When you make decisions based on human rationale instead of divine revelation,
you cause others to endure consequences also.
Naomi 's husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. And they took
for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the
name of the other was Ruth. And they lived thereabout ten years. Then both
Mahlon and Chilion died; and the woman was bereft of her two children and
her husband. - Ruth 1:3-5
the consequences that were incurred by people other than Elimelech: Mahlon and
Chilion lost their lives; Ruth and Orpah lost their husbands; and Naomi lost
both her husband and her sons. Elimelech's bad decision had consequences that
affected not only himself, but also those he loved.
person does not sin in a vacuum. No one sins outwardly without affecting, to
some degree, those around him. Scripture is filled with examples of this truth.
David's sin affected Bathsheba, her husband Uriah and an innocent child.
Abraham's sin affected Sarah. Jacob's sin affected Isaac, Esau and Rebecca.
The sin of the ten spies affected the entire nation of Israel and resulted in
forty years of wilderness wandering. Adam underscores this truth as no other,
since his sin affected and continues to affect every human being and all of
of the decisions of the terrorists on September 11, 2001, not only the rest
of America, but the rest of the world has had to deal with the consequences.
The same with sin in the life of a Christian. You make bad decisions, decisions
based on human rationale, and others in your family, workplace, church, and
community will have to deal with the consequences. Children have to endure the
consequences of parents who make bad decisions. Co-workers have to endure consequences
of employees who make bad decisions (i.e., executive fraud in the Enron Corporation,
postal employee shootings, etc.). Church members have to endure the consequences
of ministers who make bad decisions. The list could go on and on.
words of Jesus during His earthly ministry not only emphasize this truth, they
also serve as a sobering reminder to all of us regarding the responsibility
we have for the decisions we make. Notice the seriousness of the following words
of Jesus: "Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable
that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling blocks
come" (Matthew 18:7). Jesus says woe to the one who makes a sinful decision
that proves to be detrimental to the spiritual well-being of another. Imagine
the accountability to God that Elimelech had by leading his family away from
the place of God's promises.
is one verse of Scripture that I refer to again and again when faced with a
decision. It is Isaiah 50:11, which says, "Behold, all of you who kindle
a fire, Who encircle yourselves with firebrands, Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze. This is what you have from My hand;
and you will lie down in torment." Here is the application. God says that
if we, His people, make decisions apart from Him we are kindling our own fire.
We are encircling ourselves with the firebrands of our choosing. Such fire-starting
will cause us torment. God will see to it. "Why?" you might ask. The
answer is because He loves us so much that He will discipline us for our disobedience
(see Hebrews 12:6). He wants us to walk the path of obedience. If we stray from
it, He will take the necessary disciplinary measures to make us return to it.
Scriptures do not tell us, but I wonder if Elimelech died because he continually
refused to heed the discipline God designed to lead him back to Bethlehem. Decisions
determine destiny. Let us not lean on our own understanding, but let us lean
on the divine revelation of God. His Word will keep us from making wrong decisions.
Johnson is Pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, TN.
1. Daniel 1. Block, "Judges, Ruth," New American Commentary
(Nashville: Broadman Holman Publishing, 1999), vo. 6, 625.
2. R.K. Harrison, "Ruth," Walter Elwell, gen. ed., Baker
Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 182.