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, content with any situation, content with any position and content with any location the Lord directs us to. (Philippians 4:11 – Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.)
Ruth was faced with 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, and she pledged her loyalty and her intention to fulfill God’s will for her life at that moment, and marched “stedfastly minded” ahead to do just that. (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. Ruth sacrificed a lot to be in the will of God. She left her home, and followed the leading of God.
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 times. 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. Elimelech compromises his beliefs in exchange for material gain.
Matthew Henry has the following 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 lead them in a bad direction. Direction is very important. Where you are at now may still be ok and uncompromising, but what direction is your current circumstances heading in? Use biblical discernment about direction and not financial considerations as the determining factor in decisions about where you lead your family.
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 – 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 this truth more than 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 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. 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.
A WRONG DECISION IS MADE
When trouble comes to our lives, we can do one of three things:
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. (James 1:3-4 – Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.)
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. He considered the material or the financial and not the spiritual needs of his family. This decision 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, his sons, 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.) 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. Use spiritual discernment in all 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, it witnesses to a lost world, and it builds Christian character into our lives. God has ordained that the righteous will live by faith. (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. Spiritual wealth and health is far superior than material wealth and financial health. 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 in 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 us, do we put God in our decisions or do we completely leave Him out like Elimelech did?