The whole story of Ruth is written about two significant places – Bethlehem and Moab.
Moab has always had an interesting back story when it comes to the people of Israel. Moabites were the decendents of Lot and Moab literally means ‘of the Father’ because Moab was the result of Lot’s daughter sleeping with Lot. During the time of the Judges, the Moabites constantly oppressed the Israelites until finally Eglon the King of Moab was assassinated by Ehud one of the Israelite judges.
We have a little insight into the circumstances that lead Elimilech and Naomi to move their family to Moab. There was a famine And there must have been little hope f the famine breaking. We know that for some time during the time of the judges that the King Eglon of Moab was king over Israel which also may have been the time this family moved to Moab or had connections there. There is not a lot of other information to go with. It was common for Israelite families to travel away from cacaan during famine. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob moved away from this land when it was facing famine.
I know what it feels like to find myself in the context of famine where opportunities lie beyond where I am. How easy it is for us when facing any sort of ‘famine’ to move away to a place that ‘looks’ better than ‘here’. ‘Here’ is where I am called but Moab seems better than ‘here’. I have been called to be ‘here’ but when it gets tough there is always a ‘Moab’ to move to and settle in.
Moab is not always physical. My HERE can be my wherever I find discontent. It be where ever I find frustration or where I am not experiencing harvest and fruitfulness or fulfilment. Here can be a relationship, my job, my church, the season I am in, my marriage, my call, my health. ‘Famine‘ can happen to any of us and can be really difficult to deal with. How often does MOAB look better than here and we have no idea that Moab could be the ultimate destination of death, trauma and deep bitterness.
What is my Moab?
What sort of famine leads me to find a MOAB?
When Jesus is not enough I go seeking sustenance and provision and opportunity in a variety of Moabs that look nothing like where I am meant to be. Many families didn’t leave Bethlehem. Many of Naomi’s friends stayed, remained…. There are plenty of people who choose NOT to go to land of Moab!
Why am I the one always seeking a Moab when the place of bread is not enough. Just because I don’t move to Moab does not mean I am not seeking one.
How long had Elimilech and Naomi talked about this move?
Was it a spontaneous decision?
Was it well planned?
Were there late night conversations or did Elimilech just make a decision and Naomi had to follow?
Did their neighbours care or visit them after they left?
What made them think about Moab as a destination?
Was it the possibility if new beginnings?
Was it simply physical hunger?
Maybe they were invited?
Maybe they had friends who were there?
Maybe local Moabites had enticed them and convinced them?
Maybe they simply saw opportunity?
Maybe their kids needs came first?
Maybe they were sick of people coming to them to get help?
Maybe they lost sight of God?
What leads us to seek joy, peace, provision, freedom, hope, some where other than HERE….? Famine is never a great reason to move from HERE…
Do I respond to famine spontaneously or is it something I process slowly?
Do I seek wisdom in famine or make decision based on my own wisdom?
Do I make decisions in the context of famine or the context of promise?
Is God king in the midst of famine or only when I feel his blessings?
How does moving to Moab impact on my kids and what they believe about God and life and choices?
What is my HERE? Where has God asked me to settle that doesn’t feel like it is where I will prosper? If God leads me to ‘here’ he is always leading me back to the House of bread.
Within a few months of moving to Bendigo these were some of the questions I had been asking myself. It felt like we had landed in a place of lack and emptiness and famine. Moab was any place BUT HERE!
This story of Ruth reminds me that Moab is not on the cards for me. It also reminds me that when I move to anything that resembles Moab God can redeem it and turn it for good. Right now I need to work out if my heart has moved away from where I am meant to be. Elimilech could have returned to Bethlehem at any time but he didn’t. Naomi finally decides after her circumstances don’t work out that she needs to go back. It is never too late to return to Bethlehem…the places called the House of Bread.