Peninsula Community Church
Naomi: Emptiness to Fulfilment
October 11, 2015
Ruth 1:1-5 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
As we dig into the details of this story, we see in the opening act that Bethlehem is facing a major famine. People were out of work and they were searching for food. As they looked across the valley toward Moab, they saw the outskirts of Moab and they saw that Moab had not been effected by the famine. In fact, Moab was green and vibrant with life.
Because of the famine in Bethlehem, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, made a choice to go to Moab. Their intent was to go there and ride out the famine and then return to their home. They went there to “sojourn.” The term sojourn means to stay somewhere temporarily. It was never their intent to dwell or live there. Once in Moab, however, their circumstances changed and instead of sojourning there temporarily, they made Moab their home. They lived there for ten years. In taking up residence there; they began to live like the Moabites, they began to participate in the Moabite rituals, and they were sucked into the lifestyle of the Moabites.
As I prepared for this message there seemed to be one primary theme that ran through the commentaries and resources I used. The underlying theme was the compromises made by Elimelech and Naomi as they moved to Moab. It is noteworthy that the very thing they were trying to avoid was the very thing they had to face. Elimelech left his home to avoid dying and yet he died in Moab and his death was followed by the death of his two sons.
Before we judge them, however, we must understand that when we are in despair, we can also be tempted to run and make choices that are not consistent with what is right. You see they forgot that God was still in Jerusalem. Somehow they forgot that God was going to be with them no matter what was to come. It is interesting to note that in our previous study of Joseph, we find that Joseph did not choose his future but Naomi and Elimilech make the choice to leave. By leaving they set themselves up for failure. Charles Stanley said this about compromise. Whenever Christians compromise their godly principles, they walk dangerously close to a deadly land mine. In compromise, we can lose perspective in terms of what is right and godly.
Elmer Towns in his book “Great Lessons and Great Blessings” suggested four things that Naomi and her husband did that resulted in compromise. First of all they left the land of promise for a land of compromise. Jerusalem and Bethlehem was a part of the land that had been promised to the Jewish nation. They left what was rightfully theirs and went to a foreign land. They left the very place that God had given them. God had promised to keep them safe while they resided there. Their desire to go to Moab was in fact a revelation of the level of trust they had in God.
Secondly, they left the temple in Jerusalem for a land of idols. To understand this we must understand that Jerusalem was representative of God’s presence and His glory. To leave Jerusalem in that day was to leave the very presence of God. It is one thing to leave the place we should be, but it is another to turn to other gods and expect them to fulfill the need in our soul. Once in Moab, they looked to the Moabite gods to satisfy them and to provide for them.
Third, they left the fellowship of God’s people for unsaved heathen. When things get tough in our life it is easy to isolate ourselves from The Church and especially other believers in our life. We can turn to the ways of the world to seek advice and get answers. But in so doing, we can find ourselves empty and still wanting and needing answers.
And fourth, they ran away for their problems, and sought an easy life. Rather than face their problems, they ran away. They ran to a place where they hoped they would find help. They had hoped to find a easier way of life. But they ended up facing death and they faced death not once but three times. Too often in our lives, we can believe that the grass is greener on the other side but when we get there we find that it is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Does that sound familiar? How often does compromise cause us to make decisions in the moment that seem good but turn out to be everything but that. The problem with compromise is that it leads us to places we don’t want to go, to do things we should not do, with results we don’t want to have. What is compromise? Compromise according to Webster’s Dictionary is the acceptance of standards that are lower than what is desirable. As a verb, the word means to cause one to become vulnerable or to function less effectively. One might say that the outcome of compromise is that one becomes vulnerable to failure, deceit, and the potential for sin.
To compromise one’s integrity lowers one’s standards, weakens one’s character, hurts one’s personal testimony, and hinders one’s prayers. Here is the problem! We can be sucked into compromising situations because when we have lowered our standards. When there is no immediate fall out from the compromise we can be lured into deeper compromise. The fact is we never intend to compromise but we do.
While the theme of this story is compromise, a secondary theme is very evident as well. The lesson we learn from this story is that we can blow it big time and yet God will give us a second chance to do the right thing. No matter what failures we may have, God can use us to make a difference. Even though Naomi and her husband compromised and lost it all, God was gracious and provided for Naomi in ways that she could not have imagined. She lost her husband and then her two sons. She was destitute and lost.
But Naomi adjusted her life and did the right thing. Once the famine was over she returned home to Jerusalem and she took her daughter-in-law, Ruth, with her. She was given a second chance. God used this negative circumstance to bring about His will and purpose. Her daughter-in-law Ruth was to be the channel through which Messianic prophecy was to be fulfilled. Ruth the Moabite would be the great-great grandmother of David who would be the great, great, great grandfather of Jesus Himself. It is of note that Ruth, a heathen woman of a nation who was hostile to the Israelites would be found worthy to be the great great grandmother of King David. In the end Naomi’s emptiness was turned to fulfillment.
So how do we avoid compromise? First of all, we must begin every day with prayer. This is our opportunity to talk with God, to hear His heart, and to understand His will for our lives. By beginning each day with prayer, we invite God to lead our lives and we commit ourselves to be obedient to where He leads us. By doing so, we will more likely avoid compromise.
Secondly, we must make God’s word our standard for living. We must know and understand what God is saying and what purpose he has for our life. His purpose is revealed through the Word and is given to us so we know how to live for Him. David cried to God and said How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalms 119:9-11). The secret to avoid compromise is the Word.
Thirdly, we must make God a priority in our life. Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church made what seemed to be an unusual statement but when understood it is an accurate one. We must be in love with God more than we are in love with the Bible. We must know Him and love him more than we love what He has written. Understand what I am saying. We can love the Bible and reverence Bible more than we reverence our relationship with Him. Pastor Morris noted that he had a handwritten note from Pastor Jack Hayford. It was a great note of encouragement and of Jack’s love for one of his disciples. Pastor Morris stated that he loved the letter and kept it near him but He loved Jack much more than He loved the note Jack had written.
Fourth and finally, we must obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Once we have prayed, read the word, and have made Him a priority in our life, we must obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we connect with God, we will find that the Holy Spirit will speak more and more often. And as we learn to discern His voice, we will be more prone to follow after Him and avoid compromise in our lives.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
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