The Elimelech Spirit
1 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 dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion-- Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
“Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled,”
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel;
everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (NKJ)
This family lived in a time that practiced the same morals that we do today.
Everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes.
“Let your conscience be your guide.”
- If it feels right do it.
- Don’t check things out before doing it.
- Don’t consider the consequences of not doing it God’s way.
In this kind of era, Bad Decisions are mad.
Our story begins here with a man living in the Promised Land, yet when things got tough he felt that he needed to take things into his own hands and bring some kind of human solution to it.
Instead of staying inside the boundaries of God’s will for Israel, he explores what the world may have to offer.
He leaves Bethlehem (House of Bread) seeking foreign bread.
Moab is modern day Jordan.
Moab was not God’s will for Israelite.
Moab was man’s way of solving problems.
Moab represents the world, so we seek the solution to our problems in the World.
Elimelech whose name means, “the Lord is my King,” made a human decision that was not in accordance with the name he confessed.
Elimelech is like a believer who confesses the Lord as King yet he lives on human logic and reasoning.
They made their own plans and schemes rather than letting God be the true Lord and King of their life.
We must make plans but - Give God veto power over them.
What was Elimelech escaping?
- Wasn’t he trying to make things better for his family?
His decision made human sense, “When it gets tough get out of there.”
God has promised to take care of us through hard times.
There are many forms of famines that could come to us.
Maybe not Hunger for food.
But hunger for other things.
- Vocational fulfillment
There could also be the fleshly hunger produced by the lust of the eyes.
The Rolling Stones – “I can’t get no, satisfaction, but I try….”
We reason, “I can’t get it inside God’s will so I’ll go explore what the world has.”
A Move to Moab for us may be…
- Trying to satisfy those things the world’s way.
- Got problems in your marriage? Seek for the solution in Moab.
- Can’t get along with someone? Seek for the solution outside of God’s will.
- “My husband / wife doesn’t provide what I need.”
- “I’m single and God hasn’t provided a mate for me so I’ll satisfy my needs in the World.”
Restless hearts will not let God work in their circumstance.
God works in the famine you are experiencing to bring the inner peace that you need.
There is an Elimelech inside all of us, looking to satisfy our hunger on our terms.
How about the victims of bad decisions?
Stubborn men will always make bad decisions, thus victimizing their own families.
Outside of God’s will Elimelech dies. Normally the case.
He never comes back home. He dies in Moab.
His family, now a victim of his bad decision.
Who will now take care of his widowed wife and orphaned sons?
They are in a foreign land so therefore they adapt themselves to their foreign system.
What else would you expect of a very human decision.
4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
Bad decisions provoke your family to make more bad decisions.
Elimelech entertained the idea of tasting foreign Bread outside of the “house of bread”.
It starts by reasoning to yourself, “I’ll just slip over the border and check it out.”
When we wonder outside of our inheritance we cultivate a taste for strange bread.
Outside of the boarders of God’s Covenant, death inevitably comes.
It not only affects you but later it affects your children.
Elimelech’s two boys fallow in their Dad’s example and not only eat foreign bread but marry foreign women.
Their stay in Moab was 10 years, past the death of Elimelech.
This was also way past the duration of the famine.
Elimelech chased a rainbow and lost an inheritance.
Obviously the boys didn’t want to return home.
They were more part of Moab than they were of Israel.
The worldly system became comfortable.
Naomi, the Victim:
In spite of the fact that their mother longed to return back within the borders of God’s Covenant will for Israel, she was restrained until ten years later when her boys also died.
“…This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.” (New Living Translation)
What a victim she was! Naomi was left alone now with her husband and two sons, dead. Besides that, she is far from relatives to comfort and help her through her grief.
She probably didn’t agree to the move, but went along in support of her husband’s decision.
Was God punishing her for her husband’s bad decision?
These are the hard core truths about people who act out of God’s Covenant Will for them.
You step out, you die.
Poor Naomi, although her heart was inside the boarders of Israel, she was victimized by her husband’s disobedience and her son’s foolish pursuit of the Elimelech Spirit.
Elimelech took his family with him to Moab thinking that he would gain everything, but instead his family lost everything including him.
Redemption requires going back inside God’s covenant boarders.
For Redemption to take place, Naomi had to decide to return home.
She recognized that there was no blessing under her husband’s system.
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread. 7 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each to her mother's house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 "The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, "Surely we will return with you to your people."
Naomi hears that God has visited His people.
He always does, just wait for Him to visit.
Elimelech could have received this same visitation from God.
His missed out and so did his two sons.
A bad decision counteracted by a good decision:
She makes a very important decision.
“I’m going back under God’s Covering.”
“My husband blew it and now I am free to return home.”
