The first chapter of the book of Ruth is about choices. We are all the sum total of our decisions, and I want you to contemplate the decisions you make. And as you think, there are three things I want you to consider.
The Problem of a Bad Choice
In Ruth 1:1-2 we read, “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 [Elimelech] went to sojourn in the country of Moab… And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.”
Now, Moab was the arch enemy of Israel. The Moabites were an obscene, pagan race; and Moab was an obscene and a pagan place. But this Israelite man made a decision to leave Israel because of a famine. He and his wife and their two sons went over to Moab — that cursed country. He made a decision, and it was a bad one. It was a decision that marked his life with tragedy. And Elimelech made this bad choice for three basic reasons:
the wrong motive - He was motivated by the physical (a famine) and not by the spiritual. Elimelech said by his actions, “I know that God has promised to bless me, but I have to take care of myself.” And he put the physical above the spiritual.
the wrong method - He's walking by sight and not by faith. He saw a famine, and he high-tailed it over to Moab. He tried to run away. The psalmist wanted to do the same thing when he wrote in Psalm 55, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” Listen, God doesn't want to give you the wings of a dove to fly away; He wants to give you the wings of an eagle to soar over your problems right where you are.
the wrong master- When he went into Moab, he went over into enemy territory. God had placed a curse upon the Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3). And this man got his family over in the devil's territory. His two sons married the daughters of Moab, and his entire life was messed up because he could not believe God.
The Consequences of a Wrong Choice
Choices bring consequences, and Elimelech’s wrong choices brought death. It says in verse three that Elimelech died in Moab. Now it’s ironic that he left Bethlehem because he was afraid he couldn't survive there, yet he went over into Moab and died anyway. And his little boys died too. You can't run away. You need to get right with God. And so, here is his wife, Naomi, and her two daughters-in-law — widows in Moab.
The Power of a Wise Choice
And, finally, I want you to see the power of a wise choice. Naomi hears of the blessings back in Bethlehem, and she decides to go back (Ruth 1:6). Both Naomi and her late husband had been backsliders, but now she's going back to the place of blessing.
Her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, decide to go with her. In Ruth 1:13-14 Naomi, for the second time, encourages them to stay: “Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. [Notice how she blamed God for her problems.] And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.”
Notice what Ruth said in verses sixteen and seventeen — and here's the wise decision: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Now here is a decision for destiny. When Ruth said this, her life was changed. She had so much against her — she had a cursed life. The law said, “Keep her out,” but what the law could not do for this woman, grace did. And did you know that Ruth, this pagan girl, became an ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ. Her choice changed her destiny. And we too must choose God’s way and trust our destiny to Him.
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