Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.”
This first verse of Ruth is kind of like a news report. It tells us the who, what, when and where. The days of the judges were a dark time in Israel’s history. They had been led out of Egypt, into the promised land. You would think they would live in gratitude to God for rescuing them . . . but think again! During this time, the Israelites pretty much did whatever they wanted, and left God out of the picture. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?
This verse becomes even more interesting when we understand the meanings of some of the names. In Hebrew, Bethlehem means “house of bread,” and Judah means “praise.” And you’re not going to believe what God’s Word says about Moab. In Psalm 108:9, God says, “Moab is my washbasin.” In other words, God called Moab the dirty water that is left behind after one has cleansed himself. Moab was the trash, the refuse, the gross, smelly, filthy leftover garbage. It was a place filled with pagan worship, idolatry, sin and perversion of every kind.
So, this man took his wife and two sons, left the house of bread and praise, and went to a garbage can. Why would he do such a thing? Because he didn’t trust God. He was like everyone else. He claimed a loose relationship with God; after all, he was a Hebrew. But when things got a little rough, he tucked tail and ran. In his blind, unspiritual state, he thought he would be better off in a garbage heap than in the will of God.
Sound familiar? It should. It is a story that has been played over and over again throughout the history of the church. We play at being Christians. We play at going to church. But, we still live our lives pretty much the way we want to. Then, when the heat is turned up, when we have to make the choice between living in faith or jumping headfirst into the sin and garbage of this world, many of us will jump.
But there is good news, my friend. In Luke 15, Jesus shares the story of the lost son – the son who had it all, and gave it up to go live in a pigsty. In the end, that son returned to his wealthy father, and that father welcomed him back with open arms. That father is God, and that foolish son is every single one of us. We are foolish to ever leave the shelter of God’s arms. But we have a free will, and most of us, at one time or another, will exercise that free will and leave our Father.
The world, which promises great things, seems more attractive to us than a life of faith. But unlike God, the world seldom delivers on its promises, and we eventually realize that we have left God’s riches for a garbage can. But we can always go home. And our Father, who loves us more than we will ever comprehend, will always welcome us back with open arms.
Dear Father, I am sorry to say I recognize myself in this foolish Hebrew family. Please forgive me for the times I have left the shelter of Your perfect will, seeking to find something better in the world. Thank You for always forgiving me, always welcoming me home.