Ruth pt 1: Abraham, Lot, and Elimelech

Ruth is a story of redemption. It’s the story of sin and rebellion and grace and mercy. It’s the story of a family and a people. It’s the story of you and me. It’s the story of God working to right our wrongs. The story of God’s love and provision even when we can’t see it. Ruth is the story and a God who redeems.

And that’s why today we begin our study through the book of Ruth. This little four chapter book is one of the most power stories in all of Scripture. So I hope you’re ready to learn and grow and watch God transform your heart and mind as we dive deep into his word.

Let’s dig in.

If you really want to understand the story of Ruth you have to go back to the story of Abraham. Because God made a covenant with Abraham. And that covenant is God’s plan for the world.

The story can be found in Genesis 12. In fact it’s probably a good idea if you go read it first. Don’t worry I’ll wait.

Alright. Let’s get to it.

Here’s the context that we find Abraham (At this point his name was Abram. We talk about that later on.) In chapter 11 we read the story of the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel is a story about technological advance and the pride that comes along with it. It’s a story about the deep-seated desire for humans to elevate themselves above God. As the story goes the people of Babel begin to build a city with a tower that reaches into the heavens. But God stops them.

God confuses their language and they slowly start to separate and form tribes and people groups. And sometime later we meet Abraham who is part of a tribe called the Chaldeans. Abraham is part of a tribe with culture, and gods, and religious customs, and land, and all the things that made tribes, tribes. But God calls him out of this tribe.

God doesn’t just call him out he gives him a promise, a reason for leaving his culture, and gods, and religious customs, and land, and all the things that made his tribe a tribe. God tells him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) In other words, God calls Abraham out of his culture, and gods, and religious customs, and land, and all the things that made his tribe, a tribe because He wants Abraham to start a new tribe. A new tribe with a new culture, and God, and religious customs, and land, and all the things that make a tribe, a tribe.

So Abraham heads out but not alone. We are told that his nephew Lot goes with him. Here’s why that’s an important piece of information. At this point in the story Abraham is childless and it’s kind of hard to start a new people if you don’t have children. But Lot his nephew is fatherless. We are told a few verses earlier that Lot’s father Haran has died. Lot is like an adopted son. He’s part of Abraham’s new tribe.

Now if you skip on to chapter 13 you find that Abraham and Lot have become wealthy with livestock and servants. They’ve grown so big that there is strife between the camps because the land can’t support them both so they part ways. Lot, Abraham’s adopted son, leaves Abraham’s new tribe.

Skip ahead again and after a serious of unfortunate events we find Lot and his two daughters living in a cave. Things are about to get weird. The story goes that Lot’s oldest daughter said to her sister, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” (Genesis 19:31-32). Like I said, weird.

His daughters carry this plan out and the oldest daughter, “bore a son and called him Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day.” (Genesis 19:37) The name Moab sounds like the Hebrew phrase from father. Like I said, weird. Now Moab becomes a symbol for Israel (Abraham’s tribe later became known as Israel. The name of Abraham’s grandson.) of what happens with you walk away from God. Moab and the Moabites are the godless inbreeds and their land is thought to be cursed.

So Abraham’s people become a nation in the land that God promised them. But they drift into a cycle of sin- punishment-salvation and repeat. That’s the book of Judges and in fact it ends on a rough note, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) Notice that the reason for this cycle is because they have no king. They need a righteous king to lead them in the ways of God. That’s important and we’ll come back to it in a few post.

The very next book, Ruth opens like this, “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech.” (Ruth 1:1-2a) Now if we were ancient Jews buzzers would be going off in our heads, “Wait, Abraham’s new tribe has lost their way and are venturing into the Lot’s tribe, the taboo people?” And that’s exactly what the writers want us to be thinking.

Because Ruth is a story of redemption for people and nations because God is a God of redemption.

So now that we’ve set the story up I hope you’re ready to dive deep into the book of Ruth and watch how God works in the lives of people near and far from him to restore two tribes, one near and one far, and ultimately the world.

Get ready, cause we’re about to dig in.

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