Home of Elimelech and Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion; perhaps migrant workers, working in the grain fields of Bethlehem’s countryside. Enter a drought-induced famine; there were no grains to produce food in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. Elimelech packs up his family and moves east to the countryside of Moab. Although not far from their homeland, Moab had not been affected by the drought. The only clue to what prompted Elimelech to move is the fact that there was food in Moab and none in Bethlehem.
Did Jehovah God tell him to relocate his family or was it fear and the lack of faith?
Elimelech, whose very name means my God is King, took his family out of the promised land and into a forbidden land of little “g” gods, unholy sacrificing, and pagan idol worship. Probably at first, things went well for this family – ungodly decisions usually have a brief and dilusional outcome of success! There was work, food, and things seemed to be going smoothly – we aren’t told how long “life seemed swell” but one day Elimelech died; Naomi, whose name means pleasant, delightful, lovely, was a widow in a foreign and pagan country, with her two sons.
After their father’s death, we are told that Mahlon and Chilion took wives of the women of Moab. The name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so the woman (Naomi) survived her two sons and husband (Ruth 1:4-5).
I am sure that Naomi was thinking, “Swell has turned into hell.” Being a woman I cannot help but wonder if Naomi ever spoke up in her marriage to Elimelech. When he suggested moving to Moab, did she suggest to him that maybe it wasn’t a good idea since it was a Godless country? That she didn’t want to raise her sons in a pagan land? After all, Naomi was his helpmeet – did he even consider her feelings or her wisdom in the move? Or, were pride and fear his motivation? I wonder if her inner alarm system began to beep when Elimelech died? I am quite certain she felt it blast when her sons died also. Let’s move on…
Orpah and Ruth were barren in their marriages. Back then, this was a sure sign that something was amiss and most likely Naomi was thinking that this relocation was not producing fruits of God’s blessing. For ten years, one thing after another, and now Naomi decides she has had it and plans to move back to her homeland in Bethlehem, Judah. I am sure you know the rest of the story, but if you don’t or if you need a boost in your hope tank then be sure to read the entire Old Testament book of Ruth! (It is black and white evidence of God’s sovereignty and the eternal fact that our awesome God can make beauty out of our messes!)
Maybe you are asking how on earth does this relate to my life in 2011? It does! What could Elimelech and Naomi have done differently? Let’s look…
- Save for a rainy day? Putting aside a little in the days of plenty = getting by in your season of need.
- Having some stock in your pantry, just in case? Beans and rice are cheap, can be easily stored and are protein-packed. So are: peanut butter, bottled water, cartons of various milks, and grains.
- Been a bit more discerning when choosing names for their sons. (Mahlon meant weak/sickly; Chilion – failing/pining.)
- Did Elimelech discuss their plight with Naomi? Did they pray about it together? Did he (even) consult with his God?
- Perhaps they could have sought Godly counsel.
- If God didn’t say “Go to Moab” – then Elimelech should have toughed it out and trusted God with the results.
I had no idea where Holy Spirit was taking me as I wrote this; however, the Spirit of the Lord has been speaking to me and He is saying, “Be prepared – be ready! I am your God and I will care for you regardless of what is happening around you. Do the things I am telling you and do not be afraid!” He also told me to write this down and tell you – these things and not a word more, not now.
Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, Be Strong and Do NOT Fear! Isaiah 35:3-4