Life is full of choices. Each day we make choices large and small which affect ourselves, our families, our work, our finances, our health, and dozens of other aspects of our lives. Every choice we make has a ripple effect on us and those around us. Chapter 1 of the Book of Ruth is a historical record of the five choices one particular family made which affected their lives in huge ways.
First, because Israel was experiencing a drought, which meant no rain, little crops, and hardship in living day-to-day, Elimelech, the head of the family, made a choice to leave his home in Bethlehem and seek refuge in a foreign land where the drought and hardship was less (Verses 1-3).
Second, the two sons of Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion, made a huge life choice and chose to marry while they were in the foreign land of Moab (Verses 4-5).
Third, after the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi heard that the drought in Israel had ended. She therefore made the decision not to stay in Moab but to return home to Bethlehem and restart her life there (Verses 6-7).
Fourth, Naomi encouraged her two devoted young daughters-in-law to seek out other men who would love them and care for them. Orpah decided to leave Naomi and return home. Ruth decided to stay with Naomi and make a home with her in Bethlehem (Verses 8-18).
Fifth, when Naomi returned home to Bethlehem, she was angry and bitter with God. She made a choice to hate God for the loss of her husband and two sons. She asked people to call her “Mara” and not “Naomi.” (Verses 19-22). These five choices are the background for the events of the rest of the book. We are not going to look at all of the choices this morning, but we are going to focus on two of the choices which are very different in nature. The first is a choice that is clear and the second is a choice that is unclear.
The clear choice is the one made by Mahlon and Kilion, sons of Elimelech and Naomi, to marry Moabite women while they are away from their homeland rather than wait until they returned to their homeland of Israel. This was a clearly wrong decision because God had already spoken on this matter and given His Divine opinion (Deut. 7:1-4; see also Gen. 24:3; 34:14; Josh. 23:12; 1 Kgs. 11:2, and Ezr. 9:14; 1 Cor. 7:29; 2 Cor. 6:14).
The unclear choice is the choice of the two daughters-in-law to either stay with Naomi and leave for Bethlehem or leave her and stay in their homeland. Orpah “kissed her mother-in-law good-by” (Ruth 1:14) but Ruth decided to stay. Which of the two made the right decision? We honestly cannot tell. As people of faith, we all face choices that are clear and those that are unclear but in Ruth Chapter 1 we can find a few principles that will help us make godly choices in life. Principle 1: Always Look to God’s Word. In each of the decisions that we talked about, the Bible had some kind of direction.
The Bible is our inerrant divinely-given guide for this life. Principle 2: Pray for Understanding. There might be times in your life that you have no idea what the right decision is or which way to turn. When you do not have any idea what to do, then it is important to pray to God for understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Principle 3: Step Out in Continual Love. When you are deciding what path to take, let love be your guide because the choice made in love is one that often is best. When you are unsure, act in love. When making decisions, think and act in love.