Saturday, February 09, 2013
RUTH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, Sat, 2/9/2013
Ruth: Pursued By Grace
THREE TOMBSTONES IN A WASHPOT, Lesson 2b
V. 1b-2 A TIME OF DANGEROUS CHOICES
As we will see in these verses Elimelech did not respond correctly to what the Lord was doing in his life. Notice three mistakes he and his family made during this famine experience.
V. 1 Chose To Leave The Promised Land - Verse 1 tells us that this man made a conscious decision to leave "Bethlehem-Judah" for the country of Moab. The name "Bethlehem" means "House of Bread" and the name "Judah" means "Praise". At the present time neither of those places were living up to their names. There was no bread in "The House Of Bread" and there was no reason for rejoicing in "Praise". However, while the geographic locations failed to live up to their names, so did Elimelech! His name means "My God Is King." If that had been true about this man, he would have known that God's valleys do not last forever and that God would have taken care of His people. After all, Elimelech had a close relative name Boaz. He stayed in Bethlehem and seemed to do quite well in spite of the famine, (Ruth 2:1). Yet, Elimelech chose to leave his inheritance in the promised land and head off to a land where God would not bless him!
This is a scene repeated countless times in the family of God! Here is a person who proclaims themself to be a "Christian". That is a name that means "Christlike One." Yet, when a famine comes in their life, they run out on God. Maybe things didn't go their way at church. Maybe a trial arose in their life and they were blind sided by it. Maybe they were placed in a financial crisis and placed God after income. Maybe they just came to love the world more than they loved the Lord. Whatever the reason, they chose to walk out of the promised land of God's blessing and to head off into the world to live life on their own terms. There is a word for that kind of behavior: Backsliding! I am afraid that more believers are in that shape than are willing to admit it this morning!
V. 1 Chose To Live In A Polluted Land - To leave Israel to go to Moab was to violate the clear commandment of the Lord, (Josh. 23:7, 12). Yet, Elimelech chose the forbidden path to Moab over contentment in the things of the Lord. To leave one's inheritance as Elimelech did was equivalent to denying the faith of Jehovah. It was a total turning from God to the world. You see, for Elimelech and his family, this move to Moab involved total separation from the things of God. They could not worship at the Temple, they could not bring their offerings, they couldn’t keep the feasts that were commanded by the Law. They were totally isolated from everything that stood for God. Not only that, by moving his family to Moab, Elimelech exposed his family to evils they would have avoided had they stayed in Israel. For instance, both of those boys married pagan women. It is never right for a child of God to marry an unbeliever, (2 Cor. 6:14), yet it happens. These men violated the will of God by intermingling with this pagan race,( Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 13:23).
Again, how many times do we see this same thing repeated in the lives of those who call themselves God's children? When a believer walks away from the things of the Lord, he or she cannot possibly serve the Lord as they should. Friend, there is no way to be right with the Lord as long as you are separated from the things of God! When His house, His word, His work, His worship and His will are not priorities in your life, it doesn't matter what you mouth says, your life says that you are away from the Lord! The believer who walks away from the things of the Lord is saying, "God wasn't as good to me as I thought He should be. He isn't worthy of my love and devotion." It is a choice that always leads downward. If you walk out on God, you will find yourself doing things you never thought possible! You will see yourself involved in wrong relationship and worldly activities. It is a dangerous thing to choose the world over the Lord!
V. 2 Chose To Linger In A Prodigal Land - This family went to Moab and there they stayed! The word "continued" means "to exist or to become." This may indicate that not only did Elimelech and his family go into Moab, but that Moab got into them as well. Who knows how far into the sin and society of Moab this family fell. I am sure when they left they told themselves that it would only last a short time. But the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into years. Before they knew it, 10 years had passed, (v. 4), and they were farther away from the Lord than could have ever imagined themselves being.
What an example of the deceptive nature of sin! There are people today who are in Moab this morning in your heart and you can't even see it! For whatever reason, you have decided that God and His plan for your life doesn't suit you. Maybe you are struggling against something He had brought to pass in your life. Whatever the reason, you are away from Him today. You probably never thought you would get as far as you have, or that you would stay as long as you have.
Here's how it works. Someone gets offended in a church: A little spiritual famine. Maybe that person has always been very active and faithful to the things of God. Now, they are offended and they leave that church. Maybe they aren't offended, maybe they "fell led" to go somewhere else. I always get nervous when someone tells me that! It usually means they are headed to Moab! Anyway, they wander around trying to find a new church home. But, they only visit other churches on Sunday morning. After a while, they find a church to settle down in. They join that church. But, now they only attend on Sunday morning. They just can't seem to get back "in the habit" of attending regularly. Why? They went to Moab and have never come back!
Maybe it happened like this: it got to be a burden to get to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. So you decided to take a Wednesday here and there. Before you knew it, you were missing a Sunday evening as well. Then, all of a sudden, Sunday morning became too much. Now your attendance at church is just hit and miss. You never intended it to happen, but you went to Moab and you never came back!
That's not your story? Then try this one on for size. A financial need arose in your life. You know, a famine of sorts. Instead of considering that maybe God sent it to help you grow in Him, you went out and got you a second job. Now, you know it will involve your missing church now and then, but you got to make ends meet. Right? Well, before you know it, you are out of the church, out of the Lord's will and in trouble spiritually. What happened? You went down to Moab and you never came back!
Of course, it could be like this: you started to allow little things in your life that had always been out of the question. Before you knew it, you were doing things you never thought you would ever do again. You began to let little words slip. You tolerated sinful programs on TV. You indulged the crude speech and wicked humor of your friends. Then, you found yourself living just like the lost world around you. You never thought it would happen, but you went to Moab and you "continued" there! You need to come back!
Before I leave this thought behind, I want to remind you that going to Moab doesn't always involve an actual, physical move. There are folk who attend church regularly, who pay their tithes, who live clean, moral lives, but they are in Moab this morning. You see, we go to Moab spiritually when we allow our attitude to get bad. When we become critical, quick to find fault in others, but remain blind to the fault in our own hearts, we have gone to Moab. When we use our tongues as weapons instead of witnessing tools, we have gone to Moab. When we harbor grudges and ill will toward others, we have gone to Moab. Not all the prodigals leave the Father's house physically, though they are miles away spiritually.
Friend, I may have described your situation today. In doing so, it is not my intention to rub salt in your wounds. My goal is to help you get out of Moab and back to the "House of Bread" and the place of "Praise". Sometimes, the only way that will ever happen is for us to be confronted about our sins and our backsliding!
Isaiah 41:13 (New King James Version (NKJV)
13 For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’
“Lord Be There” By: Ken Shackelford (1992)
Lord, be there for me when I fall.
Be there for me when I call.
Be there for me, dear Lord.
Lord, be there for me when I fall.
Be there for me, dear Lord.
Lord You know I always need You;
And I know that, Lord You'll be there.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.
He is all I need.
Father Almighty, God of Virtue, Vision, and Victory! You are an Awesome God and we lift up to You the areas of our lives that are overwhelming and burdensome. We come not to complain but rather to seek Your Help and guidance. Where we tried to handle everything on our own strength, instead of depending and trusting You, we ask for forgiveness. Take each burden of our hearts and enable us to rise above every challenging situation in our life to Your glory and praise. Help us to come back to the “House of Bread” and the place of “Praise”. These things we pray in the name of Jesus our Redeemer. Amen!
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