Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: A lot of us probably woke up today thinking about our failures from yesterday, but it doesn’t mean we’re bound to repeat them. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You and I can make right and godly choices. Regardless of our past, regardless of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us, we can have a right relationship with God.

Leslie: It’s Monday, July 2, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Say your husband feels strongly about a decision that you just don’t agree with. Maybe he wants to take a shortcut, and you don’t think it’ll save any time. Well, a biblical character faced that situation, and we’ll see how she handled it as Nancy continues in a series called Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love.

Nancy: Do you ever find yourself wanting to run from pressure? Which day, right? I've got to tell you, the other night I received within a 24-hour period a couple of emails that just spelled out a lot of hard work and created in my mind some pressure. It was late at night, and I finally just took a look at all that I knew would be involved in following through on these messages. I said I think I’m just going to bed. I think if I just go to sleep maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and it won’t all be here.

In just little ways, but also for some of us in big ways, the temptation in the midst of pressure, pain, problems, issues of life is to want to escape. Well, you’ll be glad to know as we get into the story of Ruth today that you’re not the only one who finds yourself wanting to run and escape from the realities of life.

We’re looking in the book of Ruth in the first chapter. We’re still on verse 1. This story takes place in the days of the judges, the dark ages of Israel’s history. The Scripture says, “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.”

There was a famine in the land. Now when we go back to the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy in particular, we find that under the old covenant God promised His people that if they obeyed Him, they would be blessed and that blessing would come in the form of material and physical prosperity, that the land would be fruitful, that they would be fertile, that they would have families and the land would produce.

Now God blesses us today in different ways and does not promise those same kinds of blessings. But for the nation of Israel, God said if you obey Me, the land and your women will be fruitful. You’ll be prosperous.

He also promised them that if they disobeyed His laws, there would be natural and physical consequences of their disobedience. He promised there would be chastisement and that would come in the form of famine and hunger, military oppression, different ways that they would be chastised if they disobeyed God.

Now God’s purpose in giving these kinds of consequences was that He wanted to show that He was the One who was in control of the land, that it was not the Canaanite pagan gods of Baal and Ashtoreth who were in charge of the land and who controlled fertility, but that God was the Lord and the owner of the land. His purpose in bringing chastisement was to restore His people to a place of obedience. God knew that when the pressure was on, the people would cry out to Him and He would be able to bless them and send mercy to them.

It think of that line in Francis Thompson’s, The Hound of Heaven, where God says, “All which I took from thee, I did but take not to thy harms, but just that thou mightest seek it in My arms.” You see when God sends a famine, whether it’s a literal famine or a spiritual famine or emotional famine in our lives, His purpose is not to ruin our lives. His purpose is to open up our hearts and our hands to receive that which only He can give to us.

Now there was in this day a famine in the land, and so we know that God was likely chastising His people. He was trying to restore them to a place of obedience. We’re told that in the midst of that famine a man from Bethlehem in Judah left Judah, left his homeland, to go live in the neighboring country of Moab.

Now the word Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The word Judah means “praise.” So this man lived in a place that meant “house of bread and praise.” Just that very name shows that famine was unusual in the land, that the norm was fertility and prosperity, that God was sending the famine to chastise His people.

God intends, by the way, for our lives to be houses of bread and praise; houses of plenty; houses of abundance. It may not always be physical plenty, physical abundance, but God intended for our lives to be fruitful, to be full.

When we disobey God, He will often send a famine into our hearts and into our lives in some way so that we will see the areas where we’ve disobeyed Him. It’s important that in those times we accept the famine as coming from the hand of God.

The Scripture says that this man left Bethlehem, Judah, took his wife and his two sons, and went to live for a while in the country of Moab. Moab was approximately 60 miles from Bethlehem. It was the other side of the Dead Sea, if you can picture a map of Canaan.

The Moabites, you may remember, were the descendants of Lot through his incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter. That’s where this nation had come from. The Moabites were the Jews’ enemies. There was a lot of bad history between the Moabites and the Jews. But this man felt that the famine was so bad in his homeland that he decided to run, to escape to neighboring Moab. That looked better to him at that point.

