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                           "THE BOOK OF RUTH"

               Ruth's Noble Choice:  "I Will Go" (1:1-22)

INTRODUCTION

1. The book of Ruth is a beautiful "interlude of love," set in...
   a. The period when judges ruled Israel - Ru 1:1
   b. An era marked by immorality, idolatry, and war - cf. Judg 21:25

2. It tells a heartwarming story of devotion and faithfulness...
   a. Concerning a Moabite widow (Ruth) who leaves her homeland
   b. To live with her Jewish mother-in-law (Naomi)  in the land of
      Israel

3. God honors Ruth's commitment...
   a. By guiding her to the field of Boaz (a near kinsman to Naomi)
   b. Where she gathers grain and finds a place in the genealogy of
      Christ!

4. It has been said the book serves two purposes...
   a. To illustrate how Jehovah rewards those who make wise spiritual
      choices and show steadfast filial loyalty
   b. To explain how Ruth, a Moabitess, came to be an ancestor of David,
      and ultimately, the Messiah - cf. Ru 4:21-22; Mt 1:5-6

[While the book's brevity and beauty makes it easy to read in one
sitting, we will let it serve as the basis for four sermons, one for
each chapter.  In chapter one, we learn of "Ruth's Noble Choice"...]

I. A FATEFUL SOJOURN IN MOAB

   A. FAMINE PROMPTS THE JOURNEY...
      1. The setting - Ru 1:1
         a. In the days of the judges (prior to the period of the kings
            of Israel)
         b. There is famine in the land of Judah
         c. A family of four leave Bethlehem to dwell in Moab
            1) Bethlehem, city located 5 mi. S of Jerusalem; birthplace
               of David and Jesus
            2) Moab, country located due E of the Dead Sea
               a) Descendants of Lot - Gen 19:36-37
               b) Sometimes enemies, friends, of Israel - Judg 3:12-30;
                  1Sa 22:3-4
      2. The family - Ru 1:2
         a. Elimelech the father, Naomi the mother
         b. Their two sons:  Mahlon and Chilion
         c. Ephrathites - Bethlehem was also known as Ephrath - Gen
            35:19; Mic 5:2
      3. The move
         a. Prompted by the famine
         b. Perhaps indicating a lack of faith in God, who made
            provision for when His children became impoverished - cf.
            Lev 25:35

   B. DEATH STRIKES THREE TIMES...
      1. Elimelech dies - Ru 1:3
         a. Leaving Naomi a widow with two sons
         b. Rabbinic tradition suggests his death was punishment for
            greed or having forsaken his homeland (Expositor's Bible
            Commentary)
      2. Mahlon and Chilion marry women of Moab - Ru 1:4
         a. Mahlon married Ruth, Chilion married Orpah - cf. Ru 4:10
         b. Such marriages with women of Moab were strongly suspect,
            if not wrong - cf. Deut 23:3; 1Ki 11:1-2; Neh 13:23-27
         c. They live in Moab about ten years
      3. Mahlon and Chilion die - Ru 1:5
         a. Rabbinic tradition suggests it was because of leaving Judah,
            and their marriages
         b. Leaving Naomi a widow and childless, which she took as
            divine judgment against her - Ru 1:13,20-21

[Elimelech and his sons went to Moab to find bread, instead they found
graves (Baxter).  Bereaved of her husband and two sons, Naomi gives
thought to return to her homeland...]

II. A FAITHFUL RETURN TO JUDAH

   A. NAOMI CHOOSES TO RETURN HOME...
      1. The famine in Judah had ended - Ru 1:6
         a. The Lord's blessings had return to Judah
         b. The Lord had given them bread
      2. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab - Ru
         1:7-9
         a. As they were on their way to leave
         b. Naomi encourages them to return to their mothers' house
         c. Naomi prays God's blessings upon them
            1) To treat them kindly, because their kindness to her
            2) To find rest in the homes of future husbands
         d. Prompting sorrowful displays a great affection

   B. RUTH CHOOSES TO RETURN WITH HER...
      1. At first, both daughters-in-law desire to go with Naomi - Ru
         1:10
         a. Willing to return with her to her people
         b. Which speaks highly of their love for Naomi and duty as
            daughters-in-law
      2. Naomi seeks to dissuade them - Ru 1:11-13
         a. She has no sons to offer them
         b. She is too old to have a husband
         c. If she did marry and have sons, would they wait until they
            were old enough?
         d. It grieves her to see them suffer because of God's
            chastisement of her
      3. Ruth cannot be dissuaded - Ru 1:14-18
         a. Weeping, Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and leaves
         b. Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, and Naomi tries once again
            to persuade her to return
         c. Ruth's noble choice
            1) To go wherever Naomi goes
            2) To live wherever Naomi lives
            3) To make the people of Naomi her people
            4) To make the God of Naomi her God
            5) To die and be buried where Naomi is buried
            6) To let nothing but death come between them
            --	In making such a choice, Ruth has become a proselyte to
               Judaism
         d. Naomi realizes Ruth is determined to go with her

   C. NAOMI AND RUTH ARRIVE IN BETHLEHEM...
      1. Their arrival sparks excitement in the city - Ru 1:19
      2. Naomi believes she should be called Mara - Ru 1:20-21
         a. No longer Naomi ("Pleasant"), but Mara ("Bitter")
         b. For she feels the Lord has dealt bitterly with her
            1) She left Judah full, and has returned empty
            2) She believes the Lord has testified against her, and has
               afflicted her
         c. This may be true - cf. Deut 28:15-19
            1) Yet not all suffering is indicative of divine
               chastisement (cf. Job)
            2) She may have been the innocent victim of others' sins
      3. Naomi and Ruth settle in Bethlehem - Ru 1:22
         a. Naomi, a woman without husband and sons
         b. Ruth, the Moabitess living in a strange land

CONCLUSION

1. Their arrival was at the beginning of the barley harvest...
   a. Which sets the stage for the events in the next chapter
   b. Which portends a new beginning in the lives of Naomi and Ruth

2. This story certainly illustrates the importance of making choices...
   a. Choices come with consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad
   b. Elimelech and his sons made choices...
      1) Which may have appeared to be a good business decision
      2) But ultimately left a wife and mother a widow and motherless in
         a strange land
   c. Ruth made a choice
      1) To leave family and false religion, for the true God and His
         family
      2) One that would have provide both temporal and eternal blessings
         - cf. Mk 10:29-30

Sometimes the choice is not between right and wrong, but between good
and better.  Yet any choice we make will be the right one if made with
these words of Jesus in mind:

   "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
   these things shall be added to you." - Mt 6:33

"Ruth's Noble Choice" to follow Naomi and her God illustrates the truth
of Jesus' words!
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