Summary: The introductory sermon on a series on the book of Ruth. The outline is: 1. Follow God, not food. 2. Don’t blame God for our bad choices. 3. Our life can change lives. 4. When we commit ourselves to God, He commits Himself to us.
The Beauty of Commitment - Ruth 1:1-22
BTBC - April 21, 2013
There is power in commitment. Let me show you a short video clip from the movie, “The Fellowship of the Rings” (show video). What did you think of Sam when you saw that video clip? Weren’t you impressed? Didn’t you wish you had a friend like that? How do you think Frodo felt when Sam made that declaration of commitment? There’s something about loyalty and commitment that enables us to keep going. When we know that someone is committed to us, that they will never leave us or forsake us, that enables us to keep going, even when we’re facing the hardest obstacles. That’s the power of commitment.
This morning we’re going to begin looking at beautiful love story. It’s the book of Ruth. But before we dive into the story, we must first paint a picture of the setting. Take a look at verse one (read vs. 1a). This story was written during the time when the judges ruled. I don’t know if you know much about the time of judges. The Book of Judges, that is placed in the Bible right before the Book of Ruth, tells about the events that took place during that period. The time of the judges covers the period of history after the Israelites entered into the promised land, under the leadership of Joshua until the choosing of the first king, King Saul. During this time, the Israelites fell into a cycle of sin and idolatry, until God allowed the nations to attack them and oppress them. Then they cried out to the Lord for help and He delivered them by raising up judges like Deborah, Gideon, and Samson. But after they had peace for a while, the Israelites would fall back into sin and the pattern would be repeated. The last verse in the Book of Judges summarizes the spiritual state of the nation. Judges 21:25 says: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” People were without spiritual or even effective civil leadership. The land had become lawless with everyone doing as they pleased. It is in this setting that we find a family in distress. Look at verses one and two (read verses). The story zeroes in on one family living in Bethlehem. There is the husband, Elimelech, the mother, Naomi and their two boys, Mahlon and Killion. I think this story can teach us four important spiritual lessons about loyalty and commitment.
The first lesson is this: Follow God, not food. In verse one we learn that there was a famine in the land. So what did Elimelech’s family decide to do? They decided to leave the land and go to Moab. That makes sense doesn’t it? There’s no food, there’s a drought, and maybe another country has something to eat. But whether it made sense or not, in human judgement, what do you think God thought of their decision? Well first, let’s consider what were they leaving. Was it only a home, a place to live? No, it was the land, the promised land. This was Canaan, the land that God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants. It was the place chosen for God’s people. They had left Egypt, travelled for 40 years through the desert and fought many hard won battles to gain it. It was supposed to be the inheritance for the Israelites forever. And just like that, Elimelech decides to take his family and leave. He was willing to give up his inheritance, and the inheritance of all of his future generations, for what? For food.
And the land wasn’t the only thing that Elimelech and his family were giving up. They were giving up their own people. They were leaving their relatives, their friends, people they loved, and who loved them. People who supported them and who could keep them close to their God. And where were they going? They were going to Moab. These people were the traditional enemies of God. Once they made the move, they would be influenced by the Moabite culture. Their boys would marry Moabite women. Their own identity as Israelites, God’s chosen people, would be diluted and eventually lost. They gave up their own people, for what? For food.
And the worst thing they gave up of all, is they gave up God. Now I’m not saying the family began worshipping idols and renounced their faith, but they were running away from God. You see in the Old Testament, God worship was tied to a certain place, to the place where the ark of covenant was. That’s where the tabernacle of God was. That’s where the Israelites had to go up and make regular sacrifices. That’s where they participated in the annual feasts and celebrations. This family was turning their backs on many of the commandments and requirements of God. When they chose to run off to Moab, they were choosing to run away from God. And they chose to give up their God for what? For food.