CHOOSE THE WILL OF GOD
Ruth 1:16-17 “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
We need to be, as Ruth was, content with any condition or situation, or position or location the Lord directs us in. Ruth was facing leaving everything and everyone she ever knew, yet because she knew it to be for certain the Lords will, she did not hesitate, she did not look back, as Lots wife once did, she pledge her loyalty and her intention to fulfill God’s will for her life at that moment and marched “stedfastly minded” ahead to fulfill His will. (Ruth 1:18 – When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.)
We need to be this way, the way Ruth was, we need to be, once God’s will and God’s direction for our life is determined, to be “stedfastly minded” in the pursuit of that path the Lord has set us on.
INTRODUCTION: Life was not easy in those days during the period of the judges for “there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” Judges 17:6. The book of Judges is the story of Israel at one of its lowest points in history— it’s a record of division, cruelty, apostasy, civil war, and national disgrace. Spiritually, our lives can resemble elements of the book of Judges at time, for there is no king in Israel, and there will not be until Jesus returns. Like Israel in the past, many of God’s people today are living in unbelief and disobedience and are not enjoying the blessings of God.
Elimelech went outside of God’s will for his family when he took them to Moab, it was not what God wanted for him, to live among the heathen and sinful Moabites and to subject his family to that influence.
Matthew Henry has this comment of this situation “It seems there was plenty in the country of Moab where there was scarcity of bread in the land of Israel. If he had made inquiry, it is probable he would have found plenty in some of the tribes of Israel for instance on the other side of Jordan that bordered the land of Moab; if he had had the zeal for God and that affection for his brethren which became an Israelite, he would not have persuaded himself so easily to go and sojurn among the Moabites.”
So Elimelech led his family into a bad decision, one that eventually exchanged a famine for much dire consequences. We need to seek God earnestly, prayerfully to make sure that we never lead our families into a bad decision or direction.
Ralph Waldo Emerson stated in his book The Conduct of Life – “Because God gave us freedom of choice, we can ignore the will of God, argue with it, disobey it, even fight against it. But in the end, the will of God shall prevail, because “the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever” (Psalm 33:11) and “he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Daniel 4:35). The patriarch Job asked, “who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” (Job 9:4). Job knew the answer and so do we: nobody. If we obey God’s will, everything in life holds together; but if we disobey, everything starts to fall apart.”
Nowhere in the Bible is illustrated the truth that was stated by Mr. Emerson than in the experiences of Elimelech and his wife Naomi. Elimelech and his sons went to Moab to find bread, instead they found graves. We see in this account the stark consequences of adventuring outside of God’s will for our life and we see in Ruth’s example the kind of determination we need to do the will of God once we know it.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE SITUATION
THE SETTING, THE PLACES & THE FAMILY – The setting we find in Ruth 1:1 “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.” In the days of the judges, which were prior to the period of the kings of Israel, there is famine in the land of Judah, and a family of four leaves Bethlehem to dwell in Moab.
Bethlehem is a city located five miles south of Jerusalem; it is the birthplace of David and Jesus. How strange that there should be a famine in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”! In the Old Testament, a famine was often an evidence of God’s discipline because His people had sinned against Him (Leviticus 26:18–20; Deuteronomy 28:15, 23–24). During the time of the judges, Israel repeatedly turned from God and worshiped the idols of the heathen nations around them, and God had to discipline them (Judges 2:10–19). Oftentimes, sadly, the godly had to suffer because of the ungodly; we find this to be true even in Bethlehem.
Moab was a country located due east of the Dead Sea. It consisted of the decedents of Lot (Genesis 19:36-37 – Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.) The Moabites were sometimes enemies and sometimes friends of Israel.
The family – Elimelech was the father, Naomi was the mother. Their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion.
