« PreviousContinue »
The quiet little town of Bethlehem was about ten miles from Jerusalem. This was the very place which was afterwards honoured by becoming the birth-place of our blessed Lord. And here, we may suppose, Elimelech and his family lived happily enough. They belonged to a people who were under God's special protection - the only people at that time who knew anything at all of the one true God. The bright rays of His truth seemed to shine
upon them, whilst “darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.”
In those days of ignorance, the Jew had reason to thank God that he was born a Jew. It was no small privilege to be numbered among the Lord's peculiar people, to be one of His family, and to live under His immediate care. Happy were the Jews ! To them belonged " the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” Happy was Elimelech and his family! They could read those six Books, which now stand first in our Bible, and which were the only ones then written. And from these they could learn what great things God had done for their nation; how He had made known to them His will; and taught them in what manner they should serve Him. They had also in the land of Israel the opportunity of assembling at stated seasons for public worship, when they could pour out their hearts together in prayer and praise.
But if the Jew had reason to be. thankful, how much greater reason have we! If Elimelech's family was a happy one, how much happier may we be—we Christians-we to whom a Saviour has been revealed-we, who are inheritors of a better land than the land of Canaan, an eternal inheritance, a dearly purchased possession, a country whither our Lord Himself is gone to prepare a home for us !
How little do we think of our many and great blessings! We possess the Bible, God's own word, to light us through this dark world. We have a Leader, greater than Moses, who has opened the gate of heaven to all true believers; not a mere deliverer from earthly bondage, but a Saviour from sin and everlasting death. We have God's house, as a shelter to us, where we meet every now and then, to warm each other's hearts, to strengthen each other's faith, and to put up our joint prayers to Him who loves us.
Elimelech was a Jew. We are not told however whether he was a religious Jew. But if not, how little did the mere name profit him! And if our hearts are not given to Christ-if we are not serving God with real earnestness-how little good will the name of Christian do us! Oh, better, far better, to be blind ignorant heathens, than to know God without loving Him; to belong outwardly to Christ's people, but not to have His own blessed mark upon our foreheads! Woe unto us, if after all our privileges, and all our opportunities, we are weighed in the balance, and found wanting at last ! The Bible tells us that “ to whom much is given, of them shall much be required.” How then shall we, to whom such love is offered how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?”
But let us return to Elimelech and his household. We were thinking just now of his favoured condition in the land of Judea. But God was able to make even that fruitful land barren. We are told that it was suddenly visited by a famine. And now Elimelech's happiness and prosperity were suddenly turned into sorrow.
"The fig-tree did not blossom ; neither was fruit found in the vine; the labour of the olives failed; the flock was cut off from the field, and there was no herd in the stalls." “ The merry-hearted