The story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth can be found in the Old Testament between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. It’s important to know that their time was a time of national rebellion against God, when the people of Israel turned their backs on Him and lived for their own pleasures.
Picture it. You move. Your husband, two kids, and yourself. You settle into your new city, raise your boys, get them married, and a decade goes by. Sure you have your hard days but also two weddings and many happy days as a family. Then it happens. You lose your husband. Fatal cardiac arrest. Going through the grief is crushing and then your sons catch the flu that’s going around, go septic and you lose them both too! Your entire world has just caved in. Your entire family gone. Just you. Alone.
This is Naomi’s story. A woman of God. Her husband never meant for their move to be permanent. They didn’t want to leave their home and move into a foreign land but there wasn’t enough food and they had two sons to feed. The nation of Israel had rebelled against God and the consequence was a famine. A home is a woman’s happy place. It was by necessity that they left, not want. Maybe you know that feeling. I do.
When Naomi loses her husband and sons she has nothing. In that culture women didn’t provide for themselves. Being a widow was one of the worst things that could happen to a woman. Losing her husband meant losing her notoriety, her connections, her financial security. When a woman lost her husband it was the sons responsibility to care for her but Naomi lost both of them too! I’m sure she felt completely broken, lost, and stripped.
What would you do? You’d move back home and that’s exactly what she does. When she gets there the whole town is talking about it. What a tragedy! It’s just heartbreaking!
But we know that with heartbreaking stories we can anticipate God stepping in big time! God does just that. Naomi ends up not going home alone. One of her widowed daughters-in-law is determined to stay with her. Would you move alone with your mother-in-law? Uh huh…for most women that would be a big, fat NO!
Ruth saw that there was something different about Naomi than her own people. Ruth was not a Jew, but a Moabite. She was obviously drawn to Naomi – and the God she worshipped. Her culture had gods of its own. Naomi’s life must’ve been a powerful witness to the reality of the one true God. Her character showed God Almighty to the people around her. This produced a bond between the two two women, one rooted in faith in God.
Naomi even tells her daughters-in-law, “Turn back, my daughters…go back to your people and to your gods.” But Ruth knows, she’s seen the evidence through Naomi – the real God is the one Naomi serves.
Our Lessons from Naomi
We live in a world that we can definitely compare to Naomi’s. Rebellion from God is all around us. People live for themselves and hurt others for their own benefit. Naomi had to leave her home, her people. She had to live amongst people who didn’t know or understand Naomi’s customs, lifestyle, or religion. She was an outsider. We live as outsiders in our world too. Are our actions and words attracting people to our God of love and truth?
Our second lesson from Naomi is in dealing with trials. I have a friend right now in the midst of soul crushing grief. Like Naomi, she’s experienced heavy loss, sickness, and multiple hard moves. She has shed tears, screamed into the pillows, slept for days, and withdrawn into a dark, lonely corner – as I’m sure Naomi did too. Like Naomi, she is mourning. She’s upset. Naomi doesn’t hide her grief from the world. She didn’t sugar coat it. When Naomi finishes the move home she even tells her friends not to call her by her old name anymore. The person she is now is not the person she once was. I think it’s important to realize that people who love and follow Christ will still go through heartbreaks. May we offer grace to our fellow believers who are hurting and not expect them to simply bounce back.
On the other hand, if you’re the one suffering, please know that there are people who love you. People who don’t even know you are praying for you in love. Hang in there! God is working in HIS timing and can greatly bless you in amazing ways for the glory of His name!!
Lessons From God Through Naomi
Even in a really tough time of total nation rebellion and in a heartbreaking, hard situation God is at work in the world. And guess what? He wants to use you!
Ruth was willing to leave everything to take care of her brokenhearted mother-in-law. I’m sure Ruth was brokenhearted as well. Her husband died unexpectedly, prematurely. Following Naomi meant leaving her hometown, leaving everyone she knew, and leaving her immediate family behind. Why do you think Ruth did such an absurd thing? Maybe she saw a need. The Bible describes her as a determined woman and she had to have known that Naomi needed her.
Ruth was willing to work to care for Naomi too. She found a field and followed the harvesters to pick up the barley they just happened to drop. Kin to dumpster diving for dinner. She did this menial, degrading task with faithfulness. So she loses her husband, leaves her family, moves with her mother-in-law, and does whatever she can to feed the two of them. She follows Naomi’s advice and instructions…and just happens to get noticed by someone.
Boaz enters the story at this point. Ruth “just happens” to end up in a field Boaz owns. He instructs his workers not to touch her and to drop extra for her. He tells Ruth not to go to other fields because she’ll be safe and well stocked in his field. When Naomi hears this, she tells Ruth to go lay down at Boaz’s feet when he’s asleep after winnowing barley. He is a distant relative to Naomi’s family, which means he has rights to “redeem” them (i.e. marry and take care of them). Naomi knows that Boaz knows their culture’s tradition of redeeming a widow. Sure enough, Boaz tells Ruth he will redeem her. They end up married and…wait for it…have a baby boy! And everybody lived happily ever after. For real yo!
Our lessons from Ruth
Character matters. Ruth was a woman of character. Boaz even told Ruth that it was known throughout the village all that Ruth did for Naomi. Ruth was loyal, hard working, determined. The Bible calls her a “woman of worth” (Ruth 3:11). The way we live our normal, everyday lives speak to the people around us. I have to ask myself every now and then, “Am I showing the fruits of the Spirit?”. Am I displaying kindness, love, and joy in my attitude? Do I deal with difficult people in a patient, peaceful, and gentle manner? How’s my self control? This isn’t a TDL to check off. If I’m lacking with my answers it’s a sign that I need to draw close to God. Then this miracle happens where I just naturally start showing these qualities that he’s pouring out of me.
Nothing “just happens”!! Ruth “just happened” to end up in Boaz’s field, who “just happened” to be a relative. That is God! You have them too. Those amazing coincidences that blow your mind. They are more than coincidences. As you go about your daily tasks, God is working in your life in ways you might not even notice! Have faith that God is recognizably directing your life for His purpose and keep your eyes open to circumstances that He orchestrates.
A Bonus Lesson
I just can’t write on the book of Ruth without also noting the character of Boaz. We see these qualities in Boaz – leadership (running the operations of harvest), compassion (dropping some of his harvest to feed Ruth), generosity (inviting her to eat and drink with his workers), hard work (winnowing barley on the threshing floor), following through with his word (telling Ruth he’d redeem her). He went beyond the minimum required to provide for Ruth. He had a reputation for following through and keeping his word. He was an upstanding citizen. What a man! I am not a man, 😉 but I hope to have the integrity and character of Boaz, the character and dedication of Ruth, and the perseverance and faith of Naomi.
Love to you!
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