger men than we are have fallen, where we ourselves fell not so long ago? God help us, and keep us true to Him and to ourselves!
In the days when the judges ruled.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
There was a famine in the land.Judges 1:21, 27, 29, 30, and Judges 3:5, and Judges 2:2), contrary to God's express commandment by the hand of Moses. They fell themselves unto idolatry (Judges 2:11, 12, 13, 17, and Judges 8:27).
II. THAT FAMINE AND DEARTH IS A PUNISHMENT FOR SIN, AND THAT A GREAT PLAGUE (Ezekiel 5:16; Deuteronomy 28:23, 24; Leviticus 26:19, 29; Amos 4:1). And when this hand of God cometh upon us, let us search our ways and humble ourselves (2 Chronicles 7:14), that the Lord may heal our land, for it is a terrible judgment (1 Samuel 24:14) and without mercy (2 Kings 6:10, 29; Ezekiel 4:10).
III. We may hereby see HOW GOD MADE HIS WORD GOOD UPON THEM, and that He dallieth not with His people, in denouncing judgments against them; for Moses had told them (Deuteronomy 28) that God would thus afflict them if rebellious against Him: and here the story telleth us that in the days of the judges this famine came.
(H. A. Hall, B. D.)
Bethlehem-judah.., House of Bread — indicates its fertility. And therefore the famine which drove Elimelech from Bethlehem must have been extraordinarily protracted and severe; even the most wealthy and fertile parts of the land must have been consumed by drought: there was no bread even in the very House of Bread. Elimelech and his household were by no means likely to be the first to feel the pinch of want, or to feel it most keenly; for he came of a good stock, of a family that stood high in the tribe of Judah, and was a man of consideration and wealth. The probability is that he was rich in flocks and herds, a sheep-master such as Bethlehem has constantly produced, and that it was to find pastures for his famishing flocks that he went to sojourn in Moab. (S. Cox, D. D.)
He, and his wife, and his two sons
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