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Backsliding and Restoration
by Michael Holohan
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Prospering in the Time of Famine

Setting… Time of the Judges… Key Verses in Judges… Judges 2:16-19

The time of the Judges is summarized in the last verse of the Book of Judges. Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Famine in the Land… Type of Judgement… There was a famine in the land of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land which once yielded clusters of grapes so big that they had to be carried on a pole between two men Num. 13:17-25. Even in Bethlehem, which is the House of Bread, there was a famine. This was one of the judgments which God threatened to bring upon Israel if she sinned against him Deut 28:15-20,33, Lev 26:15-20.

This famine was probably during the time of Gideon in Judges 6 as it is the only famine mentioned in the book of Judges… Also they were over run by the Midianites another aspect of the result of their backsliding…

One of the main characters in the book is Boaz and he was the son of Rahab the harlot so this tells us that it was early in the period of the Judges that this took place…

This shows us that it wasn’t very long after the death of Joshua that the people turned aside from serving God…

Ruth 1:1 And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

Bethlehem… house of bread, Judah… house of praise… House of Bread and Praise… Moab… incestuous son of Lot… an enemy of Israel… Gen 19:30-38… Seed of my Father…

Psa 108:9 Moab is my washpot over Edom will I cast my shoe… God will cast off his shoe over Edom and wash his feet in Moab, this was God’s opinion of them…

Elimelech… My God is King… he was probably a believer or had believing parents, but he was probably walking by sight as we see from the names he gave his sons…

Naomi… Pleasant… Mahlon… to be weak, sick… Chilion… to be frail… why did they call their children that, names are important in Israel… Probably evidence of their heart before God… Ephrathites… Fruitful…

Let’s summarise these list of names, Elimelech means my God is king and his wife Naomi which means pleasant were epharthites or fruitful in Bethlehem Judah the house of bread and praise and when the famine came they left and went to Moab the land born out of incest instead of trusting God…

Ruth 1:1 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 Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons…. He went to sojourn there… to turn aside from the road for a lodging or any other purpose, i.e. sojourn as a guest…

Right from the start Elimelech’s purpose was just to stay there for a short time, maybe until the famine was over.
Ruth 1:5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband… It was a disgrace in Israel to be a widow and childless, it was sign of judgement, but here was this woman, she had no husband, her two sons were dead and not only that she had two pagan daughters in law…

Deut 7:1-4 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Not only were they commanded not to marry them but also there was a curse for marrying them… Deut. 28:18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body… punishment for marrying foreign wives… (Ex 23:26, Deut 7:14… God will bless the fruit of the womb, no fruit, no blessing…)

This also was a disgrace in Israel to be barren; it was another sign of the curse…

Ruth 1:6-22 Three widows in one house, poor and needy, with no one to help them, in those days there was no social security, there was no state help, the only hope you had was to have sons to provide for you in your old age and now here two sons were dead and now she had two daughters in law to support also…

The story of three women… These three women represent the world as we see it… Naomi is a type of Israel, she is a covenant woman, and she belongs to the children of Israel… Ruth is a type of the church… She is a gentile who embraced the God of Israel… Orpah is a gentile, she has no covenant or relationship with God, she began to seek God but turned again to her false gods…

Naomi reminds us of the prodigal son, she went down full to the land of Moab but came home empty… she lived among the world until she came to her senses… After the death of Elimelech she should have returned to Israel but she didn’t, now that her sons were dead she had no hope of survival in Moab, no one to care for her, no one to provide for her and now she must return…

Ruth 1:6 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 how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.

Naomi had heard, Naomi reminds us that even though she was in a foreign land she had found a way to keep in touch with what God was doing in the land of Israel… the house of bread and praise… Elimelech apparently had set down roots in Moab and died there… Mahlon and Chilion took wives from the women of Moab and died there but Naomi kept her face set toward the house of bread and praise…

We remember the wife of Lot, she was being rescued from danger by two angels no less and still her heart was in Sodom and Gomorrah, but Naomi even though she was in the land of Moab her heart was in Israel…

Look at verse 6-7 again… she arose and went forth, this is the first step to returning to the place of blessing, you see some people, sit quietly feeling sorry for themselves and do nothing but not Naomi, she got up and started to move, heading back to the land of Judah… It is an interesting side note that the first place she set out for was Judah and not Bethlehem…

