By MINISTER KEITH EVANS
"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 Bethlehem-Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 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 Bethlehem-Judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took 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. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman (Naomi) was left of her two sons and her husband." - Ruth 1:1-5
The narrative here is quite a poignant one. Naomi and her family left Bethlehem for a better life in the country of Moab, a ungodly nation. Moab must have been obviously economically thriving, financially robust, and therefore an attractive choice. I believe it is a reasonable assumption that the other tribes of Israel were doing OK economically in that period as well. So why did Elimelech and his family opt for a pagan country such as Moab?
According to the Bible, Moab was the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham through the unlawful sexual congress of incest with his firstborn daughter in the book of Genesis. This incongruent union led to the hostile, evil nation of Moabites, who were a nemesis to Israel. Moab symbolises ease of goodness in Scripture. It is so easy for our unabated flesh to salivate over what is perceptibly and imperceptibly carnal. What you feed will live and what you starve will die! So kill the flesh! It's as simple as that.
Elimelech and Naomi with their two sons left Bethlehem to relocate to Moab, that which is easy. And they did this without first consulting God in prayer. This was a monumental transition for his family, and to do so without prayer was careless, in my humble opinion. Bethlehem comes from the Hebrew; Beth meaning "house" and Lehem meaning "bread" - Bethlehem: the House of Bread in Scripture. The name could also denote the face of God, or God's presence, which we need for our spiritual sustenance to be able to live.
Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem, the House of God, or the "Church" as you may compare it to, because there was a famine in Bethlehem-Judah. And they went to Moab, where there was an economic surplus and life could potentially be better. No where in Scripture do we read of Elimelech or Naomi first seeking God's opinion on whether to move or to stay put in Bethlehem. Nothing wrong with a man seeking better for his family; I probably would have done the exact same thing if I didn't first seek the Lord in prayer. Of course, we know the end result was the conversion of Ruth, Naomi's daughter-in-law, to Judaism and Christianity in its infancy. Elimelach and his sons died in Moab, leaving Naomi to return to Bethlehem with Ruth.
I believe that Elimelech and his family could have simply relocated into another city in Judah or to another tribe of Israel. They left Bethlehem and went into Moab. How many of us are leaving the Church, Christianity, or the Lord because things sometimes gets difficult? I saw a post the other day on Facebook where people were posting about not attending church anymore.
Hebrews 10:25 says: "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." This isn't a suggestion or even a recommendation, but an unequivocal command to attend church. The people who commented on the Facebook post came up with the most eccentric and bizarre reasons for leaving the Church, such as hypocritical and judgemental Christians. Well, we have hypocrites in our workplaces, but do we stop going to work? I think that's a no.
Listen, Elimelech and his two sons died in Moab because they left Bethlehem, the House of Bread, which is the Church symbolically. How many are leaving God's house only to short-circuit their destiny, and in some cases, their lives. Don't leave God's presence! I always tell people that choosing a church to fit in is like standing on the buffet line. You won't eat everything there, but pick out what you want to eat. Same thing when it comes to choosing a place of worship and service. Let God guide you to a place where you can grow in the grace of God. Don't be like Elimelech and Naomi who left Bethlehem only to wind up losing almost everything, even though God in His sovereignty turned their mess into a message and blessed Naomi with Ruth. Ruth of the Moabites got converted to Judaism and married Boaz, which led to her being a part of the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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