She had run out of options. Felt aged before her time. Ten years prior she followed her husband, with the hands of two sons clasped tight in hers. Leaving their home and the famine behind, they moved. Relocated. To a foreign country, a place of food and plenty.
To better prospects for the future, she hoped. Even if it was among worshipers of idols.
Naomi prayed hard, I’m sure. Harder than she ever had before.
But during those ten years, fullness eventually reduced to almost nothing. The family of four, then six—now two. Three had died and one went back to her home, empty and heartbroken as well.
At a time when judges ruled and Israelites couldn’t decide. Or forgot what God had said.
Where flickers of light burned, scattered across the land, spiritual darkness hovered nearby. When everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), still some refused to bow to idols, some remained faithful to Jehovah, and a few hearts embraced the One true God.
Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me. – Ruth 1:16-17
Nothing was left in Moab, no reason to stay. And the famine had ended. Bethlehem once again meant house of bread. It was time to return.
But this Naomi looked nothing like the woman who said Goodbye. Leaving full, she returned to her birthplace empty, hardly recognizable by folks she had grown up with.
…she said to them, 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. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me? – Ruth 1:20-21
Years in Moab took their toll, ruining all hopes for her family’s future.
My life is no longer sweet, and prospects for further blessing have vanished. No husband. No sons. No grandsons. No longer a wife. Never again called Mom. Empty.
With vision, clouded by circumstance, Naomi went home to die.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Enter, Boaz. A relative by marriage. Naomi’s relative by marriage. Could it be? Not only single. Not only rich. And a man of integrity. But a believer in Naomi’s God!
Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, The Lord be with you! And they answered him, The Lord bless you! – Ruth 2:4
Naomi was about to be WOWed by what God had planned. A kinsman redeemer—the knight in shining armor, a man of valor, a wealthy landowner within the same family (Leviticus 25).
As the sun slipped behind the horizon, ending Ruth’s first day of work in the fields, Naomi perhaps watched for her arrival that evening.
Finally she saw her. Ruth carried a large load of grain, much more than either of the women expected.
Perhaps God still has some goodness left for two poor widows, Naomi might have wondered. A flutter of hope stirred inside her weary body.
Settling in, accepting a cup of cool water, and sharing with her mother-in-law the parched grain from her noon meal, Ruth explained everything. How she ended up at a certain field owned by a certain man, his instructions, his provision, his kindness, everything. But that wasn’t all.
His name is Boaz.
In an instant the fluttering became a torrent. Her world was aglow once again. And all became clear.
Naomi jumped up, out of her seat.
Praise the Lord! We are saved!
Light chased away darkness, abundance replaced barely getting by. Naomi saw God’s plan laid out, His love revealed. And she knew just what to do.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do. – Ruth 3:1-4
No doubt in the hours following, the older woman thought back to that day when the younger woman refused to leave her.
No longer alone. No longer empty. No future of poverty. No bitter taste when viewing the past. No longer Mara. The pain she lived with for too many years vanished, as hope stood before her, beckoning the women forward into a bright future, completely unexpected, completely unforeseen by human eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The whole city rejoiced.
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him. Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. – Ruth 4:13-16
The two women would be grandmother and great-grandmother to David, king of Israel.
The God who parted waters and dropped food from heaven provided for two unimportant women during an insignificant time period. Favoring them with His care, forever engraving their names, and certain names of their descendants, on historical record, so all can know—the God of Naomi became the God of Ruth. And this same God wants to become your God.