During the Biblical festival of Shavuot, the book of Ruth is read. It's a powerful story of faith, restoration and redemption. The book opens with a famine in all the land surrounding Bethlehem, forcing a difficult decision upon Naomi's husband, Elimelech. Now, Bethlehem (beth: "house", lechem: "bread") literally means “house of bread”, so the irony of Elimelech's departure from his home, "house of bread", during a famine, is lost on English speaking readers, but reveals that every detail in the word of God can be meaningful, especially the meanings of names.
Now the name "Elimelech" literally means, “My God is King” — so immediately, another irony appears: a man whose name expresses the personal testimony of God's authority over every circumstance and His complete trustworthiness, decides to leave the Promised Land, and settle in Moab, across the Jordan — a land that had become alien territory for the Israelites because of the Moabites' inhospitable treatment of Israel during the sojourn from Egypt. Elimelech either forgot or ignored the example of the patriarch, Isaac and failed to apply the same faith as his forefather had, and to remain true to his own name!
Genesis 26 recounts how that Issac had thought of leaving Gerar (modern day Gaza) to go to Egypt in hope of finding food in the midst of a famine, but instead, he stood firm in faith and remained in the Promised Land. The Lord's response was to bless Issac a hundred fold that same year! [Genesis 26:12] However, we also read in Genesis 12 how Abraham had left the land during a famine and had encountered problems in Egypt that were as frightening or worse than the famine. So Elimelech had these two illustrations, one positive, one negative, both of which might have moved him to choose to persevere through this difficult time, and remain in the place of his inheritance.
Whatever the immediate cause, it seems that Elimelech's departure from the Promised Land was not to be reversed. He died in Moab, leaving a discouraged widow, and eventually, two widowed daughters-in-law. We might ask, what would have been Elimelech's legacy had he stayed and prayed through this extremely difficult and frightening trial in Caanan? What might have been his "hundred-fold" blessing?
Our world today is experiencing famine in various places, and there are recent predictions of the increase of food shortages even in the prosperous West. Yet famine has many faces, and the various trials and afflictions in our lives can have the same frightening effect to test the metal of our faith. Many of us are being severely tested these days with trials that are shaking us to the core. There are examples of the faithful who have persevered through to victory and received tremendous blessings from the Lord for their stand of unswerving faith. Yet there are also examples of those who somehow did not live up to their own testimony, for failure to stick it out through tough situations. We have these two paths before us. Yeshua (Jesus) asked this question; "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"? And in another place He spoke directly to Satan these timeless words; "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God." If there was ever a time to believe these words, it is now, even as the world stands on the brink, and the earth groans in the travail of childbirth. Some of us have the opportunity of a lifetime to get through our particular trial, in faith. The Lord Yeshua will be faithful to us, and He will abundantly reward our faith in Him. Let's stay the course. (George, Baht Rivka, Elianna & Obadiah)