Bethlehem is the place of provision but Judah is the place of praise, before she could go back to the place of provision she first had to back to the place of praise…

Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me… Naomi began to tell the girls what awaited them in Judah, they would be despised and outcasts, their nation was hated by Israel…

Num. 25:1-3 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel… Moab was an immoral land, it was a land born out of an incestuous relationship, they worshipped Chemosh and Baalpeor, their religious practises included sexual perversion and human sacrifice and as such was an abomination to the God of Israel…

Deut. 23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD forever:

Naomi tried to encourage them to stay with their family, with their people in their own land, but they had such love for Naomi that they wanted to go with her to Judah… so she begins to tell them of the price that must be paid if they are to return with her to Judah…

You will be despised, you will be away from home, away from your people, away from your gods and probably never be able to find husbands in the land of Judah… On the surface at least in the natural it would have made more sense for them to go back to their own family, to their own people and to their own gods… but is that what Naomi was saying?

According to the Tanach, it seems that in order for someone to be brought into the Jewish faith you have to try to persuade them three times, if they don’t give up after three times then you are to accept them…

Ruth 1:9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.

Ruth 1:11 And Naomi said, turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

Naomi is thinking about herself in the natural, even if I could find a husband and had a son tonight would you wait for his brother to be born? These girls were probably about 30 years old… It didn’t occur to Naomi that someone might want to marry these girls in Judah, in the mind of Naomi these girls were outcasts, not allowed to come into the congregation and so no one would want them…

Naomi knew also that there was little prospect of anyone in Israel marrying these girls because of who they were, they were strangers and outcasts in Israel…

V12-15 Naomi is just treating them like daughters in law, she is not treating them as believers or potential believers, she says return to your house and your Gods, Orpah returns and we never hear of her again… she made a decision that was to effect her eternal destiny and walked out of the pages of the bible into oblivion and we never hear of her again… but Ruth makes a statement of faith…

Ruth 1:16-17 And Ruth said, entreat 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.

This was a covenant she began to make with Naomi… there were seven parts to this covenant…
1. Where you go I will go
2. Where you live I will live
3. Your people will be my people
4. Your God will be my God
5. Where you die I will die
6. Where you are buried I will be buried
7. The Lord judge me if anything but death separate us.

Ruth forsook her family, her people and her God to follow Naomi, then she took on Naomi’s people as her people and Naomi’s God as her God…

She said where you die, I will die, what she was saying is even when you die I am not going back, I will remain here until the time of my death and then I will be buried with you too…

And then she said the Lord judge between us… the word Lord is the covenant name of God, Jehovah or Yahweh, it seems that this girl had come to faith in the God of Naomi and was now a believer…

Ruth 1:19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

Naomi didn’t stop until she got to Bethlehem, when she made up her mind to return to the Lord, to the place of blessing, she got up and left and she didn’t stop until she got there…

Sometimes people just sit around crying and moping about what could have been and what should have been but not Naomi, she did something about it and didn’t stop until she got there…

She said I went out full and God has brought me back empty, but at least she was back, she was back in the place of provision, back in the place of praise and now God was able to begin to bless her again… She went out with possessions, with a husband and sons and now she was back with nothing… this is the price of backsliding, this is the price of going down into the world, you will lose all that you have until you finally come to your senses and return again to God…

The first step on the path is the path to praise, you need to begin to praise God again, praise him for his goodness, praise him for his longsuffering, praise him that even though you lost everything down in the world at least you didn’t lose your life and now he has brought you back to the land of blessing.

When the time of famine came, Elimelech decided to go down to Moab to ride out the famine, he thought if he went down to Moab his wealth would be protected and he would come back when the famine was over and he would still have his wealth... he died in Moab, a stranger in a strange land...

Ruth 2:1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.

Boaz was also a man of wealth, but when the famine came he didn't go anywhere but trusted God and when the famine was over Boaz was a mighty man in the land...

Elimelech trusted in his own reasoning and it brought him poverty and death..
Boaz trusted God in the famine and he became very prosperous...

Prov. 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.


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