Upon their return to Bethlehem in Judah from Moab, things looked 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. She had lost her husband, and then both of her sons died. One of her daughters-in-law left with Naomi’s blessing to return to her homeland, but the other daughter-in-law, Ruth, clung to Naomi and vowed to be loyal to her unto death.
Many people feel that God has abandoned them during the suffering they have experienced. It is easy to be overwhelmed, and to assume that we must have done something wrong in God’s eyes to go through such painful and terrible experiences.
But God is always at work around us, loving us and seeking to draw us closer to Him.
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 as available for a mutually loving and blessed marriage. Naomi recognized the opportunity as from God and encouraged Ruth to consider it. Ruth is willing, and as the result of her willingness, Boaz falls in love with Ruth and seeks to marry her. But as so often happens in life, there remains an obstacle. Someone else has the rights to acquire (redeem) the property of Naomi’s late husband, and with that also comes the right to marry Ruth. For Boaz to be able to marry Ruth, the laws of the time require that he also needs to buy the contested property. But God is sovereign, and nothing will stand in the way of His providential will and blessings.
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 for Ruth and, even for us, through their future descendent, Jesus Christ.
Boaz married Ruth, bringing security to both her and Naomi. Naomi’s joy was then magnified greatly with the arrival of her grandson, Obed, the future grandfather of Israel’s 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 Job 42:12, Naomi and Ruth’s “latter days were greater than the former”. Obed later became the grandfather of King David, a key member in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This not only restored life for 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.
Life has its great sufferings for us all, but if we 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 bring comfort to those around us, bearing witness to His goodness and light even through times of darkness and pain.
Sometimes things look very gloomy in our lives. Can you think of a time when you felt surrounded by a fog of darkness and the Lord brought you out into His light?
What events in your life today need prayer for healing, recovery and restoration? How can Naomi’s experience bring you comfort and the hope of God’s presence and love for you?