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 Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab,he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.And Elimelech Naomiís husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1: 1-5;
The book of Ruth opens with the story of a family of four who had their home in Bethlehemjudah. As a result of famine which ravaged the land of their nativity, the scripture makes us to understand that Elimelech and his family took a decision to relocate to Moab, obviously in search of greener pastures. Relocating to Moab was one decision too many! Rather than finding greener pastures in Moab as anticipated, it is sad to see that the whole family was literally consumed by the land that looked so promising and fertile! Where did this family get it wrong? Or were they destined to undergo all that befell them in the land of Moab? What exactly was the motivation for their decision to relocate from Bethlehem (House of bread) to an accursed land of Moab? These and many more are questions begging for answers as one considers the tragic story of all that befell Elimelech and his family in Moab.
It has been said that we make our decisions and our decisions then make us, how true! The life we live and what becomes of us is largely determined by the decisions we make. One responsibility everyone must readily accept in life is the responsibility for his or her own decisions and actions. Taking a close look at Elimelechís decision to relocate from Bethlehem, the real issue is not about relocation to Moab per se, but one key thing that was missing is that God was not consulted nor had any inputs in that decision. The scriptures provide many examples where God was involved in the decision making or plans of certain men as to where to live or not to live. For instance in Genesis 26:1-13, there was famine in the land of Gerar where Isaac lived; while he was considering relocating his family to Egypt (a cosmopolitan city which appeared to hold better promises and bright opportunities), God instructed him against that decision. It is noteworthy that in the same year, right in the midst of severe famine, Isaac sowed and reaped harvests of hundredfold. He became exceedingly great in Gerar because his decision was guided by God. On the other hand, in Matthew 2:13-15, Josephís decision to relocate to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus had Godís approval. In fact the childhood years of Jesus were spent in Egypt until Joseph and Mary returned to Galilee after Herodís death. The issue therefore really is not about relocation to Egypt, Assyria, Moab or Babylon, itís about whether the relocation is at the instance of God or not. As Godís children, it must be made clear that we can live anywhere in the world provided God is leading us to that place. We are free to choose where to or where not to live, however, every one of us needs the comfort that God is there with us, and the surest way to have this comfort is to make sure that God is part of our decisions to stay there in the first place. God will never lead us to a land where His coverings will not be over our heads!
It will not be hasty at this juncture to conclude that God was not part of Elimelechís decision to relocate to Moab, not necessarily because tragedies befell his family in Moab. It must be strongly emphasized that taking a step or making a decision at the instance of God does not guarantee that we are never going to face tough situations or severe challenges, but thereís always the assurance that we will come out strong and will never have regrets no matter what happens if the decisions have Godís inputs. It is therefore not safe for us to pursue anything in life without first seeking to know Godís mind on the issues. It is erroneous for anyone to conclude that all that befalls a man in life has been destined by God to happen the way they happen and could not have been otherwise. How can we expect God to take responsibility for whatever happens to a person when he or she clearly steps out of Godís perfect will and purpose for his or her life? One truth we must never forget is that, for Godís manifold grace to be firmly operative upon a personís life, he or she must not directly or indirectly deny God the opportunity of ordering his or her steps! It is therefore in our own interest that we make God integral part of our decisions. As long as we are prepared to seek and to align our decisions with Godís will for our lives, we will never live with regrets or agonies of wrong moves and decisions.
At creation, man was wired in such a way that he possesses the ability to independently make his own decisions and determine what his actions would be in any given situation. In fact, one thing that the Almighty God will not do is to infringe on manís rights to make his own decisions. Deuteronomy 30:19 says ĎI call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.í Itís been made clear that God does not impose anything on man. But as much as we reserve the right to make our own independent decisions, it is foolhardy for anyone to think that it is proper to leave God out of his or her decisions and plans as a child of God and still end well. One of the hallmarks of the sonship we inherited through Christ is the privilege to receive divine guidance from God in all our ways. The scripture likens our relationship with God to shepherd - sheep relationship: just as the shepherd tenders and leads his flock all the way, God desires to lead His children in their decisions as they walk day by day through the lonely paths of life. This is possible however only if they are willing to let Him. It is dangerous to behave and live our lives as though we know the way enough to walk alone without Godís guidance. We must consistently trust the Lord with all our hearts and let Him lead us like a little baby, thereís a serious problem when we begin to feel too big to be carried by God!
Making decisions sometimes can indeed be pretty difficult, especially when it comes to very crucial issues of life where outcomes of the decisions can have far reaching and permanent effects upon our lives. While we may not have difficulties making some categories of decisions, for example deciding which cloth to wear to an occasion, on the other hand, itís not that easy making decision about who to marry and spend the rest of our lives with. The reason for the dilemma we find ourselves, especially when itís time to make major decisions in life, is that we are not in the position to know or predict the outcomes or possible results of the decisions we are about to make. Honestly, this should not be cause for serious concern or worry to us because this is exactly where the beauty of Godís involvement in our lives can be experienced! Since we are not in the position to know all the outcomes or possible results of our decisions, it is important to involve God. The Lord God is Omnipresent - all-knowing; He knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. Trusting His judgment and relying on his leadings in such critical moments will provide us the needed assurance that all will be well with us in the journey of life. If Elimelech had taken time to involve God in his decision, the outcomes would not have been tragic as it turned out to be.
One thing that will help us at the critical points of decision making is to first of all weigh the options side by side with the word of God. Godís word has provided basic instructions which are meant to guide our feet, decisions and actions in life. If we pay adequate attention to Godí word, we are not likely to take any step that will land us out of His will, especially in those areas which have been specifically addressed by His word. For instance, as a child of God, you do not need any other witness to decide against marrying anyone who is not a believer (including unregenerated church-Gower); Godís position has been clearly stated in His word and this is sufficient to form basis of your decision. However, there are many other peculiar areas and issues of life that believers must individually rely on the Holy Spirit for specific guidance before making decisions. This is the reason why we must take our relationship with God (Holy Spirit) very seriously. The more we pursue and grow in intimacy with the Holy Spirit, the more He makes Godís will for our lives known to us and guide our feet into all truths. It is unfortunate however that many believers have neglected Holy Spiritís guidance in their day to day living and this is responsible for needless pains and agonies they find themselves.
It is possible that some of us are finding ourselves in very terrible conditions today because of the wrong moves or decisions we made in the past. Yes, we can continue to regret and blame ourselves or someone else for our predicaments, but that still will not change anything. What is expected of us is not to live in anguish of self pity, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and hostility, but to seek Godís intervention to turn the situations around for good. Through His manifold mercies, God has a way of bringing good out of evil that befall a man as a result of wrong moves or decisions he has made in life. This exactly was what happened when God uprooted Ruth out of Moab and engrafted her into the chosen race of Israel to become the great grandmother of Jesus! As gloomy as the whole situations turned out to be for Elimelechís family during their ten years sojourn in Moab, God through His manifold mercies still brought sunshine into the family by giving them a son, Obed, following Ruthís remarriage to Boaz. Obed was one son that was worth more than ten! Going by the way the story ended, God really demonstrated that no matter how bad the situations may be, He has power to turn things around and bring out good from evil. How great are the mercies of our God!