Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
The Book of Ruth is a love-story told in four chapters. It gives us a glimpse of everyday life in Bethlehem; in home and in harvest-field, in its general gossip and its law-suits, more than three thousand years ago.
I. Glancing back over the lines of this sweet and pure pastoral idyll, we feel that rarely did human story more impressively demonstrate the unspeakable worth of lowly folk, the fine and favourable issues of seemingly suppressed lives, the hidden wealth of true and unobtrusive souls, for nations and for the race. Notoriety counts for nothing in the sum of things. The world's future lay more in quiet Bethlehem, with Naomi and Ruth, than it did at the headquarters of Judge Eli. Let us not despise ourselves. God does not, and our future is with Him. Every name is historic in His estimate.
II. But we are not near enough to the heart of this story to hear its beat and feel its warmth, until we see that it is a true and tender, pure and heroic woman's love that gives such grace to these Hebrew homes and confers such peerless worth on these lowly lives. The spell of the Book of Ruth is Ruth herself, and the chief charm of Ruth is her unselfish and devoted love.
III. Life and love lead to God. For life is God's gift, and love is of God's nature. "We love, because He first loved us." This is true of the love in the home as much as of the love of the Church. All pure and unselfish love comes from God and leads to God.
Thus the story of Ruth is a fragment in a missionary report. It tells of the conversion of a Gentile and illustrates the wisest way of winning souls. God saves the world by love, and we cannot succeed by departing from His method and ignoring His Spirit. Naomi is a typical home missionary, and Ruth is the pattern and prophecy of the success that crowns wise and loving labour.
J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 119.
References: Ruth 1:1.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 279. Ruth 1:1-5.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 81 (also S. Cox, The Book of Ruth, p. 43). Ruth 1:1-8.—Lady A. Blackwood, Sunday Magazine, 1885, p. 271. Ruth 1:1-18.—Parker, vol. vi., p. 185. Ruth 1:2.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 15. Ruth 1:6-22.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 92 (also S. Cox, The Book of Ruth, p. 63). Ruth 1:8.—W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 136; Old Testament Outlines, p. 60. Ruth 1:14.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 350. Ruth 1:14-18.—Sunday Magazine, 1885, p. 271. Ruth 1:16.—R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 267; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes, p. 54; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 49. Ruth 1:16, Ruth 1:17.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 125; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 31; Congregationalist, vol. vii., p. 656. Ruth 1:19.—W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 105; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 414; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 283. Ruth 1—Parker, vol. vi., p. 198. Ruth 2:1-23.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 165 (also S. Cox, The Book of Ruth, p. 81).
And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.