Summary: It’s easy to think that God’s punishing us when we confronted with tragedy. Naomi thought so, too. Part of my series on the story of Naomi and Ruth.
Ruth 1:19—2:7 – “Is God punishing me?”
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
June 17, 2007
Ru 1:19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
Ru 1:20 “Don’t call me Naomi,’” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Ru 1:22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Ru 2:1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.
Ru 2:2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
Ru 2:4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you! ”
“The LORD bless you!” they called back.
Ru 2:5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”
Ru 2:6 The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
We having been following the stories of two women,
both of whom have suffered great loss in the death of their husbands.
Naomi, the older of the two, had left Israel with her husband and two sons years ago. They moved to the land of Moab to escape a famine, but all 3 of the men died in that same land. Left with nothing, Naomi set her heart on coming home.
Ruth, the younger woman, is one of the widows left behind by the death of Naomi’s sons. She is not an Israeli at all, but she has formed a close bond with her mother in law and has even adopted the God of Israel as her God.
She has left everything she knows behind in order that Naomi would not have to travel alone. Naomi did her very best to convince her to stay home, to the point where the other daughter in law, Orpah, decided at the last minute not to come on the journey.
Ruth was not dissuaded, and she and Naomi have now completed a journey fraught with danger. Their arrival in Bethlehem attracts a lot of attention,
yet Naomi seems less than joyful at the success of her journey.
Part One – 19-22 – God’s punishing me
Her attitude seems sullen, but you have to see where she’s come from to understand her state of mind.
She left Bethlehem over ten years ago, a woman surrounded by three healthy men, a family ready to make a new start in a foreign land.
She has come home with only the widow of one of her son’s at her side,
leaving all three men buried in the foreign land of Moab.
People who have stayed in Bethlehem are amazed to see her;
it’s possible that they are amazed that she has returned home safely,
despite the dangers of the trip and lack of protection or resources.
But we also see that they hardly recognize her; the anguish of losing her sons and husband has aged her more then the ten or more years she’s been gone.
She’s so bitter at her plight that she even reacts to the sound of her name by denying it’s meaning.
“Naomi” means “pleasant”, but now she wants to be called “Mara”, which means “bitter”.
She can’t face a name that has so much promise in it,
so she asks to be called something more fitting to her current condition.
She looks at the life she had before she left,
compares it to her life now,
and sees God as the cause of her misfortune.
We may be tempted to write this off as whining, but it goes deeper than that – she truly believes that this is what God has intended for her,
and she is simply acknowledging her inability to do a thing about it.
IS she blaming God for what’s happened in her life? Definitely, but she’s also accepting it as her fate and still acknowledging God’s power and place over her.