(Judges 16:1-5, 18-21)
Judges 16:16-17 “And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
Samson gives in to Delilah’s constant nagging of him to tell her the secret to his power. Could he not perceive she had his ruin in her mind? By telling Delilah the secret to his power he not only betrays himself but God also.
Someone made this observation about Samson in this passage – “The weakness of Samson’s heart in the whole of this history, is yet more astonishing than the strength of his body.” What is the condition of your heart, Christian? Is it strong through the reading and meditating on the Word of God? Or is it weak, like Samson’s was, and susceptible to falling for the temptations of the world, due to neglecting to feed it daily with the Word of God. Do you want to keep yourself from destroying your life with foolish decisions? – Then keep yourself well-fed with with the Word of God.
Samson has trouble staying on the straight and narrow. In fact, it seems he was seldom on the straight and narrow. He had a great weakness to the sins of the flesh. He seems to be forever giving in to the slightest of enticements of the sins of the flesh. This weakness in his character keeps pulling him to the enticements of the Philistines, the oppressors of Israel, and into a whole lot of problems.
“Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.” Judges 16:1. At the close of Samson’s twenty years as a Judge of Israel he intentionally goes to Gaza and shames and defiles himself with a harlot. God’s Word was as clear back then as it is now that we are not to do what Samson did in Gaza “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Deuteronomy 20:14. Instead of being like Joseph when he said “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9. Samson intentionally seeks out this great wickedness against God. Again, Samson’s lack of character to the sins of the flesh is on full display.
We need to establish clear convictions and set clear standards when it comes to these sins of the flesh that Samson was prone too. If he had done the same and asked God to help him with these weaknesses of his, imagine how different the account of Samson would be. (I Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.)
After Samson traveled to Gaza, and stays at a harlot’s house, his enemies wait at the gates of the city to ambush him, but he tears the gate from its very hinges and puts them “…upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” Judges 16:3. Again we see displayed the great strength of Samson, which was given to him from God, where all power comes from. (Matthew 28: 18 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.)
He then falls in love with Delilah. The Philistines approach Delilah and entice her with 1,100 silver coins to find the secret of Samson’s strength so they can get rid of it and capture their enemy.
Samson refuses to reveal the secret and teases her, telling her that he will lose his strength should he be bound with “seven green withs” She does so while he sleeps, but when he wakes he “brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire.” She persists, and he tells her that he can be bound with new ropes. She ties him up with new ropes while he sleeps, and he snaps them, too. She asks again, and he says that he can be bound “If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.” She does so with similar results “And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.” Judges 16:14.
He finally tells her the secret to his strength. (Read Judges 16:15-19) – Eventually, after much nagging from Delilah, Samson tells Delilah that he will lose his strength with the loss of his hair. God supplies Samson’s power because of his consecration to God as a Nazarite, symbolized by the fact that a razor has never touched his head. Delilah calls for a servant to shave Samson’s seven locks. With this, Samson, sadly, has finally broken the last tenet of the Nazarite oath.
Delilah’s approach is far from subtle: “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee” Judges 16:6. She asks Samson to reveal the secret of his power so that he could be rendered powerless. What does he think she will do with this information? After his earlier experience with his wife, his groomsmen, and the riddle, one would think that Samson would have wised up in this area.
Judges 16:20 – And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.
God will not allow us to escape the consequences of our sin; what we sow we will reap. Even though God’s will is unstoppable by us, Samson still had to face the consequences of his sin. Delilah begged for him to tell her the secret of his strength, and when he did, the last part of his Nazarite vow was broken. “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.” Numbers 6:5.
In the midst of this tragic situation, the author of Judges supplies the reader with a faint word of hope. Samson’s hair began to grow back. (Judges 16:21-22 – But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.) – The great thing we can learn from this is – With God, don’t ever doubt, don’t ever despair too long, because with God there is and always will be HOPE!
Who knows why the Philistines didn’t take note of his hair growing back, or why they did not keep his head shaved. But for whatever reason, they did not take Samson seriously any longer. It was over for Samson, they thought, and all that was left was ample opportunity for them to humiliate him. Now they would make him pay for all he did to them.
