Sermon #2 Ruth Series:
Title: A Very Costly Move
Text: Ruth 1:1-5
Subject: The costs of unbelief and disobedience
Date: Tuesday Evening - March 23, 1993
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Prov. 3:5-7).
If Elimelech of Bethlehem-Judah had been blessed with the wisdom that God gave Solomon the history of his family would not be the sad story recorded in our text. I do not think I ever read a sadder family history than the one recorded in these five verses. It is a story of famine, death, bereavement, widowhood, and constant sorrow. The cause of all this sorrow can be traced to one thing - Elimelech was wise in his own eyes. Rather than trusting the Lord in the time of famine, he leaned unto his own understanding and moved to Moab. That proved to be a very costly move.
The book of Ruth is a very short history of the domestic affairs of one family during the days of the Judges. It is the story of affliction and comfort, abasement and conversion, great loss and great redemption. The purpose of the book is twofold: First - the book of Ruth teaches us to Adore the Providence of God. The minute, as well as the great, the private, as well as the public affairs of our lives are arranged and determined by God’s wise and good providence. We ought always to acknowledge and submit to the dispositions of divine providence (1 Sam. 2:7-8; Psa. 113:7-9).
Second, the design of God the Holy Spirit in the book of Ruth is To Lead Us To Christ of whom the book speaks. Last week, I showed you how that Boaz was a type and picture of Christ our Kinsman Redeemer. But the book also points us to Christ in other ways.
1. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is a direct descendant of Ruth. Part of the genealogy given by Matthew comes directly from this book.
2. The conversion of Ruth is symbolic of the calling of the Gentiles. It was always God’s intention to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Our Lord Jesus sprang from Jews and Gentiles and is the Savior of both, the Savior of the world. “In the conversion of Ruth the Moabitess, and the bringing of her into the pedigree of the Messiah, we have a type of the calling of the Gentiles in due time into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord” (Matthew Henry).
3. The whole scene takes place in Bethlehem, the place where our Redeemer was to be born (Micah 5:2).
Tonight, I want us to carefully study the first five verses of this book. As I read here about Elimelech and his family, I cannot help thinking about Lot and his family. Both men brought great trouble upon their households by the choices they made. The title of my message is A Very Costly Move.
Proposition: Elimelech stands before us as a beacon to warn us of the danger and the costs of unbelief and disobedience.
As we look at these first few verses of Ruth, I want to direct your attention to seven things:
1. The time of trial
2. The trial Elimelech faced
3. Elimelech and his family
4. The decision Elimelech made
5. The disobedience of Elimelech’s sons
6. Naomi’s pitiful condition
7. The gracious, overruling providence of God
I. First, I ought to say something about THE TIME OF THIS TRIAL (v. 1).
“Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled.” This is all the information we are given about the date of this trial.
A. “It came to pass”, because God brought it to pass.
There are no accidents in this world; famine as well as feasting, trials as well as triumphs are brought to pass by the hand of God, according to the will of God.
B. This trial took place during the times of the judges, during one of the brightest times of Israel’s history. Our greatest trials usually come when they are least expected!
This trial did not come in those disorderly times when there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. God was King. He ruled Israel by appointed judges.
C. The events recorded in the book of Ruth probably took place during the days of Gideon, when “the Midianites prevailed” and destroyed “the increase of the earth” (Judg. 6:1-6).
I say that, because no other time of famine is mentioned during the time when the judges ruled. Also, it must have been near the beginning of this era, because Boaz, who married Ruth, was the son of Rahab the harlot (Matt. 1:5), who received the spies who came into spy out the land.
NOTE: Even back here in the book of Ruth, our Lord Jesus Christ identifies himself with sinners who were the very offscouring of the earth. Two of his great-grandmothers are here identified as…
· Ruth a Moabitess, the great-grandchild of Lot’s incest!
· Rahab the harlot!
The arms of grace are stretched out to and embrace sinners. Christ is the Friend of sinners! He saves sinners!
II. Second, THE TRIAL ELIMELECH FACED WAS A TRIAL OF “FAMINE IN THE LAND” (v. 1).
There was a famine in the land of Canaan, the land “flowing with milk and honey”, the land that once yielded clusters of grapes so big that they had to be carried on a pole between two men (Num. 13:23). Even in Bethlehem which signifies “House of Bread”, there was a famine. This was one of the judgments which God threatened to bring upon Israel if she sinned against him (Lev. 26:19-20).
A. The Lord God does yet bring judgment upon men and nations for their disobedience to him.
B. When the judgment of God falls upon a land, the righteous suffer with the wicked.
C. In the midst of God’s providential judgments our only course of action is obedience and faith!
Simple as it may sound, it is true -
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”
III. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit directs our attention to ELIMELECH AND HIS FAMILY (vv. 1-2).
This is the story of a man, his wife, and his children. There may have been many others like him; but the Lord here gives us a very personal look at this one man and his family. It is a story of grace; but it is a story of grace preceded by disobedience, sorrow, death, bereavement, and emptiness.
A. Elimelech means “My God is King.”
His very name should have given him comfort in his time of trouble. That which his name taught him should have sustained him.
1. His name implied a personal interest in the living God - “My God!”
2. And his name declared the sovereign reign of his God over all things - “My God is King!”
B. His wife’s name, Naomi, means “amiable, sweet, and pleasant.
Indeed, Naomi was such a woman. Blessed was Elimelech of the Lord. God had given him an amiable, sweet, pleasant Naomi to be his wife!