A WRONG DECISION IS MADE – When trouble comes to our lives, we can do one of three things: endure it, escape it, or enlist it. If we only endure our trials, then trials become our master, and we have a tendency to become hard and bitter. If we try to escape our trials, then we will probably miss the purposes God wants to achieve in our lives. But if we learn to enlist our trials, they will become our servants instead of our masters and work for us; and God will work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.) Elimelech made the wrong decision when he decided to leave home. What made this decision so wrong? It was prompted by the famine not by consultation in prayer with the Lord. It appears to have been made in lack of faith in God, a lack of faith in God to provide for his family what was needed, not necessarily what was wanted, but what was needed. He appears to have doubted God’s provision for His family.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE WRONG DECISION – DEATH STRIKES THREE TIMES – Elimelech himself dies as a result of his wrong decision (Ruth 1:3 – And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died;…) Elimelech’s death left Naomi a widow with two sons. Rabbinic tradition suggests his death was punishment for greed (not being content with just his needs being met but wanting more than that) and for having forsaken his homeland and his lack of faith in the Lords continued provision. Mahlon and Chilion marry women of Moab. Mahlon married Ruth, Chilion married Orpah (Ruth 1:4). Such marriages with women of Moab were strongly suspect, if not just plain wrong (Deuteronomy 23:3, I Kings 11:1-2, Nehemiah 13:23-27). They lived in Moab for ten years. Mahlon and Chilion die (Ruth 1:5 – And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.) Rabbinic tradition suggests their deaths were due to leaving Judah, their lack of obedience and faith in God and for their marriages.Their deaths left Naomi a widow and childless, which she took as divine judgment against her. (Ruth 1:13, 20-21 – Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?) There are always consequences to sin; there are always results and consequences to every decision we make. That is why we need to keep God first and foremost in our life, and in our decisions.
THE TESTIMONY OF ELIMELECH
He walked by sight and not by faith Abraham made the same mistake when he encountered a famine in the land of promise (Genesis 12:10). Instead of waiting for God to tell him what to do next, he fled to Egypt and got into trouble. No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, the safest and best place is in the will of God.
He majored on the physical and not the spiritual A husband and father certainly wants to provide for his wife and family, but he must not do it at the expense of losing the blessing of God. When Satan met Jesus in the wilderness, his first temptation was to suggest that Christ satisfy His hunger rather than please His Father (Matthew 4:1–4, John 4:34). David’s words are worth considering: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25. As Paul faced a threatening future, he testified, “But none of these things move me,” Acts 20:24a. In times of difficulty and it times of decision if we die to self and put God’s will first (Matthew 6:33), we can be sure that He will either take us out of the trouble or bring us through to the decision that needs to be made, if we will let Him.
He honored the enemy and not the Lord By going fifty miles to the neighboring land of Moab, Elimelech and his family abandoned God’s land and God’s people for the land and people of the enemy. The Moabites were descendants of Lot from his sinful union with his firstborn daughter (Genesis 19:30–38), and they were the Jews’ enemies because of the way they had treated Israel during their pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan. During the time of the judges, Moab had invaded Israel and ruled over the people for eighteen years (Judges 3:12–14); so why should Elimelech turn to them for help? – He put his “wisdom”, what he thought was best above God’s will and above exercising faith in God.
The consequences The name Elimelech means “my God is king.” But the Lord was not king in Elimelech’s life, for he left God completely out of his decisions. Could the same be said about you, do you put God in your decision or do you completely leave Him out like Elimelech did?
“The majority of us begin with the bigger problems outside and forget the one inside,” wrote Oswald Chambers. “A man has to learn ‘the plague of his own heart’ before his own problems can be solved”
A FAITHFUL RETURN TO JUDAH
Naomi chooses to return to Judah The famine in Judah had ended (Ruth 1:6). The Lord’s blessings had return to Judah. The Lord had given them bread. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab (Ruth 1:7-9). As they were on their way to leave Naomi encourages them to return to their mothers’ house and prays God’s blessings upon them to treat them kindly, because their kindness to her and for them to find rest in the homes of future husbands. This prompted sorrowful displays and great affection from them.
