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The Scriptorium

Left, Left

Bad to worse. Ruth 1.3-5

To Moab and Back: Ruth 1 (2)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 123.1, 2
Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He has mercy on us.

Sing Psalm 123.1, 2
(Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
To You we lift our eyes, O God enthroned above!
With longing gaze and heaving sighs we plead Your love!
Refrain v. 2
We look to You!  Have mercy, Lord,
upon us by Your sovereign Word!

Read Ruth 1.3-5

1. What happened to Naomi’s family in Moab?

2. How long did Naomi’s family live in Moab?

Here is clear indication of God’s displeasure with Elimelech. He fled Judah to avoid starvation, yet he died, apparently quite early on, in the land of Moab. Outside the promises of God – symbolized by the land of promise – there is no hope of life and blessing (Eph. 2.12).

Suddenly alone, and with boys perhaps too young or frail to travel, Naomi hunkered down in the land. There she allowed her sons to marry pagan women, yet another transgression against the Law of God (Deut. 7.1-4). Compromising the Law of God is the way of death, and Mahlon and Chilion, after a respite of ten years, died, like their father, beyond the pale of God’s promises, leaving Naomi alone once again.

What seemed like a good plan in the eyes of one man turned to disaster, threatening even the wellbeing of his obedient wife. The writer thus casts an eye back at the last verse of Judges and demonstrates the futility of living only according to what seems right in our own eyes. As we shall see, the story of Ruth will point in another direction for the hope of redemption.

God allowed this faithless man and his family to come to disaster – precisely what they were hoping to avoid by fleeing the promised land. God is faithful to His promises, as well as to the sanctions that come with them. He cannot deny Himself, but allows men to come under the judgment incurred by their rejection of His clearly-revealed way (Rom. 1.18-32).

Yet we see His grace even here, in that He did not leave Naomi to the same end of her husband and sons. Even as the judgment of God is falling, His redeeming and renewing grace can be seen to be at work. This is foreshadowed in the name of one of Naomi’s daughters-in-law: Ruth means “mercy.” As we shall see, the mercy of God will attach to Naomi, even in the bitterness of her trial, and that mercy will be the way of redemption for her, and for the people of God and all the world.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Three men dead; three women left. “The foolishness of a man twists his way” (Prov. 19.3) and leaves innocent people hurting and destitute. That doesn’t seem fair. Elimelech stepped out of God’s will, and others suffered for it. Don’t we feel the same way sometimes? We step out of God’s will, things go wrong, people get hurt, and we cry, “That’s not fair!” Israel said the same: “The LORD is not fair” (Ezek. 18.29). They departed from His will, and He brought them to judgment, just as He had promised. God reminded them, as He reminds us, “O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin” (Ezek. 18.29-31). God has no pleasure in our suffering (Ezek. 18.32), but our suffering is fair and deserved, each time we depart from Him. What’s not fair is Jesus’ suffering for us. But only because of His suffering can we have hope. Because of Jesus, “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lam. 3.21-23). We stray, one man dies. Fair? No, but just, and merciful. Great is His faithfulness. Thanks be to God!

1. We don’t take sin as seriously as we should. Why do you think that’s so?

2. If we really believed others would suffer from our bad choices, would we be more careful? Explain.

3. It’s not fair that Jesus had to die for our sins. But it’s just. How can we show our gratitude to God for this unfair justice?

Changing our place seldom is mending it. Those who bring young people into bad acquaintance, and take them out of the way of public ordinances, though they may think them well-principled, and armed against temptation, know not what will be the end. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ruth 1.1-5

Lord, keep me in the way of Your promises, and help me so that I will always…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 123.2-4
Seek the mercy and grace of God for all your activities today. Call on Him to take away all fear and every doubt, so that you may serve Him faithfully in all you do.

Sing Psalm 123.2-4
(Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
As servants strain to see their earthly lord’s command,
so we would in Your presence be and firmly stand!
Refrain v. 2
We look to You!  Have mercy, Lord,
upon us by Your sovereign Word!

Have mercy, Lord, we pray; our souls are weary, worn.
The wicked world condemns our way and heaps up scorn.

Our souls are sore oppressed by this world’s ease and pride.
In You we would be healed and blessed, and in You hide.

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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