Having lost everything meaningful to her, and with horrendous pain in her heart, she gathers up what’s left…
- Lost dignity from years, living out of God’s will
- Emotional brokenness
- Social rejection
- And Her Personal belongs, at least what was left.
- She was completely backrupt.
She turns her back on her husband’s failure and heads back toward God’s favor.
It’s interesting to note that Naomi blames herself for the pain that has taken place in her life and the lives of her daughters-in-law.
Victimized people often blame themselves.
Just listen to her pain.
11 But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 "Turn back, my daughters, go-- for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13 "would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!"
Can you hear her loss of total hope?
Can you hear her blaming herself for the pain that it caused?
She didn’t want to further contaminate the lives of her daughters-in-law, so she pleads with them...
Her self-image. “…go way for your sake. I’m cursed and rejected by God. I couldn’t bless you anymore.”
“No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!"
Gracefully Naomi releases Orpah and Ruth to find a life for themselves.
“Make a new home. Start over again, I can’t; but you can.”
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."
At this point, Orpah walks out of the pages of Scripture.
We come to a pivotal point in our story.
The road to restoration is not a lonely road:
“…Ruth clung to her.”
Ruth recognized the integrity of Naomi.
Ruth saw a suffering victim and couldn’t let her go.
Naomi was more of a mother to her than her biological mother.
There was a tie that couldn’t be broken between those two women.
Age gap was not a determining factor.
16 But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."
Naomi must have told Ruth about her God.
This was a major part of Ruth’s commitment.
For Ruth, there wasn’t hope of remarriage, yet Ruth was willing to be happy with her singleness and go forward serving God.
God would later honor this commitment beyond her wildest dreams.
Far from Ruth’s wildest imaginations was the great things that God had in store for her.
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
Naomi saw the determination in Ruth and didn’t hinder her from coming with her.
A Major Commitment:
This was an enormous decision for Ruth to make.
There were no guarantees about her future.
- Nothing waiting for her in Israel. It was foreign to her.
- No land or property. She was willing to face anything.
- No provision.
- No future husband.
- No future children.
- No friends, just Naomi, a very old and injured woman.
- No more Orpah.
- No more family.
It started with a simple commitment to Naomi and her God.
All she knew about God was what she had heard from Naomi.
- He was a Powerful God.
- He was a Holy God
- He was a God who delivered His people out of hard times.
- He was a Merciful God.
- He was a God who cared about foreigners.
“I want that God to be my God.”
“I want to live in the Land He lives in.”
“If you’re going there, I’m going there too.”
Clinging to Naomi, these two, hurt, wounded, deserted, and abandoned women, make their way back to restoration and healing.
The way to restoration meant that Naomi had to relive each step she had taken when fleeing the famine in Bethlehem.
Watch God take care of these two women.
19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, "Is this Naomi?"
When Naomi arrived back home, they hardly recognized her.
She probably had aged so much from her pain and grief while living outside of God’s Covenant Territory.
Old friends and relatives questioned; “Is this Naomi?”
20 But she said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 "I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
Naomi means “Pleasant.”
Don’t call me “Pleasant.”
- “That was the old me, the way I was when I left Israel.”
- “I’ve changed now, I’m a bitter woman, “Mara.”
- “Call me “Mara” not “Naomi”.
Can you see how victimized she was?
Can you see how much she says, “Me, me, me, me?”
She was so bitter that she thought that God didn’t care for her anymore.
“He’s the one who has punished me.”
Do you think that was accurate? NO.
She was a victim of Elimelech’s Bad Decision.
She just suffered the consequences of a man who stepped out of God’s will and tried to do it on his own.
Blessing was in store for Naomi and in just a short time, she would lose her bitterness.
Her bitterness would turn back to pleasantness, joy and restoration.
Naomi was not empty handed.
She has returned with a friend for life. Ruth.
Later she will confess that Ruth was more valuable to her than the two sons she had lost in Moab.
Ruth was better than seven sons.
Right now, Naomi is obsessed with self-pity.
She has, however, come to the place where blessing can flow again, even if she doesn’t feel like it yet.
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
They came back to the “House of Bread.”
They arrive at the beginning of harvest.
To turn bad decisions from the past around, it requires making a U-turn, just like Naomi had to do.
That is called, “Repent.”
Stop going the way you were and turn around and go back to where you belong.
There is something about bad things that have happened in the past that help us to get a deeper commitment to the Lord if we will just turn back.
The road is painful, but worthwhile.
It may be full of tears of regret and repentance for foolish, foolish stubbornness.
But it is a road back home.
Just like Orpah, Ruth and Naomi.
- You are at a crossroads.
- Will you do what Orpah did?
- Will you do what Ruth and Naomi did?
God can give you back your tomorrow.