The Bible is a gradual unfolding of the character of God, and of His plan of redemption. For instance:
Genesis is the book of beginnings—beginning of the universe, sin, judgment, man.
Exodus is the book of redemption—first by blood (Passover), then by power (Red Sea).
Leviticus is the book of worship.
Numbers is the walk and warfare of the believer.
Deuteronomy is the book of obedience—this is the most spiritual book of the Pentateuch, insisting on implicit obedience to Jehovah, His Word, and His laws.
Joshua is the book of possession—entrance into and possession of the inheritance in the land of Canaan.
Judges is the book of failure—disobedience always brings distress, doubt and death.
Samuel is the book of the kingdom—united under Saul, David, and Solomon; then divided.
Between the books of failure and the books of the kingdom is the book of Ruth, which sets forth the marriage of Boaz and Ruth.
This has tremendous teaching in our day. The book of failure (Judges) represents Christendom. The books of the kingdom (Samuel) represent the Millennium. The book of Ruth, which depicts the marriage of Boaz (Christ) and Ruth (the Bride) is between the two.
This points us to the marriage of Christ and the Church which will take place after the age of failure and before the Millennial kingdom is set up.
Two books devoted to women: Ruth (Gentile), Esther (Jew).
The story begins in the beautiful little town of Bethlehem in Judah. The house of bread, the house of praise. This is where the Lord was born 1100 years later—Matthew 2:1.
Elimelech with his wife Naomi enjoyed their inheritance in God’s land, they were in the center of God’s will.
The scene in a capsule is this. Here is Elimelech which means “My God is King” and Naomi which means “pleasant.” They are found in the center of God’s will, with God as their King, living in the house of bread, and in the place of praise.
Something went wrong—they became careless and indifferent in the things of God. They became lean in their souls and sick in their heart. This is seen from the fact that they named their boys Mahlon, which means “sick”, and Chilion, which means “pining”.
In this weakened condition of soul Elimelech and Naomi came face to face with a crisis. A testing time came upon them for which they were totally unprepared.
“It came to pass…there was a famine in the land”—verse 1.
They reached the bottom of the flour barrel. This really was God’s call to repentance. But instead of repenting they moved to Moab. They left the center of God’s will, left God’s people, left God’s place and went to Moab, among them godless relations and friends.
Their plan was to sojourn in Moab, that is their stay was to be only temporary. They did not intend to live permanently in Moab. But verse 2 informs us that “they continued them.” Elimelech and Naomi utterly failed the testing.
The years passed swiftly. Elimelech took sick and died. He died outside the will of God, outside the land of Canaan, outside of God’s place for His people. Elimelech failed God and is buried in a lonely grace, on a lonely hillside in Moab.
Then tragedy struck again, the two sons, who by this time had married Moabite women, took sick and died. This union was forbidden in the Scriptures.
Now, there are three lonely graces, of three Hebrews, lying in the cold unfriendly soil of a hostile country. The disobedient Israelites were buried in the wilderness.
Look at Naomi for a moment or two:
Verse 6—then she arose.
Verse 7—then she went forth.
She did this because of a faithful witness—verse 6.
Naomi rose after the death of her husband, after the marriage of her two sons to Moabite women, after the death of her two sons, after her heart had been broken by bereavement, after her soul had been crushed by corroding care. Then she arose.
Sin always brings sorrow and suffering. Disobedience spells death. Sin, disobedience, willfulness, and waywardness always end in sorrow and death.
Further examples of departure from God and the consequences:
1. Abraham—Genesis 12:10. Departed into Egypt (the world). While there he acquired Hagar, who became the mother of Ishmael, who is the father of the Arab nations. We can see in the 20th century A.D. the fruits of Abraham’s backsliding in the 20th century B.C.
2. Samson—Judges 13-16. 16:1—“And Samson wet down into Timnah, a town of the Philistines. He took a wife from among his people enemies. He turned his back on God and His people. He ended having his eyes put out and grinding corn in a dungeon, until his death.
3. Jonah. God said, “Go to Nineveh.” Jonah fled to Tarshish—note the price he paid. Note also the blessings of obedience.
4. The prodigal son.