God connects the details in His word to one another. Sometimes we wonder why God includes certain chapters, passages, or details in His Bible. Such chapters may be 17-21 in which terrible wickedness is recorded with little divine comment. Serving almost as bookends to these events are chapter 17:6 and 21:25, which both say basically the same thing:
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
More than a historical note, this passage reflects on the people’s rejection of God as king in their hearts. They seek to make Gideon king after God helps him deliver Israel from the Midianites. His son Abimelech then accepts that mantle as king for a time. The people try to have a physical king, but they are uninterested in a spiritual king.
The Contrast Between Judges & Ruth
The ungodliness in the story of Micah, a man of Bethlehem, in Judges 17-18 is overwhelming as he steals silver from his mother, returns the silver to praise only to have it forged into an idol. He finds a corrupt Levite and leads a region into adultery. In chapter 19, another Levite’s wife is unfaithful and run’s back to her father’s home in Bethlehem. Once reconciled, they are assaulted by a mob in Gibeah, which results in the rape and death of the Levite’s estranged wife. Justice remains unserved, and, in chapter 20, much of Israel turns and nearly destroys all of Benjamin. Then the Israelite forces go and slaughter cities who did not participate in battle, and they arrange deception to capture some virgins to give survivors of Benjamin.
We read these passages, and we think, “These are God’s people?” These stories demonstrate what happens when we reject God as king of our lives and set ourselves up as kings.
Then, as we begin Ruth, we meet Elimelech and Naomi from Bethlehem– where Micah and the Levite whose concubine was killed are from. Unlike Abimelech, whose name means “my father is king,” Elimelech means “God is king.” This family in Ruth serve as a stark contrast to these immediately preceding stories. Elimelech and Naomi live under the period of the judges, and, in some old manuscripts, the book we know as Ruth is part of Judges.
Ruth is a book full of tragedy and difficulty, but we see joy and happiness in those who acknowledge God as king compared to those who are ruled by their desires. Despite the rampant immorality surrounding Elimelech and Naomi, they remain unmoved. They do not let a wicked society dictate their godliness. Instead, they serve as a godly example to their children and their step-children. We don’t have to be like those around us. Godliness can exist in godless conditions. It does not matter what is going on in the world around us. We can face tragedy and challenges in this life and look forward to an eternal life of joy with our Father.
lesson by Tim Smelser