“And a certain man of Bethlehem of Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, his wife, and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech and his wife’s name was Naomi and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem of Judah. They went to the country of Moab and continued there.”
Ruth 1: 1, 2
“When You Move to Moab”
“Love not the world, for it is a moth in a Christian’s life.”
Is there an activity or action in my life that I would compare to “moving to Moab,” against God’s will?
“Take heed of this squint eye to our profit, pleasure, honor, or anything beneath Christ and heaven; for they will take away your heart…that is, our love, and if our love be taken away, there will be little courage left for Christ.”
“Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual…our models are successful businessmen, celebrated athletes and theatrical personalities. We carry on our religious activities after the methods of the modern advertiser.”
A. W. Tozer
I grew up in a family that moved a number of times.
Packing and unpacking. Hunting for a place to live. Taking care of getting settled in a new school. Finding the local stores to shop in. Going to a new church. Getting a new doctor. These are all activities that have to be considered when one moves.
Most of the time when our family moved, it was because my dad’s job changed. This was the “driving force” behind the decision to start boxing things up again.
As we begin our study in the book of Ruth, the “driving force” the Bible tells us, propelling Elimelech to move his wife and sons, was that “there was a famine in the land,” of Bethlehem, or as it was called – the House of Bread.
A little geography lesson would be helpful here for the distance between the land of Moab and Bethlehem wasn’t that great. As author Katherine Sakenfeld notes in her book, “Just Wives?” it has “puzzled scholars that in the story of Ruth, Naomi’s family migrated to the country of Moab, for most of Moab received even less rainfall on the average than Canaan.”
I was interested to find out I wasn’t the only person who thought it strange that Elimelech would choose to take his family to a place that had climate conditions so similar to those in Bethlehem. Add to this a very unique description by author, Dr. Marsha Mirkin, who notes that Bethlehem was, during this time in history, referred to as the “House of Bread.” Why would Elimelech take his family from the “famine” in the House of Bread into a land that was filled with people, whom we are told in Deuteronomy 23: 3, 4 (N.I.V.) “An Ammorite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord…because they did not come to meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt.” What we learn from this passage is that Elimelech took his family from what he perceived as a lack of bread in the House of Bread to a country where the people had denied his ancestors bread.
One reason some scholars give for this move is that Elimelech was referred to as an Ephrathite – which was a wealthy person in Bethlehem. This indicates he was from an ancient, noble line. Some think it may have been the fear of losing what he had that prompted him to move in the first place. A desire to protect his “things.” Whatever the reason, in Ruth 1: 2, the Bible says that after moving to Moab, the family “continued there.” In the Hebrew, the word “continued” means they existed there. In fact, the word emphatically means, “to be, to become.” Rather than the move being some temporary trek to find food, this was a permanent transfer from the “House of Bread” to what we find out became the “House Without Bread.”
There is certainly a lesson here for me. Often the decisions in my life are based on what my vision is of the temporal. And sometimes, when we are actually living in the “House of Bread,” we decide it just doesn’t seem like enough for us. Or we want to protect what we have. So we foolishly decide what we see “over there,” wherever that “over there” is, has to be better than where we are now and so we take everything we have in the “House of Bread” and make the move to Moab where we think life will be better…the land more fertile…and the crops much larger. The flashing lights of Moab draw us like a magnet and once we get there, we find it isn’t so easy to leave. We grow roots – sometimes very deep roots like husbands and wives, along with their families, and before you know it, we “continue there” for we have “become” content with life in Moab – a life outside God’s “House of Bread.”
The prophet Jeremiah, talking to the Israelites, gave them this warning from God, in Jeremiah 45: 5, (Amplified Bible) “Should you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.”
Elimelech made the choice to pack up his dear ones and move to Moab because of a temporary famine in Bethlehem, but by doing so, he found he became content to “continue in” Moab. As Malcolm Muggeridge so wisely observed: “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us is to feel ourselves at home on the earth.” Or as our lesson from today admonishes us, “Don’t get so comfortable in Moab you decide to continue there.”
“All earthly things are as salt water, that increases the appetite, but satisfies not.”
“Man hath still either toys, or care,
He hath no root, nor to one place is tied,
But ever restless and
irregular about this earth
doth run and ride,
He knows he hath a home,
but scarce knows where,
He says it is so far
That he hath quite forgot to go there.”
“Lead me to do Your will, O God, and make Your way plain for me to follow.”
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