"Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 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, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there." Ruth 1:1-2
Times were tough during the reign of the judges in Israel's history. In fact, the last verse in the book of Judges (21:25) states, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." An even cursory reading of the text shows that the people were their own biggest enemy. God had given specific instructions to clear the land of its inhabitants because He had given it to them. Instead, they equivocated, failed to follow God's instructions, began to worship the Gods of the land's inhabitants and began to suffer at their hands. Evident from Ruth 1:1, even nature suffered in that the "land of milk and honey" now became challenged to produce.
This is the backdrop for a man named Elimilech making the decision to move his family out of Israel. The implication of this decision is vast. Remember that the children of Israel had been given the land as a promise. It had been given to them as a gift and a legacy by the God who had taken care of all of their needs. Recall also that they had recently completed wandering landless for 40 years. For a Hebrew to leave the land and therefore provision of God was a display of no confidence in God.
Beloved, when we look at our circumstances, be they the congregation we attend, the Christian friends we have or the righteous lives we strive to lead, and find them perhaps wanting, we must truly evaluate our position. Many will depart based on what they perceive to be famine conditions. We must all ask ourselves honestly what our contribution to the famine has been. We must remember how we got to where we are. Did God guide and direct us there? Did we think so when we arrived? Is there a way to be part of the solution for self and others by staying and working? Would God be pleased if you departed?
The reality of the situation regarding Elimelech's decision is that in a relatively short amount of time, both he and his sons died, leaving three widows to fend for themselves. Further, one of the daughters-in-law, a local, also departed. This left wife Naomi and daughter-in-law Ruth (who steadfastly refused to leave her side) to fend for themselves. Naomi decided to return home (to the promised land) and was ultimately fed, redeemed, fulfilled and saved by God through His people in the land.
Let us think long and hard before leaving the place where the Lord has brought us. As the saying goes, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.