When someone mentions the Hallmark Channel, he immediately thinks of Christmas, because it feels like Christmas and the Hallmark Channel have essentially become one in the same. I am sure it would not surprise you that the Hallmark channel is the most watched cable channel during the months of November and December, especially among 18 to 54-year-old women. According to reports in 2019 about 100 million people watched at least one Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. According to an article on the website av.com Why are Hallmark Christmas Movies So Addictive? the author writes, “If you happen to flip on the Hallmark Channel at any point between late October and early January, you’ll be transported to an alternate dimension that looks vaguely like our own but where the teeth are whiter, the snow is faker, and the unbridled passion for Christmas is frighteningly forceful. No one in a Hallmark Christmas movie can just casually enjoy the holiday season—they must either have a manic enthusiasm for Christmas or their lack of zeal must be a major plot point to be resolved.”
She continues “films range from a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot chef to a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot firefighter. (Or for example) Christmas At Graceland, meanwhile, is about a successful workaholic singing at a Christmas concert with a hot music promoter.”
I do not go out of my way to watch Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, but it may surprise you that one my favorite movies is WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. In fact, you would be surprised to know that I love watching romantic comedies. I truly am a sucker for romantic comedies (rom com) and even tear-jerking love stories. Now, I need to show my man card and say that I also love a good of horror, action, and science fiction movie but… BUT… in my book, nothing beats a good ole story about a man and woman falling in love. Yes, I even get my fair share of rom com’s by watching the Hallmark Channel… I make this confession so as to say that I really love the Old Testament story of Ruth because the story itself makes for a perfect romantic movie.
The book of Ruth is a short story nudged in between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is a simple story that is told in a direct way probably from female perspective. One can read it at both a surface (casual) level and a more in-depth level. At the surface it is a love story between a man and a woman. But at a deeper level, it is not just a love story between a man and woman, but also a love story with the underlying truth of God’s love for his children that is displayed to us through the act of redemption.
It is a story of…
We are unsure of the date for writing this book; some have suggested anytime between the first and second century B.C. We do know the approximate time the events of this story take place, per the opening line in the first chapter; during the time when the Judges ruled (prior to Israel’s monarchy). Most likely towards the end of the rule of Judges. Geographically the story begins in Bethlehem, then moves to the land of Moab and concludes back in Bethlehem.
Overview of the Main Characters of Ruth
There are three key characters and four minor characters who all have some sort of role in the story. They are as follows…
Ruth – A Story of Romance and Redemption
Vs 1 – 2: “During the time of the Judges…”
This is the period time prior to the Israel’s monarchy. The time of the judges was when judges were the men and women of God who delivered Israel out times of trouble.
Vs 2: “A man went to sojourn in the country of Moab… and his wife”
The name of the man was Elimelech (“My God is King”) and his wife is Naomi (“lovely, delightful”) and they were from Bethlehem. When a famine occurred in the land, they took the 70-mile journey to Moab to live.
Their sons: Mahlon (“weak or sick”) and Chilion (“failing”) were the sons who married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah).
Moabites - The Moabites were descended from Lot and his oldest daughter (Gn. 19:37), They were a people group who had been hostile towards when the Israelites had approached from Egypt after the exodus (Nu. 21:29). The god of Moab was Chemosh and it is believed that Chemosh and Moloch were one in the same. Child sacrifice was a form of worship to the god Chemosh. It is believed to be early in the period of the judges when Eglon King of Moab had invaded and dominated the Israelites for eighteen years (Jdg. 3:14). Needless to say the Moabite women were not followers of Yahweh at the time. These marriages were, in fact, interracial marriages.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Naomi’s husband dies and soon thereafter her two sons die as well. She was is alone, a childless widow.
(Ruth 1:6 – 18)
Vs 6: When Naomi hears in Moab that the famine is over in Judah, she decides to return to her homeland. She starts her trek back on the road to Judah.
On the way she tells her daughter’s-in-law to go back to their homes, families, and gods so she could return to Bethlehem. They refused. Naomi says to the girls, “May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly. She believed there was no future for these young women in her homeland. According to the CSB Study Bible, “Naomi assumed that no other family in Bethlehem would be interested in marrying Moabite women, and she emphasized the certainty of there being no other sons from her own line who could fulfill the role of levirate marriage.” At first both daughters said they wanted to go with her, but she convinced them that she was of no use to them. She addresses the girls tenderly as though they are her own. “But Naomi replied, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?’” Orpah was persuaded to leave, but Ruth was not so easily persuaded as she shows her loyalty to Naomi as she clings to Naomi and insists on going with her the word “cling” is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the marriage bond.
Vs 15: Naomi tries to convince Ruth that since her sister-in-law has chosen to return to her country and gods that she should do the same.
Vs16, 17: Naomi urges Ruth to go back to her people and to her gods but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi; she says, “Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth’s response shows her fierce love and loyalty to her mother-in-law. Ruth fully realizes and understands what her commitment to Naomi means; she is going to be cut off from her own people Moab, and she will adopt Naomi’s people as her own. Her decision also has religious implications of which she is fully aware. Naomi’s God (Yahweh,) will be her God (not Chemosh). This does not mean that she has no religious principles or that she rates friendship above faith. In fact, some have suggested that Ruth has already adopted the faith of her mother-in-law. This is mere speculation.
“Where you die I, will die…” Ruth’s loyalty and commitment to Naomi was not shallow. She is in for the long haul. She will stay with Naomi until she dies and thereafter. Ruth has pledged he allegiance to Naomi, her people, and her God. It is presumed that Ruth was much younger than Naomi (she was probably around 50), and her commitment will remain even after Naomi dies. She is making a promise that she will not break. She goes so far as to say that if she does break the commitment there will be divine judgment on her.
Vs 18: Naomi sees Ruth’s commitment, so she stopped talking to her. This probably means that Naomi stopped arguing and conceded to Ruth’s persistence and accepted her plea.
(Ruth 1:19 – 22)
Vs 19 – 22: The two traveled to Bethlehem and upon their arrival all of Naomi’s friends recognized her. They were excited that she had returned.
Unfortunately, Naomi was not as enthusiastic as the women of Bethlehem. She informed them that her time away was anything but pleasant. She lost her husband and her two sons. She suggests to the women that her name is no longer Naomi it is Mara (“bitter”); because the Lord has dealt bitterly with her.
The expression barley harvest (probably towards the end of April) is found in the Gezer Calendar which speaks of ‘Month of pulling flax. Barley harvest is the Month when everything (else) is harvested.’ This is significant to the story as we will see in the weeks to come; this harvest will be a game changer in the life of Ruth
In this first chapter we see in Ruth, a person of integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty; all the qualities that make for a true friend. When we look at this story today, we should ask ourselves, “how is this first chapter of Ruth useful for us today?” I fully believe our takeaway for today is how we can find and foster friendships that are rooted in true integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty.
The Qualities of a Healthy Friendship
I personally believe it is important for all believers to have AT LEAST one person in their lives that is a person of…
My challenge to you today is that you find, seek out or foster a friendship that has these qualities. No matter your age, it is always important have someone who is a friend to the end and one who will seek to edify and bring out the best in you. True friendship rooted in Christ is a friendship that will never end.
As I conclude this message the scene is set for chapter two as we are introduced to another key character, Boaz. We are going to see in this how the qualities that Ruth possesses integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty are key to her fulfilling the divine call of God on her life.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ru 1:1–7). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 402). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 403). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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