From the Pastors Desk

Text: RUTH 1:1-5.

Elimelech and Naomi, his wife and their two sons –Mahlon and Chilion left Bethlehem Judah to live in the country of Moab because there was a famine.
Bethlehem means ‘House of Bread’ and Judah means ‘I will praise the Lord’. Thus, this family left the ‘house of bread’ and the ‘house of praise’ to go and live in Moab.
There is no doubt that children of God are not exempted from trials, problems and other consequences of the Fall, but we have the assurance that God is always with us and will not permit any trial or temptation that will destroy us to happen to us.

The bible says:
‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’ (1Cor.10:13).
When a child of God has a problem, unlike unbelievers, he knows from the outset that he will triumph over the problem. How does he know? He knows because Jesus has already won victory for us (children of God) over all contrary situations and circumstances we may face in this world. He told His disciples, and this applies to all generations of Christian believers:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, ‘I have overcome the world’” (Jn.16:33).
As long as we are in Christ Jesus, victory is definitely ours.
If this is the case, we should be calm whenever trouble knocks at the door and commit everything into His hand. Apostle Peter wrote:
‘Casting all your care upon Him (God), for He cares for you’ (1Pe.5:7).
When we have a trouble or a problem, to whom should we go? Should we not first go to God who has told us to cast our burdens on Him and the God who has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but will be with us to the end?

There are some problems that God allows to happen to us as a way of testing our faith in Him or as a means of strengthening us in our faith towards Him. Every victory won will encourage us for greater victories. Apostle Paul learnt from the trouble that came to him and his companions in Asia that they should not trust in themselves but in God (2Cor.1:8-9).. Then he could write:
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’ (2Cor.1:3-4).
When we have overcome a serious problem through faith in God, we will be able to encourage those who find themselves in a similar situation to have faith in God and commit their problem into His hands.
If we know these and are convinced about the faithfulness of God, His mercies, love and compassion, nothing will be able to drive us from His presence. David wrote in one of His psalms:
‘One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord,
All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord
And to inquire in His temple
For in the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion,
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me; He shall set me high on a rock’ (Ps.34:4-5).
In another he wrote:
‘For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness’ (Ps.84:10).
Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons left the ‘house of bread’ and the ‘house of praise’ to dwell in the tents of wickedness. The people of Moab were enemies of the children of God – the Children of Israel. Besides, they were pagans and idol worshippers. They were among the people God forbade the Children of Israel not to associate with.
We need to be separated for God and not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2Cor.6:14-18).

There is bound to be a cause for regret when a child of God leaves the house of his God to live in the camp of the wicked.
Initially, things seemed to be good for them as both Mahlon and Chilion married beautiful Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. But not long Elimelech died and both sons followed. Naomi became a widow left with two daughters-in-law. What a painful reversal of fortune!
When Naomi heard that God had visited her people again and there was bread now in the ‘house of bread’, she decided to return home.
Her two daughters wanted to return with her to her land but she discouraged them. But one of them, Ruth, refused to be discouraged from returning with Naomi.
Why did she decide to follow her? It could be because Naomi was her role-model of a woman who feared the Lord. She must have observed her faithfulness and devotion to Jehovah God of Israel. Secondly, she might have become a strong believer in the God of Israel. Thirdly, having been with her for a long time, she might have observed that her destiny was tied to that of Naomi. Read what she said when Naomi asked her to turn back from holding on to her in Ruth 1:16-17.

There is a big lesson we can learn here. We should know our behaviour speaks volumes about our Christian life. It is the mirror of the type of Christian we are. People could be repelled or be attracted to Christ by our behaviour. What type of message is your behaviour preaching to those who are outside the faith?
Secondly, our love for Christ should be like the love Ruth had for Naomi – a love that will never let go. It is not only when things go well with us that we should love Christ and be close to Him, but even when things go bad, our love for Him should remain ever strong.  Apostle Paul wrote:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Should tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
‘For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’,
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’” (Ro.8:35-39).

The bible records that when the two of them returned to Bethlehem Judah the whole city was excited because of them. This gives us the impression that Naomi used to be a popular woman in this city and well known for her kindness and amiable character.
But she was a changed woman. Affliction can reshape the appearance of a person. They asked her ‘Is this Naomi?’ I pray that none of us will ever depart the presence and the house of God.
So she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi (Pleasant); call me Mara (Bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me’ (Ruth 1:20-21).

Naomi regretted leaving the house of praise for the camp of the enemy. But she was not ashamed to retrace her steps unlike some others who persist in their sin without repenting out of mere pride. Her returning home was a sign of her repentance. The bible says that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Ro.2:4).
Our God is a God of a second chance. If we truly repent of our sin, He will give us a second chance. Naomi was made happy again when Ruth married Boaz, a kinsman of Elimelech and the marriage was blessed with a son who was named Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David from whose ancestral line, the Lord Jesus Christ was born.
The Parable of the Lost Son is another case that shows that our God gives a second chance to those who repent of their evil ways and return to Him (Mt.15:11-24). Just like the Lost Son suffered for leaving his father’s house, so Naomi suffered for leaving the House of Praise and the House of Bread to live in the camp of the enemy. Yes, God is a God of the second chance. But do we have to expose ourselves to suffering just because we can be given a second chance? I believe that it is the most foolish thing to do.  Note that it is risky and dangerous to leave the house of God and go back to the world. May the good God help us. Amen.