The Philistines wanted to celebrate their victory over Samson with a heathen worship ceremony, one that included bringing Samson in to further humiliate him. If Samson was not willing to give credit for his power to the God of Israel, these Philistines were eager to give their god, Dagon, credit for Samson’s defeat. In so doing, they were proclaiming Dagon’s superiority to Yahweh, the God of Israel. This is not the first time other nations would praise their god as superior to the One True God, nor will it be the last. But we should not expect Yahweh to remain silent in such circumstances. Nor would I want to be a part of a nation that is guilty of mocking God, and it is sad to say but right now many are doing so in our own nation. (Judges 16:27 – Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.)
It would seem that Samson now sees things more clearly than he has ever seen them before in his life. Samson came to trust in the God of Israel. He now prays, calling “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” Judges 16:28. He prays that strength may return to him one last time so that he might get his revenge against the Philistines. Is this a model prayer, the kind that others should be encouraged to repeat? I don’t think so. This prayer falls short of the ideal, but taking the words of the writer of Hebrews seriously, I believe this is the point in time when God acknowledged Samson’s faith.
God answered that prayer. Samson was positioned in such a way as to be able to exert pressure on both main supports. When these two supporting columns gave way, the entire building collapsed. The roof and supporting beams, along with the 3,000 people standing on the roof, came crashing down upon those assembled below. While Samson sacrificed his life in order to destroy the building and its inhabitants, more Philistines were killed through Samson’s death than he killed during his life.
And these were not your “everyday,” “run of the mill” citizens. These were the cream of the crop. These were the top political and military leaders of the nation. For all of these leaders to die in one place and at one time would have thrown the Philistines into confusion and chaos, which would render the nation powerless for years to come.
Judges 16:31 “Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.” – This last verse in Judges 16 could be called “family reunion”. It is interesting to note that Samson had a family beyond his father and mother. This verse informs us that Mrs. Manoah did not remain barren after the birth of Samson. Samson had brothers and perhaps sisters as well. When they learned of Samson’s death, they went to Gaza to remove his body and bury it in Israelite territory in the tomb of his father, Manoah. This means, of course, that Manoah had died before his son, Samson. At long last, Samson was restored to his family and to his country. Fitting for a man who is to be found in the hall of faith. (Hebrews 11:32-33 – And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,)
With the Spirit of God upon him, Samson was a powerful man with supernatural strength. We also find he was very intelligent with an unusual sense of humor. While he had almost unlimited potential to deliver his people from the Philistines, his story ends in needless tragedy. He not only failed to deliver his people, but killed himself. The words disobedience, defeat, disgrace, and destruction could be used to describe his life, but the Bible also uses one more word to describe him and that is faith.
Despite all of Samson’s weaknesses, he did turn back to God before he died (Judges 16:28–30). God in His grace used Samson to fulfill His purpose. In reality, Samson’s death did much to stop the oppressive actions of the Philistines. Samson’s destruction of the temple of Dagon was a major factor in their downfall at Mizpah by Samuel and the children of Israel some 100 years later (I Samuel 7:7–14).
Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn is that God desires to forgive and give grace. In the end, God saw Samson as a man of faith. This is evidenced by the fact that he’s listed among those in the hall of faith (Hebrews 11:32). When we read through the list of names recorded there, we find that no one in the “hall of faith” was perfect. Samson was the strongest man to ever live, but it was God who gave him the strength. More importantly, Samson let himself be used by God. In fact, God could have used him without making him the strongest man. He’s willing to meet us right where we are, right now and to take us where He wants us to be if we will let Him (James 4:8a – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.).
There is only one way to understand the story of Samson and that is from a divine point of view. We should not attempt to make Samson a model for Christian men and boys. Samson is a man who illustrates the warnings of Scripture, particularly those we find in the Book of Proverbs. He is a man who lived his life in the pursuit of fleshly pleasures, a man who cared too little about God and about his divinely-given gifts and calling. Samson is a study in how not to live the Christian life.
We should strive to have the faith that Samson had at the end of his life and live to avoid all the mistakes he had in his life as he let his flesh lead him instead of letting God lead him. Decide and determine that you will follow the leading of God in all areas of your life to live in the spirit in fellowship with Christ and not follow the leading of Satan and live in the flesh. (Romans 8:5-8 – For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)
Luke 5:12-13 “And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.”
