2008 John H Mattox

   A graphic picture of backsliding and its consequent sorrows is presented in the first chapter of the Book of Ruth. There was a famine in the land and a certain man with his family went down to sojourn in the land of Moab. Again and again the Old Testament retells how God tested his people by subjecting them to privation, famine, and pestilence, to determine whether, under stress, they would turn to him or whether they would seek other sources of help. Of course, God knew beforehand that the outcome of these tests would be negative in most cases; yet he tested them just the same and saw to it that the results were recorded in his Word. The purpose of this testing and the recording of it was to deprive the following generations of God's people of any excuse when they failed a similar test; for having before them the warning examples of previous generations should keep them from making the same mistakes.

Migrating To Moab (cont)

    When the famine came upon the land, Elimelech took his family into Moab. Elimelech's name means My God is King, but his actions said My God is a Bum!. Before we censure Elimelech too severely, however, we should give some consideration to the many times our own lives and actions have been inconsistent with the name of Christian which we wear with such pride. Elimelech is a good picture of those who seem to love and serve the Lord when all is well, but who turn to the world, the flesh and the devil when placed under stress. In this time of famine, Elimelech went out from Bethlehem Judah. Bethlehem means house of bread and Judah means praise. So Elimelech, whose name asserted. My God is King, went out from the very house of bread and praise in his time of need. So it ever is, when we turn away from God and look to the Moabites of this world for help, that we are leaving behind us the house of bread and praise. Another name for Bethlehem was Ephratah (fruitfulness) which reemphasizes the folly of forsaking the place of blessing. It is stated that Elimelech went into Moab to sojourn but adds that they continued there. Every backslider consoles himself with the thought that he will soon get straightened out and come back to the house of bread and praise; but what he does not realize is that before he gets straightened out spiritually, God may straighten him out physically - in a satin-lined casket! This was precisely what happened to Elimelech and to his two sons. Of the four who went down into Moab, only Naomi, the wife and mother, was left.
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Migrating To Moab (cont)

    While this family was in Moab, no mention is made of their building an altar or worshipping God. There was no witnessing to the greatness of Israel's God. How, indeed, could they witness to One in whom they, themselves, had such feeble faith? Thus a place of physical famine was given up for one of religious famine.
    After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi heard that the Lord had visited His people and had given them bread. What a blessed note this is! God had not forgotten his people - he had merely tested them.

"The fire will not harm thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine".
Old Hymn.

No wholesale exodus from the land had been necessary. Only the faint of heart and the feeble of faith had thought it necessary to depart. Having tested their faith. God then supplied his people with the bread of life, through a personal visitation! Now that the famine was ended, Naomi purposed to return to Israel; whereupon her daughter-in-law, Ruth, announced her intention of returning with her. Here we catch a glimpse of God's purpose in permitting backsliding. The back-slider, though piling up chastisement for himself, is unwittingly helping to work out God's purpose. This Moabitess, Ruth, was destined to be an ancestress of David, and therefore of the Messiah, himself. So then it was necessary to get her out of Moab and into the city of Bethlehem in order that she could marry into the family from which David would be born. God, who could have used many other means to do so, used Ruth's love for her backslidden mother-in-law to get her into the city of Bethlehem. And through this same daughter-in-law, Ruth, God would bless Naomi beyond her fondest desires.

John H Mattox

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