Departure Into Moab

Ruth 1:1-6

(First in a series of message on the Book of Ruth)

 

            In the opening words of this book we are drawn into the ancient city of Bethlehem Judah. Set on a lonely ridge overlooking the wilderness it was there that Jacob had laid Rachel to rest and where the sweet psalmist had been born and anointed king over Israel.

            Its name is deeply significant. While Bethlehem means “house of bread” Judah means “praise”. More than that we find its inhabitants being described here as Ephrathites. The word Ephrathite means “Fruitful”. However, as we come into this book we find little or no bread. Being set in the times of the judges where we are told over and over again every man did “that which was right in his own eyes”. It was a time of anarchy, apostasy and apathy. Living according to their own rules the Lord withdrawing both the rain and the dew its highways became covered with dust. The vegetation becoming scorched the trees refused to give forth their fruit. Setting aside the law of God and doing that which was right in their own eyes their rebellion turned the land of fruitfulness into a land of famine. The place of praise into a place of murmuring.

            Sin always turns fruitfulness into famine and our song into sorrow. It brings nothing but barrenness and emptiness. Indeed, in v21 Naomi confessed “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty”. Peter following the Lord afar off we read Mark 14:72 “he wept”.  Jonah doing that which was right in his own eyes we are told that “he paid the fare thereof”. There is a price to pay for backsliding. It will cost you your fruitfulness and it will turns your prosperity into poverty and your gladness into grief. That way may seem better than God’s way but never forget there will be a price to pay

 

1. THE DEPARTURE WHICH CORRUPTED HIM: The crops withering in the fields he became deeply concerned. Rather than looking away to the Lord he looked towards the land of Moab. Entering into this heathen land notice here:-

 

a) He failed To Fulfil His Profession: Being of godly stock we read in v2 “And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi”. In Bible times names were deeply significant. While Ruth means “sweet’ Elimelech means “my God is king”. However, in the book of Judges we are told four times over that in these days there was no king in Israel. Rather than living up to his name and bowing before the throne of God in this time of crisis he took matters into his own hands. Setting aside the divine law which forbid any entanglement with the heathen nations he now went down into the land of Moab. While he professed the Lord to be his king he was not living up to his name. He was living as if the Lord was dead.

            As well as possessing Christ there must be a practising of Christ. A living of him out in our daily lives. Indeed, rebuking the church in Sardis we read in Revelation 3:1 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead”. Be under no illusion. This church had a tremendous reputation. It was well known for its vitality and its vigour. It was the church to attend. There were no false doctrines in her midst. However, while she had a name to be alive she was in reality dead. Not living up to her profession the Lord threatened judgement.

            God is not looking for reputation but reality. A living up to our profession. The writer taking up his pen wrote “You call me Master and obey me not, /You call me Light and see me not,/ You call me the Way and walk not, /You call me Life and desire me not, / You call me Wise and follow me not.” You think even of the various names given to a christian. We are called servants but are you serving the Lord? We are called sheep but are you following the Lord? We are called ambassadors but are you speaking for the Lord? We are called disciples but are you a sitting at the Lord’s feet? We are called saints but are you holy? Are you living up to you name? Is he your king? This is where backsliding begins.

 

b) He Failed To Face His Problems: Failing to trust the Lord to provide for his wife and family we read in v2 “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”. Speaking in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy 28 the Lord had made himself very clear. He warned them that any departure from his law and the heavens would become as brass. Sending down dust rather than rain the upturned furrows would become as ridges of steel. Indeed of repenting and living up to his name Elimelech now decided to emigrate to Moab. What was he doing? He was trying to run away from his problems. But rather than escaping he only ran into far greater problems. Problems of sickness and death.

            While running away from your problems may seem the only solution it is no solution. It will only multiply them. Jonah fearing what his own people would think of him if he went  and preached in the city of Nineveh we read in Jonah 1:3 “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD”. Imagining he could run away from his problems he ran straight into a storm.

            Trying to escape your problems only enlarges your problems. There needs to be a confronting and a dealing with them. We live today in what is often termed ‘a drop out society’. Dropping out of their responsibilities we often here the phrase “I need to find myself”. You will never find yourself by running away from yourself. You can change your job and your location and even your church but you will never escape your problems. It has been rightly said “a change in geography will never overcome a flaw in your character”. While you can run away from your responsibilities you cannot run away from your heart. Rather than trying to run away from your problems run to the Lord and sort those things out. Otherwise things will only get worse.

 

c) He Failed To Fight His Passions: Seeing the crops withering and dying all around him we read in v2 “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”. He no doubt loved his wife and his family. Fearing the horrors of famine and hearing of granaries flowing over in the land of Moab he conveniently forgot how its woman had years earlier seduced his forefathers into idolatry. Putting his and his family’s physical welfare before their spiritual welfare he went astray.

