The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah, and they entered the land of Moab and settled there.
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.
They came into the country of Moab, and continued there.1. Learn from the change in the circumstances of Naomi's husband not to trust in the uncertain possessions of this world. You may now be wealthy and respectable among your neighbours and acquaintances; a few years or months may reduce you to a condition of discomfort, if not of poverty and indigence.
2. Learn from the consequences of the step taken by Elimelech, the peril of discontentedness and impatience under adverse circumstances. Should riches make themselves wings, and poverty threaten to be your lot, beware of rashly changing your habits and connections.
3. Ye that are parents, surrounded with a family of children, learn from this history to reflect how soon these children may be taken away. And oh! strive and pray, above all things, that they may be the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
4. Learn from Naomi's trials the beneficial effects of affliction; and from her resolution to return to her native land — the land of Jehovah's worship — that the only true refuge in affliction is pure and undefiled religion.
(H. Hughes, B.D.)
I. WHY DID THEY WANDER, AND THUS LEAVE THE HOME OF THEIR FATHERS? The answer given is, "There was famine in the land." God had sent upon them a temporary trouble, and they fled from it. But when God chastens us in His wisdom, our duty is to yield with contentment and submission. We should bear the rod and Him who hath appointed it. When we patiently yield to His merciful chastisements, they become our most precious blessings. "There was a famine in the land," and they fled from it. Temporary sufferings made their home for a little while uncomfortable, and they could not patiently endure the will of God. It was their own land. It was their father's land. It was the Lord's land. Their family and friends were there. Why should they fly? The next season might be better, and more than repay them for the losses of the present. The famine might follow them to the land whither they went, and make their sufferings greater there than at home. When Socrates was urged by his friends to escape from the prison where he was condemned to die, he answered them, "Tell me of a land where men do not die, and I will escape to that." How much better might this family have found a quiet submission to the will of God! What an illustration this is of sinful, foolish man! Adam had all the garden of Eden. One single restraint made him a voluntary wanderer from God. How easily have all who have descended from him rebelled and wandered since! But can we ever find happiness in running away from God? Is there any happiness but in a cheerful, filial submission to God? See where this wandering from God begins — in a spirit of rebellion and discontent. Oh, be ye watchful there. Be ready to hear and to do the will of God. In the midst of your trials remember His mercies.
II. BUT WHO WERE THESE WANDERERS WHOSE STORY WE HAVE BEFORE US? They were a family of Israelites, of professed believers in the Word of God. Never does sin seem to be more dreadful than when man's ingratitude is contrasted with God's mercies. You are never straitened in God. You have all things and abound in Him. He is rich in His mercy to you all. Why should you wander?
III. THIS WANDERING WAS WHOLLY UNNECESSARY. These Israelites were not poor and perishing. They "went out full." Their wandering was therefore wilful, and this made it the more rebellious and guilty. But is not all wandering from God unnecessary? Why need we ever go astray from Him? It will be always a solemn charge against us, "they went out full." It is the wandering which makes us empty. If we go away from God our own heedlessness or choice is the fountain of our guilt and sorrow. Why need we wander?
IV. FROM WHENCE DID THESE ISRAELITES WANDER? It was from the Lord's own land, Immanuel's land. It was from the whole company of His people. It was from the midst of the privileges of Divine revelation. It was from Bethlehem, the House of Bread. It was a hasty, foolish wandering from a happy home. We will not call every journey a wandering. It depends upon whence we came and whither we go, and under whose direction we move. Jonah wandered. When God sent him to Nineveh he fled to Tarshish. And God arrested him in the deep and brought him back. Manasseh wandered. And he was taken in the thorns and bound with fetters, till, in the day of his affliction, he sought the Lord and was forgiven. Demas wandered. From a love of this present world he forsook his Master and returned no more. Judas wandered. And how fearful was his end when he went to his own place! This is the wandering of which we have to speak. It is a wandering from God, from His Spirit, from His Word, from His Church. Whosoever goes astray from God voluntarily leaves the salvation which has been provided for him, and makes it his condemnation that he has loved darkness rather than light, because his ways are evil. But there are many wanderers from God in a very peculiar sense. They go from the very midst of His family, from Bethlehem itself, where Jesus is. They were born in His Church. They were early dedicated to Him in His holy sacrament. They were taught His Word, and named and registered among the number of His covenant people. They might have lived always at His feet and in His favour. But they left Bethlehem in rebellious discontent.
V. WHITHER DID THESE ISRAELITES WANDER? "To the country of Moab"; to a land of idolatry; a land of open licentiousness and crime. What a change of condition to them! What though bread was abundant there! "Fulness of bread like that in Sodom!" Man does not live by bread alone. And who that truly loved God would not rather live with a famine in Bethlehem than with sinful abundance in Moab? They went to Moab, but only "to sojourn there." Just as Lot went to sojourn in Sodom. Just as every wanderer from God goes into the world. It is but for recreation. It is only a harmless indulgence. It is but for a season of enjoyment. They mean some time to return and never to go back to Moab again. To die in Moab, without God and without hope! Nothing is further from their thoughts than this. They will only dip in the lake, like the swallow, and they shall feel refreshed for a longer flight. Ah, how little they know of the dangers they encounter!
VI. AND WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF THEIR WANDERING? What could they be but wasting sorrow and death? Ah, how sad are the results of a life of guilt! How mournful are the consequences of a wandering from God!
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
(J. Cumming, D. D.)Psalm 17:14; Psalms 36:15; Psalms 73:4,12). The like you may hear in Job (Job 21:7). But of the righteous it is said that they often cry out of their afflictions, their sorrows and nakedness, their hunger and misery; yea, our Saviour Christ pronounces Himself in His members, poor, hungry, naked. Judge now between the outward estate of the godly and the wicked; are they not contrary? That which of the world is condemned is of the Lord commended. Yet be not terrified from godliness, but rather strengthened in your profession. Then will you say, "Tell us the cause of this inequality?" Our Saviour answers (John 15:19; John 16:20). He compares us to the fruitful vine, which doth not only abide frost, snow, storm, and heat, but also at the gathering time is broken off, that the grapes may be reached. The gold must be tried in the furnace, the silver fined in the fire, the wheat purged in the floor, and, before it be meat for man, must also he ground in the mill; so must we be proved in affliction, fined in persecution, and crushed in pieces, under the burden of our own miseries, that we may be made prepared bread for the Lord's own spending. Why, then, doth the Lord make such large promises to His Church of plenty, seeing it endures continual poverty? I answer, the Church of God must be considered after two sorts: the first, as it is cleansed in the blood of Christ, and washed pure from all outward and notorious offences, unto which estate pertain all these outward promises of liberality in the Scriptures. The second is the declined estate, or corrupted condition of every one in the Church, even unto the world's end: unto this pertain all the punishments and tribulations which the godly endure, which the Lord sends upon them that He may by little and little scour us from our transgressions and weary us with the miseries of this life, that we may the more earnestly desire the life to come, for the Lord doth here scourge us that we should not be condemned with the world.
(C. F. Hall.)
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
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