Now keep in mind, why did God send famines in those days? Because He wanted to chastise His people who had disobeyed Him. So if the famine was the result of disobedience on the part of God’s people, what was the solution to the famine? Not running, but repenting. Elimelech, this Jewish man, chose to run rather than perhaps being an instrument of revival and calling the people to days of prayer and fasting and seeking the Lord, calling the people to repentance.

Really, his move to Moab revealed a lack of faith and that he did not see the purpose and the hand of God in this famine. I think there is no question that he should have stayed where he was. But where he was seemed so troubled that he thought where he was going would be the solution to his problems. So instead of staying where he was, getting right with God, getting his family together and others together and seeking God, he gathered his family and took off for another country thinking he would do better there.

The suggestion here is that he probably intended to stay just for a short time. It says he went to live for a while. But when you come to the end of verse 2, you see that he continued there. He went for just a short trip thinking he’d be back, but three of the four who left Judah and went to Moab never came back. They ended up parking in Moab, living there, planting their family there. The consequences that they were trying to escape they found themselves in even worse consequences when they landed in Moab.

We say that the road to destruction and the road to bitterness (we’re going to see Naomi as a woman who knew a lot about bitterness)—that pathway begins when we try to escape from the consequences that God has designed to mold us, to sanctify us, to chasten us. When we try to run from those circumstances, we set ourselves on a pathway to something far worse.

I’m reminded of that verse in Psalm 55 where the Psalmist said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm” (verses 6-8).

Did you ever wish that God would call you to the uninhabited regions of the world? Now, Lord, if I could just go to this desert island where there are no people, no problems. Well, there are days when we just want to escape from it all. But David learned the same thing that Naomi’s family was going to learn: The key is not running. The key is facing the problem, facing the difficulty, finding God in it and making your way into the eye of the storm.

So often when we’re in a time of famine, loss, hardship, deprivation, circumstances pressing in on us—maybe it’s because of our own sin, maybe it’s because of the sins of others, but the famine affects us nonetheless—rather than seek the face of God about why we’re in this condition, what we do is look at other fields of the world, other countries, other places, and we set our heart on that place.

Often I think it’s not because the world and the place we’re running to is so attractive, but because the place we were living, the reality of the world where we are has become so dry, and we say it’s got to be better out there. So instead of facing the real cause for our dryness and getting to the source of the problem, we do what Elimelech and his family did. We do what the prodigal son did. We run away to a far country.

Invariably, we’re looking for some substitute for what we’ve lost, thinking that if we could just get into this different situation, if we could just move, if we could just have a different set of circumstances, then we would get rid of our problems. The problem is: When we run from our problems, we forsake the mercy of God that He wanted to give us in the midst of the famine, in the midst of our problems.

We tell ourselves, “It’s just for a short time. I just need a break. I've just got to get away for a little bit.” So how do we do that? Well, Moab can take a lot of different forms and shapes in our lives. For me the other night it was I’m just going to go to bed. I’m just going to go to sleep—escape from all of this. Now there’s nothing wrong with sleeping when it’s time to sleep, but if I’m sleeping to run from pressure and to run from problems, I’m going to find it really doesn’t solve my issues.

Some of us run to food or run to the mall—shopping. Some of us run to our job, to a career. You may have found yourself sometime running to a different geographic location. Maybe your whole family got up and moved just to escape from some problems and pressures that you were experiencing in the other place where you lived.

All of us at times find ourselves running to friends. Nothing wrong with friends. Sometimes they can give us godly counsel, but sometimes we’re really just trying to get somebody to empathize, somebody to sympathize, and somebody to be an escape for us from the reality, the painful reality of our circumstances.

I know of women who have run into drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs. It’s become an escape. They’re trying to anesthetize the pain, trying not to have to face the reality of their famine. There are women who’ve run into the arms of a man thinking that in that place of escape, they can get out of the pain of their current marriage, the pain of their current difficult relationships so they find someone who’s sympathetic, who’s warm, who’s got a listening ear and who empathizes with their situation.

