Upon their return to Bethlehem in Judah from Moab, things were looking bleak for Naomi and Ruth. But God had a plan for them:
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (meaning “Pleasant”); call me Mara (meaning “Bitter”), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” Ruth 1:19-21 (ESV)
Naomi had suffered much in the many years since she had left Bethlehem for Moab due to a severe famine. First she lost her husband, then ten years later, both of her sons died. One daughter-in-law left with Naomi’s blessing to return to her homeland, but the other daughter-in-law, Ruth, refused to leave and clung to Naomi, vowing to be loyal to her unto death.
It is easy to feel that God has abandoned us during times of suffering. We are overwhelmed with grief and assume that something we have done wrong in God’s eyes was the cause of such a painful and terrible experience.
But God does not operate that way. He is always at work around us, loving us, protecting us, and seeking to restore us and draw us closer to Him. The tragedies that come our way are not punishment, but a consequence of living in a fallen world. This is easy to say but people of faith who have gone through the journey of suffering attest to its truth.
The Lord brought much favor upon both Naomi and Ruth in the form of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi’s late husband. God presented a very favorable opportunity for Ruth to present herself to Boaz for what would become a mutually loving and blessed marriage. Naomi recognized the opportunity as from God and encouraged Ruth to pursue it. Ruth was willing, and as a result, Boaz fell in love with Ruth and sought to marry her. But as so often happens in life, there remained an obstacle. Someone else had the right to acquire (redeem) the property of Naomi’s late husband, and with that came the right to marry Ruth. For Boaz to be able to marry Ruth, the laws of the time required that he also buy the contested property. But God is sovereign, and nothing will stand in the way of His providential will and blessing.
3 Then he (Boaz) said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
5 Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” 6 Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Ruth 4:3-6 (ESV)
As the hand of Ruth in marriage came along with the land, this did not fit in with the plans of the competitor. This opened the door for Boaz to purchase the land and have the legal right to marry Ruth. This all unfolded as part of God’s plan of redemption, for both Naomi and Ruth, and even for us, as their their future descendent, Israel’s King David, would continue the line until Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, was born.
Boaz married Ruth, bringing happiness and security to both her and Naomi. Naomi’s joy was then greatly magnified with the arrival of her grandson, Obed, the future grandfather of the great king, David.
13 … the Lord gave her (Ruth) conception, and she bore a son. 14 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! 15 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.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. 17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:13-17
Like what happened to Job, Naomi and Ruth’s “latter days were greater than the former”. This not only restored the life of Ruth, it was a great source of healing and comfort for Naomi, who became a nurse to her grandchild. In fact, to her neighbors, it was as if this was her own son. How far the Lord brought her from the depths of her suffering, pain and loss in Moab.
Life has its sufferings for all of us, but if we keep hope and seek to remain faithful to God through them, He will not let us down. He will deliver us from our loss and pain and bring us to a place of restoration and joy. He will use us to bear fruit and to bring comfort to those around us, bearing witness to His goodness and light even in times of darkness and pain.
Can you remember a time when you felt surrounded by a fog of darkness and the Lord brought you out into His light? Perhaps you are going through such a time now.
Dear Lord, the Father of Naomi and Ruth, we come to You for healing, recovery and restoration for ourselves and those around us going through a season of suffering. Strengthen our faith, forgive our sins and shortcomings, and wrap Your arms around us in love. Bring comfort and the hope of Your presence to all who need it, and bring us safely through our trials and tribulations. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.