This will be the condensed version of the Bible study on Ruth 1 that I led last night with the girls.
The story: A man named Elimelech lived in Bethlehem with his wife Naomi and two sons Mahlon and Chilon. Bethlehem was where the people of God lived at the time. A famine came in Bethlehem as punishment for the sinful lifestyle that God's people were participating in. Elimelech decided that another city, Moab, had more to offer, so he took his family there. They probably only planned to stay for a short while, but the two sons wound up marrying Moabite girls named Ruth and Orpah, they stayed for about 10 years, and eventually Elimelech and his two sons died. The three women were left. Naomi was going to return to Bethlehem because she had heard that the famine was over and God was providing food, but she urged the two girls to stay in Moab and return to their homes. The girls said they were going with her. After more urging, Orpah decided to return home, but Ruth stayed with Naomi. Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, but Naomi was so bitter for the things that had happened to her that she even wanted to change her name signifying her bitterness (Mara).
Important notes: Most of the names in this story have significant meanings. Elimelech: My God is King. Bethlehem: house of bread. Naomi: pleasant. Mahlon: unhealthy, sickly. Chilon: puny, pining. Moab: washpot; "what father?". Orpah: deer; stiffnecked. Ruth: beauty, friendship, mercy.
Elimelech, the one whose name signifies that he believes in God, quit trusting in the providence of God and relied on his own strength. He left the place God had for him and went to live in a sinful nation. Next, his sons married two girls from this pagan nation. All three guys died, leaving three widows (which, at that time, were equivalent to the homeless in our society), so when Naomi heard that God's blessing had returned to Bethlehem, she decided to go back. Even though the Christian family had been living in a pagan nation for a long time, their faith must have still had an impact on the two daughters-in-law because they were both interested in following Naomi back to her homeland and her way of life. Naomi was upfront with the girls and let them know that coming with her would not be an easy thing for them to do. It would be difficult. After considering the cost, Orpah decided it wasn't for her, but Ruth committed to Naomi wholeheartedly. Upon her return to Bethlehem, Naomi complained that the Lord had brought her back empty and she wanted to change her name to Mara to signify her bitterness. The Lord had other plans for her, however. He did not change her name... there was still hope for her. She was not destined to be bitter forever. She would still "experience great joy in her life and in her God. God had not abandoned her."
Characters to which we can relate:
Like Orpah, many people say they want to follow God, but they change their minds when they find out how tough it may be... that it won't be a walk in the park.
Like Elimelech, some Christians who are in a tough place, when given the choice of trusting God or running, choose to run. They doubt the "Fatherhood" of God and that He will take care of them. The step out in willful disobedience and rely on their own strength.
Like Naomi, some Christians who have run away do return, but they want to make sure God knows that they are mad at Him for letting bad things happen. They let bitterness take over and define who they are.
Like Ruth, true Christians consider the cost of following Christ and follow knowing that it might not be easy. They commit to Him through good times and bad.
Something else we can learn: "We can never expect to bring back anything productive from our [trip] to Moab! If we are true sons of God then the Lord will bring us back to Himself, but it is not usually pleasant."