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.
2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Naomi to leave her home and family to follow her husband in search of food. They were experiencing a famine in the land and Elimelech made the decision to move to Moab. I wonder if she realized what tragedy awaited her. The Israelites were commanded not to marry the Moabites, who were a heathen people. Yet, Elimelech, in seeing the lack of food in the land, took his family to live amongst them. I don’t believe for a minute that it was the Lord’s will for him to go. I have to wonder if he sought God in this decision or was it made out of fear for his family’s provision?
Much spiritual application can be made in our own lives from this text. Bethlehem (place of bread) Judah (house of praise) is a picture of the church. Moab (waste) is a picture of the world. Sadly, we see many christians these days acting just like Elimelech. They feel like they are in a famine spiritually and so they turn to the world. Spiritual famines will come; we can count on them. Sometimes sin in our lives can cause a spiritual famine. Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: I heard a preacher say once that all God has to do to get his attention is to take a step back. I have found that to be true in my own life. It’s a disturbing thing to feel like you can’t get ahold of God and we do need to ask the Lord to make us aware of hindering sin.
Spiritual famine can come when we’re not in our place. Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Not only ‘not’ being in church but not being in the right church can cause a spiritual famine in our lives. I have told several people over the years that we’d love to have them in our church if God wants them in our church. Otherwise, not only will they hinder their own walk with the Lord but they’ll hinder the growth of the church as well. God’s will must take priority in our lives, above our own wants, desires or convenience.
When you know you’re in the will of God and your not harboring unconfessed sin, then sometimes we just have to have the faith and wisdom to understand that this trial we’re going through is part of God’s plan to make us more conformed to His will for us. 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. Our Father God wants the very best for His children and we have to trust that He knows best. Was Elimelech’s only alternative to take his family to a godless country? I personally do not believe so. I believe God would have provided their need for food if they had stayed where God put them and trusted the Lord. One day we’ll know for sure!
What were the consequences to leaving Bethlehem Judah (picture of the church) and sojourning to Moab (picture of the world)? They lost everything. We see that first, Elimelech died. I have to wonder why, at this point, Naomi didn’t pack up her boys and run back home. She didn’t. She stayed their and her two sons married heathen women who worshipped false gods. Then her two sons lost their lives as well and we read later on that Naomi went home empty and bitter.
We should let her story be a lesson to us. The world has nothing to offer the christian that is better than what God has in store for his children! Nothing! Material wealth can’t be counted on, possessions will depreciate, beauty will fade but what the Lord gives is eternal.
Being a pastor’s wife, I’ve had the opportunity to see people come and go in church. When asked if there’s a problem or why they left, sometimes they’ll say things like, "I felt it was God’s will." God’s will I can understand but we know for sure that is not the truth when they aren’t in church elsewhere. God is NOT going to have a person leave a church and lay out of church when He clearly commands us to not forsake the assembling. Sometimes you’ll hear, "I just wasn’t getting anything anymore." and that is what I’d specifically like to address here.
Churches, just like individuals, go through high’s and low’s. If you aren’t getting fed, if you’re experiencing a famine, first check yourself. If you’re sure the problem is the church or pastor, pray for him! Pastor’s are human too. If God hasn’t clearly instructed you to leave than ask yourself what you can do to be an encouragement. How can YOU help the situation? Just because there seems to be a famine, doesn’t mean that you run to the world. It will cause you nothing but pain and you risk losing the one thing that is most important – family. Whether you lose them physically or spiritually, it’s a loss that isn’t worth the flight to Moab.
© Adorning Grace 2010