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The Scriptorium

Famine Flight

Ruth begins in disobedience. Ruth 1.1, 2

To Moab and Back: Ruth 1 (1)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 142.1, 2
I cry out to the LORD with my voice;
With my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.

Sing Psalm 142.1, 2, 5, 6
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
With my voice, O Lord, I cry – hear my plea for mercy, Lord!
My complaint mounts up on high, bringing You my troubled word:
Refrain vv. 5, 6
Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
O receive my plaintive song!

Read Ruth 1.1, 2

1. Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab?

2. When does this story take place? What was Israel like in those days?

The story of Ruth is set in the latter days of the judges – between the end of the conquest of the land under Joshua and the story of Samuel, Saul, and David. The anonymous author of Ruth explores various aspects of the fall and its effects, centering on the immediate crisis of a famine descending upon the land around the city of Bethlehem (chapter 1), before pointing to themes of redemption and restoration (chapters 2-4).

Given the crisis of the famine, how should a man who trusts in God respond? Certainly not like Elimelech. Had he trusted in God and His Word he would not have repeated the mistakes of the patriarchs in fleeing famine to pagan lands without consulting the Lord (cf. Gen. 12.10; 26.1-6).

Further, he would not have taken his family to Moab, a place which was under the special condemnation of the Lord because of its hardness toward the people of Israel as they traveled toward the land of promise (Num. 20.21-30). Elimelech’s response to famine – an effect upon the groaning creation of the sin which entered with Adam’s rebellion (Gen. 3.17-19; Rom. 8.20-22) – demonstrates his lack of trust in the Lord. His name means “my God is king”, but he was ruled by his stomach and his fears.

As we begin the story of Ruth, therefore, we suspect a further exacerbating of the situation of Elimelech and his family, for we know from the Scriptures that the way out of sin and its effects is not along the road of more sin.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Naomi. Ruth gets top billing in this story, but Naomi set the stage for her to emerge. Naomi is that woman who did her husband good and not evil all the days of her life. The heart of her husband safely trusted her, and she watched over the ways of her household (Prov. 31.12, 11, 27). Naomi might have known better than to go to Moab, but she went because Elimelech wanted to go. And God watched over her. “The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow…” (Ps. 146.9). Very often, obedience to God doesn’t make much sense or even seem to be fair, but God does know best, and His ways are perfect. And our obedience is part of being a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service, that we may “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12.1, 2). Naomi isn’t glittery and happy, but she was solid and faithful. “…a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31.30).

1. Had you been there, what would you have said to Elimelech?

2. When are you tempted to depart the ways of the Lord and wander among the Moabites?

3. How can believers help one another to persevere in faith, even in the midst of trials and hard times?

Elimelech’s care to provide for his family, was not to be blamed; but his removal into the country of Moab could not be justified. And the removal ended in the wasting of his family. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ruth 1.1-5

Let me never turn from You, O Lord, and let me never be enticed to abandon you by…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 142.3-7
Cast your burdens on the Lord. Seek refuge in Him. Trust in Him to provide for you and meet all your needs today.

Psalm 142.3-7
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
When my spirit faints away, You my falt’ring pathway know.
Where I take my journey they traps have hidden to my woe.
Refrain vv. 5, 6
Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
O receive my plaintive song!

Lord, look to my right and see: None takes notice of my plight.
Is there refuge left for me? Is my soul out of Your sight?

Hear my cry, Lord, I am low! They are strong who seek my soul.
Jesus frees from every foe; He will keep and make me whole!

Out of prison lead me, Lord! Thanks and praise to You shall be.
Righteous men armed with Your Word will Your grace bestow on me.

T. M. and Susie Moore

We’re in the process of moving, so our Scriptorium series on Luke will resume April 17. All the studies in Ruth are available for free in our bookstore by clicking here. Order a copy for yourself and a friend, and work your way through this great book together.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel: Ancient Christian Commentary Series IV, John R. Franke, ed, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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