What guides your decisions in life? Are you swept along merely by circumstances, or do you find direction in God's truth?

Bethlehem was going through lean times. Bethlehem ("the house of bread") was held in the grip of a severe drought. It was too dry for the barley and wheat to germinate. The food supply was running low. Sheep and cattle were dying.

Elimelech decided to move, along with his wife Naomi and two sons. Moab to the east was having abundant rain and the crops were good. It seemed the logical place to consider.

It was, no doubt, difficult to leave friends and relatives and the land where they had worshiped the true and living God. But one had to be practical.

Things did not turn out well for the family, however. In Moab Naomi first lost her husband and later both her sons through death. After her bereavement Naomi decided to go to Bethlehem, a broken, discouraged woman. As she entered her hometown, she told her friends, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty" (Ruth 1:20-21, NIV).

But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, was committed to her, accompanying her to Bethlehem. Once again Naomi was home in a land where the true and living God was worshiped. Now God could bless her again in the land.

God had told Israel that this land they were to inherit was unlike Egypt. In Egypt they watered their fields from the Nile by irrigation. They could control the flow of water (Deut. 11:10). But, said God, "The land you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water of the rain of heaven: a land for which the Lord your God cares…" (Deut. 11:11-12).

Then followed a warning: "And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season…" (vv. 13-14). A drought would indicate God's displeasure with the people; it would be an obvious act of His discipline.

What should God's people do at such a time of drought? The Lord told Solomon, "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:13-14).

Israel was not to leave the land, seeking to avoid the discipline of God. They were to allow the difficulties of life to exercise their hearts toward repentance. David later wrote, "Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness" (Ps. 37:3).

There is a lesson here for God's people today. Are things lean and barren in your local fellowship? Is it a time of spiritual drought? Are few souls being saved? Be careful about leaving the gathering of God's people.

Instead of leaving the assembly, turn to God in earnest prayer. Confess any sins and right any wrongs that you can. Be sure to do all you can to see there is a spirit of love and harmony among the Christians. This is vital if we want to enjoy God's blessing (see Ps. 133).

Then begin again to witness fervently for the Lord Jesus. God is able once more to send showers of blessing. Beware of leaving Bethlehem for Moab. Remember the costly choice made by Elimelech. And remember Boaz. He stayed and submitted to the chastening hand of God. When Naomi returned to Judah, he was the richest man in the countryside.

Donald Norbie and his wife make their home in Greeley, Colorado. Don is involved in writing, preaching, prison work, and in the local church.