Ruth chooses to return with Naomi At first, both daughters-in-law desire to go with Naomi. They were willing to return with her to her people. This speaks highly of their love for Naomi and for their duty they felt as daughters-in-law. Naomi sought to persuade them from returning with her. She told them she has no sons to offer them. She is too old to have a husband and if she did marry and have sons, would they wait until they were old enough? It grieved Naomi to see them suffer because of God’s chastisement of her. But Ruth cannot be dissuaded; she is determined to return with Naomi. Weeping, Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and leaves. But Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, and Naomi tries once again to persuade her to return, but Ruth had made her decision to follow Naomi and live in the will of God and she was determined with everything she had to follow through on that decision.
Ruth’s noble choice:
1) To go wherever Naomi goes
2) To live wherever Naomi lives
3) To make the people of Naomi her people
4) To make the God of Naomi her God
5) To die and be buried where Naomi is buried
6) To let nothing but death come between them and fulfilling God’s will for her life
Your choice: – will you choose to follow God like Ruth chose to follow Naomi? Will you choose to live where God wants you to live, to do what God wants you to do, and determine, like Ruth did, to let nothing deter you from it?
THE TESTIMONIES OF NAOMI, ORPAH AND RUTH
The testimony of Naomi (Ruth 1:6–15) God visited His faithful people in Bethlehem, but not His disobedient daughter in Moab. Naomi heard the report that the famine had ended, and when she heard the good news, she decided to return home. There is always “bread enough and to spare” when you are in the Father’s will (Luke 15:17). How sad it is when people only hear about God’s blessing, but never experience it, because they are not in the place where God can bless them.
The testimony of Orpah (Ruth 1:11–14) The two daughters-in-law started off with Naomi (verse 7), but she stopped them and urged them not to accompany her. She even prayed for them (verse 8–9) that the Lord would be kind to them and find them new husbands and give them rest after all their sorrow. But of what value are the prayers of a backslidden believer (Psalm 66:18 – If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:)? Three times Naomi told Orpah and Ruth to return (Ruth 1:8, 11–12). When she saw them hesitating, Naomi began to reason with them. “I’m too old to have another husband and have another family,” she said. “And even if I could bear more sons, do you want to waste these next years waiting for them to grow up? You could be in your mother’s house, with your family, enjoying life.”
Orpah was the weaker of the two sisters-in-law. She started to Bethlehem with Naomi, kissed her, and wept with her, yet she would not stay with her. She was “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34), but she made the wrong decision and turned back. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but we wonder whether her heart was really in it, for her decision proved that her heart was back home where she hoped to find a husband. Orpah left the scene and is never mentioned again in the Scriptures.
The testimony of Ruth (Ruth 1:15–18) Naomi was trying to cover up; Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel (2:12). She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith.
CONCLUSION: This account in God’s Word certainly illustrates the need to make choices in the center of God’s will no matter where that decision will lead us to. We need to always seek to make decisions after God’s will for our life; regardless of what that decision may lead to or where that decision may lead to, in this case it lead Ruth from her home in Moab to a land she had never been to and that was Judah, but Ruth was willing and determined to do and to go anywhere God lead her to. How about us, are we like Ruth in that regard? Are we willing to do whatever the Lord calls us to do and are we willing to go wherever the Lord calls us to go?
(Read Ruth 1:16-17 again) Ruth made a choice, to leave her family, to leave her land, to leave the familiar in pursuit of the divine. She put the eternal above the temporal, she put God’s will above her own, she put His wisdom above what she or others may have thought best. Ruth put her full trust, her full confidence, her full faith in God and stepped out on that faith to go where He was leading, and to do what He was having her to do; and this lead her to great blessings in her life and blessings for even us today.
Sometimes the choice is not between right and wrong, but between the good and the better or the best. Yet any choice we make will be the right one if made with these words of Jesus in mind: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.