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Elimilech Generation

In my recent studies of Ruth, I have been overwhelmed by the number of life-impacting lessons that God recorded for our benefit.  In its beautiful ‘love’ story between Ruth and Boaz, we find so much richness to guide our lives today.

Take for example, the lesson we are given by a man named Elimilech.  It is worth mentioning that his family lived in the little town of Bethlehem.  We should also mention that there was a famine in the land and that this famine appeared to be localized to the lands inhabited by God’s chosen people.  A final note before we begin concerns the time that this story takes place.  We know from verse 1 of the book that this occurs in the day of the judges and if we turn one page back to the final verse of the book of judges we can get a glimpse of why this is important:

In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.

Elimlech, whose name means ‘my God is king’, has a wife, Naomi (my delight), and two sons, Mahlon(sick) and Chilion(wasting away).  Interesting names for a group of people living in a town which has a name meaning ‘bread basket’ that is under a famine.

Just 50 miles away is a town by the name of Moab which is experiencing prosperity.  They have food.  Sounds like a good place to take a couple of kids named sick and wasting away since food is scarce in the bread basket.  But Elimilech is part of the chosen people and God has declared that His people should not seek the prosperity of Moab because of how the Moabites had treated the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt.

If you are Elimilech, what do you do?  It’s your responsibility to take care of your family – a responsibility that God has placed on you.  Do you wait for God to show up and bless you or do you take a pragmatic approach to the issue?

Maybe you start to rationalize the situation and start to compromise like Elimilech.  He decides to take his family for a short visit, a sojourn according to the bible, to Moab.  I mean, who can fault him, right?  Which of us wouldn’t be tempted to take a step into the forbidden if it meant sparing our families from pain and hurt?

But you see, there are two issues with that way of thinking.

  • A little compromise leads to bigger compromise and, ultimately, we will not escape that which we had hoped to avoid
  • Pragmatism discounts God’s willingness to show up in our need, thus robbing us of a blessing to see His miraculous providence

In Elimilech’s case, he takes the short journey to Moab and then slips into a bigger compromise by living there.  Eventually, that compromise leads to bigger issues because his children marry Moabites which is also against God’s commands.  In the end, the prosperity that he sought for his family came to naught for he ends up dying as do both his children before they can leave heirs to his lineage.  His wife and daughers-in-law are left in a desperate situation.

Because he took his own way out of the situation in Bethlehem, we never get to see how God would have shown up in Elimilech’s life.  He forfeited the ability to see God at work because he chose his own way.

God doesn’t want us to go out ahead of Him especially in areas that He has given clear instruction.  He is not in the business of honoring our pragmatism.  Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that the end of the matter is this: Fear God and Keep His Commandments.  Christ, himself, has declared that we should love God with all of our being.  Both of those statements are built on the idea that we honor Him which is due our complete obedience.

I wonder if we don’t live in a time that reflects that verse from Judges – ‘every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes’. And are we experiencing a spiritual famine in our ‘Bethlehem’?

If we answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions, we better be careful not to be a generation of Elimilechs searching for our own way out of the situation. Sometimes we are called to wait upon the Lord  – He has a way of showing up beyond our own abilities.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up {with} wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. ~ Isaiah 40:31

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  1. January 19, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I love that book. The whole Bible captured in four short chapters, with lots of death and romance to spice things up.

    My kind of book.

    • January 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

      It is an amazing book. So much good stuff that can be gleaned (a good word from that book) by the reader.

  2. January 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Excellent post tony! Great thought about the compromise of Elimilech. I am afraid that we do live in that type of generation-not just in our lifestyles but also in our preaching. I am wondering if we haven’t eaten bread from the wrong table and therefore feeding spoiled “food” to our people. And unfortunately, there are no tastebuds for truth so people can’t even tell the food is tainted. Just my .02 worth.

    • January 19, 2010 at 10:33 am

      I think your 2 cents are right on. Thanks for adding those thoughts!

  1. January 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm

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