Have You Been To The Woodshed Lately?

"Every rod has a voice..." 
"Nothing conduces more to satisfy a gracious soul under affliction than the consideration of the hand of God in it." - both quotes are from Matthew Henry
Our text is found in Ruth 1:19-22 which says - "So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest."
This Bible message is about "returning" - which happens to be the theme of the first chapter of Ruth. It does not deal with the character Ruth - although she turned out to be a great woman of God and has many wonderful traits that we could all pattern as Christians.
This message is about Ruth's mother-in-law - Naomi. In it, you will find that Holy Spirit has a word of encouragement for all of the "Naomi's" out there who are "returning" or need to "return."
Ruth 1 opens up with the historical account of a famine that occurred "in the days when the judges ruled." It mentions a particular man of Bethlehem-judah by the name of Elimelech and tells how he responded to this famine. He decided to take his wife - Naomi - and two sons - Mahlon and Chilion - and go to the country of Moab to "sojourn" there. 
At first glance, it certainly doesn't sound like a bad idea, does it? After all, Canaan - the land flowing with milk and honey - was under the judgment of God for their sins, and who in their right mind would want to stay in a place of lack when you can go to another place where there is plenty?

Nonetheless, there are several questions to ask at this point - What gave Elimelech the right to think that he could escape the judgment of God? Why did he think himself exempt from God's corrective hand of chastening over the Israelites? Were not his sins among the many responsible for this judgment? Why is it that no other family is mentioned in having the same idea to escape and flee? And of all people to run to - the abominable, idolatrous Moabites. Why would any Israelite want to take refuge in the land of an enemy of God? Didn't he consider that he might be moving from the "frying pan" into the "fire" - so to speak? If Israel was experiencing chastisement from the LORD, what kind of judgments were in store for such an idolatrous people as the Moabites?
The answers to these questions are not really spelled out for us in the Book of Ruth. However, they are implied in the final verses of Chapter 1.
As we read through the Chapter, we find this particular family experiencing one tragedy followed by another. First of all, Elimelech - the husband and father - dies. He doesn't get to enjoy for very long the "prosperity" that he so earnestly sought after. Then his two sons - Mahlon and Chilion - die - leaving Naomi penniless in a land of plenty. All she had left was one trustworthy and faithful daughter-in-law - Ruth.

In the final verses of 19-22, we catch the "return" of Naomi to the land of her fathers - Bethlehem. This "return" can be likened to the "return" of one who chose to go his own way rather than fulfill the will of God...one who wanted to escape the hard times of the "cross life" for an easier road...or the life of a prodigal who is returning after encountering a life of sin and loss.
It is interesting to note that the name Elimelech means - "my God a king." However, in his decision to "sojourn" in Moab where there was plenty and escape the famine in Bethlehem, he rejected God's authority over his life. God never told him to move. He just went on his own.
It is also intriguing that the name Naomi means "beautiful, sweet, or pleasant." It signifies prosperity. However, ten years being out of the will of God changed her name from "sweet and pleasant" to "bitter and grievous." She no longer was enjoying prosperity but abject poverty and grief.
Notice that she left Moab - the idolatrous place - and returned to Bethlehem - the "house of bread." She left the place of worldly pursuits and prosperity to return to the place where the Word of God was once again pre-eminent. Do you suppose that she learned the valuable lesson which advocates - "...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4)? In other words, even in the midst of "famine," the child of God is not to move elsewhere unless given a 
"word" from God.
The entire city of Bethlehem was "moved" to see Naomi again. She left the place of the heathen and returned to the place of "fellowship" with the brethren. God - in His great mercy - had moved on their hearts to welcome her back with open arms of love.
They called her Naomi - "Is this Naomi?" - and rightfully so for this is how she left them.
But, in her response, she said more than words could tell. She answered - "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." By this statement, she was relating to all that she was under the judgment of God for wrongdoing. "The Almighty" Who is called El Shaddai - "More Than Enough" - to His covenant people who are walking in obedience - had dealt her a heavy blow. Instead of enjoying the "blessings" of covenant, she was experiencing the "cursings" of disobedience.
"I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty..." These are some of the most beautiful words to be found in the Bible. Notice Naomi's great humility and brokenness here. She admitted who was at fault. She admitted that it was the big "I" that was the culprit. "I went out...God did not lead me...I went on my own..." Nonetheless, the next statement oozes out with such mercy and grace - giving us a beautiful depiction of the Great Shepherd Who leaves the ninety-nine and goes after His lost sheep - "...and the LORD brought me home again..."
There is a warning to all here that you do not want to miss.
Naomi said - "I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty..." Written between the lines of this statement is the warning that if you choose to go and do your own thing - fulfill your will or agenda rather than God's - you will end up losing everything. Thank God that Naomi made it back "home again." She lost everything - husband, son, and all her possessions and assets - but she did make it "home again." However, please do take note that her husband and sons never did make it
"home again."
Holy Spirit is warning all - Don't trifle with God's will. Even if you find yourself today in a "famine" of some sort, do not get out of God's will for your life. "The Almighty" - the all-sufficient One - will see you through the "famine" - just as He helped all of the Israelites living in Bethlehem in the days of Elimelech and Naomi. Apparently, they survived just fine - for these same neighbors and friends were there to greet Naomi when she returned.  
Just because you find yourself in a "tight" spot does not mean that God is telling you to move. It may be His objective to show Himself "strong" on your behalf and work the miraculous - as He did for the children of Israel when they wandered through the wilderness for forty long years. 
If you run from a "famine" in the will of God to a "wealthy place" out of the will of God, you will end up losing everything! 
"I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty..."
Thank God that His mercies are new every morning! What mercy He had for Naomi in that He did bring her
"home again."
We honestly believe that what made all the difference between her and her husband and sons was her attitude! She took the blame of her circumstances upon herself. Resultantly, she was able to see the hand of God at work in her circumstances - bringing her to repentance and forgiveness of sins. She embraced His chastening hand - "...the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me."
Because she humbled herself, God gave her the grace needed to see her way back "home again" - "So Naomi returned..."
The very last words of Ruth 1 - "and they (Naomi and Ruth) came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest" - indicate a new beginning for it was the time of spring. The Lord was about to give her blessings and glories that she never imagined possible. Now that she was back again in the "City of Bread" and in fellowship with God and His people, she was headed toward the most fulfilling time of her life. The "barley harvest" implied a time of plenty and prosperity. God's will for her life from this moment onward would be "exceeding abundantly above all that she could ever ask or think"  (Ephesians 3:20).
There is no place like the will of God - that is for sure.
You may be in a "famine" today. However, don't allow Satan to deceive you into moving to a "wealthy place" - out of the will of God. You will only suffer loss and end up "empty" like Naomi and her family. Stay in the "House of Bread" where God has planted you. Live by every Word which proceeds out of His mouth for your life. Don't move until He tells you to move. 
"Every rod has a voice..." 

Have you been to the woodshed lately? 
May God Bless His Word,

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.  (Isaiah 54:17)
┬ę COPYRIGHT Connie Giordano - All Rights Reserved
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