What are they doing? They’re running to Moab. Running from the famine in their current situation, their current marriage, their current environment. I think this is one of the reasons that women today, including Christian women, are so big on romance novels. It’s an escape from the pain, from the real world, from the real life. It’s an escape to a dream world.

The Internet is providing a lot of means of escape today—not just for men, but for women as well. A means to find relationship, shortcuts through the pain of real relationships into this dream world of relationships. We often tell ourselves, “I’m not going for long. I’m just going to taste. I’m just going to touch. I’m just going to experiment. I’m just going to get a little feeling of relief. It’ll only be for a while.”

That’s what Elimelech said. We’re just going to Moab for a while, just while the pressure’s on. We’ll come back. Elimelech never did come back. His sons never came back. The place that we often think will bring relief and freedom from the pressure and problems ends up becoming a place of even greater sorrow and sometimes even death.

It’s interesting as you read the story, we’re reminded that when we leave the will of God, when we leave the place that God has designed for our sanctification, we seldom leave alone. It says this man left and he took his wife and his two sons with him. Invariably, you and I take others with us when we leave the will of God.

We may not intend to hurt others, but our decisions do affect others. In fact, everything that you and I do—our attitudes, our actions, our choices, everything we do—affects the lives of our family and of the people around us. Now, their lives can be ruined by our disobedience, or they can be blessed by our obedience. But our lives do have influence.

Don’t think for a moment that the choices you make that seem so minor and insignificant don’t have any bearing on those around you. You and I can be the instrument of ruin and destruction for the lives of those around us. But when we choose to obey God, our lives can be instruments of blessing and revival.

Unfortunately, often it’s children who are affected by our decisions and who pay the consequences. I think one of the things that makes this more challenging—it was true then and it’s true today—is that there was so little measurable difference in this era between Moab, the pagan country, and Israel, where the people of God lived. The people of God had so fallen into the ways of the world that I don’t think Moab really seemed that far away from a spiritual standpoint.

So today when the churches become so like the world, when we move into that far country, that place of escape and running, oftentimes we may not think it’s that big a deal. We do not realize how far we’ve gone from the ways of God.

Now the suggestion here is that Elimelech took his family and he led them into Moab. That raises the question: What if your husband leads you and your family down a wrong path? Was Naomi partially responsible here? Who’s to blame and what’s a wife to do if her husband says, “We’re going to Moab”?

Let me make several suggestions that don’t come right out of this text but by way of application. I think that the first one is to make sure that your own conscience is clear as a wife.

There are some things that we’re not told in this story. We don’t know, for example, did Naomi influence Elimelech to go to Moab? What was her attitude? Did she pray that God would change his heart? Was she a victim, or was she partially responsible for this decision? We don’t know if Naomi was blameless in this or not.

Now when it comes down to it, whether she was blameless or whether she was guilty, there was still grace available. But first as a wife, make sure that your own conscience is clear. Be careful when you’re drawing conclusions about God’s dealings in other people’s lives. It may seem very obvious to us that some wife is the innocent party, but the fact is: We don’t know. We don’t know what goes on behind the walls of a home.

I’ve heard so many stories where I first heard one partner’s side and I thought all the fault was the other partner. Then I heard the other partner, and I would have thought the first partner was all at fault. The truth is often somewhere in between. We seldom have all the facts.

So make sure that your conscience as a wife is clear, that you have been having a godly attitude, a right spirit, that it’s not your disobedience that is contributing to the family going the wrong direction, that your husband isn’t reacting to your whining, your fears, your discontent. I’ve seen husbands take their families out of ministry, out of a church, out of the will of God as a reaction to a griping, whining wife.

Then remember that God does not hold you accountable for your husband’s sin. God does hold you accountable for your choices, for your sin, for your reactions, for your responses. Remember that there may well be times when you will have to follow your husband into a situation that may not be God’s ideal will for your family. There may be times when you have to suffer consequences with the rest of your family for someone else’s wrong decision.

Say your husband makes a career change or a geographic relocation and it’s not done in the will of God and you have to move with him. You may end up with your husband in Moab through no sin of your own but having to follow and having to experience some of the consequences of his wrong choices.

