“MY CHILD, NEVER FORGET THE THINGS I HAVE TAUGHT YOU. STORE MY COMMANDS IN YOUR HEART, FOR THEY WILL GIVE YOU A LONG AND SATISFYING LIFE.” PROVERBS 3:1-2 NLT
1 Peter 1:1-9
The Way of the Kingdom:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body,
and refreshment to your bones.
Every year for seven years, those filthy, camel-riding, shiftless raiders robbed the Israelites of a year’s worth of toil. And the men and women whose backs were breaking from the hard work could do nothing but shake their fists in red-faced anger.
The frustrated Israelites tried everything to thwart their enemies’ modus operandi. They burrowed deeply into the mountain caves in the region to hide their harvests; they threshed their wheat at the bottom of winepresses, yet nothing worked. The Midianites’ sheer numbers overwhelmed the tiny nation.
Perhaps it was during this time that Elimelech set out for Moab. And can you blame him?
Though he should have stayed in the Promised Land, though he knew full well that God had warned his forefathers in the clearest of terms to remain in the land no matter what, and though he had to have been warned by family and friends, still he went.
What would you have done?
When completely overtaken by financial woes, when there is just no way to pay the bills, let alone to pay off debts and get ahead, wouldn’t you bail?
What about when a relationship turns sour? Who hasn’t taken a swipe at someone who hurt us, knowing all the while that Jesus so clearly stated the Kingdom Way when He admonished us to “turn the other cheek”?
Aren’t we all tempted to try to dig our way out of times of fearsome famines?
And yet Elimelech died there in that forbidden land.
Deliberate disobedience on the part of a child of God always brings death:
death of a relationship,
death of integrity,
death to purity or reputation or hope.
The Way of the Kingdom is rarely easy, often times frustrating, usually difficult, and always best.
And that, my dear friends, is just the way it is…
From my heart,
Sojourned Remained Lived
The first five verses of the book of Ruth paint a painful picture of a family’s journey away from the God of their ancestors. Their Hebrew history, culture, and relationship to God were firmly rooted in the land which God had given them. Elimelech left all that behind when he decided to move to Moab.
From the very beginning of the story, God allows us to see what went wrong with Elimelech’s decision to fend for himself rather than wait on God to provide for him. A pattern emerges, a progression which serves as a warning to any and all of us who share Elimelech’s compulsion to control our lives.
First, they sojourned. The root ger means to live among people who are not relatives, to be dependent on the hospitality which played such an important role in the ancient near eastern cultures. A sojourner did not enjoy the rights usually possessed by a resident. Because they had “no blood ties to the residents, they only had legal rights as the dominant peoples permitted which were often whimsically granted and withdrawn.”
Next, Elimelech and Naomi remained in Moab. The Hebrew verb haya means to be, to become, to be done, to come to pass. Here the progression moves forward. “The family had planned only to sojourn temporarily in Moab, but they remained 10 years.”
Finally, the family of four lived there about ten years. The word can also be taken to mean to dwell, to linger, to sit. It implies permanence. Yashab is often used when describing how our faithful God lives with us. Yet here the word paints a picture of a family fully involved in the culture of the country they have chosen to make their home.
Check out another interesting progression of words found in Psalm 1. There, a man is considered blessed if he does not walk or stand or sit with the crowd. Yashab, the Hebrew word translated sit in Psalm 1:1 is the same word translated lived in Ruth 1:4.
“God is King”
Little is known about Elimelech, and what we do know doesn’t line up with the name given him at birth. What grand plans his parents must have had for him as they crowned him with such a glorious title of “God is King.” Did they hope he’d be the next king of Israel, a high and holy priest, or simply a successful supporter of the Temple? Whichever it was, Elimelech didn’t measure up.
Elimelech came from the ancient clan of Ephrathites, one of the aristocratic families of Bethlehem. As such, he was an important landowner in a time when land meant everything to a man: work, status, influence, and prosperity.
As a Jew, Elimelech would have known and been solemnly warned of the dangers of moving to Moab. He had family in Bethlehem: both Boaz and a “relative closer than I” stuck out the famine in the town of their inheritance. The late preacher J. Vernon McGee wrote: “Elimelech should not have gone into the land of Moab, regardless of the conditions in the land of Promise. It is never a delightful story when a member of the chosen seed leaves the Land of Promise and goes into the far country.”
None-the-less, he went, and moreover, he stayed there in that forbidden land, bringing death and destruction on himself and his two sons. Instead of living up to his name and making his God the King of his plans, Elimelech ignored the warnings in the Word as well as the warnings of his family and went his own way.
Elimelech lost his life while trying to find it.