by Nathan Barnard
In the first chapter of Ruth, we read how Elimelech and his wife Naomi left Bethlehem with their two sons, due to a famine. Scripture informs us that famine is the consequence of turning away from the LORD. Thus, instead of coming before God in prayer and trepidation, with a repentant heart, Elimelech left to find substance in Moab. This did not bring life to his family but subsequently saw the death of himself and his two sons, leaving Naomi and her two Moabite daughters-in-law to fend for themselves.
In the latter part of chapter one, we read how Naomi instructs her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orphar, to leave her and return to their fathers. While both initially refuse, it is Orphar who leaves and returns to her father’s household, while Ruth stays. In reading this passage, it was Ruth’s statement which struck me.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1:16).
I am sure many have read and studied the book of Ruth during Shavuot. Whilst meditating on this account, the Lord spoke to me regarding our own nation of the UK. When He judges it, would we choose to leave or stay? Furthermore, if the LORD removes Himself from a nation, is it wise that His people should leave also?
Today, many are praying for God to move in our nation and to revive it. However, what if in order for change to occur, judgement must come first? If so, would you stay, or would you leave? While the answer for some would be to stay, I felt the LORD saying the Body needs to be prepared to move and get out, so that He can judge it, and that failure to move will result in believers sharing in that judgement.
I believe we are at a juncture in history when God is fulfilling His Word, yet the Body for the most part is not ready, or inadequately prepared, due to deception and blindness that comes from spiritual idolatry and doubt. Though many see the writing on the wall and of what is to come, there is a disconnect between knowing and responding. Believers are seeing the times we are in; some see a connection to Bible prophecy but cannot comprehend the gravitas or the truth regarding what God is saying. Others remain in the dark, preferring to look at the work of the church as their get out of jail free card. This explains why we read in Revelation to the churches ‘to him who has ears let him hear.’
So, back to the statement: ‘Where you go, I will go.’ Is that not how Israel moved in the wilderness, that when God moved, they moved and when God’s presence rested, they also rested? It is with regard to this that the Lord has spoken to me: ‘Would I go wherever He goes, and rest wherever He rests?’ Though I am relating a personal conversation, I felt that this was also directed to the Body in the nation. As the Lord was asking: ‘Will believers go when I say move? or ‘will they stay and share in the judgement I am going to unleash upon this once God-fearing nation?’ This is a question we must all ask ourselves as we seek His face.
While some will read what I say and agree, I know, others will not. Some may argue thus: ‘ What about Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah? Did not God say: ‘For the sake of ten righteous men, I will withhold my judgement.’
‘Surely there are more than ten in our nation, so surely we can stay?’
The error with this exegesis is that such rendering of the text does not hold true within the totality of scripture. For we read in Revelation and Jeremiah how God instructs His people to get out of Babylon so that He can judge her. If the premise of Sodom and Gomorrah is correct, then if ten people are found, God would not judge Babylon. However, such interpretation cannot be applied, and so it must have been applicable only in the situation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The idea that God will not judge our unfaithfulness is from the garden narrative and echoes the voice of the serpent.
We of course see God’s actions to those who blatantly turned from Him but what we see most of all is God warning His people through the prophets to follow His directions and be saved. This is evident with both the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, regarding Lot and his family, and their direction to come out of Babylon. In this account, God’s judgement reveals not only the punishment for sin, but the lack of righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah.
In light of this, can the reader truthfully ask: ‘Can I reflect Ruth’s reply to Naomi?’ ‘Wherever you go Lord, I will go and when you tell me, Lord, to go, will I go?’
I believe that our generation will be the one that will have to answer that question. As we prepare to go into the wilderness of the people and allow God to provide for us, we will see Him judge the nations for their ungodliness and lawless actions. For how much sin must a nation commit before it reaches the throne of God?
Personally, I believe we are at that point, and it is only by God’s grace and mercy that the Body has been given time to prepare, but that time will end. However, when judgement does come, let us not forget God’s great compassion and mercy as we seek to harken to his voice and direction.