Choose the Will of God

CHOOSE THE WILL OF GOD

(Ruth 1:1-18)

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 familyElimelech was the father, Naomi was the mother. Their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion.

A WRONG DECISION IS MADEWhen 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 DECISIONDEATH STRIKES THREE TIMESElimelech 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.

  • How do you walk by faith? By claiming the promises of God and obeying the Word of God, in spite of what you see, how you feel, or what may happen. It means committing yourself to the Lord and relying wholly on Him to meet the need.
  • When we live by faith, it glorifies God, witnesses to a lost world, and builds Christian character into our lives. God has ordained that the righteous will live by his faith and when we refuse to trust Him, we are calling God a liar and dishonoring Him. (Hebrews 10:38 – Now the just shall live by faith:…)
  • There is a “wisdom” of this world that leads to folly and sorrow, and there is a wisdom from God that seems folly to the world but that leads to blessing (James 3:13-18 – Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.)

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?

  • Elimelech made a decision out of God’s will when he went to Moab, and this led to another bad decision when his two sons married women of Moab. Mahlon married Ruth (Ruth 4:10), and Chilion married Orpah.
  • Elimelech and his family had fled Judah to escape death, but the three men met death just the same. The family had planned only to “sojourn” temporarily in Moab, but they remained for ten years (Ruth 1:4). At the end of that decade of disobedience, all that remained were three lonely widows and three Jewish graves in a heathen land. Everything else was gone.
  • Such is the sad consequence of unbelief. We can’t run away from our problems. We can’t avoid taking with us the basic cause of most of our problems, which is an unbelieving and disobedient heart. You cannot out run God’s judgment or God’s chastening of His children.

“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.

  • Are you blessable? Are you in the Lords will so He can bless you? He will not bless you if you are living outside His will. Whenever we have disobeyed the Lord and departed from His will, we must confess our sin and return to the place of blessing. Abraham had to leave Egypt and go back to the altar he had abandoned (Genesis 13:1–4), and Jacob had to go back to Bethel (Genesis 35:1). The repeated plea of the prophets to God’s people was that they turn from their sins and return to the Lord. (Isaiah 55:7 – Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.)
  • Wrong motives. Naomi’s decision was right, but her motive was wrong. She was still interested primarily in food, not in fellowship with God. You don’t hear her confessing her sins to God and asking Him to forgive her. She was returning to her land but not to her Lord.
  • But something else was wrong in the way Naomi handled this decision: She did not want her two daughters- in-law to go with her. If it was right for Naomi to go to Bethlehem, where the true and living God was worshiped, then it was right for Orpah and Ruth to accompany her. Naomi should have said to them what Moses said to his father-in-law, and that was to come with (Numbers 10:29). Instead, Naomi tried to influence the two women to go back to their families and their false gods.
  • Cover up? Why would a believing Jewess, a daughter of Abraham, encourage two pagan women to worship false gods? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that Naomi didn’t want to take Orpah and Ruth to Bethlehem because they were living proof that she and her husband had permitted their two sons to marry women from outside the covenant nation. In other words, Naomi was trying to cover up her disobedience. If she returned to Bethlehem alone, nobody would know that the family had broken the law of Moses. (Proverbs 28:13 – He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.)
  • True repentance is needed. When we try to cover our sins, its proof that we really haven’t faced them honestly and judged them according to God’s Word. True repentance involves honest confession and a brokenness within. Instead of brokenness, Naomi had bitterness. The tragedy is that Naomi did not present the God of Israel in a positive way. In Ruth 1:13, she suggests that God was to blame for the sorrow and pain the three women had experienced. Had Naomi been walking with the Lord, she could have won Orpah to the faith and brought two trophies of grace home to Bethlehem. But instead Orpah may be in Hell today because of Naomi’s sinfulness and lack of repentance at this time in her life.

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.

  • In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws, Ruth had come to know the true and living God, and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land, she wanted to live in His will and live where He wanted her to be, in the midst of His will.
  • Ruth’s conversion is evidence of the sovereign grace of God, for the only way sinners can be saved is by grace (Ephesians 2:8–10). Everything within her and around her presented obstacles to her faith, and yet she trusted the God of Israel. Her background was against her, for she was from Moab where they worshiped the god Chemosh (Numbers 21:29; I Kings 11:7, 33), who accepted human sacrifices (II Kings 3:26–27) and encouraged immorality (Numbers 25).
  • Her circumstances were against her and could have made her bitter against the God of Israel. First, her father-in-law died, and then her husband and her brother-in-law, and she was left a widow without any support. Ruth could have thought if this is the way Jehovah God treats His people, why follow Him? Ruth dearly loved her mother-in-law, but even Naomi was against her, for she urged Ruth to return to her family and her gods in Moab. Since Elimelech and Mahlon were now dead, Ruth was technically under the guardianship of Naomi, and she should have obeyed her mother-in-law’s counsel. But God intervened and graciously saved Ruth in spite of all these obstacles. (Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;)
  • God delights in showing mercy and often He shows His mercy to the least likely people, the least likely at least in mans eyes, in the least likely places. This is the sovereign grace of the God. Ruth’s statement in Ruth 1:16–17 is one of the most magnificent confessions found anywhere in Scripture. First, she confessed her love for Naomi and her desire to stay with her mother-in-law even unto death. Then she confessed her faith in the true and living God and her decision to worship Him alone. She was willing to forsake father and mother and her home, where she grew up (2:11) in order to cleave to Naomi and the God of her people. Ruth was “stedfastly minded to accompany Naomi and to follow God’s will (1:18) and live in Bethlehem with God’s people.
  • How about you, will you commit to be “stedfastly minded” to do and follow the will of God?
  • When you read the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1, you find the names of five women, four of whom have very questionable credentials: Tamar committed incest with her father-in-law Judah (Genesis 38:3); Rahab was a Gentile harlot (Joshua 2:5); Ruth was an outcast Gentile Moabitess (Ruth 1:5); and “the wife of Urias”, Bathsheba, was an adulteress (II Samuel 11:6). How did they ever become a part of the family of the Messiah? – Through the sovereign grace and mercy of God! (II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.) .

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.

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