“A man full of leprosy” – This man had a problem. He had a big problem. He was full of leprosy the Bible tells us. It was the task of the Jewish priest to examine people to determine whether they were lepers (Leviticus 13). Infected people were isolated and could not return to normal society until declared “cleansed.” Leprosy was used by Isaiah as a picture of sin (Isaiah 1:4–6), and the detailed instructions in Leviticus 13—14 would suggest that more was involved in the procedure than maintaining public health. Like sin, leprosy is deeper than the skin (Leviticus 13:3) and cannot be helped by mere “surface” measures (Jeremiah 6:14). Like sin, leprosy spreads, and as it spreads, it defiles. Because of this defilement, a leprous person had to be isolated outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46. People with leprosy were looked on as “dead” (Numbers 12:12), and garments infected with leprosy were fit only to be burned in the fire (Leviticus 13:52).
His problem was insurmountable without direct intervention from the Lord. He had a problem that no matter how hard he worked at it, or his friends and family helped, that he could not overcome, he could not get victory over it. Do you have any problems today? Do you have a seemingly insurmountable problem, a problem too big, too serious, too beyond your control to do anything about? – Then you need to do what this man did.
We are going to examine the many things this man did, when faced with an impossible problem, a problem that was impossible to get victory over in his own power, please take note of the following points:
“Behold seeing Jesus” – He took his problem to the right person. He went to the one who could help him. He knew Jesus could help him. He knew Jesus could help solve this insurmountable problem, this incredible and tragic crisis and circumstance in his life. He knew Jesus had the answers he needed and the Almighty power to do something about it. (Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.)
“fell on his face” – He humbled himself before the Lord, He did not feel worthy to ask anything of Jesus, he put himself into a position of complete and total submission to the Lord. Notice he did not complain about his problem. Notice also, He did not hesitate to take it to Jesus.
Do we sometimes hesitate to take our problems and concerns to Jesus? We may think, I can take care of this by myself, or we may be ashamed of our actions that may have led to the problem, and therefore hesitate to take it to Jesus; well Jesus tells us to take all our problems to Him, and He does not put limitations or qualifications on what problems we can take to Him. We can take Him all our burdens whether they are self-imposed burdens or not. (Matthew 11:28-29 – Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.)
“and besought him” – the leper importunately pleaded with the Lord for help. This was not just a simple “can you help me?”, this was an earnest, impassioned, importunate cry for Jesus to help him with his problem. Is this how we bring our problems to Jesus?
It is the consistent and importunate prayers to our Savior that He answers. It says in Luke 11:8 “…yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth”, and in Luke 18:1-8 the importunate widow eventually gets justice as a result of her importunate pleading. We need to pray with importance when we make petitions of the Lord, have passion and seek Him out early and often for your need and for your big problem.
“saying Lord” – He acknowledges Jesus Lordship of his life. You may be saved, but is Jesus sitting on the throne of your life, or are you? Are you living your life according to your wants, your desires, your priorities or are you living your life seeking to do what Jesus wants you to do with your life? Do you desire the Lords will for your life? Is God’s priorities your priorities?
It is important to make sure Jesus is the Lord of your life if you want Him to answer your prayers, we need to make sure we have confessed our sins to Him, repaired our relationship with Him, if we expect to petition for His help with our problem. For the Bible says our prayers will not be answered if we regard iniquity in our hearts. (Psalm 66:18 – If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:)
“If thou wilt” – notice he asks according to the will of God. Is this how we petition the Lord, do you preface your prayer request as to be according to the will of God? Do we say “If it be your will Lord” this or that request, or do we approach God like He is our servant and dictate commands to Him, instead of coming humbly to Him as the servants we are to be and then ask for things to be done in accordance to His Will? (I John 5:14-15 – And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.)
Submission to the Will of God – Notice by his statement “If thou wilt” he is also implying that he was willing to accept the continuation of his problem and circumstances if it were not God’s will to heal him.
“Thou canst make me clean” – He had faith Jesus could take care of his problem. He believed if it was God’s will, that Jesus could heal him and remove this problem from his life.
He can give you complete victory over that problem, but we need the faith on our part to allow it to happen. We need to live a faith life, and seek to live out the Lords will in our life. He believed Jesus could do the seemingly impossible for Him, do we believe Jesus can take care of the seemingly impossible problem in our life? – He can, seek Him out, and grow your faith in Him.
Verse 13 – Jesus took care of the problem. Jesus removed that impossibly big problem from his life according to His divine will. Jesus had great compassion for this man and his big problem. Jesus has great compassion for all of us and all of our problems, Jesus loved us all so much He came to earth and died for our sins, so we could have the opportunity to accept Him as our Savior and go to Heaven one day. Jesus is the all-sufficient Savior and was completely capable of healing this man. He is completely capable of healing any problem, no matter how big it is, if it is in accordance to His perfect will. We need to turn our problems over to the Lord, give them to Him, make sure we are in right relationship with Him and trust in Him.
