A Test of Faith

Ruth 1:1–2 (ESV)
"In the days when the judges ruled thereas a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there."

This is another great example of how a particular verse, read many times before, jumps out with new clarity when read once again. It is the reference to the time of the judges that caused me to look deeper. If you remember, the time of the judges was one of great unrest in the nation of Israel, a time of cyclical patterns of turning away from God, crying out for help, God showing mercy by raising up a judge to help them, turning back to God, and then the pattern would soon repeat. At this stage of Israel’s spiritual maturity, they were but babes, immature in their understanding of God and weak in faith, trust, and obedience.

Applying this context with the study verse above, we see a patriarch showing signs of such immaturity in faith. As famine gripped the land—the Promised Land—Elimelech makes the decision to flee from their hometown of Bethlehem to the land of the pagan worshipping Moabites.

His error was not recognizing that this onset of famine was to be a test of faith, likely the result of some previous apostasy on the part of the people. Rather than trust in God and stay in the land and fully depend on God, Elimelech made the choice to leave the land God had provided for them, and in effect, sealed his fate. In an interesting comparison, consider how God gave approval for Jacob to leave the land and go down into Egypt during the days of Joseph (Genesis 46:3).

But the consequences did not end there. While Elimelech sinned against God by not consulting him before leaving the promised land, he also encouraged his two sons to violate the law given in Deuteronomy 7:3 not to intermarry with those who worship false gods by commanding his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to take wives from among the Moabites.

While Ruth went on to be an extraordinary woman of faith and the great-grandmother of David, the ends do not justify the means and the sons of Elimelech violated God’s law and paid the price in doing so.

What is the application for us?

Where do we turn first when times are hard or when the situation seems desperate? Is God the last resort or the first?

If we say we have faith but act in accord to our own will without even petitioning God, how is this faith? Do we fully trust in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6) or is our faith merely lip service? (Matthew 15:8)

It’s easy to profess a faith that is never tested by dire circumstances, but can we say we will have a similar faith when those same dire circumstances become reality?