Now, what happens when you end up there? Remember that you cannot control his decisions. You cannot control his choices, but you can still be right with God. You can still make right choices in terms of your reactions, your responses.

When your husband takes you into that situation—and by the way, this can go both ways. I don’t mean to pick on husbands here because plenty of wives make wrong choices that affect the husbands as well. We’re a room full of women here. Remember that when your husband makes—as he will at times—wrong choices, that you can still respond in a godly way.

You cannot blame your wrong responses—your whining, your complaining, your speaking evil of your husband—on your husband’s decision. You’re responsible for your choices, for how you respond to that situation.

So here we have a man who made a choice, a wife who followed whether she was part of that choice or not we don’t know. Even if she was a victim of her husband’s wrong decision, the point comes in this story where she has to take responsibility for her own life and return to that land. She does not have to spend her life a prisoner of his wrong choices. There comes a point when she is able on behalf of their family to repent, to go back to Judah, to leave Moab, and to make right choices.

That says to me that you and I can make right and godly choices. Regardless of our past, regardless of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us, we can have a right relationship with God. Regardless of where your family is spiritually. Regardless of whether your husband walks with God or not, you can walk with God.

Even if your husband takes you to Moab and you follow there out of obedience to God and reverence for your husband, you can have an intimate, personal, and right relationship with God. Ultimately, as you wait on the Lord and entrust yourself to Him, you’re going to experience what Naomi ultimately experienced and that is the joy of restoration, seeing that God really can bring good out of evil.

The Scripture says that He will even cause the wrath of men to praise Him, that the wrong decisions of others as they affect our lives can ultimately turn to the glory of God. If we’re willing to keep our place, to take our place before the Lord in humility and in obedience and say “Lord, I choose, regardless of what other choices other people may make, to walk with You and to trust that Your presence and Your provision will be sufficient for me in this place.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to wrap things up. Today’s teaching is part of an in-depth study of Ruth. Maybe you’ve always liked the story of Ruth. Nancy’s teaching will take you to a deeper level of understanding the cultural background of the story and the teaching will reveal ways your life resembles the characters in this story. The book of Ruth touches on many relevant topics as you just heard.

If you have a small group at church, this material would make a meaningful study. We’ll help you put a group together by making available Nancy’s teaching on DVD, plus a study workbook. If you order five or more workbooks, we’ll include the DVD at no charge. Imagine getting rich insights out of this timeless story, both through Nancy’s teaching and through interaction with other women. To learn more, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now if it’s just not the right time to put together a group, don’t miss the opportunity to study Ruth. You can order a workbook for yourself along with a CD of this radio series. Again, learn more about that at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959.

Are you asking the right questions? Well, you’ll never find the right answer if you don’t ask the right questions. We’ll consider that tomorrow as Nancy picks up the story of Ruth. She’s back now with some closing thoughts.

Nancy: I wonder if there’s some situation that comes to your mind where someone else has made a wrong decision and it’s affected your life. Maybe it’s your husband. Maybe it’s your parents. Maybe it’s a boss. Maybe it’s the pastor of your church. And you’ve ended up experiencing some consequences because of someone else’s wrong choices.

Would you just acknowledge to God the truth that it is possible for you to live a godly life and to walk with Him even in the midst of those circumstances? If you’ve been resenting and resisting, whining, complaining, speaking evil of someone else because of the choices they’ve made, would you just even right now in your heart repent and say Lord, it’s not just their sin, it’s my sin too. It’s how I’ve responded. It’s how I’ve reacted in my spirit, my words, my actions.

I’ve not waited on You. I’ve not trusted You. Would you ask God’s forgiveness for your wrong reactions, or for any part that you may have had in contributing to that wrong decision. You can’t choose for someone else, but you can choose to walk with God.

Lord, would you begin even this moment to pour out Your grace and create circumstances to bring about restoration for women who may be in a Moab today because someone else made a wrong decision? Would you give them a sense of hope and faith that You are still in control and that You are going to cause these circumstances to work to their ultimate good and to Your glory. I pray for Jesus’ sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

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