When we are faced with a problem in our life we need to acknowledge the existence of the problem, then we need to seek Jesus out, we need to run to Him with our problems and concerns, and He will gladly receive us, and gladly help us. We need to seek the Lord out with the proper attitude. We need to go to Him in complete submission to Him and completely surrender to His will, whatever that means. We need to approach Jesus with faith, it takes faith in the Lord to petition Him effectively, it takes sincerity to petition Him successfully, and it takes importance as we continually and passionately seek Him out for help with our problems. Jesus can take away our problem no matter the size or complexity of it, if it is in accordance to His Divine and sovereign will; and we need to be willing to accept the continuation of our problem if that is what God so chooses to allow to happen. Give your problem or concern to the Lord, and let Him help you, with relief from it, or help you with strength to endure it, and either way remember to always give the glory and honor to the Lord to whom all glory and honor is due. (I Timothy 1:17 – Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.)
Luke 7:41-43 “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.“
This parable speaks of Jesus Himself, for He it is that forgives and is beloved by the debtor. We learn here:
1.) That sin is a debt, and sinners are debtors to God Almighty. Debts eventually will need to be paid in full. (Romans 6:23a – For the wages of sin is death;…)
2.) That some are deeper in debt to God than others, by reason of their sin.
3.) That whether our sin debt be more or less, it is more that we could ever hope to pay ourselves. We could never pay our sin debt on our own. (Mark 2:10a – But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,)
4.) That the God of Heaven is ready to freely forgive poor sinners, who are heavy laden with the debts and guilt of their sins, He will forgive their debt according to His terms He has set forth in the Gospel, no matter the size of their sin debt. (Ephesians 1:7 – In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;)
5.) That those who have their sins forgiven are obliged to love Him that has pardoned them; the more that is forgiven them, the more they should love Him for what He has done for them. This should also motivate us to allow Jesus love for us to flow through us and to others. Our sin debts being paid by Jesus should also motivate us to seek out other sinners, with sin debts that need to be paid, and tell them about the One that can forgive all their sin debts. (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2 – And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.)
Luke 7:48-50 “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
6.) The debtors (sinners) faith in Christ is what allowed Jesus to forgive her sin debt. It takes sincere faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God for us to be saved from our sin debt. We can do nothing to pay our sin debt, we cannot even pay a fraction of our sin debt on our own. It is by no work of ourselves that we can be forgiven of our sin debt; it is only through our faith in the Lamb of God, and His shed blood and death on the cross that we can seek and get forgiveness of our sins. It is by faith we get saved, through the blood. (Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.)
GETTING TO “KNOW” YOU
Philippians 3:10a “That I may “KNOW” him….”
Genesis 18:19a “For I “KNOW” him….”
It is so important to get to really “KNOW” someone ~ not just “KNOW” about someone, but to “KNOW” someone. “KNOW”ing about someone=impersonal knowledge “KNOW”ing someone=personal knowledge. There is an active element in getting to “KNOW” someone.
The communication between two people makes “KNOW”ing them meaningful. When you start a relationship with someone, you usually want to get to “KNOW” that person. “KNOW”ing someone takes time, takes EFFORT!! Just because someone tells you information about someone does not mean you “KNOW” him, you “KNOW” about him. To get to “KNOW” that person will take time and effort on your part.
When my husband and I met, we wanted to get to “KNOW” each other. We sought to “KNOW” one another ~ Psalms 119:10a “With my whole heart have I sought thee..” We communicated by phone, by text, by mail, by email, whatever means it took to talk and “KNOW” each other, we sought that means out. We truly got to “KNOW” each other. This should be like our relationship with the Lord. Do you “KNOW” the Lord? Do you seek to “KNOW” him? Do you make that effort to “KNOW” him? Praying and reading God’s Word are great ways to start to get to “KNOW” Him.
John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might “KNOW” thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” I encourage you, get to “KNOW” the Lord. Oh how better your life will be. You’ll be so fulfilled😊. Do you “KNOW” someone who may be quiet or distant? Take the time out to get to “KNOW” that person. Deep inside, I’m sure they are not quiet at all. It may be once you start talking to them, they may never stop ~ that person may have just what you need to encourage you or help you out. A lot of times, it seems the one you’ve checked off your list, is just the one you need in your life. The one to encourage you or help you along in your life.
