Almost 10 years ago I spoke at a woman’s conference from the Book of Ruth. This little book tucked into the Old Testament between Judges and 1 Samuel has been a source of comfort and strength to many for thousands of years.
I realize the truths within these 4 short chapters have been studied and taught so many times by so many people–I’ve actually taken several Bible studies on Ruth myself over the years–I couldn’t help but be moved by some of the things I myself rediscovered and shared.
So…to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly, I thought I’d post a series from this message, Leaving Moab Behind.
The little book of Ruth takes place during the 350-plus years of the days of the Judges. There were no kings reigning in the land of Judah during this time.
These were very dark days. Scripture tells us in the Book of Judges that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. God’s people had become self-seeking and self-centered, falling into a lifestyle of idolatry and immorality.
It was hard to tell the children of God from the rest of the world, yet He had called them to be set apart. He had called them to be holy.
God called the Israelites to honor Him and love Him by living a life that was pleasing to Him, walking in His ways, and following His commands. Not because He’s some egotistical god that demanded their worship and devotion, but because He loved them and desired they would make Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God.
God has and always will be Sovereign. Before all things. Above all things. Behind and beside all things. He knows what’s best for us and He knew what was best for His children during the days of Ruth.
God wanted to protect His chosen people. He wanted to prosper them and bless them, love them and care for them.
But, how can you protect someone who leaves the safety of your protection?
How can you prosper someone who turns his or her back on your provision?
How can you bless someone who rejects your blessings?
This is what God’s children did in the days of the Judges and if we’re completely honest with ourselves…so many of us still leave the “land of Judah” today and turn our backs on God’s will and plan for us when times get hard, when the going gets tough, when the path before us is uncertain. Without even realizing it we journey into Moab because we don’t trust our Sovereign God to keep us safe and care for us–even in times of famine.
I’ve been to “Moab.” If I’m honest, I’ve been there several times in my walk with the Lord. As if once wasn’t enough…
(Some of us learn life’s lessons the h-a-a-a-r-d way.)
And if you still want honesty from me, let me just say I could very easily take another detour in the very near future considering what my husband and I are about to face in the next few months. We’re talking a real test of perseverance and faith right over the horizon! (I feel like throwing-up just thinking about it. The anxiety is real, y’all.)
I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about “Moab”, though, and here’s what I want to say…
I would rather stay in Bethlehem-Judah during a famine than venture back into Moab again.
Moab is no place for a child of the King. Not to live, anyway. Maybe it’s a nice place to visit every now and then. After all, some of us are called to real mission work in the Moabs of this world, but to get back to the purpose of this message there’s nothing real pretty about Moab. There’s nothing we should desire there. It’s a very shallow place to be. Worldly. Sinful. Destructive.
Do you know why?
We lose what’s most precious to us in Moab.
Naomi lost her husband, Elimelech.
Naomi lost her sons, Mahon and Kilion.
Naomi lost her means of provision.
Naomi lost her joy.
Ruth, chapter 1 and 2, tells us that Elimelech took his wife and their 2 sons to live in Moab for awhile because famine had come to Bethlehem-Judah.
Moab was about 40-60 miles from Bethlehem. It was a place of great physical beauty, a lovely land where there was ample rainfall and numerous streams. It produced plenty of grain, fruit, and flocks. Because of it’s geographic location it was also a place of safety. It offered protection from bandits and raiding armies because of the surrounding hills and the Dead Sea. It was a place that looked “good” to Elimelech.
We place a lot of emphasis on what looks good in this world, but sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most dangerous. To borrow a cliche’…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of that boundary marker.
Bethlehem was a very significant place in the history of God’s people. Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died in Bethlehem, but their son Benjamin was born there. It was a place where hope came out of pain, life came out of death. It was also the hometown of Israel’s greatest king, David, and the most lovely thing of all is that it birthed our sweet Jesus.
Bethlehem means House of Bread and Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Bethlehem was in Judah: Judah was one of Jacob’s sons. From the tribe of Judah came the Messiah.
Scripture refers to Jesus as the Lion of Judah and Judah means Place of Praise.
Having shared all that, let me just say…famine can still come to you in the House of Bread and the Place of Praise.
But so does God. He still comes to us in the famines of life and thank heaven He does!
He still comes to us when we realize the poverty of our hearts without Him.
A famine will bring you a hunger and a thirst for God like you’ve never known before and I can’t even tell you how typing those words stir such a longing in me to draw near because I know this, too:
Our House of Bread is the place of God’s enoughness, where He provides our every need. Not wants, my friends. Needs. There’s a big difference.
Our House of Bread is the place where Jesus meets us in our poverty and we experience the gift of His Presence, where He comes to us in our praise.
This is the real gift.
The real blessing.
The real sacredness of trust. Where we set ourselves apart.
Because when you can say in the midst of life’s famines,
“You are still God and I will always love You. I will still trust You. I will still serve You. I will still worship You,”
you’re giving Him the real sacrifice and you’re making Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God. You’re saying you believe He will keep you safe and care for you. You’re saying He is enough for you and those who don’t know Him will want to know why.
In these days on the Kingdom calendar I can’t help but think how like the Israelites we become, how easy it is to allow our hearts to go astray. We wonder how in the name of Jesus we’re going to survive the messes we’ve made, but God knew these days were coming.
That’s why He’s given us Jesus. Our Daily Bread. Our Manna.
That’s why He’s given us our number one Reason to Praise.
And that reason is NOT back in Moab. Sometimes it’s right smack in the middle of Bethlehem-Judah.
In the midst of a famine.
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