Accountability for Leadership and the Book of Ruth — Elimelech’s Fall
As discussed in the blog post entitled, “How Do We Respond to Life’s Trials”, http://wp.me/p5FpqF-wu the Book of Ruth is an account of a faithful, godly woman and God’s redemption. She is a foreigner, who through marriage, is joined into the Children of Israel and through faith is adopted into Jesus’ very own family. It is such a great testimony that we might miss the lessons God has for us with the other people involved. In the aforementioned post, we dealt with the bitterness of Naomi-how it scarred her and caused one of the two women under her influence to walk away from the Lord. Now, we look at her husband, Elimelech, and how his lack of trust in God leads to his family’s downfall.
In the Book of Ruth, Elimelech is only around for three verses. There is a famine in Israel and consequently, Elimelech takes his wife, Naomi, and two sons and leaves Israel to go and live in Moab. It passes by so quickly that it’s easy to miss what transpires here — Elimelech is an Israelite, you know the people for whom God moved Heaven and Earth in order to get into the Promised Land. The same Promised Land that was their inheritance from God as the Children of Abraham and that defined them as a people. Being in Israel as a Jew is a pretty big deal even today. Back then it was everything.
A famine occurs which obviously is not a good thing. But Elimelech is faced with the same decision as his wife, Naomi, when she later faces hardship, or Elijah, when he is faced by the prophets of Baal – He can call on God and trust in His provision or walk out of God’s will. He can stay where he knows God wants him, in Israel, or he can rely on his own wisdom. But in his own wisdom, he will be disobeying God. Disobeying God has consequences. His ways are higher than our ways. God could have fed Elimilech and his family with a raven if He wanted to, but instead Elimelech sees the mortal enemies of the Jews, the Moabites, prospering and decides to hitch his wagon to them. Who cares about the promises of God; I am hungry. His judgment of the situation overrides God’s clear direction for him. What is God’s clear direction:
God’s clear direction: be set apart as God’s people, don’t yoke yourself with the pagan world, be pure and undefiled and totally reliant on the Lord.
Before you think that I am judging Elimelech harshly, the reason that I point this out is because this temptation is very common to man. In times of material struggle or fear, we can look at our neighbors or co-workers and have our flesh yearn to leave behind the wonderful calling God has for us and throw ourselves into the ways of the world. We can set aside God’s plan, in pursuit of our own agenda…job, comfort, security etc. We can set aside God’s will because we fear our current circumstances. Often times too, it isn’t something necessarily bad. Elimelech’s desire to feed his family is obviously reasonable and good but going to the pagan land for provision is not.
Is there something in your life that isn’t going your way right now? Choose to look at the problem through the lens of Scripture and choose the Lord. Choose to solve problems by seeking the Savior not by seeking the world. Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord depart from evil.”
God is our Provider. He provides our every breath. He is able to supply all of our needs. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 We can trust in Him. We might not realize what we are really saying in our hearts… “Sure, I would be abandoning the very clear call God has put on my life, but what other options do I have?” What are you really saying in your heart? Rather than trust and rest in God’s promises, we might look around and make decisions based upon what we want to happen and how we determine is the only way that it is going to happen.
Examine your heart, your motives, and whose will you are following. If we go to Moab, we are going to get what we want, but at what cost?
Going to Moab initially seems like a great idea, except for the mortal pagan-worshiping enemies and disobeying God part. Proverbs 4:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Elimelech examines the situation and understand God’s will but fails to choose it – I am supposed to stay in Israel, but I need food; so lets join with the Moabites…
As the leader of his family, his decisions do not just affect him, but ripple out and cover his whole entire family. The consequences for his family are immediate and drastic…
His two sons who are supposed to marry Israelites, instead marry Moabites — a terrible thing in that day. It is through marriage to pagans that the wisest man in the world, Solomon, loses his way and how Balaam is able to curse Israel in the Book of Numbers. Being unequally yoked is one of the most difficult things for a believer to remain faithful through. What’s more, Elimelech and his two sons die. Because of the decision of Elimelech to leave Israel, his wife and two daughters-in-law are now stranded in the middle of a hostile country with no means of support. His decision to not trust God has now placed them in grave jeopardy.
When people talk about how leaders in the church or in God’s family need to be held accountable, we sometimes overlook the one who holds us accountable for everything we do – God. We will, for example, have to give an account for every useless or idle word spoken. When Elimelech steps out of Israel, he is stepping out of the perfect will of God. When we do that as believers, we step out from under His protection. Most assuredly, trials that could have been avoided, will come. God allows them to help us return back to Him and His will.
When we are in a position of leadership, there is a great responsibility for us to be good stewards and faithful leaders, so we don’t lead others astray, such as, our families. So we honor God with our testimony. We are called to lead others to Christ not away.
The consequences can be dire as God holds us accountable for the havoc we wreak through sin. They can be dire, as we see the consequences that come to those we lead: our family, our children, our co-workers etc…
Elimelech has led his family away from God and the land of God, and there have been serious consequences. If we stop here, Elimelech’s consequences for his disobedience are sobering. Elimelech left God, but God never left Elimelech. God never leaves us, even when we try to leave Him. Our God is a merciful God who covers us with His grace- undeserved favor. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, goes after his lost sheep when they go astray or get stuck in the thickets of life. His grace covers. A famine comes to Moab as well, forcing Naomi back to Israel and leading Ruth into the arms of her kinsman redeemer, Boaz.
Boaz was a picture of who was to come, Jesus, the One who always redeems us in our time of trouble. Famines often occur in our lives when we are consorting with today’s Moabites or gotten ourselves over our heads. They are there to force our attention away from the world and back to our eternal Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus.
Elimelech may have turned from God and left the land God gave to him, but God never left him and his family and used even the consequences of his sin to bring about redemption. We see a woman of faith, Ruth, press forward in following God, to receive blessing and redemption through Boaz. We encounter Boaz, who loves Ruth and gives us a picture of Jesus. Of grace. Of provision. Of forgiveness of sin. Although Elimelech failed, God did not forsake them.