As I read this short passage of scripture, I am amazed at the trials that both Naomi and Ruth faced.... and the story hasn't even really begun! Six short verses into the book of Ruth, Naomi has endured famine that led to her family moving to a foreign country, she has lost her husband and both her sons, Ruth has lost her husband and they are both looking at moving again... on foot and alone. Any one of these events alone would be difficult enough to endure.
Let's briefly look at each one of these events.
First, Naomi and her family endured a famine that forced them to move to a foreign country, Moab. Can you imagine there not being enough food? And, to make it worse, that there is so little that you must pick up your entire family and move to a foreign land?
In this particular case it was an even bigger event than one might imagine as their move involved relocating from Bethlehem to Moab. To understand this, we must share a brief history on Moab. At the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot's surviving daughters were fearful they would never marry and have children. Because of this fear they got their father drunk and slept with him. They both conceived and each had a son... one named Moab and the other Ben-Ammi. These two sons became the patriarchs of the Moabites and the Ammonites, two nations that warred frequently with Israel. The Moabites worshipped Chemosh (a deity requiring child sacrifice) and fertility dieties, Baals and Ashtoreths.
Second, after living in Moab for a period of time Naomi's husband, Elimelech, dies. Her sons then marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, which brings on another new challenge. Remember above the differences in beliefs between the Moabites and Naomi's family? Ten years after marrying both her sons then die. Naomi has now lost her husband and her two sons while at the same time Orpah and Ruth are now widows.
Third, as we reach the last verse of this passage, the women are looking to move away from Moab and to Bethlehem. Naomi has now heard the famine in Bethlehem is over and she wants to go home to her people. At this point, both Ruth and Orpah are planning to return to Bethlehem with her. This is a big deal as they would be leaving their homes and moving to a country where they know no one and where they worship very differently. Very similar to how it was for Naomi and her family when they originally moved to Moab.
In addition, this move would require these three women to travel alone for approximately 50 miles thru the mountains and the barren area of the Dead Sea. And, they would do it all on foot. Yes, you read that right... on foot. Can you even begin to imagine?
As I read thru these verses I am amazed at the ability of Noami to keep moving forward. I am amazed at her strength in even considering the journey back to Bethlehem. I am amazed at the willingness of Ruth and Orpah to travel away from their home and their family to journey to Bethlehem with Naomi.
I pray today that I would always be able to have the same strength.. the same trust in the Lord.. to enable me to be so strong and so willing to move forward in difficult circumstances. Some days I think my life is rough, but it is nothing compared to the journey Naomi encountered and walked in her life.