Day 1: Leaving the House of Bread in a time of famine

Read: Ruth 1-15

Reflect: Our story opens by quickly drawing us, the readers, into the drama as we meet our characters and the setting in which they find themselves. There is a famine in the land and a guy named Elimelech decides that the best way to care for his family is to leave Bethlehem to try and find food somewhere else. So he, Naomi (his wife) and his 2 sons pack up and hit the road. Ok, fine, you can read those details easily enough and don’t need me to retell it. 

But there is something deeper going on both in Israel and in Elimelech’s heart. A famine in Israel was not just a shortage of food. It was a punishment for the sin and idolatry of the people (see Deut. 28). It was more than just a famine. It was a depiction of the spiritual health of the people. And it wasn’t good. The people of Israel were far from God. Elimelech was far from God… 

How do I know? 2 things from the passage: First, look at what he named his kids. Mahlon means “weak and sickly” and Chilion means “pining or wasting away.” Who names their kids that? Second, they go to land of Moab, a known enemy of Israel and a people literally birthed in sin (see Gen 19:30-38, but warning, it gets a little weird). And not only does he lead his family to Moab, but he lets his sons marry Moabite women, something strictly forbidden in the Mosaic law. 

What started as a little roadtrip to find some food ends in the place where all sin and running from God ends: death. By the end of verse 5, Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion are all dead, leaving behind three destitute widows with no hope or future. The great, sad irony? Bethlehem, the city they left to head to Moab, means “House of Bread.” They left the House of Bread in a time of famine. And it cost them everything.

Respond:

  • When is a time in your life that you have experienced a spiritual famine? 
  • Elimelech went to Moab for food. Where do you go to try and provide for yourself in those times of spiritual famine? 
  • What words would you use to describe where you are spiritually as we start our trip? 
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