Summary: In our text today we see a family that took a shortcut, and it led to a dead-end - literally. Looking at their story, we discover how we can keep from taking shortcuts that lead to dead-ends.
AVOIDING DEAD-END SHORTCUTS
Shortcuts that don’t turn out so well: The shortcut to Lake Success
Some shortcuts aren’t just inconvenient, they are deadly.
Shortcuts that lead to dead-ends: Jim Madsen on Yosemite’s El Capitan in 1968. A veteran and skilled climber, he rappelled from the top of El Capitan to rescue some friends. In his haste to reach them, he apparently neglected to check his rope – it wasn’t knotted at the end and he rappelled right off the end, falling 2500 feet to his death. In his hurry, he also did not take the time to establish a belay, which would have prevented his fall.
Taking shortcuts can lead to trouble. Cutting corners can kill you.
In our text today we are going to see a family that took a shortcut, and it led to a dead-end - literally. They cut corners on an important decision, and the result was deadly. As we look at their story, we will discover how we can keep from taking shortcuts that lead to dead-ends. How we can avoid cutting corners that prove deadly. We will also see what to do if you have already taken a shortcut that has you headed down a dead-end road.
It is all found as we begin a series exploring the wonderful little OT book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is a dramatic story, told in six separate scenes, that promise to grab you in a powerful way. The Book of Ruth has been described as a “veritable masterpiece of the storyteller’s art.” [J. Lilley, “Ruth,” ZPEB, 5:176] But it is far more than a great story. Its has some profound and important truths to teach us about God, about grace, about ourselves. But it starts with a guy taking a shortcut.
Turn with me to Ruth, chapter 1. As I read Ruth 1:1-2, notice the cast of characters we are introduced to scene 1.
A. Elimelech takes a shortcut
This story, at its outset, is about a man named Elimelech, a woman named Naomi, and their sons, named Mahlon and Kilion. In essence, we learn that the family has decided to move from their home in Bethlehem, in Judah, to the neighboring country of Moab.
Now, anytime a family decided to move out of their hometown, that’s a big decision. But when a family leaves their hometown to move to another country, it’s a bigger deal still. It doesn’t happen every day. It makes one curious. Why would they do that?
It is even more curious when you consider that as Hebrews living in Judah, this family would have lived on land that was literally given to them by God. They lived in “the promised land.” Since God gave you your land, selling it or leaving it was just not something you did. But they did. Why? The text gives us some insight:
This was during the time that “the judges ruled” Ruth 1:1
This story takes place after Moses has brought the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery, and after they have wandered in the desert for 40 years. These events are recorded in the first five books of the OT, Genesis through Deuteronomy. This story takes place after Joshua led the people out of the desert to conquer the land promised to them by God. Those events are recorded in the next OT book, Joshua. After Joshua comes the book of Judges which describes the time after the Hebrews had taken possession of and began to settle the promised land, the land of Canaan. Essentially what we think of today as Israel.
During this time, Israel had no king. The people were governed by a series of ‘judges’ whom God raised up from time to time as they were needed. With no central government, this was a very unstable time politically. The book of Judges describes it this way: Judges 17:6
6In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
With an uncertain, potentially alarming future, it appears Elimelech and his family began to look for a place where the grass was greener. Can you blame them?
Times of political instability are times when people sometimes get out while they can. In our own times we see on the news sometimes streams of people leaving troubled places like the Sudan and Rwanda.
But there was another problem to go along with the unstable political situation: there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1
In an economy largely based on agricultural, a famine is obviously very serious. Not only do people risk starvation, but the whole economy is in peril – agriculture is how people make their money, find their employment, etc.
Certainly Pueblo knows the devastation of having a population centered around a single industry and then having that industry take a major hit. The population of Pueblo shrank measurably in the 80’s when the still mill slowed down, almost to a halt.