The Jewish people place much significance in names, and it is very insightful to study what the meanings of names are in scripture. As I looked up Elimelech’s name, I found two variations which shed interesting light on his decisions and actions. The first interpretation I ran across was “My God is King”. Praise the Lord! Then I ran across an article which stated that the Jewish sages interpreted the name to be “Kingship is Due Me”. Quite a bit of difference in those two interpretations! When I read “My God is King” I picture obedience and trust, but when I read “Kingship is Due Me” I get a sense of entitlement. I find it very interesting how just a little change in the words of any interpretation totally changes the meaning of the words!
Why would Elimelech choose to leave Bethlehem, which is in the land God had given them to live in, because they had a season of famine? If we just look at the last verse of the book before Ruth we will get the answer.
The Judges were to be overseeing the people but it was a turbulent time and we are told in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Wow, that could have been written today about society! As King Solomon stated, there is nothing new under the sun. We often think that circumstances only affect “the other guy”. We don’t expect the men and women of God to react to political or events that affect the living conditions of those called to minister (which, by the way, is each of us who has been reborn). But there is no one who isn’t susceptible to following the “flesh”. I believe this is what Elimelech was doing. God had told His people that they were to stay in Bethlehem and not to into foreign lands.
How does this happen? We begin looking at our circumstances instead of God. We begin to focus on “our” needs and stop trusting God’s provisions. Maybe we spend less time in prayer or reading His Word. Then as we “worry” about what we should do, it doesn’t even occur to us to go to the Lord of the Harvest to supply our needs and give direction!
Many times we go to others to be “covered in prayer” but it doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of spending time with God and hearing from Him directly!
Psalm 46:10 states, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NASB) I love this translation because it is so direct...STOP FIGHTING AGAINST ME!
Why do I reference this verse? Because we often ask according to our needs and are looking for others to agree with us that our situation is unfair, or too hard, or needs to be changed. But God has allowed whatever you and I are going through and He wants us to go to Him for clarification, direction, wisdom, understanding and provision. Then we wait, do not change anything until He tells us to.
I can just hear the protests! But God surely doesn’t want me to suffer through this! (See teaching on Healing) I believe this is exactly where Elimelech was. He didn’t want to suffer. He might have even justified in his own mind that his boys (who were not healthy and strong) would get healthier if they had more to eat. We don’t know exactly what he was thinking, we can only guess from looking at his situation, but we do know that he wanted out and chose to disobey God and leave Bethlehem.
You may be thinking that it was his choice, God gives us free will. Yes, He does. But that doesn’t make all of our choices right. Nothing that we do ever just affects us, it has an impact on others around us. And if we continue to use our “free will” as our right, it takes us further and further from the blessings of our Lord. I think Naomi stated the results of this action well in Ruth 1:21, “I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.”
Can you identify with Elimelech? Do you tend to do what is right in your own eyes? Maybe you don’t think ahead to the future and what that could look like. Maybe you are afraid to really “ask for God’s will” because you know He isn’t going to bless your plan.
I believe that, especially today, we really don’t believe that death will come to our physical bodies without warning. I don’t think Elimelech ever thought he would die in Moab and leave Naomi without any means of support. But that is the problem, we don’t think. Only God knows the end from the beginning and only God can give us discernment to know the way to proceed in any situation.
Dear Abba, thank You for loving us so much to open our eyes to the sin which so easily overtakes us. We, so often as Elimelech, make decisions based on emotions and not on Your promises. I pray for hearts to be tenderized to be willing to seek Your will in all circumstances. And, even more so, to trust You in the place that You have called us and to trust You to move us when it is time. May we not become so acclimated to circumstances and surroundings that we fail to look to You. Change our hearts O God and lead us in the way everlasting! Amen.