It’s like getting to “KNOW” the Lord, He’s ALL we need but you may never “KNOW” that until you take the time and effort to get to “KNOW” Him. I married a quiet man, or so I thought, until I got to “KNOW” him. I’m so glad I did 😊. I can’t tell you how many times he’s helped me along the way, even before we got to “KNOW” each other. He’s a wealth of knowledge. The Lord has given to him because my husband sought to “KNOW” the Lord. He takes the time and the effort to “KNOW” Him.
So many people are too comfortable with their “circle” of people, it’s an inconvenience to try to get to “KNOW” other people. Often times the ones you don’t take the time to talk too, are the ones that could be the biggest blessing in your life. To get to “KNOW” someone you simply must take the time and effort to “KNOW” them. Start today. Get to “KNOW” the Lord, truly seek Him out. Make the effort to have a personal relationship with Him. Why not take a little extra time to get to “KNOW” that coworker, or the one who is always alone. You could just be what that person needs, and hey, that person could be just what you need. Always take the first step, get to “KNOW” people, get to “KNOW” Jesus. Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Obedience to God brings blessing (Luke 11:28 – But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it) – Blessings come through believing God’s Word (Lu 1:45) and doing God’s Word, for we must be doers and not hearers only of the Word of God (James 1:22) Blessed are they, that hear the Word of God, and do carefully and conscientiously retain, observe, and practice it.
Obedience to God brings long life (I Kings 3:14 – And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.) – Obedience to God is conducive to health, long life, and the greatest enjoyment of our life on earth. It is also conducive to the greatest usefulness, and is, through divine grace, a sure preparation for heaven.
Obedience to God brings happiness (Psalm 112:1 – Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.) – Blessed or happy is the man that obeys the Word of God. The most joyful person, is the person who is in closest oobedience to the Lord and His commands and teachings. Do you want joy and happiness in your life? – Then surrender to the Lord, repent of all known sin, and commit to living out His Word in all parts of your life.
Obedience to God brings peace (Proverbs 1:33 – But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.) – From fear of evil; from sinful and tormenting cares and fears. And as a wicked man’s mind is often full of anxiety in the midst of all his outward prosperity and glory, so the mind of a good man is filled with peace and joy, even when he is in the midst of many troubles.
Obedience to God brings a state of well-being (Jeremiah 7:23 – But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.) – That it may be well unto you: this shows what would be the good effect of obedience (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 5:29,33), which is a state of well-being in life, for those who “obey my voice” the Lord says. God promises us a state of well-being in life, if we hearken to keep His Word and live by its commands and teachings. Conversely this implies that our sufferings in life, can be in part, as a result of our own perverseness and sinfulness, and lack of obedience to God in our life.
Obedience to the Lord is the key to this present life for the Christian. Imagine how much better, and more joy filled all of our lives would be, if we just obeyed God in all areas of our life, if we were in complete submission to all of His Word, if we lived out our life, seeking to live as closely to His plan for it as we possibly could. Obedience to God is the key to a happy, joy filled, and successful life.
Romans 1:9- 10 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.”
“Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” “What is God’s will for my life?” – Most Christians have asked a question like this. It may often be asked pertaining to mundane things or more significant things like one’s career, where to live, etc.
“Making request” – has the meaning of begging, Paul was desperate to know and to do the will of God for his life. – How about you? Are you desperately seeking God? Are you desperately begging God to know and to do His will with your life?
“if by any means” – Paul was willing to whatever it took to fulfill God’s will for his life. – ARE YOU!?
“now at length” – no matter how long it took to know and do God’s will, Paul was willing to wait. How about us? Do we willingly wait on the Lord, as the Bible commands us?
“I might have a prosperous journey” – Paul prayed for the Lord to bless his efforts for Him. – How about us? Do we have the kind of prayer life that we should have?
“the will of God” – Are we sincerely seeking the Lords will in all facets of our life?
“If by any means…. The will of God”! – Do we live by this thought, do we live by this statement, could this be considered the motto of our life?
So how can we live in harmony with the will of God? – Paul mentioned his desire to live in harmony with God’s will as he made plans to visit his brethren in Rome and as he prayed regarding such plans. Paul sought to find a way “by the will of God”. Paul’s comments in verse ten provide an opportunity for us to consider some thoughts related to the will of God, especially on how to determine God’s will for our lives.
