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Friday, July 15, 2011

Every Journey Begins With One Step

Well, here we are!  Do you have your passport?  Did you pack your most comfy shoes?  {Oh gracious, they are so cute!}  And because I'm a mother I just have to ask, did you pack enough clean underwear??

Alright then, the whistle has blown, the conductor is looking our way.  Give him your ticket and let's leave this platform behind - there are rails to ride and a story to know!  Oh, your ticket?  No worries, it's just an open heart and a willingness to listen.  Come on, the train is leaving!

 Turn in your Bible to the book of Ruth.  It is in the Old Testament {front half of the Bible} and is nestled between Judges and 1 Samuel.  Once there, carefully read verses 1-2.  I know that isn't a very big chunk, and on the surface doesn't seem to hold much information, but it is important to understand the context here before we move ahead in the story.  The story of Ruth takes place in the time of the Judges, a period of time {about 450 years} when God raised up Judges to rule over Israel.  You can read Judges 2:11-19 to get a better idea of the feel of the culture at that time.  In a nutshell, these verses point out that the people had a history of turning to God when they needed Him, and forgetting Him when they didn't;  a fair-weather friend, you might say.

 Verse one also states that Elimelech was from Bethlehem in Judah, located in ancient Israel.  That makes him and his family Israelites, important to tuck away in your memory as we go forward.  They were leaving their homeland and heading to Moab because of a severe famine in their own land.  No big deal, right?  If you're hungry, go where the food is!  However, we see in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 that the Lord had commanded the Israelites to "not seek a treaty with them {Moabites} as long as you live" {Deut. 23:6}.  This was not a simple journey, they were headed into enemy territory, a place they shouldn't be.  That information changes the whole tone of their journey, doesn't it?  Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, had a tough decision to make - stay in the land the Lord had provided {think: Israel - the land of milk and honey} or go to the bountiful land that was off limits.  We soon see that they picked the latter.

Before we know it, Elimelech has died and Naomi is left with her two sons.  Interestingly enough, both Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women.  Remember, these were not people they were to fraternize with, let alone MARRY.  Kilion marries Orpah {no, not Oprah} and Mahlon marries Ruth.  Let me make a quick explanation here:  God had told the Israelites not to marry people of other nations not because of their race, but rather their potential rejection of Him.

  And as if losing her husband wasn't enough, in just ten short years she has lost both sons as well.

  Can you imagine?  Scripture doesn't even begin to hint at how or why they all died - they are just gone.  My heart goes out to NaomiI can't even begin to fathom her pain and lossThe closest I can come to relating to her pain is through a friend's loss of her husband.  Three years ago he was killed in a car accident.  She and her four children were in the car as well and, thankfully, spared.  I have so often thought about her and her new 'normal'.  I can scarcely understand that in one instant, something that was true yesterday, is suddenly false.  There are just some curve balls you can't see coming.

Are you still with me?  Am I making any sense?   Thanks for sticking with me through this.  I think we will stop here for today.  I know it doesn't seem like we have covered much ground, but we have!!  Tomorrow we will take a look at the journey home, the return trip, as that takes the rest of the chapter.

Tomorrow we will get a better look at our main character and the remarkable woman she is.  Charming, elegant, gracious - uncommon for her time.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get right back to you!!


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