            That which is material must never take precedence over that which is spiritual. The needs of the soul must always come before those of the body. Indeed, urging the multitude in the mountain not to worry about material things the Lord said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. If you go back into the previous verses you will discover that by “all these things” he was referring their food and their raiment.

            When we put God first he puts us first. He will meet our every need. It is interesting to note that unlike Elimelech Boaz did not go down into Moab. However, he did not starve to death. God met his every need. How often the mistake of Elimelech is repeated again and again. Considering careers or promotion many looking at the financial reward they never ask what will it mean spiritually. How often we hear parents say “I know I should not send my children on the trip or allow them to go to that place but if I don’t they might miss out”. You are walking in the footsteps of Elimelech and of Esau. Esau put his need for bread before his soul and it ended in tears. Put first things first.

 

2. THE DESTINATION WHICH CAPTURED HIM: Dethroning Christ in his life and losing his taste for the bread of Canaan he looked towards Moab. Representing everything God hates notice here:-

 

a) The Distance Involved: Gathering his children around him we read in v1 “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”. While Moab spiritually speaking was as far from Bethlehem as hell is from heaven yet geographically it was just over the hedge. In fact, in a good day Elimelech would have been able to see her golden fields of corn waving in the breeze. It lay just across the river Jordan. A distance of only twenty to thirty miles. As  such it was a relatively short journey. It would have only taken a few days at the most.

            The journey into by-path meadow is not very far. It just takes a few steps. When we go back into the book of Genesis we read there of Lot. Standing in the hills above Sodom we read in Genesis 13:10 “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar”. He looked and then in the very next verse we find him leaving. A few days later we find him living in Sodom.

            The distance to Sodom is short. It is not many miles just a few steps. Have you ever got completely lost. Finally stopping to ask the  way you discover you are miles away. But if you think back it all began with just one wrong turn. It only takes one wrong step to take you away from the Lord. Achan looked but he ended up stealing and deceiving. Solomon made a wrong choice and ended up powerless. That is why every Sunday service is important and every quiet time is vital.  Don’t think you could never backslide. It just takes one step or wrong look.

 

b) The Duration Involved: Coming down into the land of Moab we read v2 “And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there”. Notice the phrase “continued there”. This was not his original intention. In the previous verse we are told that he intended only “to sojourn in the country of Moab”. But then a day became a week and a week a month and a month a year until he was there ten years.

            The backslider never intends to stay only sojourn. But his lingering in sin usually leads to a living in his sin. Also fearing the horrors of famine we read concerning Abraham - Genesis 12:10 “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land”. The word "sojourn” means dwell for a time. Had the Lord not intervened he would have remained.

            The power of sin is great. Captivating it then chains the soul. How often we here the phrase “things will be different next month or next year” or “I don’t intend missing every prayer meeting”. But one becomes two and two three until you are dwelling in the land of prayerlessness. Maybe you say ‘it only temporary’. You are fooling yourself.

 

c) The Depths Involved: v4 “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”. They had only intended visiting Moab. However, disregarding the law of God in this matter it was not until they were disregarding the law of God in regard to marriage. His sons married Moabites. One sin led to another.

            Mix with the world and you will end up married to the world. One step will lead to another. It has been rightly said “if you don’t stop sin quickly, it will grow into a large uncontrollable beast”.

 

3. THE DISCIPLINE THAT CRUSHED HIM: While Moab seemed the answer to all his problems notice:-

 

a) It Cost Him His Home: v1 “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”. Setting his heart upon Moab he did not travel alone. He brought his wife and his family with him. Dwelling in Moab his sons going even a step further married out of the will of God.

            The consequences of backsliding are contagious. They infect those around us. Paul reminds us in Romans 14:7 “ For none of us liveth to himself”. When you backslide you do not backslide alone. You cause others to backslide with you. In fact you be careless and your family will be even more careless. You break down the walls of separation and they will break them down even further. What affect are you having on your family?

 

b) It Cost Him His Harvest: Naomi said v21 “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?”. They had gone out of Bethlehem full but now returning Naomi confessed all was gone. As well as losing their goods she lost her sons. That which they put before God was now  gone.

            The Lord our God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate idols in our lives. An idol is anything you love more, fear more or serve more than God. That which you put before him he will eventually smite down.

 

c) It Cost Him His Health: v2 “ the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah”. His sons were called Mahlon and Chilion. While the first name means sickly the second means pining or wasting away. Surely in his sons God was giving him a message. He was saying if you do not turn back you will waste away. Refusing to listen we find him dying in the following verse.

            Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. When his words are despised his rod is brought forth. 2 Cor. 11: For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep”. There is a sin unto death. Continue to ignore his chastening and he will take you home. A boy going to university he just spent and spent. One day he wrote to his mother stating he had flunked all his exams. More that that he had wrecked the car and rung up a large credit card bill. At the bottom he wrote “ I am coming home, prepare Dad." His mother wrote backs: "Dear Son, Dad is prepared, prepare yourself". God is prepared. Prepare yourself because he will chasten.

 

 

 

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