“By any means…. The will of God”! – We should always seek to live by this thought and statement. “By any means… The will of God”!
FACETS OF GOD’S WILL
You have God’s proclaimed will – God has made His will known in many respects. (I Thessalonians 5:18 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. & I Peter 2:15 – For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:)
God has proclaimed His will through revelation by sending inspired prophets, by sending His Son, and by having the Spirit guide the Apostles in their writing and ministry.
That which is essential for us to know God has proclaimed through Scripture. (II Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.)
Then you have God’s Providential will – God acts providentially in our lives and that is implied in our text. (Romans 15:32 – That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.)
God shapes events, He moves events, He arranges circumstances, He gives us opportunity’s all by His will, in His timing.
Then there is God’s permissive will – God allows things to happen that are not necessarily according to His desired will. This can also be looked at in the fact God has given man a free will, God wants us to do right and live right and follow Him, but He will not make us do that.
People are allowed to sin and even hurt other people; this does not mean God is OK with it. God will eventually judge all men according to what they have done. (Acts 17:30-31 – And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.)
God allows people to do things that are indifferent to Him. This is again an example of allowing us to exercise our free will.
FINDING GOD’S WILL – How do we find God’s will?
COMMITTING OUR WAY TO THE LORD – Whatever we do we need to be doing it for the Lord’s sake. (Psalm 37:5-6 – Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.)
SOME OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER – God is not like a train; He is able to run on more than one track. A choice may not be between good and bad, but between good and better. God can use us in many different ways.
Matthew Henry said this concerning verse Romans 1:10 and will of God “As in our purpose, so in our desires, we must still remember to insert this ‘if the Lord will’”
CONCLUSION: Our goal for our life should be to “…. stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12 and by any means pursue the will of God with our life! Our goal should be this, especially as this pertains to the proclaimed will of God and as much as possible to the providential and permissive will of God. We should keep the Words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ constantly in the fore front of our minds “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10. Remember Jesus also set the example for us and prayed “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” Matthew 26:39 &42. Are you seeking “by any means” to find and then to do the will of God?
“By any means” – Find and Do the Will of God!
“By any means… the will of God”!
Put your will, your wants, your desires on the altar today and live by this thought and this motto “By any means… the will of God”!
The following is a brief answer to the above question. The “Exception clause” is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:32 “saving for the cause of fornication,” and Matthew 19:9 “except it be for fornication.” It gives an “exception” for remarriage after a divorce that is the result of fornication. Matthew 5:32 says “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Similarly, Matthew 19:9 reads, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” So, what precisely is “fornication,” and why is it an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery?
JESUS WAS CLEAR, WITH NO AMBIGUITY ABOUT HIS STATEMENTS ON DIVORCE
The meaning of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is clear. If a person gets a divorce, and then remarries, it is considered adultery unless the exception clause is in effect. The word “fornication” is a translation of the Greek word porneia, the word from which we get our modern word “pornography.” The essential meaning of porneia is “a habitual sexual perversion or sexual sin including, but not limited to harlotry, adultery or incest among other sexual sins” In Greek literature, around the same time as the New Testament, porneia was used to refer to adultery, fornication, prostitution, incest, and idolatry. It is used 25 times in the New Testament and is most often translated as “fornication.”
The meaning of porneia in the New Testament seems to be the general concept of sexual perversion or sin. Other Greek words are used to refer to specific forms of sexual perversion, such as adultery. With this meaning in mind, according to the exception clause, any participation in sexual perversion/misconduct is an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery. If one spouse commits adultery, or any act of sexual perversion, and a divorce results, the “innocent” spouse is free to remarry without it being considered adulterous, or in other words, in Jesus’ eyes not considered to be the spouse of two husbands or two wives.
AN EXCEPTION, NOT A COMMAND
Please understand that the exception clause is not a command for divorce and/or remarriage. Jesus is not saying that if marital unfaithfulness occurs a couple should divorce. Jesus is not saying that if a divorce occurs due to marital unfaithfulness, the innocent spouse should remarry. At most, Jesus is giving allowance for divorce and remarriage to occur. In no sense is Jesus declaring divorce and remarriage to be the best or only option. Repentance, forgiveness, counseling, and restoration are God’s desire for marriages damaged by unfaithfulness. God can and will heal any marriage in which both spouses are committed to Him and willing to follow His Word. But in those cases where one spouse is not committed to Him, does not care about restoration, Jesus provided a way for the innocent spouse, in those situations, to continue on with their lives and be free to remarry with no sin or guilt attached or assigned to that new marriage by Him.
HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE – NOT TWO
Also the exception clause, as it is known, clearly teaches if you marry again after divorce and the divorce is not for fornication you are committing adultery or you would be considered the husband to two wives; but if you marry again and the divorce was a result of fornication by the other spouse you can marry again and it is not considered adultery and you would not be considered the husband of two wives.
For it not to be considered adultery, you would have to be presently unmarried, or in other words, the husband of zero wives, then you can get married again according to the exception clause and in Jesus’s eyes according to Matthew 5:32 & Matthew 19:9. You would then be the husband of one wife; because if you were not, you would then be committing adultery and Jesus clearly teaches that the innocent spouse, that later remarries, is not committing adultery.
A passage pertaining to the Old Testament law of divorce can be found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus explains that this law was given by Moses on account of the hardness of the people’s heart; that is, to prevent greater evils (Matthew 19:8). The law permitted the husband to put away the wife when “he hath found some uncleanness in her.” But Jesus here limits the right of divorce to cases of “fornication,” and if there be a divorce on any other grounds, neither the man nor the woman can marry again without committing adultery (Matthew 19:9). The “Exception clause” in no way relaxes or liberalizes the marriage law; it in fact does the opposite in stiffening it and limiting divorce. It is implied and indicated in these passages in Matthew 5 & 19 that divorce for “fornication” breaks the marriage bond, and this conclusion is widely held both by commentators and preachers alike, that the innocent party to such a divorce can be free to marry again.
GRACE & LAW
We are presently under grace, not law, so the spouse that is guilty of fornication is no longer put to death for fornication. But, in times past, when they were put to death for fornication, this served the purpose of punishment of the offender, setting an example that purity was expected, and it also set the innocent party free. They were no longer married, they were free to marry again.
Now in the New testament, the guilty party is no longer put to death for fornication, they have been given grace. Now does that mean their grace given to them turns into the law being now applied to the innocent victim where they are no longer free to remarry because their former spouse is still alive? Why would God give grace to the guilty party and put chains on the innocent party? By many interpretations and applications of divorce in the church today, that is what many do because God no longer requires the life of the guilty party, they require of the innocent party in the divorce a life sentence of being single or told they cannot marry or cannot serve or cannot be a pastor or deacon because they are divorced. In the Old Testament they would not be divorced they would be widowed, but because God now gives grace to the guilty party, the innocent victims are now not widowed, but divorced, and now the church imposes law and restrictions on them, as a direct result and consequence to the grace that God bestowed on the guilty party. How does this make sense? How is this biblical? How is this right? How is this God’s will? – It is not.
Romans 1:9- 10 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.”
“Making request” – It was Paul’s earnest desire to see them, and he presented the subject before God.
“If by any means” – This tells us he was willing to do whatever it took to be able to do the will of God. Do we have this same attitude today? – We have a perfect example to follow in this and that is Christ.
“Now at length” – He had purposed to go to Rome for a long time. The expression in the Greek implies an earnest wish that this long-cherished purpose might be accomplished.
“A prosperous journey” – Paul was praying for a safe, and pleasant journey. We should make it a practice, as Paul did to pray for safety as we travel and prosperous results as we fulfill His will.
“By the will of God” – Paul prefaced all he had said by wanting to make sure all of it was according to God’s will. This is a proper way to pray; we should all pray and make plans this way always “by the will of God”.
Paul was thankful for the Roman church and their testimony (v. 8). “spoken of throughout the whole world” – meaning the whole Roman Empire knew of the faith of the Christians at Rome. Travel was relatively common in that day and “all roads led to Rome.” It is no wonder that the testimony of the church spread abroad, and this growing witness made Paul’s ministry easier as he went from place to place and was able to point to this testimony going out from the heart of the Roman Empire.
What kind of testimony do you personally have for Christ? – Does your whole world know? Does your whole school or place of employment know of your testimony for Christ? Is it a good testimony that they know? Are we like the Roman Christians and not being ashamed of our faith and who were, so actively proclaiming it and sharing it that literally the whole world knew of them and their faith in Christ?
Does your whole world know of your faith in Christ?