C. The names Elimelech gave to his two sons should have warned him of the danger of taking things into his own hands.
· Mahlon means “sickness” - “weakness”.
· Chilion means “consumption”.
Perhaps Elimelech gave these boys their names, because they were sickly children. But their names attest to the fact that the productions of our flesh and the most cherished, most pleasant things of this world are weak, corrupt, fading, and dying!
IV. Fourthly, we are told of THE DECISION ELIMELECH MADE TO MOVE HIS FAMILY FROM BETHLEHEM TO MOAB (vv. 1-2).
There was a famine in Bethlehem. Apparently, there was an abundance of food and opportunity in Moab. But Moah was a land of idolaters!
Those who are strangers to God often enjoy much more of this world’s goods than those who know, love, and worship him. As Jeremiah puts it, “Moab hath been at ease from his youth.” Israel is “emptied from vessel to vessel” (Jer. 48:11), not because God loves Moab, but because this is “the portion of their cup.” None should envy Moab, or covet what Moab has! (Psa. 92:7).
Illustration: Who would envy the stalled ox being
fattened for the slaughter?
We are told that Elimelech “went to sojourn in the country of Moab.” He did not go, intending to dwell there, but just to sojourn there. So he took Naomi, Mahlon, and Chilion, and came to Moab. But once they got to Moab, they settled down and “continued there!”
A. Elimelech’s care to provide for his family is to be commended.
Nothing is more detestable than a man who will not provide for his own family (1 Tim. 4:8).
Over the years I have seen a good many men who tried to use spiritual things to excuse laziness. It doesn’t work. True spirituality makes people industrious. A man who will not work does not know God! So we must commend Elimelech for taking care to provide for his family in time of famine.
B. Yet, Elimelech’s decision to move to Moab can never be justified.
Listen to the wise man - “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other” (Eccles. 7:14). The day of adversity will either draw us to our God or drive us to the world. If faith does not cling to Christ, the flesh will drag us from him. Did ever a child of God gain anything by going to Egypt for help? What did Lot gain in Sodom? What did David gain at Ziklag? What did Elimelech gain in Moab?
1. There was no reason for Elimelech to leave Bethlehem.
a. If by some dire necessity he had been forced to sell his property and was brought into poverty, God’s law required his kinsman to relieve him (Lev. 25:25, 35).
b. But this was not his condition - He went out full! (v. 21).
c. Though there was a famine in the land, it was not so severe that people perished by it.
Elimelech’s neighbors who stayed in Bethlehem, many with much larger families than he had, managed to keep body and soul together.
2. Elimelech was not content just to live in Bethlehem; he wanted to live in luxury, even if it meant moving to Moab!
Rather than lose his riches, rather than be “reduced” to depending on God to supply his daily bread, Elimelech was willing to…
· Disobey and dishonor God!
· Lead his family away from God!
· And turn his back on the kingdom of God!
Suppose everyone had done what he did. Canaan would soon have been empty!
NOTE: Rather than dealing with trouble, Elimelech tried to run from it.
3. This man, who claimed to be a child of God, whose very name said, “My God is King”, moved to Moab!
a. He took himself, his wife, and his family away from the worship of God.
b. He took his family away from and forsook the people of God.
c. He lead his wife and his sons into the land of Moab and thus to the gods of Moab!
C. Elimelech’s decision was based entirely upon his own understanding, or perception of things, motivated by a completely carnal consideration.
There was a famine in the land. Therefore, he gave no consideration to…
1. The promise of God.
2. The honor of God.
3. His own soul.
4. The souls of his family.
What a very costly decision he made! What a costly move was this move to Moab!
Yet, in his own mind he was fully justified!
V. Fifthly, THE DISOBEDIENCE OF ELIMELECH’S SONS MUST IN PART BE CHARGED TO ELIMELECH HIMSELF (v. 4).
Mahlon and Chilion took wives from the women of Moab. The Chaldee paraphrase says, accurately, “They transgressed the decree of the word of the Lord in taking strange wives.”
A. Parents, if you raise your children in the lap of the world, do not be surprised to see them married to the world.
B. Young people, do not disregard the Word of God in this matter - If you marry a man or a woman who has no regard for God, you marry a life of trouble (Deut. 7:3; 23:3; Ezek. 9:1-2; Neh. 13:23; 2 Cor. 6:14).
VI. Sixthly, NAOMI WAS REDUCED TO A VERY PITIFUL CONDITION (v. 5).
“The woman was left!” What a pathetic condition she was left in!
· Left alone!
· Left poor!
· Left in a strange land!
· Left with no one to care for her!
Learn these three things:
A. You cannot out-run death!
B. You cannot expect to prosper by disobedience!
“He that will save his life shall lose it!”
C. All earthly pleasure and comforts are temporary!
When Naomi lost her husband, she took comfort in her sons. When she lost her sons, she was left alone! True, eternal pleasure and comfort is found only in our God!
VII. One last thing - I want you to see and rejoice in THE GRACIOUS, OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD (Psa. 76:10).
Eliemlech did wrong. His family suffered for it. But God’s will was done perfectly. Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ must be born out of the union of a Moabitess woman and the son of Rahab. And so “it came to pass!”
A. The famine was sent by God, because he chose Ruth.
B. Elimelech was allowed to do the evil he did, because God was determined to save Ruth!
C. All this came to pass, because God purposed to save us by the incarnation of his Son, by the life and death of his Son, who was the Son of Boaz and Ruth!
Application: Romans 8:28 and 32!
“She Heard” - v. 6