Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Hi, this is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Welcome to the Revive Our Hearts podcast for Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

We’re about to continue our study of the Old Testament book of Ruth. We've seen already that Ruth lived in a corrupt, chaotic era, when most people around her were just doing whatever was right in their own eyes. Sounds familiar.

Well, before we get into today's lesson, I want to take a moment to pray for our nation. Today, the 46th President of the United States will be inaugurated. As you know, Americans have been highly polarized around this transition, many still are.

You may be feeling, "I just don't know what to do, what to think." Here's one thing we know from God's Word, and that is what we need to pray. 1 Timothy 2 tells us that "requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving should be made in behalf of all people" and then it specifically mentions "for kings and for all who are in authority . . ." It tells us why we should pray for them, ". . . so the we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (vv. 1–4).

Toward that magnificent end, would you join me in prayer? 

Lord, when we don't know where to look, where to turn, it's always right to look to You, to turn to You. Today, on this significant day in the United States, we pray for a peaceful transfer of power. We pray for all of the events that surround this day, especially for law enforcement officers that are working hard to protect our government officials and people. We pray for peace in our cities, particularly around the capitols.

We pray as you have told us to pray for President Biden, for Vice President Harris, for members of Congress, and for other elected and appointed officials. We pray that they would rule in the fear of the Lord; that they would look to You for wisdom; that you would move in their hearts to give them understanding and a reverence for Your ways.

We pray, Lord, that no matter how dark it may get, and it's not like the darkness is new . . .  But in the days ahead, we pray that the Church would shine brightly with the light of Christ as a witness to our world. We pray that our lives and our speech and our ways would stand in stark contrast to the hatred and vitriol that we find coming from both conservatives and liberals and everyone in-between.

I pray Lord, that in this era, there would be many who would come to know Jesus as their Savior. No matter who sits in the White House, it's the fact that heaven rules that gives us comfort and confidence. This is what we want to proclaim to all in our world.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You. We rest in knowing that You are in complete control. This is our Father's world. Heaven does rule. So give us trusting hearts as we see in Ruth as we are studying her life knowing that the same God who provides for widows, who loves the orphan and who loves the poor, will care for us today and in this season. We pray this for Your sake, in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

____________________

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 twenty-four-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.

Let me 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” (vv. 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. And so often, we end up staying in that far country.

I did a conference recently and read through some of the comments from the women afterward sharing about major issues: of additiction and bondage. They didn't start out addicted to alcohol, addicted to prescription sleeping pills, addicted to food. What happened? They thought they were just going for a little while to an escape. But the little while beame a long while. And now they find they're imprisoned in their Moab. They can't escape. They can't get out.

Now they have no heart for God, no heart for God's people. And the consequences in Moab are far worse than what they were trying to escape while they were home. A place that we often think will bring relief, freedom from the pressure and the 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.

I wonder if Elimelech had been able to read the story we read and know what was going to happen what was going to happen to his family . . . I assume he was a man who cared for his family. He loved them. I don't think he  wanted to lead them into a place where their lives were going to be destroyed. But apparently, he didn't stop to think of what this decision to run might mean to those he loved, not to speak of what it mean to his own life.

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'm amazed at the prayer card women turn in at our conferences. How often women apparently don't see the connection between their own choices and where their children are spiritually. I saw some where women were saying, "I have this bondage to some sin habit, some area where I don't have self-control. Please pray for me." And then in the next breath they say, "Pray for my children who are living lifes of open, blatent immorality." They aren't making the connection.

By choosing to live lives that are out of control and not living lives surrendered to God, they've created an environment where it's easier for their children to further in their sin and their destructive lifestyles.

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.

Moab was an idolatrous, pagan place that offered child sacrifices. It was a wicked religion that was practiced there. But the Jews were doing many of the same things.

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? Was this her idea? Like Sarah saying to Abraham to take Hagar to solve this problem of how to have children.

Was Naomi so miserable and unhappy and whining and miserable that that Elimelch said, "We're getting out of here. I'm not going to put up with this whining woman any more. We're going to Moab"? We don't know.

Was Naomi fearful? Was she discontent? Or, maybe none of the above. When she saw her husband about to make a wrong decision, did she appeal to him? Did she pray for him? Did she encourage him to consider the consequences? 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?

Here's the challenge: When you see someone in a difficult situation, in a difficult marriage, for example, don't assume that you know all the facts.

I look at some marriages and I hear one partner telling the story and I think, "Oh, my goodness. I can't believe that wife has had to put up with that situation in that marriage!" But the fact is, we don't know all the facts.

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.

And he looks like the bad guy. I'm not saying he doesn't have his own issues. I'm just saying, as a wife, if your family is going in the wrong direction, be sure it wasn't your sin that contributed, even in part, to that decision.

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. When you do, out of obedience to God and obedience to your husband, 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 Bethleham. 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, I choose to walk with You and to trust that Your presence and Your provision will be sufficient for me in this place.”

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgeuth has been sharing insight from Ruth chapter 1. She’ll be right back to wrap things up but today makes us consider how we sometimes run from our problems like Elimelech and Naomi did. Been there? Done that? When we’re tempted to escape from the discomfort around us, Erin Davis reminds us we need to first run to God.

Erin Davis: I think all of our human tendencies is to want to run away from the pressure of God and into the arms of lesser comfort. Although I would love to paint Elimelech as the bad guy, because that makes me not like Elimelech, but I’m so like Elimelech. I want to get out of the pressure.

Dannah: Do you ever feel like Elimelech? What pressures are you wanting to escape or avoid? Erin Davis shares that and so much more in the new season of the Women of the Bible podcast on Ruth. You can catch the full episode at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Maybe you’ve always liked the story of Ruth, and maybe you want to dig in a little deeper. We’ve got you covered. You can listen to Ruth’s story with Nancy, right here on Revive Our Hearts for the next few weeks. You can tune into the Ruth Women of the Bible podcast we just heard a portion of, with a new episode releasing every week. And, you can get your very own copy of the newest Women of the Bible study over the book of Ruth. It’s called Ruth: Experiencing a Life Restored.

In it, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the cultural background from that time. Not only will you learn from the characters, real people, in that story, but you’ll also see the overarching theme of God’s restoration. This month we’re focusing on feasting on the Word of God, and this is a great resource to help you do that.

To start your own personal study of Ruth, or work through it with friends, you can get a copy of the new Ruth study when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make a donation, or call us at 1–800–569–5959, and be sure to ask for the study on Ruth when you call.

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 DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you trust and obey the Lord. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Support the Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Women around the world wake up hopeless every day. You can play a part in bringing them freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness instead. Your gift ensures that we can continue to spread gospel hope! Donate now.

Donate Now

About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.