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Living Within God's Boundaries

Living Within God's Boundaries

 

Lessons from Ruth

 
 
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1:1-5 NIV

Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are widowed, penniless and the famine that had originally forced them to leave Judah had reached their new home in Moab.

But "then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland." Ruth 1:6 NLT

Naomi knew that in Judah life would still be hard for three widows, especially two foreign ones. So she gave them a choice, stay with her or return to their Moabite families. Orpah chose to go back to the security of her Moabite family, Ruth chose to stay with Naomi and leave everything she knew. Did they know how things would turn out? No.

Orpah chose to follow what seemed the wise path; but in returning to her ungodly family she is never heard from again. Ruth, in following Naomi, chose God's path. She didn't know where it would take her but it is she who is remembered and honoured today, thousands of years later.

Crossroads

When we reach a crossroads in life we have to understand some things:
  • we need to discern that we're at a crossroads that's going to affect our entire future, even our destiny in God and

  • we need to get help to make the right decision. It is important that we are not led by our emotions or fear or our circumstances but by the Holy Spirit. 

  • We need to get advice from others; Proverbs 11:14 says "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. NKJV 
  • Despite what we may think, we don't always know what is best for us: "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV

Naomi tried to dissuade her, common sense said to stay in Moab, like Orpah did. On the face of it her decision made no sense. But Ruth had set her course, regardless of the cost or hardship she was certain to face. She chose to trust God.

“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Ruth 1:16-17 NLT

When we commit our lives to God we choose to surrender our will to his, to give up on following our own way.

"So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman." Ruth 1:22 NLT

Diligence and Righteousness

Ruth possessed two character traits that made her stand out:

1) Diligence

Gleaning - picking the scraps from the harvest is demeaning, dispiriting, demanding work; to do it requires diligence. Diligence in the small things brings honour. All the time while she worked the fields she could see Moab, and comfort, security, family.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. Proverbs 13:4 NIV

2) Righteousness

Elimelech fled a famine but he and his sons all died outside of God's promised land; he had thought he was doing the right thing. It made sense but ultimately it was a fatal decision. They'd stepped outside God's provision and will for his people.

As a young widow in a foreign land, Ruth was vulnerable, but Boaz heard how she had stood by Naomi and cautioned her to stay close to safety within the field and declared God’s blessing over her.

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband ...May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”Ruth 2:11-12 NIV

There is safety within God’s boundaries.


The Right Decision

Ruth stands out because she continually made decisions that spoke of her trust in God.

2 Corinthians 6:14 says ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?’ This speaks of remaining within God's boundaries despite the attractions or the offers of provision and safety that appear on the outside. Remember, Elimelech died in Moab.


Providence

Providence comes from living within God's boundaries. In the book of Ruth we see God's hand in control of the situations she faced, God's timing and providence were perfect. An example is found in Ruth 1:22, ‘So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.’ NIV

God timed their arrival in Judah so that it was harvest time and she was able to find food. Because it was the harvest Boaz had come to his fields from Bethlehem and once he had heard what she had done he was able to put her under his protection.

We may not understand our situation in life but we must choose to trust that God knows what he's doing in our lives and we have stop resisting him.


Guidance

She didn't know whose field she was gleaning in but God did and he ordered her steps so that she was working in Boaz’s fields. Boaz was Naomi and Ruth’s relative and a guardian-redeemer of her family and as such had a legal obligation to care for them (Leviticus 25:25-55). God knew. Ruth didn't know where following Naomi would take her. God did. She is Jesus' great grandmother. Like Ruth, we don't know what God's plans are, but we have to trust that he knows exactly what is best for us.


The God Filter

We must learn to approach every decision through a filter that recognises that God is the author and finisher of our lives, our provider. When we come to the crossroads of our lives we have to trust in God's will and God's way and later, when we look back on our lives, we will be amazed at his guidance, his protection and his provision


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