Are you sharing it with others?
How is your testimony concerning Christ to others?
He prayed for them (vv. 9–10). They did not know of Paul’s prayer support, but the Lord knew about it and honored it. (I wonder how many of us know the people who are praying for us?) One of the burdens of Paul’s prayer was that God would permit him to visit Rome and minister to the churches there. He would have visited them sooner, but his missionary work had kept him busy (Romans 15:15–33). He was about to leave Corinth for Jerusalem to deliver the special offering received from the Gentile churches for the poor Jewish saints. He hoped he would be able to travel from Jerusalem to Rome, and he was hoping for a prosperous journey.
Do you pray like you should? – Do you pray for fellow Christians and others in general, like you should be doing?
Verse 8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”
“First, I thank my God” – The God whom I worship and serve. The expression of thanks to God for His mercy to them was given to help prepare them for the truths which he was about to communicate to them. It showed the deep interest which Paul had in their welfare; and the happiness it would give him to do them good. It is proper to give thanks to God for His mercies to others as well as ourselves. We are members of one great family, and we should make it a subject of thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us.
“Through Jesus Christ” – The duty of presenting our thanks to God, through Christ, is often referred to in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and also Hebrews 13:15 “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”
“For you all” – On account of you all, on account of the entire Roman church. This shows us that the church had a remarkably pure faith and earnest faith at this time. How few churches have there been of whom a similar commendation could be expressed.
“That your faith” – The readiness with which the Romans had embraced the gospel, the firmness with which they adhered to it, was so remarkable, that it was known and celebrated everywhere. The same thing is affirmed of them in Romans 16:19a “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.”
“Is spoken of throughout the whole world” – Their great faith is celebrated, or known. They were in the capital of the Roman Empire; in a city remarkable for its wickedness; and in a city whose influence extended everywhere. It was natural, therefore, that their remarkable conversion to God should be celebrated everywhere.
Verse 9 “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;”
Charles Spurgeon made this comment on this verse “Little did he dream that his prayers were to be answered by his being conveyed in chains to the great city. Very mysterious are the Lord’s ways of granting our requests.”
***Are you personally surrendered and prepared for the answers to your prayers the Lord may bring your way? His ways are above our ways, God may answer your prayers but it might not be in the way you are thinking or expecting. ***
“For God is my witness” – The reason for this strong appeal to God is to show to the Romans the deep interest which Paul felt in their welfare. This interest was manifested in his prayers, and in his earnest desires to see them. A deep interest shown in this way was well-fitted to prepare them to receive what he had to say to them. Those we minister to; do we have this deep personal interest and burden for them like the Apostle Paul did?
“Whom I serve” – This expression denotes that Paul was devoted to God in this manner; that he obeyed him, and had given himself to do His will in making known His gospel. Have we done the same in our lives? Have we given ourselves over to God’s will for our life?
“With my spirit” – It is not an external service merely; it is internal, real, and authentic service to God. The Apostle Paul was really and sincerely devoted to the service of God – are we?
“In the gospel of his Son” – This means in making known the gospel, or as a minister of the gospel. Are we doing this in our own life? Are we making known the Gospel not only in our words, but in our deeds, in our testimonies, in the examples we set?
“That without ceasing” – This means constantly, always, without intermission, not only once, but repeatedly (I Thessalonians 1:2 – We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;)
“I make mention always” – I call you to remembrance, and present your case before God. This demonstrates his remarkable interest in a church which he had never seen, and it shows that Paul was a man of prayer; praying not for his friends and kindred only, but for those whom he had never seen. If with the same intensity of prayer all Christians would remember the churches and other Christians in prayer, what a tremendous affect the Christian church would soon have “throughout the whole world”!
E.M. Bounds made this comment on prayer “Pray and never faint, is the motto Christ gives us for praying. It is the test of our faith, and the severer the trial the longer the waiting, the more glorious the results!”
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 returned 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 for them to find rest in the homes of future husbands; Naomi also prays God’s blessings upon them to treat them kindly, because their kindness to her. 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
Our choice: – will we choose to follow God like Ruth chose to follow Naomi? Will we choose to live where God wants us to live, to do what God wants us 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. How sad it is when people only hear about God’s blessing, but don’t experience it, because they are not in the place where God can bless them. Are you where God can bless you?
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, even though that meant moving to a foreign place to her.
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 man’s 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.) .
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?
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.
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?