The book of Ruth opens with difficulty.
It was the “days when the judges ruled”, a dark spiritual period in Israel when, “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Though famines were common in Biblical times, the Bible makes a clear link between human sin and the productiveness of the land (Deuteronomy 28). There is irony in the text too: Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and their tribe’s name meant “fruitful”.
In these difficult times, Elimelek makes a difficult choice: he decides to take the family from the land God had given Israel, and instead, seeks food in Moab. Elimelek’s choice echoes that of Israel’s ancestors who left the land in times of famine (Genesis 12, 26, 42) – choices that had profound consequences.
But these are God’s people, and it’s a Biblical story, so we must ask, where is God in the story? What is to be done with a nation who are supposed to be God’s people, but who just do what they think is right? Will God come to the rescue of his nation, which is starving? And how will God act towards this family, who have left the promised land in search of food?
We may live in a context far removed from the setting of Ruth in the ancient near east. However, we too live on a planet impacted by human sin. And as with Ruth, so we ask of our own story, “Where is God?” What is God going to do in the midst of the difficulties we face?
These questions are grounded in Biblical truths. We approach life in a particular way because of who the Bible reveals God to be: our God is a God who is present and active in the world, a God who is the source of life and fruitfulness, a God who in his love longs to save.
Because we believe these things about God, we look for his presence and his activity amidst the brokenness of our lives and our world. And when faced with difficult circumstances we turn to God in expectancy, trusting in his love and salvation.