Ruth and Esther are the only women in the Old Testament who have entire books devoted to them. Ruth tells the story of a Gentile who married a Jew and became and ancestress of the Messiah. The book of Esther introduces us to a Jewess who married a Gentile and was used of God to save the Jewish nation from destruction so that Messiah could be born.
Ruth begins with a famine and ends with the birth of a baby, while the book of Esther begins with a feast and ends with the death of over 75,000 people. God is mentioned twenty-five times in the book of Ruth, but He isn't mentioned at all in the book of Esther! Yet in both books, the will of God is fulfilled and the providential hand of God is clearly seen.
Someone has said that faith is not believing in spite of the evidence, but is obeying in spite of consequence. Both of these women serve as great examples to us today and challenge us to be committed to Jesus Christ and to do His will at any cost.
I. Unbelief: trying to run away from our problems. 1:1-5
A. Consider the Time.
1. Life was not easy during the times of the Judges.
2. Jg. 17:6, "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
3. Sounds kind of familiar doesn't it?
4. Spiritually speaking we are living in a day and age where the "king" of this world is none other than Satan himself.
B. Consider the Place.
1. Bethlehem means 'house of bread'.
2. Now there was no bread in the 'house of bread'.
3. Often in the O.T. we find that famine is evidence of God's discipline because His people had sinned against Him.
4. Note: Le. 26:18-20
5. It isn't hard for me to believe that God's hand of discipline is upon our nation!
C. Consider the decision.
1. When trouble comes into our lives we can do one of three things: 1) endure it 2) escape it or 3) enlist it.
2. If we only endure our trials then they become our masters and we have a tendency to become hard and bitter.
3. If we try to escape our trials then we will probably miss the purposes God wants to achieve in our lives.
4. But if we learn to enlist them, they will become our servants and work for us to bring about our growth in Christ.
5. Ro. 8:28, "...All things..."
D. Consider the Consequences.
1. Elimelech walked by sight and not by faith.
a. He isn't alone in this either!
b. How do we walk by faith?
c. Believe the promises of God, obey the Word of God, in spite of what we see, how we feel, or what may happen!
d. When we walk by faith it glorifies God, witnesses to a lost world, and builds Christian character into our lives.
2. Elimelech majored on the physical and not the spiritual.
a. A husband and father certainly wants to provide for his wife and family.
b. But he must not do it at the expense of losing the blessing of God upon his life.
c. In times of difficulty, if we put God first in our lives, we can be sure that He will either take us out of the trouble or bring us through it.
3. Elimelech abandoned God's land for the land of the enemy.
4. The consequences of his action were far reaching.
a. Elimelech died in Moab, about as far away from God as he could have been.
b. His sons married Moabite women (this was strictly forbidden by God's Word cf Nu. 23:3).
c. His sons suffered untimely deaths and left behind their grieving widows.
D. Concluding thoughts:
1. The family had fled Bethlehem in order to escape death.
2. They had intended on staying for a while, but it lasted ten years.
3. We cannot run away from problems because we cannot avoid taking with us the basic cause of most of our problems: an unbelieving and disobedient heart.