So, I have to read the whole Bible by the end of June. That's a lot. The Bible is broken up in two parts: The Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). Between the two, there are sixty-six books of the Bible, the longest of which being Psalms, at 150, or so, chapters. I'm not sure which is the shortest...'cuz...there are a lot of one chapter books.
Anywho, as I'm reading, I have to go through and take notes. I started reading Ruth, which starts out with a family, Elimilech and Naomi, and their sons, Mahlon and Kilion (sounds like Lord of the Rings names...), are leaving Bethlehem (which is in Judah, which is in Israel) because of a famine. Having first read Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, Joshua, and Judges (I apologize if I get the order wrong), and in those books, the Israelites sinned. A lot. And they got punished. A lot. These punishments varied, so, in Ruth, I see this famine-thing, and I'm like, "Ah. The Israelites must've done some mass-sinning again. When will they learn?"
Then I read on. As the story goes, Elimilech and his family settle down in a place called Moab. Here, the sons get themselves some wives (one each...just so there's no confusion). That's all good, right? Right. Until someone dies.
Elimilech is the first to go, leaving Naomi a widow, but still in the care of her sons. Until they die, too. Can nothing go right for this woman?? Not to mention her now widow daughters-in-law, Orphah and Ruth. So, what can Naomi do now? She's a stranger - an alien, if you prefer - in the land, and doesn't really have family now. So, she decides to go home, back to Bethlehem. She gives both the girls leave to...um...leave. But, Ruth refuses.
Which means that Naomi and Ruth go home to Israel. When Naomi's old friends catch wind of this, they rush to see how she is and how she's doing. She tells them to no longer call her Naomi, which means pleasant.
In fact, this is what she says: “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)
I stopped at this. I was like, "Huh. How interesting." Why? I'll tell you.
There are so many times when things happen badly to people, and they quickly say, "I'm cursed." But, as I looked back, I realized that she wasn't cursed. God was simply moving things around a bit in her life for a much bigger plan.
The famine? Not likely because of sin, probably more to do with ousting Elimilech and his family out of town. Elimilech and the sons dying? To oust Naomi, and Ruth, out of Moab, back to Israel. Why? Simple, God wanted Ruth to meet, fall in love with, and marry a name named Boaz. They became the parents of a man named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, one of the greatest kings of Israel. Who came from David? Well, way down along the line (a couple hundred years, at least), a man named Joseph had to take his very pregnant betrothed, Mary, to a little place called Bethlehem - his birth place - for a tax. They, unable to get into an inn, stayed in a stable. And there, in that dirty little cave, was born the greatest king of all, Jesus.
Go figure. And it all started with a famine in the land.